Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 10 January 2023
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995, NASU), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important early Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online DSS Bible.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.), Jewish historian, trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● Philo: Works by Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50), consisting of 45 monographs. Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began under Rabbi Akiva (2nd c. A.D.), but completed by scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from the 9th century. Online.
● SP: The Samaritan Pentateuch is a text of the Torah written in the Samaritan script and used as sacred scripture by the Samaritans. The SP was probably developed in the first century B.C. Extant manuscripts date from the 12th century A.D. There are about 6,000 differences between the MT and SP. Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Special Terms: In order to emphasize the Hebrew and Jewish nature of the entire Bible I use the terms Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Pentateuch, Law), ADONAI (for the sacred name in Tanakh verses), and Besekh (New Testament).
System for Dating: B.C. ("Before Christ"), A.D. (Anno Domini, "In the Year of our Lord"), and A.M. (Anno Mundi, "In the Year of the World" or "Year of the World from Creation"). Since history is really His-Story then using B.C./A.D. is superior to the convention of B.C.E ("Before Common Era") and C.E. ("Common Era"). Dates are given according to Archbishop Ussher, Annals of the World (1658), as well as other conservative scholars.
Please see the Introduction for background information on the letter. This commentary assumes that Paul the apostle wrote the letter in the Hebrew language and Luke translated it into Jewish Greek.
After the strong warning against disloyalty and exhortation to faithfulness at the end of the previous chapter Paul seeks to inspire his readers to excellence in Chapter Eleven by recalling and extolling the virtues of many notable personalities in history who were examples of trusting faithfulness. Many of the heroes of the past struggled in more challenging circumstances than Paul's readers and yet persevered. Paul identifies 16 individuals by name who demonstrated faithfulness to God and alludes to many more (e.g., "parents" "women," "all the prophets," "others").
Paul first provides a foundational analysis of faith as a beginning point for appreciating the commitment and faithful conduct of the great heroes in the primeval era, then in the patriarchal era, and finally throughout the history of Israel, from Moses to the time of the Maccabees. Indeed Paul provides a "Who's Who" of four thousand years of biblical history. His choice of historical references implies the highest commendation, and their lives are worthy of imitation.
The Basis of Faithfulness, 11:1-3
Heroes of Faithfulness: Abel, Enoch and Noah, 11:4-7
Heroes of Faithfulness: Abraham and Sarah, 11:8-12
Heroes of Faithfulness: Sojourners on the Earth, 11:13-16
Heroes of Faithfulness: Offspring of Abraham, 11:17-22
Heroes of Faithfulness: Moses to Joshua, 11:23-31
Heroes of Faithfulness: Judges to the Maccabees, 11:32-38
Future of the Faithful, 11:39-40
The Basis of Faithfulness, 11:1-3
1 Moreover faithfulness exists in the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not being seen.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis as here, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The conjunction connects what follows to the last verse of the previous chapter where Paul testified of his faithfulness to Yeshua in order to expound on the principle virtue of godliness and extol examples of the virtue in Scripture.
faithfulness: Grk. pistis (from peithō, "to persuade, be persuaded"), incorporates two primary facets of meaning: (1) belief evoked by another's reputation for trustworthiness, thus confidence, faith, or trust; and (2) dependability in awareness of obligation to others, thus constancy, faithfulness or fidelity. Zodhiates says that pistis also includes the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to God (1163). Thayer and the NASBEC also include "faithfulness" in the definition of pistis (1558). At the end of the previous chapter Paul used pistis as the opposite of "shrinking back" (10:39). Thus, pistis is actively pressing straight ahead in fidelity to God. Almost all Bible versions translate the noun as "faith."
In the LXX pistis occurs first in Deuteronomy 32:20 to translate Heb. emun (SH-529), faithfulness, trusting (BDB 53). This usage describes a generation that was not faithful to God. Then pistis translates Heb. emunah (SH-530), firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity (BDB 53), mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). Pistis also translates amanah (SH-548), faith, fixed support (Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8); and emet (SH-571), firmness, faithfulness, or truth (BDB 54; Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6).
The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is a firm persuasion of divinely revealed truth that results in fidelity or trusting faithfulness. In Christianity "faith" has various shades of meaning and may be understood simply as belief in God or the teachings of Christianity, such as the content of the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. "Faith" is also thought of in terms of "saving faith," which not only knows and comprehends the facts about the good news of Yeshua but also trusts in the person and work of Yeshua alone for salvation.
Faith is often viewed as having measure. Yeshua complimented a Roman soldier as having "great faith" (Matt 8:10). Yeshua suggested that if one had faith the size of a mustard seed one could perform miracles (Matt 17:20; Luke 17:6). This hard saying does not actually imply that it is the amount of faith one possesses that can work wonders, but whether the faith exists at all. Yeshua performed few miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Matt 13:58). The fact is that a mustard seed produces a very large plant because the size of the plant is concealed within the seed as designed by the Creator.
Yeshua also criticized his disciples for having "little faith" (Matt 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). "Little-faith" (Grk. oligopistos) describes someone dull to hearing the Lord's voice, or disinterested in walking intimately with Him. In contrast, the goal of life is to receive or obey the Lord's gift of faith in every circumstance of life. This failure to trust characterized the grumbling Israelites in the wilderness. The biblical term "faith" begins with belief but then expands into trusting and acting in obedience to God's commandments, and may be expressed by the formula "belief + trust + obedience."
Lane comments that the faith celebrated in this chapter is characterized by firmness, reliability, and steadfastness (150). It is trust in God and in his promises (cf. 4:1–3; 6:1; 11:6, 17–19, 29). Thus, Stern translates the noun throughout this chapter with the middle term "trusting" (CJB). The Orthodox Jewish Bible opts for the third term with the Hebrew term emunah, which means "faithfulness" and signifies obedience. The beginning phrase of the verse sets forth the framework of thought from which pistis-emunah operates. The declaration serves to explain the faithfulness of the Hebrew heroes listed in the following verses.
exists in: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, to exist, whether in the past, present or future ("is, was or will be"). Typical of Hebrew writing the verb actually begins the sentence in Greek. In the LXX eimi translates Heb. hayah (SH-1961), be, become, come to pass; first in Genesis 1:2. In my view the declaration here is not used to present a dictionary definition of pistis, but to further expound on the virtue that characterized Paul's life (10:39). Bible versions translate the present tense of the verb as "is," but this common English verb could imply a limitation on the meaning of pistis.
the assurance: Grk. hupostasis (from hupo, "under" and histēmi, "to stand"), the quality of having actual existence; assurance, certainty, reality, substance, steadiness. The term was used in documents that attest or provide evidence of ownership (Rienecker). For the believer the term signifies a "title of possession" (HELPS). of things hoped for: Grk. elpizō, neut. pl. pres. part., to look for; hope, expect. The verb is not used to express mere wishful thinking.
The present participle emphasizes a continual condition, a state of expectant hoping. The neuter-plural form of the participle emphasizes the focus of the expectation, namely those things associated with God's covenantal promises. Lane comments that faith celebrates now the reality of the future blessings that constitute the objective content of hope. The word hupostasis thus has reference to the ground for a now unalterable course of events that will culminate in the realization of the promises of God.
the conviction: Grk. elegchos, that by which a thing is proved or tested; evidence, proof. The word was used in the papyri of legal proofs of an accusation (Rienecker). Danker defines the noun as "a way of getting at the reality of a matter, proving." BAG defines the term as "proof, proving." Mounce has "a trial in order to prove, a proof; fig. a certain persuasion." Gleason Archer gives the meaning as "inner persuasion" (HELPS). Thus, many versions translate the noun as "conviction," a term meaning "confident belief" or "being convinced." Thus, elegchos is not the product of fable, myth, superstition or a wish. Rather, this conviction is the result of proving, so true faith is not contrary to true science.
of things: pl. of Grk. pragma (from prassō, "to do, perform"), something that involves or presumes action by a responsible party, a thing done; deed, matter or thing. In the LXX pragma is used to translate Heb. dabar (SH-1697), speech, word, advice, or a matter or thing of which one speaks, first in Genesis 19:22 (DNTT 3:1155). The noun occurs three times in Hebrews. In 6:8 Paul identifies two immutable or unchangeable "things" about God. Then in 10:1 pragma is used to refer to the divine realities of which the Torah foreshadowed. So, here, pragma alludes to things of which God is the cause.
not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. being seen: Grk. blepō, pl. pres. pass. part., may mean (1) possess the physical ability to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) be looking in a certain direction; or (4) to have inward or mental sight. The second and fourth meanings have application here. Paul employs what may seem like a contradiction in terms. Proof by its very nature can be seen. However, there are many things done by God that are not witnessed by man, such as creation, but of which the effects or proof may be examined.
By the same token most of Paul's readers had never physically seen Yeshua and yet they believed that God was in him and chose to identify with him as their Messiah, Savior and King. As Yeshua told Thomas, "Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed" (John 20:29).
2 For in this our ancestors were commended.
For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that;" for, indeed. The conjunction is used to express cause, explanation, inference or continuation; here to introduce an important explanation of spiritual truth. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. The pronoun refers to the core attitudes described in the previous verse.
our ancestors: pl. of Grk. ho presbuteros may mean (1) ranked as superior in age, older, older one; or (2) ranked in terms of official responsibility, elder. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX presbuteros translates Heb. zaqen (SH-2205), old, advanced in days (Gen 18:11), and a technical term for a man with official authority (Ex 17:5). In the Tanakh elders as a group are found in tribes, communities and in the body of seventy appointed by Moses. In practical terms Paul refers to the biological and spiritual "forefathers" of the Jewish people (e.g., Ps 22:4; Acts 7:32; 26:6; Rom 9:5; 11:28; Heb 1:1), which he will describe beginning in verse 4 through the rest of the chapter.
were commended: Grk. martureō, aor. pass., 3p-pl., bear witness, give evidence, testify, give a good report. The faithfulness of the ancestors to the creator and covenantal God implies a contrast to evil inclination of early generations (Gen 6:5; Rom 1:18-23) and the unfaithfulness of the Israelite generation in the wilderness and their spiritual descendants, which can be explained in the difference in their convictions. Unfaithfulness resulted from willful unbelief and opposition to God's expectations (cf. Deut 9:6, 13, 23-24; 31:27; Matt 17:17).
Commendations or compliments of Bible characters by God or others in Scripture distinguish certain individuals for their positive character traits, especially faithfulness. Paul identifies seventeen such persons in his historical review. Conversely, there are some omissions of persons whom God commended, e.g., Job (Job 1:8), Caleb (Num 14:24), Phinehas (Num 25:11) and Joshua (Num 27:18). Paul does not explain his rationale for the names he selected, but they are all excellent examples of the virtue he had previously exhorted his readers to emulate (Heb 6:12).
In contrast to Paul's observation here Christian commentators down through the centuries have found reason to be critical of some of the men listed in this chapter. Often this criticism stems from prejudice based on the values of Christianity or sometimes from outright anti-Semitism. God's criticism in Scripture is reserved for the wicked or those who rebel against Him. God's positive evaluation for each of the persons named in this chapter will be recognized.
Stern points out that other works of early Jewish literature contain similar catalogues of heroes in biblical history. Judas Maccabeus' father Mattathias recalls the faithfulness under pressure of various Hebrew figures in 1Maccabees 2:51-61. See also 4Maccabees 16:20-21; 18:11-13 and Tobit 4:12. The lengthy account in Sirach 44:1−50:21 commences with the phrase "Let us now praise famous men." These catalogues include persons omitted by Paul. In a similar manner Clement, bishop of Rome (A.D. 88-99), in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, written about 95, drew attention to several personalities in the Tanakh as examples of faithfulness to God (Chap. 9-12).
3 Because of faithfulness we understand the universe to have been formed by the word of God, the things being seen not having been made from things being visible.
Reference: Genesis 1:1; Psalm 33:6, 9; 2Maccabees 7:28.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verse 1 above. As in most of the verses of this chapter the noun is the first word. The Greek text does not begin with a preposition. Almost all Bible versions translate the noun as "by faith." Normally Bible versions employ italics for words added by the translators, but these versions do not use italics for by, giving the impression of an actual preposition. The noun pistis is in the dative case, the root idea of which is to express personal interest (DM 84).
Bible scholars recognize the dative case here as an instrumental dative (Hegg 161). In Greek grammar the instrumental dative can express (1) means, (2) cause, (3) manner, (4) measure, (5) association, or (6) agency (DM 89ff). The instrumental dative form of pistis that occurs 18 times in this chapter and placed at the beginning of verses for emphasis effectively connotes the significant relationship between this virtue and the behavior described.
In all the personal stories Paul cites below pistis is followed by an affirmation of the person's obedience to God's expectations. Thus, in my view the instrumental dative of pistis is not intended to convey faith as merely a tool or the means employed to accomplish something, but the motivating cause for the verbal description. In my view these verses should begin with "because of" instead of "by." Faith represents a loyal willingness to obey. Paul used the dative of pistis in this manner to describe his own personal devotion to Messiah (Gal 2:20).
Considering the affirmation that follows another element implicit in the dative form of pistis in this verse is the idea "because of faithfulness to Scripture." The Bible reveals the truth about the origins of the heavens, the earth and mankind. Pagan culture had been corrupted by the Satanic lie of evolution and introduction of idolatry at Babel. (See my commentary on Romans 1:18-27.) The disciple of Yeshua has complete confidence in the historical accuracy of Scripture.
we understand: Grk. noeō, pres., 1p-pl., may mean (1) to grasp with the mind; understand; or (2) to give thought to; think about, ponder. The first meaning applies here. The verb does not admit to any doubt. The verb expresses a mental as distinguished from a sensuous perception (Westcott). Gleason Archer clarifies the meaning further:
"properly, to apply mental effort needed to reach "bottom-line" conclusions. Noiéō underlines the moral culpability we all have before God, for every decision (value-judgment) we make. This follows from each of us being created in the divine image, hence, possessing the inherent capacity by the Lord to exercise moral reasoning." (HELPS)
"properly, to apply mental effort needed to reach "bottom-line" conclusions. Noiéō underlines the moral culpability we all have before God, for every decision (value-judgment) we make. This follows from each of us being created in the divine image, hence, possessing the inherent capacity by the Lord to exercise moral reasoning." (HELPS)
Stern translates the first phrase as "by trusting we understand" and compares the affirmation with a quotation from the 11th-century Christian theologian Anselm, Credo ut intelligam ("I believe in order to understand"). However, the verb implies something more than just an intellectual exercise. This "understanding" is an act of obedience and reflects a relationship with Elohim, the God of Israel, and Yeshua, the Creator-Word, as implied by the first person plural number. The secular world does not "understand" because they do not have a relationship with the Creator and are not willing to live by God's expectations. "We understand because we know Him."
the universe: pl. of Grk. ho aiōn, properly, an age or era ("time-span"), characterized by a specific quality or type of existence (HELPS). Lexicons recognize a second category of meaning of the noun: a spatial concept, this present world or the universe, i.e. the aggregate of things contained in time (Thayer). Most scholars accept this meaning as applicable in this instance. In the LXX aiōn translates Heb. ōlam (SH-5769; BDB 761), "long duration, antiquity or futurity," first in Genesis 3:22.
Time is an integral component of the triune universe that God created (Gen 1:1). The Hebrew term ōlam is generally concerned with the duration of time in relation to something specific, and frequently conveys eternity or lasting forever (DNTT 3:827). In the Tanakh olam never means "the material universe." However, singular aiōn is translated as "world" in the Apocrypha (Wisdom 13:9; 14:6; 18:4; Sirach 38:34), as well as Philo (On Husbandry §51).
Joachim Guhrt clarifies, "it is only in late Judaism at the turn of the era and in the apocalyptic of the first century A.D. that one finds a quite new use of olam, which exhibits a spatial significance as well as a temporal one" ("Time," DNTT 3:829). Jastrow in his dictionary of the Talmud gives the first meaning of olam as "nature, existence or world" (1052). By "world" he means the existence of things, whether the mundane existence of this present world or the world as it will be hereafter in the days of the Messiah and after the resurrection. He cites passages from the Talmud as support (Avot 4:16; Pes. 50a; Ber. 51a; Sanh. 100a). Bruce says that the rabbinic use of olam/aiōn as "world" occurred after the beginning of the Christian era (4).
Dr. Henry Morris, the creation scientist, comments that while aiōn normally means "ages," its use here "embraces the idea of time as well as space and matter, thus beautifully reflecting the scientific concept of the universe as a space/matter/time continuum" (DSB 1364). A number of versions translate the plural noun as "universe" (CEB, CJB, CSB, ESV, GNB, NABRE, NCB, NIV, NLT, TLV). Other versions translate the plural aiōnas as "worlds" (ASV, KJV, NASU, NET, NKJV, NRSV), but this may be misleading since "worlds" can mean planetary bodies.
It's important to note that Paul does not use kosmos here, the most common term in the Besekh for that which God created. Donald Guthrie comments that aiōn is more comprehensive than kosmos, including within it the periods of time through which the created order exists (65). By using the plural aiōnas Paul is "Semitizing," that is, conveying a Hebrew idea asserted in Genesis 1.
to have been created: Grk. katartizō (from kata, "down" and artizō, "to adjust"), perf. pass. inf., may mean (1) to put in order, restore or put into proper condition; or (2) prepare, design or create an entity; create, make, produce. The second meaning is intended here. Properly speaking, the verb conveys "exactly adjusted to be in good working order" (HELPS). The perfect tense marks that the original lesson of creation remains for abiding use and application (Westcott).
In the LXX katartizō occurs 19 times and translates nine different Hebrew words (DNTT 3:349). The verb first translates Aram. kelal (SH-3635), to complete, used in Ezra of the completing the construction of the city walls (4:12, 13, 16) and the temple (5:3, 9, 11; 6:14). The other Hebrew words convey the meanings of to set up, establish or founding in a literal sense (e.g., Ps 8:2; 11:3; 74:16; 80:15; 89:37). The verb strongly asserts that the universe did not come into existence by chance or accident.
by the word: Grk. rhēma, a communication consisting of words, often with the implication of importance or special significance. Here the dative case conveys means or instrumentality (Rienecker). In the LXX rhēma occurs predominately in the Pentateuch and prophetic writings for the Heb. dabar, which means "word" or "thing." Thus, rhēma, standing for dabar, can mean both (a) a word or utterance as well as (b) a matter, event, or case in the sense of the result of things said or done (DNTT 3:1119f).
of God: Grk. theos (for Heb. Elohim), properly, God, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator and owner of all things (Gen 1:1; John 1:1-3). In the LXX the singular theos translates Hebrew words for God, El (SH-410, over 200 times), Eloah (SH-433, 55 times) and Elohim (SH-430, over 2500 times), as well as the sacred name YHVH (SH-3068, over 300 times) and its abbreviation Yah (SH-3050, over 40 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Elohim (SH-430) is the one only and true God of Israel (BDB 42).
In Hebrew thought the plural form of Elohim represents fullness, which excludes the possible existence of any other deity (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). Elohim translated by Theos also represents the full triunity of God (Father + Son + Spirit). God is a Person, not a philosophical construct for monotheism. The clause "formed by the word of God" alludes to the testimony of Genesis 1:3-24 in which the simple declarative "And God said" occurs seven times and the substance of the various components of the heavens and the earth sprang into existence.
Hegg comments that "while the evidence pointing to a Creator is clear and substantial in the physical universe in which we live, it is our faith in God that allows the evidence to be received with gratitude and worship." Paul believed and trusted that the divine record of creation was true. The narrative of Genesis 1 was given to Adam as divine revelation, and from Paul's point of view could not have been otherwise known. It is reasonable that the design of all that exists presupposes an intelligent designer, but revelation is necessary to know how things came into existence. Followers of Yeshua accept the revelation of Scripture over the claims of the advocates of secular humanism and evolution.
the things being seen: Grk. ho blepō, pl. pres. part. See verse 1 above. The verb takes in what may be seen in the sky and on the earth. not: Grk. ou, adv. having been made: Grk. ginomai, perf. inf., to become or to transfer from one state or condition to another, which here denotes existing through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be finished. The infinitive expresses results (Rienecker). In the LXX ginomai translates Heb. hayah (SH-1961), be, become, come to pass; first in Genesis 1:11.
from: Grk. ek, prep. may be used to denote derivation or separation, here the former; from, out of, out from among. Ek has a two-layered meaning, "out from" and "to," which makes it out-come oriented, i.e., out of the depths of the source and extending to its impact on the object (HELPS). things being visible: Grk. phainō, pl. pres. mid. part., may mean (1) to function in a manner that makes observation possible, or (2) be in a state or condition of being visible or observed. The second meaning applies here.
Paul's assertion echoes the declaration of various passage of Scripture and the Apocrypha:
"6 By the word of ADONAI the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all the host of them. … 9 For He spoke, and it was; He commanded, and it stood fast." (Ps 33:6, 9 BR)
"3 Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light! 4 Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of ADONAI, for He commanded and they were created." (Ps 148:3-5 BR)
"I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being." (2Macc 7:28 RSV)
Based on Scripture Paul affirms that the creation of the universe was accomplished ex nihilo, "out of nothing." There was no "big bang," only a Big Word (cf. John 1:1). God spoke matter into existence. The universe did not begin with matter already in existence as evolution teaches. God said, "Let there be" (Gen 1:3) and it happened. It did not take God billions of years to speak those words. See my article The Truth of Creation.
Heroes of Faithfulness: Abel, Enoch and Noah, 11:4-7
Primeval or antediluvian earth is that period of history extending from creation through the lifetime of Noah (Genesis 1−9), about two thousand years. In the Bible chronology of Archbishop James Ussher this period is part of the First Age of the World (4004−2349 B.C.), Adam to Shem (15-20). Henry Morris comments that this chapter confirms that the ancient heroes of faith (Abel, Enoch, Noah, etc.) were not mythological characters, nor were the events described merely legends of the Jews (DSB 1378).
4 Because of faithfulness Abel offered up to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended to be righteous, God bearing witness to his gifts; and through it, having died, still he speaks.
Date: 3874 B.C. (Ussher 18).
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verse 1 above and the previous verse. Pistis, representing the Hebrew emunah, is a commitment that results in loyalty to God and steadfast obedience to His expectations. Beginning with this verse Paul uses pistis as a character quality of the Hebrew heroes and focuses on not what they believed, but what they did as reflected in the record of the Tanakh. The personal examples Paul cites demonstrates the principle asserted by Jacob that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17).
True faith biblically defined represents a continuum of action: believing in God, trusting God and producing works that are pleasing to God. Put another way the biblical virtue of faith is belief + trust + being true. To make this point the CJB sometimes translates pistis as "trusting faithfulness" (Hab 2:4; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22, 23, 25, 26; 5:6), as well as "faithfulness" (Rom 3:3, 22, 25, 26; Gal 5:22; Eph 3:12; Php 3:9; Col 2:12; 2Th 2:13; 1Tim 6:11; 2Tim 2:22; Titus 2:10; Rev 14:12).
Abel: Grk. Habel, which transliterates Heb. Hebel (Gen 4:2, "breath, vapor"), the proper name of the son of Adam (Heb. Adam) and Eve (Heb. Chavvah). Abel's name is associated with the shortness of life. Abel may have been a twin because Genesis 4:2 literally reads, "And she continued to bear his brother Abel" (HBD). The Genesis narrative does not mark the year of birth for Adam's first children as in the genealogy of Genesis 5. God had promised Eve she would bear children (Gen 3:16), so the birth likely took place in the first year after being expelled from the Garden.
As an adult Abel became a shepherd (Gen 4:2) and the narrative leaps forward by decades to recount the significant event of Abel's life related to that vocation. offered up: Grk. prospherō (from pros, "toward" and pherō, "to bear"), aor., to cause movement of something or someone to a person or place; bring to, lead to, offer up, present. The verb is used especially of sacrificial offerings to God (Zodhiates). In the LXX prospherō translates Heb. qarab (SH-7126), "to come or draw near" or "approach," used in the sense of bringing and offering a sacrifice to ADONAI (Ex 29:3; Lev 1:2; 2:1, 8). In the narrative of Abel and Cain the verb prospherō appears in Genesis 4:7 without Hebrew equivalent.
to God: Grk. ho theos. See the previous verse. a more acceptable: Grk. pleiōn, adj., the comparative form of polus, "great, much"), greater in quantity or quality, here the latter. sacrifice: Grk. thusia, an official sacrifice prescribed by ADONAI in the Torah, hence an offering the Lord accepts because of being offered on His terms (HELPS). This term is distinguished from the burnt offering, which is totally consumed by fire. In the LXX of the Genesis narrative (4:3, 5) thusia translates Heb. minchah (SH-4503), gift, tribute, offering. The minchah was an offering made to God of any kind, whether from field or flock.
than: Grk. para, prep., with the root meaning of "beside" (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; or (2) a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of. With the accusative case of the noun following the preposition is used in a figurative sense as equivalent to "contrary to," "different from," or "other than" (Thayer).
Cain: Grk. Kain, which transliterates Heb. Qayin, the proper name ("acquisition") of the first-born son of Adam and Eve. Scripture does not specify the year of birth for the twin boys as it does for Seth who was born 130 years after creation (Gen 5:3). Adam and Eve had daughters besides Cain and Abel (Gen 5:4) and marriage between siblings enabled the formation of early families and fulfillment of the creation mandate to multiply and fill the earth (Gen 1:28; 4:17-22). At that time there was no genetic harm from close familial relationships and it was not until 2,500 years later that God formally prohibited consanguineous intimacy (Lev 18:6).
The meaning of Cain's name may have expressed Eve's thankfulness that God was keeping His promise to her (Gen 3:16). Henry Morris suggests that Eve may have jumped to the unwarranted conclusion that Cain was the promised Deliverer (DSB 15). John the apostle pointed out that Cain was "of the evil one" (1Jn 3:12), and thus was the first in the long line of the Serpent's seed (Gen 3:15). Cain became a "tiller of the ground" (Gen 4:2). In the course of time Cain brought some of his agricultural produce as an offering to ADONAI.
Abel also brought an offering, but his offering is described as being of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. Abel's offering was accepted; but Cain's was not. It is not uncommon in Scripture for the younger son to have greater favor with God than the older son. For example, Seth, Shem, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David were all younger sons. In the Messianic line only Abraham and Yeshua were firstborn sons in lists where brothers are mentioned! The difference between the two offerings is that the offering of Abel represented genuine personal sacrifice.
In God's rebuke of Cain is the implication that Cain could have remedied his insufficient offering (Gen 4:7). In the Sinai covenant there was a provision for a poor person to substitute an offering of flour for the required guilt offering of two doves or two pigeons (Lev 5:11-13). So, it's possible that if Cain had brought the firstfruits of his field his offering probably would have been accepted. Cain was essentially selfish and thought a small offering would gain him favor before God. Subsequently, Cain murdered Abel his brother. In punishment, God took from him the ability to till the ground productively and made him to be a wandering vagabond.
through: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. he was commended: Grk. martureō, aor. See verse 2 above. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. righteous: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with God's covenantal standards expressed in Torah for acceptable behavior, upright or just.
In the LXX dikaios translates Heb. tsaddiq (SH-6682), 'just or righteous' (BDB 843). In Scripture a just man is one who is blameless or innocent of wrongdoing, one who lives by the commandments of God. The clause "commended to be righteous" is an interpretation of the Genesis narrative, "And ADONAI looked favorably on Abel and for his offering" (Gen 4:4 BR). In other words, Abel's sacrificial devotion was pleasing to God, and in this regard Abel succeeded where his father Adam did not.
While the Genesis narrative does not specifically describe Abel as righteous, Paul may be recalling Yeshua's speech to a group of scribes and Pharisees in which he commended Abel as "righteous" (Matt 23:35) and included Abel among God's prophets (Luke 11:50-51). McKee observes that Abel is attested here as the first person to suffer martyrdom because of his righteousness.
God: Grk. ho theos. bearing witness: Grk. Grk. martureō, pres. part. to: Grk. epi, prep., lit. "upon," used primarily as a marker of position or location, but here marks the direction of the verb. Rienecker has "with respect to." his: Grk. autos, an intensive personal pronoun, often used to distinguish a person or thing in contrast to another, or to give him (it) prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The first meaning applies here in reference to Abel. gifts: pl. of Grk. dōron, a gift in general or a sacrificial offering. Here the plural term refers to sacrifices of the first-born sheep and fat Abel brought to God.
In the LXX of Genesis 4:4 dōron translates Heb. minchah. The use of dōron marks the sacrifice as voluntary, although there could have been a divine expectation of sacrifice. and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive or emphatic – certainly, indeed, in fact, likewise, really, verily (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect.
through: Grk. dia, prep. it: Grk. autos. The feminine form of the noun refers back to thusia ("sacrifice"), which is a feminine noun. having died: Grk. apothnēskō, aor. part., to cease to live, generally used of physical death, whether natural or violent. In the LXX apothnēskō translates Heb. muth (SH-4191), to die, whether of natural or other causes, and to die as a penalty; first in Genesis 2:17. still: Grk. eti, adv. expressing continuance of an action or circumstance or expressing addition, whether of time or degree; just, still, yet.
he speaks: Grk. laleō, pres., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. In the LXX laleō translates Heb. dabar (SH-1696), to speak, often used of verbal communication from God, first in Genesis 12:4. Even though thousands of years have passed the story of Abel and Cain still conveys a powerful moral lesson. The character of these two men represent two groups of people in the world, those who live by the principle "God first," the righteous, and those who live by the principle "me first," the unrighteous.
5 Because of faithfulness Enoch was taken, of that not to see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. For before the transfer he was commended to have pleased God.
Date: 3017 B.C. (Ussher 18).
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Paul then alludes to the narrative of Genesis 5:24 (MT/LXX). Enoch: Grk. Henōch, which transliterates Heb. Chanok ("dedicated"), the son of Jared and father of Methuselah (Gen 5:18-24). According to the MT Enoch was born in A.M. 622, but the LXX identifies the year as A.M. 1122. Josephus concurred with the genealogical chronology of the LXX (Ant. I, 3:4).
The reason for the difference is that the MT reduced the birth years of Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, and Enoch each by one hundred years. Relevant to this issue is that the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch both date from the 2nd century B.C. The Masoretic Text dates no earlier than the 2nd century A.D. when work began on developing a canonical Hebrew Bible under the leadership of Rabbi Akiba, which continued for several more centuries. The oldest existing manuscripts of the MT date from the 9th century A.D.
The Samaritan Pentateuch had earlier made a 'correction' to their Hebrew text of Genesis 5 for a strange reason. The Samaritans felt that it was either dishonoring to God or lacked historical credibility to state that a man in antediluvian times begat his first son after the age of 150 (SBD). Because of this belief, they subtracted 100 years from the birth-date given for the first son and added it to the total lifespan. Thus, Akiba adopted the Samaritan revision. See Setterfield for a complete historical analysis of the birth-date issue. In any event Enoch's lifespan on earth was 365 years. According to Jewish tradition Enoch was a ruler and teacher (Ginzberg, I:III). See the Additional Note below on Enoch.
was taken: Grk. metatithēmi, aor. pass., may mean (1) to make a change in position in the sense of spatial movement; take away, transfer, transport; or (2) to cause to be different, change. Lexicons assign the first meaning here. Some versions insert "up" to emphasize bodily ascent into the sky. Rather, one moment Enoch was standing on earth and the next moment he was gone. Important to consider is that Enoch did not transfer himself from earth to heaven, but God was the sole agent of the change in locations. In the LXX metatithēmi translates Heb. laqach (SH-3947), to take, take in the hand, take away from, carry away or off.
Sirach 44:16 repeats the aor. pass. of metatithēmi, but Wisdom of Solomon employs the verb harpazō (4:11), the same word used by Paul of the catching up of God's people to meet Yeshua (1Th 4:17). Targum Onkelos (1st cent.) says thus: "And Hanok walked in the fear of the Lord; and he was not; for the Lord had not made him to die." Also, Targum Jonathan (2nd cent.) interpreted the Hebrew narrative as follows: "Hanok served in the truth before the Lord; and, behold, he was not with the sojourners of the earth; for he was withdrawn, and he ascended to the firmament by the Word before the Lord."
of that: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun to modify the verb "taken" and introduce an interpretive purpose statement. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation that rules out any implications that could be involved with what should (could, would) apply (HELPS). It differs from the negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265).
to see: Grk. horaō, aor. inf., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception; see, perceive, experience. In the LXX horaō translates Heb. ra'ah (SH-7200), to see, with a wide range of meaning, first in Genesis 1:9. death: Grk. thanatos, death, which may be used of (1) natural death; (2) death as a penalty; (3) the manner of death; and various figurative uses (BAG). In the LXX thanatos translates Heb. maveth (SH-4194), death, which has the same range of meaning (first in Gen 21:16). The term is used here of natural death. Paul affirms the Genesis narrative that Enoch did not die.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he was not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. The negative particle implies that a search was conducted. found: Grk. heuriskō, impf. pass., to come upon, used often of finding after seeking. In other words, when Enoch disappeared his family searched for him. because: Grk. dioti, conj. that generally introduces a rationale or motive for the affirmation that precedes, "on the very account that, because, inasmuch as." God: Grk. ho theos. had taken: Grk. metatithēmi, aor. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The verbal clause affirms being taken to God's location, i.e., heaven. The book of Enoch records the ascension:
"1 And it came to pass after this that his name during his lifetime was raised aloft to that Son of 2 Man and to the Lord of Spirits from amongst those who dwell on the earth. And he was raised aloft 3 on the chariots of the Spirit and his name vanished among them. And from that day I was no longer numbered amongst them: and he set me between the two winds, between the North and the 4 West, where the angels took the cords to measure for me the place for the elect and righteous. And there I saw the first fathers and the righteous who from the beginning dwell in that place." (Enoch 70:1-4)
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. before: Grk. pro, prep. indicating precedence, used here in a temporal sense; 'earlier than, before.' the transfer: Grk. ho metathesis may mean (1) change of position or location, removal, transfer, translation; or (2) alteration of office, change. The first meaning applies here. he was commended: Grk. martureō, perf. pass. See verse 2 above. The verb alludes to the report of Genesis 5:22 and 24.
to have pleased: Grk. euaresteō, perf. inf., to please by giving what is acceptable (HELPS). The verb occurs only in this letter (also 11:6; 13:16). The LXX uses this verb to translate the Hebrew verb halak, "to walk." God: Grk. ho theos (for Heb. Elohim). The specific commendation in Genesis is that Enoch "walked with Elohim" (Gen 5:22, 24). To "walk with God" connotes close fellowship with ADONAI, as well as being righteous and blameless because of living by God's commandments (cf. Gen 6:9; Deut 5:33; 10:12).
Hegg points out that the Hebrew verb "walk" is in the Hithpael stem, which expresses action as intensive reflexive. In other words, Enoch "continually walked." This verbal form is used in the same accolade of Noah (Gen 6:9), Abraham (Gen 17:1) and Isaac (Gen 48:15).
Additional Note: Enoch
Enoch is also lauded in various Jewish literary works. In these narratives Enoch is the ideal of righteousness, even excelling Noah in this virtue, and a man who knew God in a personal relationship. See the links below.
● Jubilees 4:16-23; 7:38-39; 10:17; 19:24-27.
● Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, I, 3:2-4.
Most significant of Jewish sources is the Book of Enoch, which probably dates to the 2nd century B.C. The book is over one hundred chapters long in its final form and survives in its entirety in the Ethiopic language. Many remnants of the Book of Enoch in Aramaic were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (TDSS 278-303). The book consists of several sections:
● Book of Watchers, Chaps. 1-36.
● Parables of Enoch, Chaps. 37-71.
● Book of the Heavenly Luminaries, Chaps. 72-82.
● Dream Visions of Enoch, Chaps. 83-90.
● Apocalypse of Enoch, Chaps. 91-105.
● Book of Noah, Chaps. 106-107.
● Appendix: "Another Book of Enoch," Chap. 108.
In the Qumran fragments the Book of Enoch consists of the Book of Watchers, the Dream Visions of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Enoch, and the Book of Noah. The Qumran sect placed a high value on the Enoch literature, which profoundly influenced their conceptions of God, creation, angels, salvation, sin and the coming judgment (TDSS 279).
The Book of Enoch is included by most scholars in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha, books written by unknown authors but attributed to famous biblical figures. Stern points out that such attribution was not deceptive, but either honorific or a means of identifying the message of the actual author with the character and activity of the supposed one (783). The Book of Enoch is valuable for rich historical information that illumines our understanding of Hebrew culture and the apostolic writings.
Enoch is mentioned two other times in the Besekh, first by Luke in the genealogy of Yeshua (Luke 3:37) and then by Judah ("Jude"), the half-brother of Yeshua:
"14 Moreover to these also Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their works of ungodliness which they did impiously, and concerning all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him." (Jude 1:14-15 BR)
Judah identifies Enoch as living in the seventh from creation with Adam counted as the first, and the seventh after Adam considering that his first two sons, Cain and Abel, were essentially lost to the Messianic line (1Chr 1:1-2). The quotation by Judah is taken verbatim from the Book Enoch 1:9. Unlike Paul's quotation of secular sources (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12) Judah's quoting the Book of Enoch treats his words as authoritative prophecy. From the time of the Council of Jamnia (c. A.D. 90), the book has not been part of the Jewish Scriptures. However, beginning in the second century Christian authors took a different view.
The Epistle of Barnabas (c 70 AD – 132 AD) quotes the Book of Enoch as "Scripture," using the standard formula "it is written" (4:3). Many church fathers regarded the Book of Enoch as an authentic work of the biblical Enoch containing divine revelation. (See the article, The Book of Henoch, in the Catholic Encyclopedia.) The early church father Tertullian (A.D. 160-230) wrote that the Book of Enoch had been rejected by the Jews because it contained prophecies pertaining to the Messiah (On the Apparel of Women, Chap. III).
Nevertheless the Book of Enoch was never accorded canonical status within Christianity, except for the Ethiopia Orthodox Church. Judah clearly treats the quote as genuine prophetic material. One only needs to consider that the Genesis narratives were transmitted by means of written records that were later compiled by Moses. Tertullian contended that Noah had such records of Enoch's teachings. The presence of the Book of Enoch in the Dead Sea Scrolls indicates that it's not impossible that Enoch's work would be preserved due to the import of its content.
The fact that Enoch did not die, but was translated to heaven while alive (like Elijah), has led some Bible expositors to suggest that also like Elijah he will return. Revelation 11:3-7 contains a prophecy of two witnesses who will have a ministry during the reign of the anti-Messiah. (See my comment there.) The prophecy given to the apostle John no doubt alludes to Zechariah 4:11-14, which foretells the coming of two olive trees that are explained as two anointed ones.
God had specifically promised "Behold, I am sending to you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of ADONAI" (Mal 4:5 BR). After Yochanan the Immerser had been beheaded Yeshua affirmed the prophecy of Malachi, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things" (Matt 17:11). If Elijah is the first "anointed one" or witness, who is the second? In spite of the strong witness of Deuteronomy 34:5-8 that Moses died various Jewish Rabbinic traditions concluded Moses is the second "anointed one" mentioned by Zechariah (Stern 819f).
The appearance of Moses with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2ff) lends credence to the idea that together they have an important role in the final revelation of Yeshua, since they discussed the completion of His work on earth (Luke 9:31). Yet, there is another viable option. Hippolytus (170-236) was perhaps the first to suggest that the second witness would be Enoch (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, §43), because like Elijah, Enoch did not die. According to Judah, Enoch was a prophet and gave substantially the same type of message to the antediluvian generation that is pertinent to the end of the age. Henry Morris concurs with this interpretation (DSB 1445).
Fruchtenbaum disagrees with this interpretation insisting that the "rapture" of Enoch meant his body was transformed from corruption to incorruption and from mortality to immortality (153). Thus, Enoch would not return to earth to die. However, in the Genesis narrative the verb "taken" does not mean "transformed." Also, there is no evidence that Elijah was bodily transformed to permit entry into heaven (cf. 2Kgs 2:1) and yet Scripture affirms that he will return. Eventually the second witness will be revealed and end all speculation.
6 And without faithfulness it is impossible to please Him, for the one drawing near to God must be convinced that He is and that He is a rewarder to those earnestly seeking him.
And: Grk. de, conj. See verse 1 above. With the conjunction Paul adds this verse in order to complete his reasoning regarding Enoch in the previous verse (Coke). without: Grk. chōris, prep., in a condition or circumstance not including; apart from, lacking, separate from, without. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 1 and 3 above. Enoch did not just believe in God's existence, or just trust in God. Enoch walked with his Creator in obedience (Gen 5:22, 24) and this is the definition of pistis, or faithfulness. it is impossible: Grk. adunatos, adj., lacking in capability; unable, powerless, impossible; here the latter.
to please Him: Grk. euaresteō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. Leon Morris comments, "He does not say simply that without faith it is difficult to please God; he says that without faith it is impossible to please him!" for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. drawing near: Grk. proserchomai, pres. mid. part., to approach from a point to a person or place; come, go to, approach. The verb is used here in a figurative sense of drawing near to God in prayer, sacrifice, worship or devotion of heart and life (Zodhiates).
In the LXX proserchomai translates Heb. qarab (SH-7126), to come near or approach, which is used to describe the congregation of Israel coming near and standing before the presence of God in order to experience the glory of God (Lev 9:5-6). Then the verb is also used of Aaron and his descendants approaching the altar to offer a sacrifice (Lev 9:7-8; 21:17, 21). to God: Grk. ho theos (for Heb. Elohim). See verse 3 above. must: Grk. dei, pres., impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of necessity or an expected outcome, something that must happen or something one is obligated to do, which may arise in a variety of circumstances; must, necessary, behooves.
be convinced: Grk. pisteuō (from pistis, trust, faithfulness), aor. inf., to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the Besekh the verb often has the sense of a personal trust in God's power and His nearness to help. The infinitive is used to explain that which is necessary (Rienecker). In the LXX pisteuō translates Heb. aman (SH-539), to be reliable, to stand firm, trust, believe, be faithful, first used in Genesis 15:6 where it describes Abraham's response to God. Almost all versions translate the verb as "believe." Stern translates the verb as "trust" (CJB).
The verb actively manifests the character of pistis set forth in verse 1 above. The aorist tense normally expresses action in the past or completed action, but here the aorist is probably ingressive, that is, it marks the initiation of the action. Drawing near to God begins with being convinced without any doubts (cf. Jas 1:6).
that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The second usage applies here. Bible scholars concur that the conjunction should be translated as "that," since it links the verb pisteuō with the following affirmation. In my view the conjunction could be translated as "because."
He is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. Many versions translate the verb as "He exists" (e.g., CJB, CSB, ESV, GW, GNB, MSG, NASB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TLV). Stern suggests that Paul is offering a rebuttal to atheism or even agnosticism. Certainly a principle repeated often in the Tanakh is the existence of the living God of Israel and the non-existence of pagan deities. On the other hand, Paul is writing to followers of Yeshua. They certainly believed in the existence of God. It would be nonsensical for someone to draw near to a God they didn't believe existed.
Paul is not arguing for the philosophical concept of monotheism. Rather the point of the verb is more likely as Matthew Henry declared, "We cannot come to God, unless we believe that He is what He has revealed Himself to be in the Scripture." Thus, the verb eimi, standing for the Hebrew verb hayah (SH-1961) represents God's revelation about Himself to Moses (Ex 3:14). The verb also alludes to the many affirmations in the LXX by ADONAI of "I AM" (egō eimi) (Ex 7:5; 8:22; 16:12; 20:2, 5; 29:46; Lev 11:44, 45; 26:1, 13, 44; Deut 5:6; 32:39; Isa 45:8, 18, 19; 61:8). Enoch's knowledge of God wasn't just about His existence, but His nature and character.
and: Grk. kai, conj. that He is: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid., lit. "becomes." See verse 3 above. a rewarder: Grk. misthapodotēs (from misthos, "reward" and apodidōmi, "give from"), one who renders in return for performance. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The noun does not occur in the LXX or earlier Greek or Jewish literature, so Luke may have coined the term (Lane). Yeshua assured his disciples that the Father does provide a reward (Grk. misthos) to those who serve Him (Matt 5:12; 10:42; Luke 6:35). The concept of God as a rewarder is declared in the context of the Ten Commandments:
"I, ADONAI your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons, and to the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing covenant faithfulness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Deut 5:9-10 BR)
to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. earnestly seeking: Grk. ekzēteō, pl. pres. part., engage in a thorough search; seek out. The verb emphasizes the personal intent of the seeker, i.e. the outcome intensely and personally desired by the seeker (HELPS). Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; used of God. As a virtue this "seeking" is not of someone with no knowledge of God trying to find God, but like Enoch seeking to understand what pleases God so that he might do it, as well as seeking to communicate with God. Hegg suggests that the seeking of the One who rewards is a tacit recognition of God's goodness, omnipotence and sovereignty.
Lane comments that the verbal phrase "is used here to typify those who exhibit the faith that pleases God, and denotes a singular determination to devote oneself to the service of God." The verb also implies the firm expectation of the reward. The particular reward granted to Enoch was the confirmation of being well pleasing to God, followed by the unexpected experience of transference to heaven. In nearly all of the subsequent examples of faith Paul mentions in the rest of this chapter, there is a strong relationship between their faith and the reward that is deserving of notice.
7 Because of faithfulness Noah, having been divinely warned concerning things not yet seen, and moved by godly fear constructed an ark for deliverance of his household; through which he condemned the world and became a possessor of the righteousness according to faithfulness.
Date: 2469−2349 B.C. (Ussher 19).
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Noah: Grk. Nōe, which transliterates Heb. Noach (SH-5146, "rest"), the son of Lamech (Gen 5:28f) and the ninth generation after Adam (1Chr 1:4). Noah is mentioned eight times in the Besekh (Matt 24:37-41; Luke 3:36; 17:26-27; 1Pet 3:20; 2Pet 2:5).
According to the MT Noah was born in A.M. 1056, but the LXX identifies the year as A.M. 1662. Josephus concurred with the genealogical chronology of the LXX (Ant. I, 3:4). See the explanation of the discrepancy between the MT and LXX in the comment on verse 5 above. By the time Noah was 500 years old he had begat three sons in this order: Japheth, Shem and Ham (cf. Gen 5:32; 6:10; 10:21; 11:10) (Ussher 19). Noah was 600 years old when the deluge (Heb. mabbul) came upon the earth (Gen 7:6) and he lived another 350 years after the deluge (Gen 9:28-29).
having been divinely warned: Grk. chrēmatizō (from chrēma, "a legal agreement for transacting business"), aor. pass. part., properly, to admonish on the basis of a valid standard (HELPS), and used of God admonishing or warning people. Many versions translate the verb as "was warned." In the LXX the verb occurs in Jeremiah in the sense of giving a divine command, admonition or warning, translating Heb. sha'ag (SH-7580), to roar (Jer 25:30) and Heb. dabar (SH-1696), to speak (Jer 26:2; 29:23; 30:2; 36:4) (DNTT 3:324). Here the verb includes the idea of a divine revelation and instruction.
concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something. With the genitive case of the noun following the preposition means "about, concerning, with regard to, in reference to." things: neut. pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. not yet: Grk. mēdepō, adv., 'up to this time,' not yet. The adverb occurs only here in the Besekh. seen: Grk. blepō, pl. pres. pass. part. See verse 1 above. The phrase "things not yet seen" refers to the global deluge that God sent upon the earth to destroy all life. Primeval earth had been watered by gentle mists (Gen 2:6), but heavy rain and flood were unknown to the human population. See my article The Global Deluge.
The Book of Enoch contains an anecdote that God charged the archangel Uriel with informing Noah of the wrath to come:
"1 Then the Most High, the Great and Holy One spoke, 2 and sent Arsayalalyur to the son of Lamech, 3 saying, Say to him in my name, 'Conceal yourself.' 4 Then explain to him the consummation which is about to take place; for all the earth shall perish; the waters of a deluge shall come over the whole earth, and all things which are in it shall be destroyed. 5 And now teach him how he may escape, and how his seed may remain in all the earth." (1Enoch 10:1-5)
and moved by godly fear: Grk. eulabeomai (from eulabēs, "devout, God-fearing"), aor. pass. part., be reverently submissive. Vincent defines the verb as "showing pious care, reverent circumspection." constructed: Grk. kataskeuazō, aor., prepare skillfully or make exactly ready, using implements according to a tooled-design; build, construct, erect, prepare (HELPS). Noah believed the prophecy of limited time for mankind and the coming judgment (Gen 6:3, 7), he trusted in God's providential care to deliver him and his family and was faithful to obey God in building the means of escape from judgment.
an ark: Grk. kibōtos (for Heb. tebah), properly a wooden box (HELPS), but used first of a seafaring vessel. God instructed Noah to build a vessel to carry his family and animals of every kind in order to survive the deluge.
"14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks." (Gen 6:14-16 ESV)
Noah followed the building instructions down to every detail. The construction materials were unique. The word "gopher" occurs only in Genesis 6:14 and this tree may have only existed in primeval earth and had water resistance properties. Then Noah was to apply a water resistant sealant inside and outside the vessel to prevent any leakage. Dr. Henry M. Morris pointed out that the dimensions of the ark were ideally designed for both stability and capacity. It has been shown hydrodynamically that the ark would have been practically impossible to capsize and would have been reasonably comfortable, even during violent waves and winds (DSB 21).
The dimensions God prescribed for the ark also made it much too large for regional animal life. A cubit is a Hebrew unit of measure of about 18 inches based on the length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. So converting the cubits to feet yields a vessel of 438 feet long, almost 73 feet wide and about 44 feet tall. That would give a volume of about 1,400,000 cubic feet and the volumetric capacity would equal 522 standard railroad stock cars, enough to carry 125,000 sheep-sized animals and far more than enough to carry two of every known kind of land animal, living or extinct (TGR 181).
Genesis does not record when Noah was instructed to build the ark or how long construction took, but the reported chronology contains a hint. When Noah was 500 years old (Gen 5:32) God gave a prophetic warning that the limit of mankind existence on the earth would not exceed one hundred and twenty years (Gen 6:3). The cataclysmic deluge came upon the world when Noah was 600 years old (Gen 7:6). Given the extraordinary dimensions of the ark construction was probably going on for most of the century that preceded the deluge (TGR 183).
The global deluge and the ark of Noah are mentioned especially by Yeshua in his Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27) as an illustration of the last days and Second Coming. See the Additional Note below.
for: Grk. eis, prep., with the root meaning of "in, within," indicating the point reached or entered ("into"), and may express direction, position, relation, cause or purpose (DM 114), here purpose. deliverance: Grk. sōtēria means rescue, deliverance or salvation from physical harm, but often from God's wrath. In the LXX sōtēria translates six different Hebrew formations derived from the root verb yasha, to deliver (DNTT 3:206). The purpose for building such a gigantic vessel is self-evident. If the flood was to be a local event people could simply have fled to higher ground.
of his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. household: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation; by extension those belonging to the household of that dwelling, as well as an organized body of people. In the LXX oikos translates Heb. bayith (SH-1004) with the same range of meaning, first in Genesis 7:1. The household of Noah that entered the ark included his wife, his three sons and their wives (Gen 7:7, 13). Noah did not gain any grandchildren until after the deluge (Gen 10:1). A week before the deluge, Noah led his family and all of the animals into the ark just as God directed (Gen 7:4). Peter comments that eight people came safely through the deluge (1Pet 3:20).
through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 4 above. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. The pronoun, being a feminine noun, refers back to either "ark" or "deliverance," both of which are feminine nouns. he condemned: Grk. katakrinō (from kata, "against," and krinō, "to judge"), aor., declare worthy of punishment, pronounce a judicial verdict or condemn. In this context the verb implies condemnation by contrast, i.e., to show by one's good conduct that others are guilty of misconduct and deserve condemnation (Zodhiates).
the world: Grk. kosmos, world, has a variety of uses in the Besekh, including (1) the entire cosmic universe including the earth; (2) the earth as the abode of mankind; or (3) the present order of humanity in contrast to the Kingdom of God (Zodhiates). The second meaning is intended here. The LXX of the Tanakh uses kosmos five times for Heb. tsaba, (SH-6635), host, in reference to the arrangement of the stars, 'the heavenly hosts,' as the ornament of the heavens (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19). The use of kosmos to mean "world" as the habitation of mankind is only found in Jewish literature later than the Tanakh: Wisdom, 19 times; 2Maccabees, 5 times; and 4Maccabees, 4 times (DNTT 1:522).
The verbal phrase "he condemned the world" does not mean that Noah acted in the office of judge or that he usurped the prerogative of God. Rather the righteousness of Noah served as a rebuke of the corrupt and wicked condition of society. It was God who passed the sentence of death on the earth's population (Gen 6:6-7). God acted by causing the "fountains of the deep" to burst open and the sluices of the sky were opened (7:11). The rain was incessant, pouring for 40 days and 40 nights (Gen 7:4, 12). Water overflowed the world and lifted the ark up to float on the surface (7:17-18).
Then the rising waters covered "all the high mountains everywhere" and reached a level of 15 cubits above the highest mountains (Gen 7:19-20). All flesh with the breath of life (humans and animals) outside the ark died (7:21-23; 8:21). The list of animals destroyed by the deluge includes the birds, which could have escaped a local flood. The making of the ark and its occupation by Noah's family and all the animals was an acted out parable of this condemnation. Henry Morris observed that,
"In our modern age of scientific skepticism, the enormity of this great event of the past has been all but forgotten. Its testimony of the awfulness of sin and the reality of divine retribution is so disturbingly unwelcome that men have tried for ages somehow to explain it away and forget it." (TGR 199)
and: Grk. kai, conj. became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 3 above. a possessor: Grk. klēronomos (from klēros, "a lot," and nemō, "have in one's power") refers to that which is apportioned, an inheritor in a legal sense, heir (Zodhiates). More frequently the word means to be a recipient of a share in something, with focus on experience of divine conferral of promised benefits (Danker). By implication the term means "a possessor" (SECB).
In the LXX klēronomos occurs only a few times and translates the participle of Heb. yarash (SH-3423), to take possession of, to inherit (2Sam 14:7; Jer 8:10; Mic 1:15). The translation of "possessor" in the present verse is used by two versions (AMPC, GNC). Goodspeed translates the noun as "came to possess." The term is used here in a spiritual sense of a character quality and a status recognized by God.
of the righteousness: Grk. ho dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē is used for a dozen different terms, normally Heb. tzedaqah (SH-6666), with the same meaning (DNTT 3:354). Noah is the first person to be described as a righteous man, blameless in his time; and that he walked with God (Gen 6:9). Indeed Noah is distinguished in the Tanakh for his righteousness along with Job and Daniel (Ezek 14:20). Peter regarded Noah as a "herald of righteousness" (2Pet 2:5), meaning that in his generation Noah was a light of God's standards against the prevailing culture.
according to: Grk. kata, prep., generally used to signify (1) direction, 'against, down;' (2) position, 'down, upon, in;' or (3) relation, 'according to, in reference to.' The third meaning applies here. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. True faith manifests itself in works of righteousness, i.e., faithfulness in obeying God's commandments qualifies a person as righteous. Paul is not citing pistis as the basis for imputing righteousness to a man who had none, as commonly believed in Christianity. In Genesis Noah is contrasted with the earth's population of that time, which God described as being evil (Gen 6:5). On the other hand, "Noah, a righteous man, was blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God" (Gen 6:9 BR).
Additional Note: Noah and the Second Coming
Yeshua in his Olivet Discourse cited Noah and the times in which he lived as an example of the last days and the Second Coming:
"37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matt 24:37-39 BR)
The analogy draws the disciples' attention to the social conditions of the time in order to drive home His point about the last days. Noah must have appeared to be an eccentric, because for decades (cf. Gen 6:3), he announced God's intention to destroy the world with water and worked to build a sea-worthy ship, but life was too good to pay serious attention to a religious nut. The reference to the activities of that time is not a prophecy that the same conditions will exist when Yeshua comes to rescue His people, but to stress the unexpected nature of God's judgment.
The antediluvian world was a time of prosperity and peace. People carried on with their normal activities of married life and feasting and had no inkling that they would perish suddenly. Thus, the people of Noah's day were spiritually unprepared to meet their Creator. Yeshua succinctly recounts that the flood came and "took them all away" (Matt 24:39), meaning that the earth's population, except for Noah's family, perished in the flood waters. The obvious fact that has a direct bearing on the Second Coming is that on the same day that everyone else in the world drowned only Noah and his family were left alive (Gen 6:11, 13; Matt 24:39). The deliverance of Noah and his family was not secret, but a very public event.
The brief reference to the story of Noah is remarkably parallel to the harvest or gathering parables found in Matthew 3:12 and 13:24-50. All of the stories start with a group that is then divided, with one part of the group being removed from the rest of the group. It seems reasonable that the pattern established in the harvest parables would hold true in the Olivet Discourse. The deliverance of God's people will take place coincidental with the outpouring of God's wrath on the world.
Heroes of Faithfulness: Abraham and Sarah, 11:8-12
In this next section Paul extols the great patriarch Abraham. The character of Abraham is praised in the Tanakh (Gen 26:5; Josh 24:2-3; Neh 9:7-8; Isa 41:8), as well as in two of Paul's earlier letters (Gal 3:6-9, 14, 16-18, 29; Rom 4:1-3, 9-13, 16-22). The patriarchal period of history in which Abraham lived extended from the death of Noah to the birth of Moses (Gen 10:1−Ex 2:1), about 500 years.
8 Because of faithfulness Abraham, being called, obeyed to go out to a place that he was going to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Reference: Genesis 11:31; 12:1-5; Joshua 24:2-3; Nehemiah 9:7-8; DSS 4Q252, 1:8-10; Philo, On the Migration of Abraham.
Date: 1921 B.C. (Ussher 24).
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Abraham: Grk. Abraam, a transliteration of Heb. Avraham (SH-85), a personal name. The preeminent Hebrew patriarch, he was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). He grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a prominent city of Shinar, later known as Babylonia. See the map here. His birth name was Abram ("father is exalted"), but his name was later changed to Abraham ("father of a multitude") (Gen 17:5). For more information on the great patriarch see my article The Story of Abraham.
Stern notes that Nehemiah extols Abraham by saying "You found his heart faithful [Heb. aman; LXX pistos] before You" (Neh 9:8). In other letters Paul reminds his readers of the faithfulness of Abraham (Gal 3:6-9; Rom 4:9, 16).
being called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part., to call, and may mean (1) to express something aloud; (2) to invite or summon; (3) to solicit participation; or (4) to identify by name. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX kaleō translates Heb. qara (SH-7121), to call, with the same range of meaning (Gen 1:5; 3:9; 17:19). Rienecker suggests the participle could be temporal "when He called." Use of the verb may be an allusion to Isaiah 51:2, "Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who birthed you, for when only one I called [Heb. qara; Grk. kaleō] him and blessed him and increased him" (BR).
The content of the divine call is found in Genesis 12:1-3. God directed Abram to leave his home country and the call to Abram incorporated four promises: (1) God would make Abram into a great nation; (2) God would make his name great; (3) God would bless those who blessed Abram and curse those who cursed him; and (4) in Abram all the families of the earth would be blessed.
obeyed: Grk. hupakouō (from hupo, "under," and akouō, "to hear"), aor., to be in compliance, to obey. In Hebrew culture "to hear" is "to obey." In the LXX hupakouō mostly translates Heb. shama (SH-8085), to hear or listen to and by extension to obey, first in Genesis 16:2 (DNTT 2:179). The Genesis narrative says "So Abram departed as ADONAI had spoken to him" (12:4 BR). to go out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. inf., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. to: Grk. eis, prep. See the previous verse. Here the preposition expresses direction.
a place: Grk. topos, may mean (1) a spatial area; (2) a position with obligation; or (3) a circumstance that offers an opportunity to do something. The third meaning is intended here. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. he was going: Grk. mellō, impf., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, about to happen, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. to receive: Grk. lambanō, pres. inf., actively lay hold of to take or receive. In the LXX lambanō translates chiefly Heb. laqach (3947), to take, generally in the active sense, first in Genesis 2:7 (DNTT 3:747). The infinitive expresses result.
for: Grk. eis. Here the preposition expresses purpose. an inheritance: Grk. klēronomia, inheritance, may mean (1) a share in what is passed on by a testator in a legal sense; or (2) participation in a share with focus on divine conferral of promised benefits. The second meaning is intended here. In the LXX klēronomia translates Heb. nachalah (SH-5159), possession, property, inheritance, first in Genesis 31:14 (DNTT 2:298). In the Torah the term "inheritance" has three primary uses. First, inheritance is personal property taken possession of by an heir, normally the firstborn son, upon the death of the owner (Gen 31:14; Num 27:6-11; Deut 21:15-17).
Stern points out that the Torah says nothing of testamentary wills (696), because such documents were unnecessary. Second, inheritance was God's covenantal promise to give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, making God the testator (Ex 32:13; Deut 4:38). As an exception the tribe of Levi was denied any inheritance of the land, but ADONAI and the tithe was to be their inheritance (Num 18:20-24; Deut 10:9; 12:12; 18:2). Third, inheritance is used figuratively for the concept of the covenant people being a personal possession or inheritance for God Himself (Ex 15:17; Deut 4:20; 9:26; 32:9).
Stephen mentioned in his defense speech before the Judean ruling council that Abraham could not inherit property in Canaan from his father Terah because Terah had never claimed land there (Acts 7:5). God is the owner of the earth (Ex 19:5; Lev 25:23; Ps 24:1; 50:12; 1Cor 10:26) so He could bequeath the land of Canaan to Abraham as an inheritance.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. See a map of Abraham's journey here. Abraham received his call originally in Ur of the Chaldees (cf. Gen 11:31; 15:7; Neh 9:7; Acts 7:2). So he departed with his family, including his father Terah, and arrived in Haran, a city in Paddan-Aram situated in northwestern Mesopotamia on a tributary of the Euphrates River. Scripture affirms that Abraham was 75 years old when he departed Haran for Canaan (Gen 12:4). His age is repeated by both Philo (On the Migration of Abraham 176, 198) and Josephus (Ant. I, 7:1).
Scripture does not give the age of Abraham when he left Ur nor specifies the length of time he dwelt in Haran before leaving for Canaan (Gen 11:31). The Hebrew verb yashab (SH-3427) means to sit, remain or dwell, and the imperfect tense of the verb suggests a stay of some duration and not merely a rest stop. One Qumran document reports the age of Abraham when he departed Ur and his time in Haran.
"Terah was one hundred and forty years old when he left Ur of the Chaldees and went to Haran and Abram was seventy years old. And Abram dwelt five years in Haran. Then Terah died sixty years after Abram went out to the land of Canaan." (Commentaries on Genesis, 4Q252, 1:8-10, TDSS 354).
Thus, according to 4Q252 Abraham lived in Haran five years and then God reminded him of the original call. So, Abraham obeyed and set out for Canaan. The source of information for this Qumran document is unknown and not confirmed in any other Jewish literature. See my comment on Stephen's reference this event in Acts 7:4.
not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 5 above. knowing: Grk. epistamai, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) grasp mentally, know, understand; or (2) acquire information about something, know of, know about. The second meaning applies here. where: Grk. pou, adv. of place, somewhere, where. he was going: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., 'to come or arrive,' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. God had promised Abraham an unspecified land, but He could not show it until Abraham obeyed. For Abraham to leave Ur and later Haran was an act of total trust.
9 Because of faithfulness he sojourned in the land of promise, as a foreign land, having lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob, joint-heirs of the same promise.
Reference: Genesis 12:7-8; 23:4; 13:15; 26:3, 25; 31:25.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. he sojourned: Grk. paroikeō, aor., to dwell alongside of, live in a foreign land beyond one's place of ancestry. Such foreigners had certain legal rights even though they were considered to be only temporary residents (Rienecker).
in: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." the land: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, land enclosed within fixed boundaries, and the earth in contrast to heaven. Here the term refers to a region or territory. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (SH-776), first in Genesis 1:1 (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75).
of promise: Grk. ho epaggelia, a pledge of special benefit or promise, especially from God. In Greek culture the term meant a promise freely offered and volunteered, typically without conditions. It is not a promise extracted or coerced from someone, nor is it the result of mutual agreement (NTW 87). Throughout antiquity epaggelia was a legal term that referred to an officially sanctioned promise, and almost every use in the Besekh points back to the Tanakh (HELPS).
The term epaggelia has no exact Hebrew equivalent (DNTT 3:69). In the LXX epaggelia replaces Heb. parashah (SH-6575), "exact statement, sum" (Esth 4:7) for the amount of money Haman promised to the Persian king for destroying the Jews. However, the concept of divine promise pervades the Tanakh, especially in the content of the covenants that God made with Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Rom 9:4; Gal 3:17; Eph 2:12; Heb 8:6; 9:15).
The phrase "land of promise" alludes to the promise God made to Abraham of land that would belong to him and his descendants as an everlasting possession (Gen 12:5-7; 13:15). The promised land was originally defined as the land of Canaan. Then God expanded the territory to include all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates, including the land of Canaan (Gen 15:18). See a graphic of the promised territory here. Later repetitions of the promise focused on the land of Canaan (Gen 17:8; 26:3-4; 28:10-15; 35:9-12; Ex 6:4; Lev 14:34; 25:38; Num 13:2).
as: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used here to introduce a pattern or model; as, just as, just like, similar to. a foreign land: Grk. allotrios, adj., belonging to another and used here of a land belonging to others and therefore foreign. having lived: Grk. katoikeō, aor. part., to make a specific locale or area of residence, thus to dwell, reside or live in. in: Grk. en, prep. tents: pl. of Grk. skēnē, a tent, abode, or dwelling. In the LXX skēnē translates three Hebrew words: (1) ohel (SH-168), a tent used for personal dwelling (Gen 4:20); (2) sukkah (SH-5521), a matted booth, shed or hut (Gen 33:17); and (3) mishkan (SH-4908), a sacred sanctuary (Ex 25:9) (DNTT 3:811).
with: Grk. meta, prep. with a root meaning of "in the midst of" (DM 107), may be used (1) as a marker of association; with, among; or (2) as a sequential marker; after, behind. The first usage is intended here. In this context the clause "having lived in tents with" refers to specific passages that mention the dwelling of the patriarchs collocated in tents (Heb. ohel) (Gen 12:8; 26:25; 31:25).
Isaac: Grk. Isaak, which attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yitzchak ("laughter"). Isaac was the only son of Abraham by Sarah when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety (Gen 21:1-6). Isaac was actually Abraham's second-born child, Ishmael being his first-born by Hagar, Abraham's concubine-wife. God made it clear to Abraham that being the child of promise the Messianic line would go through Isaac (Gen 21:12). Isaac became a child of sacrifice and a type of Yeshua when God commanded Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah and present a burnt offering (Gen 22:1-14).
Through the matchmaking efforts of his father, Isaac married his cousin Rebekah (Gen 24:67), who bore him twin sons, Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:21-28). God reiterated the covenant He made with Abraham with his son Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24). Isaac became quite prosperous and made his home in Beersheba (Gen 26:23-25). Isaac died at Mamre near Hebron at the age of 180 and was buried by his sons (Gen 35:27-29).
and: Grk. kai, conj. Jacob: Grk. Iakōb transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), the son of the patriarch Isaac. The meaning of Jacob's name, "heel-catcher," had no pejorative connotation when first given by Isaac to his son. As indicated by Hosea 12:3, "heel-catcher" illustrated the strength and power he had with God. The story of Jacob is narrated in Genesis 25—50. He was the second born of the twin sons of Isaac by Rebekah, probably at Beer-Lachai-Roi in the Negev (cf. Gen 24:62; 25:11, 20, 26). Before Jacob's birth God informed Rebekah "There are two nations in your womb. From birth they will be two rival peoples. One of these peoples will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger" (Gen 25:23 CJB).
By this statement God decreed that Jacob, even though born second, would have all the rights of the firstborn: (1) superior rank in his family (Gen 49:3); (2) a double portion of the paternal inheritance (Deut 21:17); (3) the priestly office in the family (Num 8:17-19); and (4) the promise of the Seed in which all nations of the earth were to be blessed (Gen 22:18). Moses summarized the character of Esau and Jacob: "And the boys grew up, and Esau was a man, a skillful hunter, a man of the field, and Jacob was a complete man, dwelling in tents." (Gen 25:27 BR). From the time of his birth Jacob was a good man who lived as a shepherd, whereas his brother Esau became an enterprising hunter.
Jacob is described with the adjective tam (SH-8535), which means "perfect, complete, blameless, morally innocent, having integrity." This is the same word used to describe Job (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3) and Noah (Gen 6:9) and prescribed as God's expectation of Abraham (Gen 17:1). However, Bible scholars do not want to accord Jacob the same status as Noah and Job and inexplicably render tam in his case as "quiet," "peaceful," "plain," or "mild." (Check your own version.)
Esau, on the other hand, imitated Nimrod in being a big game hunter (Gen 10:9), and eventually became an immoral and godless man (Gen 28:8-9; Heb 12:16). Unfortunately common Christian interpretation of Jacob's story has conveniently ignored God's will and twisted the facts of the story in order to take up an offense for Esau. Christian commentators generally allege that Jacob and his mother conspired to deceive the aged patriarch with the view of stealing the birthright for Jacob. Bible publishers even title the relevant section as "The Stolen Blessing," which represents ignorance at best and defamation at worst.
Indeed, in contrast to God many Christians have loved Esau and hated Jacob (cf. Mal 1:2-3). Even in this modern time Palestinian terrorists gain more sympathy from some Christian leaders than Israeli victims. The truth is Jacob couldn't steal what already belonged to him, but in fact his deceit prevented Isaac from committing a monstrous fraud and rebellion against God. Isaac realized his error and gave a second blessing to Jacob that left no doubt as to his rights. (See my article Our Father Jacob in which I set the record straight.)
The clause "having lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob" makes explicit what the Tanakh implies. Jacob was born when his father was 60 and Abraham was 160. Since Abraham died at 175 the three patriarchs lived together for fifteen years.
joint-heirs: Grk. sugklēronomos (from sun, "with" and klēronomos, "an heir"), in joint heirship status. of the same: Grk. ho autos, personal pronoun. See verse 4 above. promise: Grk. ho epaggelia. The Genesis narrative reports that the covenantal promises made to Abraham, including the land of promise, were then passed to Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24), to Jacob (Gen 28:10-22; 35:9-12) and then their blood descendants (Ex 33:1). God specifically excluded Ishmael and Esau from the promise of the land. No passage in the Bible revokes the right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, and yet Christianity has historically propagated the lie that God canceled His promise.
The apostle Paul affirmed that God's covenant and promises have not been canceled, but remain in force (Rom 9:4). None of the Land belongs to any non-Jewish people. This truth is further emphasized by the constant reminder that God swore to give the Land to the people of Israel. The solemn divine oath is mentioned 35 times in the Tanakh (Ex 6:8; 13:5, 11; 33:1; Num 14:23, 30; 32:11; Deut 1:8, 35; 6:10, 18; 7:13; 8:1; 9:5; 10:11; 11:9, 21; 26:3, 15; 28:11; 30:20; 31:20-21, 23; 34:4; Josh 1:6; 14:9; Neh 9:15; Jer 11:5; 32:22; Ezek 20:6, 15, 28; 47:14).
David Stern asks "Is the promise unfulfillable?" He answers "No," because Yeshua testified that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still alive (Matt 22:31-32). When their seed, the Jewish people, come into full possession of Eretz-Israel, as God has promised them, the Patriarchs will be alive to inherit with them. Someone might object that perhaps the promise that Abraham will inherit the Land has been spiritualized in the New Covenant. Perhaps "the Land" now refers to heaven and not to a piece of real estate in the Middle East.
Stern answers "No" again, because God instructed Abraham, "Arise, and walk through the length and breadth of the Land, for I will give it to you" (Gen 13:17). Obviously God did not mean him to walk through heaven. God keeps his promises, he does not renege on them by spiritualizing them into something else (cf. Matt 5:5; 2Cor 1:20).
10 For he was awaiting the city having foundations, of which the architect and builder is God.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. he was awaiting: Grk. ekdechomai, impf. mid., to take or receive, and by implication to await or expect. The imperfect tense expresses continuous action in past time. Abraham held to this expectation for his entire life in Canaan. the city: Grk. ho polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. In Hellenistic culture polis originally referred to the city-states in ancient Greece in which the inhabitants held the rights of a citizen. In the LXX polis chiefly translates Heb. ir, city or town as the abode of men (SH-5892), first in Genesis 4:17.
having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. foundations: pl. of Grk. themelios, a structure serving as a firm base; foundation, foundation stone. The term is often used in regard to a building, a wall or a walled city. The plural form of the noun is used here probably because foundations of ancient walled cities were usually formed of rows of huge stones that made up the wall, down to the bedrock. The presence of foundations denotes permanence in contrast the nomadic use of tents. The phrase "city having foundations" hints at the later fulfillment in the revelation of the New Jerusalem with twelve foundations (Rev 21:14, 19).
In the LXX themelios first translates Heb. mosadah (SH-4145), which is used for the foundations of the earth (Deut 32:22; 2Sam 22:16; Ps 18:15; Isa 24:18; 40:21; Jer 31:37; Mic 6:2). Then themelios occurs for various terms derived from the root verb yasad (SH-3245), to establish, found, fix, used in physical construction scenarios, particularly of the Temple in Jerusalem (1Kgs 5:17; 6:37) or the city of Jerusalem (Isa 28:16; Ezek 13:14; Amos 2:5).
of which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. the architect: Grk. technitēs, one proficient in production calling for special skill; architect, designer, maker. and: Grk. kai, conj. builder: Grk. dēmiourgos, properly, someone working on behalf of a group of people, then builder, framer, maker (HELPS). is God: Grk. ho theos. Se verse 3 above. Paul makes the point affirmed in the Tanakh that lasting foundations are laid by God (Ps 104:5; Prov 8:29; 10:25; Isa 14:32; 28:16; 40:21).
Hegg suggests that the mention of "foundations" is an allusion to Psalm 87, which expresses the longing of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the city of God as He intends it to be, God dwelling in their midst and His people at peace with Him and each other (193):
"A psalm of the sons of Korah, a song. His foundation is in the holy mountains. 2 ADONAI loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. 3 Glorious things are spoken of you, city of God. 4 I will mention Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge Me—behold Philistia and Tyre, with Cush: 'This one was born there.' 5 But of Zion it will be said: 'This one and that one were born in her.' And Elyon Himself will establish her. 6 ADONAI will count in the register of the peoples: 'This one was born there.' Selah. 7 Then singing and dancing—all my fountains of joy are in you!" (Ps 87:1-3 TLV)
Relevant to the context is that Abraham knew about the building of cities by man since the deluge (Gen 10:11-12). In particular the city of Babel became the center of man's rebellion against God (Gen 11:1-4). After his divine call Abraham settled in Haran, which was an ancient seat of worship of the moon-god (BDB 357). Living in a wicked city made Abraham long for a city built by the Creator God and where He is Lord.
A possible hint of Abraham's desire and expectation may be inferred from the Genesis narrative of Isaac's sacrifice. God had directed Abraham to sacrifice his son on Mt. Moriah (Gen 22:2). Mt. Moriah would later be one of the seven hills on which Jerusalem was built and where Solomon erected the Temple (2Chr 3:1). After the substitute sacrifice was provided for Isaac, God reiterated His covenantal promises (Gen 22:16-18). Included was this distinctive promise: "Your Seed will possess the gate of his enemies" (Gen 22:17). Most versions mistranslate the singular masculine pronoun ("his") as plural ("their"). In the Tanakh the term "gate" is used overwhelmingly for the entrance to a city.
As Paul points out the Seed is the Messiah (Gal 3:16), but in the original context the promise could also refer to David who conquered the Jebusites for control of Jerusalem, the city of promise (2Sam 5:6-8). Jerusalem is the most important city in the Tanakh. ADONAI chose to make His name dwell there (Deut 12:5; 14:23; 1Kgs 8:44, 48; 2Chr 6:38) and thus became known as the "city of God" (Ps 46:4; 48:1, 8; 87:3) and "the holy city" (Neh 11:1; Isa 48:2; 52:2). God intended that Jerusalem be a permanent dwelling for His people.
"Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts; your eyes will see Jerusalem, an undisturbed habitation, a tent which will not be folded; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its cords be torn apart." (Isa 33:20)
11 Because of faithfulness, likewise Sarah herself being barren, he received power for the deposition of semen, even beyond the opportune time of life, since he considered the One having promised to be faithful.
Reference: Genesis 11:30; 17:19; 18:11-14; 21:2; Isaiah 51:2; Romans 4:19.
NOTE: Bible scholars are divided over whether Sarah or Abraham is the subject of the action described. Those that affirm Sarah as the subject include Chrysostom, Guthrie, and N.T. Wright. However, a good number of scholars view Abraham as the primary subject with Sarah sharing in the virtue of faith (Bruce, Fruchtenbaum, Gruber, Hegg, Lane, McKee, L. Morris, and Stern). Click here for a comparison of Bible versions. In my view when the words are translated literally Abraham is the primary focus. The mention of Sarah in the apparent position of subject of the verse served to justify mistranslation.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verse 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Then Paul inserts a parenthetical comment. likewise: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 4 above. The conjunction is used here in an emphatic sense to mark an important fact added to what has already been said, or that of which something already said holds good; accordingly it takes on the nature of an adverb (Thayer). The conjunction thus emphasizes a sharing in the action verb that follows.
Sarah: Grk. Sarrah, which transliterates Heb Sarah ("princess"), who first appears in Genesis 11:29 as Sarai, but God changed her name to Sarah when she was 89 (Gen 17:15). Sarah was the wife of Abraham's youth and in actuality his half-sister, daughter of the same father (Gen 20:12f). Prior to the Sinaitic covenant (Lev 18) there were no restrictions on marriage for God's people. The first generation of men after the creation of Adam obviously married their sisters and then cousins. Unions between close relatives continued for centuries.
Sarah was a godly woman who was faithful and submissive to her husband (Gen 18:12; 1Pet 3:6). Sarah was also a strong woman and with Abraham demonstrated the biblical design of the wife being the head of the house (cf. Gen 16:6; 21:12; 1Tim 5:14; Titus 2:5) and the husband the head of the home. Sarah lived to the age of 127 (Gen 23:1). She died in Hebron and Abraham bought the field and cave of Machpelah from the sons of Heth for a burial site.
Noteworthy is that twice Abraham asked Sarah not to tell the truth about their marriage relationship while sojourning in Egypt (Gen 12:10-20) and later in Gerar (Gen 20:1-7). In both those circumstances Sarah was taken by the pagan king to add to his harem. Abraham did not introduce Sarah as his wife because he knew the acquisitive nature of pagan kings when it came to beautiful women. They wouldn't hesitate to kill a man with a beautiful wife and take her into his harem. When Sarah's welfare was jeopardized God protected her. God did not fault Abraham for his decision, but instead acted in judgment against both kings for taking Sarah (Gen 12:17; 20:3, 18).
herself: fem. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. being barren: Grk. steira (for Heb. aqar), lacking capability to conceive, barren. See the Textual Note below. Many Bible versions make Sarah the subject of the action in the rest of the verse. If Sarah was the subject then the words autē Sarra would be in the nominative case. Instead they are in the dative case, which expresses accompaniment (Bruce). Sarah's barrenness was revealed early in her marriage (Gen 11:30), and she later attributed her state to ADONAI (Gen 16:2).
Perhaps frustration over her barrenness played a role in her decision to take action at the age of 75 (cf. Gen 16:16; 17:17), but her decision also came after God promised Abraham he would have an heir of his own body (Gen 15:4). She gave her servant Hagar to Abraham as a concubine-wife (cf. Gen 16:3; 25:6) in order to gain a child, consistent with cultural mores. Regardless of Christian criticism of Sarah's action, she did not sin and having multiple wives is not prohibited, condemned or even criticized anywhere in the Bible. Hagar became pregnant soon thereafter and bore a son, Ishmael, when Abraham was 86 years old.
When Sarah first heard (by eavesdropping) the prophecy that she would become pregnant, she laughed and asked a pertinent question, "After I have grown old shall I have to me pleasure and my lord being old?" (Gen 18:12 BR). The verb "grown old" is Heb. balah, which lit. "to wear out" (BDB 115). In other words, she had gone through menopause and did not have the capability for conception, let alone the desire for physical intimacy. The mention of "pleasure" likely refers to a memory of her youth when she enjoyed intimacy with her husband. But Sarah was also skeptical of Abraham's desire for intimacy and virility at his advanced age.
he received: Grk. lambanō, aor. See verse 8 above. A number of versions make Sarah the subject of the verb, but if that had been Paul's intention he surely would have used the verb sullambanō, which means "to conceive" and denotes the female role in procreation (cf. Luke 1:24, 31, 36; 2:21). The affirmation is about Abraham, consistent with the content of the previous and following verses, but the action was accomplished with Sarah. power: Grk. dunamis (from dunamai, "having ability"), an exhibition of a singular capability, a powerful or wondrous deed or miracle. God restored Abraham's virility and potency. for: Grk. eis, prep.
the deposition: Grk. katabolē (from kata, "according to, down," and ballō, "to cast"), a founding or laying down a foundation. The noun is used here in imagery of sowing seed (Danker) and thus refers to the injection or depositing of virile semen into the womb (Thayer). A number of versions translate the noun as an infinitive "to conceive" (ASV, CSB, DRA, ESV, ISV, KJV, NASB, NASU, NKJV, RSV, TLV, WEB, YLT), which denotes the female role in procreation. The Greek noun for feminine conception is actually sullēpsin (Bruce 301). The LXX uses sullēpsin (in the genitive case sullēpseōs) to translate Heb. harah (SH-2030), pregnant, in Jeremiah 20:17; and Heb. herayon (SH-2032), conception, pregnancy, in Hosea 9:11.
of semen: Grk. sperma may refer either to the source (e.g. seed, semen) or the product of propagation (e.g., posterity, descendant); here the source. In the LXX sperma translates Heb. zera (SH-2233), sowing, seed, semen or offspring; first in Genesis 1:11 and used of semen in several passages (Lev 15:17, 18; 18:20; 19:20; 22:4; Num 5:13, 28; Jer 31:27) (BDB 282). However, a number of versions translate the noun as the product ("child/children") to convey the result of Sarah giving birth (e.g., CEB, CEV, CSB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NTE, WE).
The incorrect translation of this phrase in Bible versions may owe in part to the sensibilities of translators regarding Paul's penchant for using graphic terms or shocking language related to human anatomy (e.g., Rom 1:27; 2:25; 13:13; 1Cor 6:15; 12:23; Gal 5:12; 6:13; Php 3:2, 8, 19; 1Th 4:4; Heb 7:5, 10). Making the verse about Sarah's ability to conceive a child certainly represents an important part of the Genesis story, but it is not the whole story. The physical and psychological condition of both Abraham and Sarah before conception is relevant to explaining the miracle birth.
even: Grk. kai. beyond: Grk. para, prep. See verse 4 above. With the accusative case of the noun following the preposition is used in a figurative sense as equivalent to "contrary to," "different from," or "other than" (Thayer). the opportune: Grk. kairos, time, which may refer to (1) a definite segment of time; (2) an opportune time; (3) the right time; or (4) a limited period of time. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX kairos translates at least three different Heb. words with the same range of meaning (DNTT 3:835).
time of life: Grk. hēlikia, maturity in the sense of the developmental stages of life, but properly, the end-stage of a full life-span (HELPS); age, maturity, time of life. Abraham had impregnated Hagar when he was 86 (Gen 16:16), but by the time he was 100 he was past the age of fathering children (Gen 17:17). By a divine miracle at the age of 90 Sarah finally became a mother. Henry Morris labels her conception as a creation miracle (BBMS 468), because Sarah's womb was dead and Abraham's virility was "as good as dead" (Rom 4:19).
God completely rejuvenated their sexual organs and desire. Sarah was able both to bear a child and to nurse him (Gen 21:1-7). At God's direction Abraham named the boy of promise Isaac, which ironically means "laughter," no doubt an allusion to the fact that both Abraham and Sarah had laughed at the prediction of a son in their old age (Gen 17:17; 18:12). Abraham was so "young" again that he could father six more sons of Keturah many years later after Sarah's death (Gen 25:1-2).
since: Grk. epei, conj. used in a causal sense; since, inasmuch, because. he considered: Grk. hēgeomai (from agō, "to lead"), aor. mid., may mean either (1) to function in a leadership capacity, to lead; or (2) 'deem to be,' to think, consider or deduce. The second meaning applies here. However, since the root meaning of the verb is to lead the way or going before as a chief, and is cognate of hēgemṓn, "a governor or official who leads others" (HELPS), then Abraham is the subject of the verb.
the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun and circumlocution for God. having promised: Grk. epaggellomai, aor. mid. part., to promise something in the sense of a commitment. The verb occurs often in the context of covenantal promises made to the patriarchs and Israel. In this instance the verb alludes to the promise ADONAI made to Abraham of a son to be conceived and borne by Sarah (Gen 18:10). Previous to this occasion God had promised Abraham an heir from his own body (Gen 15:4) without reference to Sarah. This omission may have led to Sarah's rationale to involve Hagar in having children (Gen 16:2).
to be faithful: Grk. pistos, adj., may mean (1) characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; or (2) believing or trusting with commitment. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX pistos primarily translates the participle of the Heb. verb aman (SH-539), made firm or sure, lasting, and used as a characteristic of God (Deut 7:9; 32:4; Ps 19:7; 89:37; Isa 49:7; Jer 42:5). The faithfulness of ADONAI is stressed in the report that according to His promise and at the appointed time Sarah conceived (Gen 21:1-2).
Textual Note: The Term "Barren"
The term steira, "barren," is not found in the best known manuscripts (Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus and Vaticanus), but is found in p46 (c. 200 A.D.), the Vulgate (407), Codex D (6th c.), Codex Athos (8th c.), church father Euthalius (5th c.) the Syriac-Peshitta (3rd-7th c.), the Coptic (3rd-6th c.), the Armenian (4th/5th c.), the Ethiopic (6th c.), nine Old Latin manuscripts (6th-13th c.), and seven late minuscules (11th-14th c.) (GNT 770).
The UBS Committee gave inclusion of the word a "C" rating, indicating a considerable degree of doubt, but placed the word in brackets, considering its presence in important works (Metzger). For me the presence of the term in the earliest papyri, as well as the Vulgate and Syriac, is persuasive.
12 Wherefore also from one man were born, him having been impotent, indeed those as the stars of heaven in multitude and innumerable as the sand by the shore of the sea.
Reference: Genesis 13:16; 15:5; 22:17; 32:12; Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 1:10; 10:22; Daniel 3:36; Romans 4:19.
Wherefore: Grk. dio (from dia, "through," and hos, "which"), inferential conj., consequently, for this reason, on account of which, wherefore. also: Grk. kai, conj. from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, here denoting origin; from. one man: Grk. heis, the number one. The noun is masculine and alludes to Abraham. were born: Grk. gennaō, aor. pass, 3p-pl., to father, beget or procreate. In the LXX gennaō is used chiefly for Heb. yalad (SH-3205), to bear, bring forth, to beget, to father (first use in Gen 4:18), which can refer to either the male or female role in conception and birth (DNTT 1:176). The passive voice of the verb is probably intended to convey the female role in giving birth.
him having been impotent: Grk. nekroō (from nekros, "lifeless"), perf. pass. part., may mean (1) to put to death in a physical sense; (2) to deprive of force and vigor (the body, passions, etc.) by abstinence, ascetic discipline, or self-inflicted suffering (LSJ). Here the verb means deadened, powerless, and impotent, referring to the body (Zodhiates). Paul repeats his assertion in Romans 4:19, "having become as dead, being about a hundred years old" (BR). The Mishnah comments that someone at a hundred years of age is as one that is dead, having passed and ceased from the world (Avot 5:21).
indeed: Grk. kai. The conjunction here is emphatic. those: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 2 above. The plural pronoun refers to those born and descended from the one having been impotent. Paul then quotes from Genesis 22:17 (MT/LXX). as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. the stars: pl. of Grk. ho astron (for Heb. kokab), a single heavenly body, except the moon, that appears as a fixed luminous point in the sky at night; also a constellation of stars. The LXX has astēr, from which astron is derived.
of heaven: Grk. ho ouranos refers to the area above the earth that encompasses the atmosphere, interstellar space and the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. "the heavens"), which even in its plural form may refer to a single location (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the planetary atmosphere in which birds fly and elements of weather are produced (Gen 1:20; Matt 6:26; 16:2; Rev 19:17).
The second heaven is interstellar space with its host of planetary bodies and stars (Gen 1:1, 14-15; Matt 24:29; Acts 7:42). The third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2). In Jewish tradition there are seven heavens (Hagigah 12b; Test. Levi 3:2-3). While Scripture does not specifically mention seven heavens there are references to the "highest heavens" above God's dwelling place (Deut 10:14; 2Chr 2:6; Ps 68:33; 148:4; cf. Ezek 1:22-28). Here ouranos refers to interstellar space.
in multitude: Grk. plēthos, a relatively large number of any kind; multitude, great number, quantity. The description of Abraham's descendants being "as the stars of heaven" first appears in Genesis 15:5 where God challenged Abraham to "count" the stars and assured him that his "seed" would be just as numerous. Astronomers have estimated there are 1025 (10 million billion billion) stars in the universe. Other passages correlate the number of the children of Israel to the number of stars (Gen 26:4; Ex 32:13; Deut 1:10; 10:22; 28:62; 1Chr 27:23; Neh 9:23).
At the time the Torah was written the population of Israel ran into the millions, but these numbers were vastly more than the number of visible stars that may be seen without the aid of a telescope, about four thousand (BBMS 156). Whether Abraham assumed that he would have descendants equivalent to the number of stars he could see in the nighttime sky is not stated. God may have meant that just as Abraham did not have the ability to count the stars, he could not possibly comprehend the numbers of his descendants, both biologically and spiritually. All Abraham wanted was a son, but God wanted him to see the big picture.
and: Grk. kai. innumerable: Grk. anarithmētos, adj., beyond one's ability to count; countless, innumerable, uncountable. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. as: Grk. kathōs. the sand: Grk. ho ammos (for Heb. chol), sand, sandy ground. by: Grk. para, prep. See verse 4 above. the shore: Grk. ho cheilos (for Heb. saphah), lip of the human mouth and fig. of the edge or shore next to a body of water, whether river, lake or sea. of the sea: Grk. ho thalassa (for Heb. yam), the sea, is used of both oceanic and inland bodies of water, whether salt or fresh. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it.
The phrase "sand of the shore of the sea" is an hyperbolic expression that speaks of a number that is "beyond measure" and occurs in a variety of contexts (Gen 41:49; Job 6:3; Ps 78:27; Jer 15:8; Hos 1:10). Its first and most significant usage is to describe the proliferation of Abraham's seed and is parallel to the prophecy that Abraham's seed would be as "dust of the earth" (Gen 13:16). In that passage "dust" (Heb. aphar) is translated in the LXX with ammos. Moreover, God repeated the metaphor of the "sands of the sea" in reference to the seed of Jacob (Gen 32:12) and later of the seed of David and the Levites (Jer 33:22), all of whom, of course, are of the seed of Abraham.
Scripture points out the obvious that the number of the sands of the seashore cannot be counted (Gen 32:12; Jer 33:22). However, Dr. Henry Morris suggested that the promise to Abraham implies a correlation between the number of the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore. He provides this fascinating information:
"Since there are approximately 1015 square feet of area on the earth's surface, and approximately 10 million grains of sand in a cubic foot of sand, if we assume that there is an average of 1,000 feet of unconsolidated sediments around the surface of the earth (probably deeper than this on the ocean bottom, but shallower on the land surfaces), then the number of sand-sized particles would also be calculated as 1025. Although such a calculation may well be considerably in error, it at least shows that the stars and the sand are of about the same order of magnitude in number." (TGR 384)
The hyperbole of being as many as the sand of the seashore also occurs in Scripture to describe the size of armies the Israelites faced in battle (Josh 11:4; Jdg 7:12; 1Sam 13:5), but eventually the description was applied to Israel in the time of Solomon (1Kgs 4:20). As for the analogy of fruitfulness the promise to Abraham meant that his legacy would far exceed his expectations.
Heroes of Faithfulness: Sojourners on the Earth, 11:13-16
13 These all died in faithfulness, not having received the promises, but having seen them and having greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and sojourners on the earth.
Reference: Genesis 23:4; 28:4; 32:4; 35:27; 39:12; 47:9; Exodus 2:22; Leviticus 25:23; Deuteronomy 26:4; Psalm 39:12; 1Chronicles 29:15; 1Peter 2:11.
Guthrie observes that in this section a general summary of patriarchal piety is introduced. This section also builds in the assertion in verses 9 and 10 above which summarizes the Genesis narrative that Abraham lived as a foreigner in the land of promise and adds the thought that while there he anticipated a divinely-built city.
These: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 2 above. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every, the whole. The phrase "these all" refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives. died: Grk. apothnēskō, aor. See verse 4 above. in: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "according to." faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The accolade indicates that the patriarchs possessed the character quality throughout their lives. Indeed no sin is ever attributed to them, even though some were criticized by family members and pagan rulers for specific decisions.
not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 5 above. having received: Grk. lambanō, pl. aor. pass. part. See verse 8 above. the promises: pl. of Grk. epaggelia. See verse 9 above. Promises were given and repeated to Abraham on five separate occasions (Gen 12:2-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-8; 22:16-18) and then passed on to Isaac and Jacob. Those promises included:
● God would make Abraham into a great nation.
● God would bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who cursed him.
● In Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed.
● All the land that Abram could walk through would belong to him and his "seed" (descendants) forever, specifically the land of Canaan.
● Abraham would have an heir from his body.
● Abraham's "seed" (descendants) would be as numerous as the dust of the earth.
● Abraham's "seed" (descendants) would be as numerous as the stars of heaven.
● Abraham's "seed" (descendants) will be as numerous as the sand on the seashore.
● Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) will possess the gates of his enemies.
● In Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) the nations of the earth will be blessed.
Paul rightly points out that none of these promises were fully realized during the lifetimes of the patriarchs. They did not even claim ownership of real estate in which they sojourned and which had been promised to them.
but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. having seen: Grk. horaō, pl. aor. part. See verse 5 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. having greeted them: Grk. aspazomai, pl. aor. mid. part., to address with some form of special recognition or expression of affection, and here fig. to embrace mentally and receive joyfully in welcome. from afar: Grk. porrōthen, adv., from a distance, from afar.
This clause affirms that God gave Abraham a visual revelation of the future, of a time when the promises would be fulfilled. He saw the future, grasped the reality with his mind and his heart rejoiced at what God would do. Even though fulfillment was far off God had brought it near. Because of the "ah-hah" moment Abraham could accept the reality of his own mortality and remain faithful to God.
and: Grk. kai. having acknowledged: Grk. homologeō, pl. aor. part., to express oneself openly and firmly about a matter; affirm, declare. Paul then alludes to the declarations of the patriarchs regarding their nomadic life (Gen 23:4; 26:3; 28:4; 32:4; 47:9; Ex 2:22; 18:3). that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 6 above. they were: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. strangers: pl. of Grk. xenos, adj., relating to what is normally outside one's immediate experience, used here as an adjective to mean strange or foreign. In the LXX xenos translates Heb. nokri (SH-5237), foreigner, stranger (e.g., Ruth 2:10; Ps 69:8; Eccl 6:2; Lam 5:2). The patriarchs were "foreigners" to the Canaanites and Egyptians.
and: Grk. kai. sojourners: pl. of Grk. parepidēmos, adj., one visiting a place or passing through, but still with personal relationship with the people in that locale; a resident alien, sojourner. In the LXX parepidēmos occurs only two times and translates Heb. toshab (SH-8453), sojourner, used first in Genesis 23:4 of Abraham and second in Psalm 39:12 of David. The more common Hebrew term for sojourner is ger (SH-1616), which is translated in the LXX with paroikos, first in Genesis 15:13.
on: Grk. epi, prep. the earth: Grk. ho gē. See verse 9 above. The noun is used here of the earth in contrast to the heavens. The perspective of being strangers or sojourners is found frequently in the Tanakh, especially in regard to non-Israelites (e.g., Ex 12:47; 20:10; 22:21; 23:9; Deut 5:14; 14:21; 16:14; 26:12; Josh 8:35; 20:9; 2Chr 30:25; Isa 1:7; 25:2; 61:5; Jer 5:19; 22:3; 30:8; Ezek 11:9; 30:12). However, from God's point of view the Israelites were also only sojourners on the earth. In the instruction given at Sinai concerning the redemption of land in the year of Jubilee, ADONAI offers this instruction and explanation:
"And the land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers [Heb. ger] and sojourners [Heb. toshab] with Me." (Lev 25:23 BR)
Then in Moab Moses instructed the Israelites that after they took possession of the land of Canaan and harvested their first fruits they were to make an offering to ADONAI and say to the high priest,
"My father [Jacob] was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned [Heb. gur] there, few in number; but there he became a nation, great, mighty and populous." (Deut 26:5 BR)
David also after collecting substantial gifts for the building of the temple by Solomon offered a prayer in which he said,
"For we are strangers [Heb. ger] before You, and sojourners [Heb. toshab], as all our fathers were" (1Chr 29:15 BR).
The awareness of being sojourners still prevailed among Jews in the first century. Yeshua asserted that he had no place to lay his head (Matt 8:20). Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua, referred to his readers as "the twelve tribes in the Diaspora" (Jas 1:1). Peter identified the Messianic Jewish readers of his letters as "foreigners" and "sojourners" (1Pet 1:1; 2:11; cf. 2Pet 3:5). John identified his Messianic brethren as "strangers" (3Jn 1:5).
All believers may relate to the perspective of being strangers or sojourners on the earth as captured in the lyrics of the gospel song "This World is not my Home." Paul mentioned the reality of the appointment with death in Hebrews 9:27. The temporal nature of life negates the idea of permanency. As Moses said,
"As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away." (Ps 90:10; cf. Ps 103:15-16)
14 For those saying such things make clear that they were seeking a homeland.
For: Grk. gar, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun in reference to the patriarchs. saying: Grk. legō, pl. pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; ask, call, declare, say, speak, tell. In the LXX legō translates Heb. amar (SH-559), to say, shew, command or think (Gen 1:28).
such things: neut. pl. of Grk. toioutos, demonstrative pronoun, such as this, such. make clear: Grk. emphanizō, pres., 3p-pl., may mean (1) exhibit to view, make visible; appear; or (2) provide information; disclose, inform, make known, report. The second meaning is intended here. In the LXX emphanizō translates three different Hebrew verbs with varying meanings of declaring something or making something known or exhibiting something to be seen (Ex 33:13; Esth 2:22; Isa 3:9) (DNTT 2:488f). The verbal clause refers back to Paul's statement in the previous verse of those having acknowledged that they were strangers and sojourners.
that: Grk. hoti, conj. they were seeking: Grk. epizēteō, pres., 3p-pl., may mean (1) try to find something; look for; search for; or (2) show strong interest in; seek, want. The second meaning applies here. The present tense can be taken as a historical present, since it applies first to the patriarchs. a homeland: Grk. patris (from patēr, "father"), of one's fathers, a place or region one can call home in the sense of a native land. Many versions translate the noun as "country." In reality the yearning for a homeland began in the days of Peleg, the great-great-great grandfather of Abraham (Luke 3:34-35).
Following the global flood of Noah's time the human population that descended from his three sons concentrated in the territory of Shinar, later known as Babylonia (Gen 10:10; 11:2). Abraham's original home, "Ur of the Chaldees," was located in the southern portion of Shinar, which was the point of origin for pagan idolatry. After God pronounced judgment on the tower of Babel, a neighboring city to Ur, and the divine creation of languages (Gen 11:7), the human population moved away from Babel and migrated in every direction over the face of the earth (cf. Gen 10:5, 25, 32; 11:8).
The new people groups now defined by language sought lands in which they could settle, sustain life and maintain social cohesion and security. However, Abraham's forefathers remained in Shinar and while living there were devoted to worshipping pagan deities (cf. Josh 24:2). Yet, ADONAI appeared to Abraham, revealed the truth and called Abraham to leave the land of his birth and the paganism of his forefathers (Gen 12:1). Abraham obeyed and upon his arrival in Canaan was informed that this land was to be the homeland of his descendants (Gen 12:7).
15 And if indeed they had been remembering from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.
And: Grk. kai, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker that introduces a current real condition, or an assumption for the sake of argument; here the latter. indeed: Grk. mén, conj., a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions don't translate the conjunction. they had been remembering: Grk. mnēmoneuō, impf., 3p-pl., to recall, frequently with focus on thoughtful recollection. from: Grk. apo, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. they had gone out: Grk. ekbainō, aor., 3p-pl., 'step out,' then 'go out of, depart.' The verb occurs only here in the Besekh.
they would have had: Grk. echō, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 10 above. opportunity: Grk. kairos. See verse 11 above. to return: Grk. anakamptō, aor. inf., to turn back or return to a point of departure. There is no evidence that Abraham ever engaged in a fond remembrance of his first home in Ur of the Chaldees or his second home in Haran of Paddan-Aram. Once he obeyed, he did not look back. Indeed, as Bruce notes, when Abraham gave instructions to his servant to seek a bride for his son in Haran, he expressly commanded the servant to not take Isaac back there (Gen 24:6).
16 But as it is they were longing for a better homeland, that is, a heavenly homeland. Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.
But: Grk. de, conj. as it is: Grk. nun, adv., a primary particle of present time ("now"), but used here with a focus on implications posed by consideration of facts just presented; as it is, as a matter of fact. they were longing for: Grk. oregō, pres. mid., 3p-pl., to stretch out or to reach after, and by extension to aspire to, desire for, long for, yearn for. The present tense is historical in focus to give vividness to a past event. a better homeland: Grk. kreittōn, adj., having a degree of advantage, used here to denote status or rank; better, more excellent, superior. The adjective appears 12 times in this letter, and is used to assert the superior quality of the blessings provided by God.
The adjective "better" refers to the sought-after homeland in verse 14 above. In this context "better" was not thought of in terms of economic prosperity. Abraham was a wealthy man when he left Haran (Gen 12:5). For Abraham with his close relationship to ADONAI, he desired a better country from a religious and spiritual point of view. He wanted a land that was not dominated by pagan values, a land where he could "lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1Tim 2:2) without hindrance by the ruling pagan elite.
that: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, lit. "this." See verse 2 above. The neuter form refers to the preceding adjective "better" as a clarifying point. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. The phrase "that is" introduces a clarifying comment. a heavenly homeland: Grk. epouranios, adj., may refer to (1) existing in the third heaven where God dwells; or (2) of heavenly origin and nature. Commentators generally assume that the first meaning is intended, although the second meaning would certainly have application.
The idea of a heavenly homeland may have been hinted in a specific promise God made to Abraham on the second occasion of declaring His covenant: "As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a ripe old age" (Gen 15:15). Since Abraham could not expect to be buried with his fathers or ancestors, he may have deduced that this mysterious saying referred to the afterlife where his forefathers lived. After all Enoch was taken to be with God (Gen 5:24).
And, wherever God is, there must be a city. It is no accident that Jews called the anticipated paradise after death the "bosom of Abraham" (Luke 16:22). This idea is also found in the Apocrypha: "Receive what the Lord has entrusted to you and be joyful, giving thanks to Him who has called you to heavenly kingdoms" (2Esdras 2:37). Paul conveyed this thought with this declaration: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior" (Php 3:20).
Wherefore: Grk. dio, conj. See verse 12 above. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 3 above. is not: Grk. ou, adv. ashamed: Grk. epaischunomai, pres. mid., disgraced, like someone "singled out" because they misplaced their confidence or support, thus bringing on a "fitting" shame or humiliation that matches the error of wrongly identifying or aligning with something (HELPS). This positive affirmation about God's attitude toward the patriarchs and their faithful descendants serves as a rebuke to the Christian criticism of Bible heroes.
to be called: Grk. epikaleō (from epi, "upon" and kaleō, "to call"), pres. pass. inf., may mean (1) to give a name or nickname to; call, name; or (2) call upon for help, aid or intercession; invoke, appeal to, call upon for oneself. The first meaning applies here, but there is an inference of the second meaning. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., the patriarchs. God: Grk. theos. While Christian commentators find fault with the three patriarchs for various actions, God never does. Indeed, God personally identified Himself with the three great patriarchs as the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Ex 3:6, 15; 4:5; 6:3, 8; 33:1; Num 32:11; Deut 34:4).
for: Grk. gar, conj. He has prepared: Grk. hetoimazō, aor., put in a state of readiness; make ready, prepare. for them: pl. of Grk. autos; i.e., the patriarchs and by extension their biological and spiritual descendants. a city: Grk. polis. See verse 10 above. In his letter to the congregation in Galatia Paul affirmed the truth of a heavenly city: "But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother" (Gal 4:26). Again, this belief could be based on the expectation expressed in the Apocrypha. The future Jerusalem was expected to come down from heaven, where it has been kept from the beginning:
"For behold, the time will come, when the signs which I have foretold to you will come to pass, that the city which now is not seen shall appear,[a] and the land which now is hidden shall be disclosed." (2Esdras 7:26 RSV)
"because it is for you that paradise is opened, the tree of life is planted, the age to come is prepared, plenty is provided, a city is built, rest is appointed, goodness is established and wisdom perfected beforehand." (2Esdras 8:52 RSV)
"And I looked, and behold, the woman was no longer visible to me, but there was an established city, and a place of huge foundations showed itself." (2Esdras 10:27 RSV)
Stern comments that this unusual declaration reflects Jewish thinking. The affirmation does not deny the concrete promises concerning the Land of Israel, but at the same time there is an implication that Abraham understood at a deeper level that God's promise related not only to the Land of Israel but to heaven. Paul's mention of the city prepared by God anticipates his references to the heavenly city in the next two chapters of this letter (12:22; 13:14).
Heroes of Faithfulness: Offspring of Abraham, 11:17-22
17 Because of faithfulness Abraham brought Isaac, being tested, even having welcomed the promises he was offering his only son,
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verse 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Paul then summarizes the narrative of Genesis 22. Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 8 above. brought: Grk. prospherō, perf. See verse 4 above. The perfect tense depicts action completed in the past with continuing results into the present. Of interest is that the verb prospherō does not appear at all in the LXX narrative of Genesis 22. Isaac: Grk. Isaak. See verse 9 above.
Almost all versions translate the verbal phrase as "Abraham offered Isaac," but "offered" in the perfect tense would imply that Abraham actually killed his son, which is refuted by the Genesis narrative. Bruce, accepting the translation of "offered Isaac," proposed that the perfect tense denoted Abraham's resolution to carry out God's instruction rather than the physical act of sacrificial offering. Guthrie and McKee concur with this point of view.
Yet, it's important to remember that the root meaning of the verb is "to bring" and in my view that is the point of the verb at this point in the sentence. The AMPC makes this point with the translation of the phrase as "had already brought Isaac for an offering." God had directed Abraham to take his son Isaac to the land of Mt. Moriah and there "offer (Heb. alah; LXX anapherō) him as a burnt offering" (Gen 22:2). However, the Genesis narrative never says that Abraham "offered" Isaac.
In the story of Abraham no event is more puzzling than the instruction of God for Abraham to kill his son Isaac, because as Hegg notes God had commanded in His covenant with Noah that anyone who kills a man should himself be killed (Gen 9:6) (198). In this narrative God strangely directed that Abraham take his son Isaac to a mountain in the land of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering. The sacrifice of a burnt offering typically involved the total destruction of an animal by fire, the first time done by Noah (Gen 8:20).
Offering sacrifices was generally a priestly role and a burnt offering signified total consecration and devotion to God. Moriah is very significant since it is one of seven mountains on which Jerusalem would later be built and would be the specific site of Solomon's temple (2Chr 3:1). Yet, not being told the "why" Abraham obeyed, making the necessary preparations and then traveling about 45 miles from his home in Beersheba.
being tested: Grk. peirazō, pres. pass. part., may mean (1) make an effort to do something in the face of uncertainty about the outcome; try, attempt; or (2) make a trial of the quality or state of someone's character or claims as an inducement for producing some kind of action, whether positive (obedience) or negative (sin); tempt, test. The second meaning applies here.
In the LXX of this verse peirazō translates Heb. nasah (SH-5254), to test or try, first in Genesis 22:1. The verb is used of both God testing men and men testing God, here the former. References to the testing of Abraham in the matter of sacrificing Isaac are also found in the Apocrypha (1Macc 2:52; Sir 44:20). Eisenbaum comments that Rabbinic lore sees Abraham undergoing ten tests of faith, culminating in the "binding of Isaac" (422). The viewpoint of multiple tests is found in the book of Jubilees:
"17 And the Lord knew that Abraham was faithful in all his afflictions; for He had tried him through his country and with famine, and had tried him with the wealth of kings, and had tried him again through his wife, when she was torn (from him), and with circumcision; and had tried him through 18 Ishmael and Hagar, his maid-servant, when he sent them away. And in everything wherein He had tried him, he was found faithful, and his soul was not impatient, and he was not slow to act; for he was faithful and a lover of the Lord." (Jub 17:17-18)
The purpose of the testing of Abraham may be inferred from the declaration of the Angel of ADONAI (Heb. Malak-YHVH) who spoke from heaven,
"Do not stretch out your hand toward the young man, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear Elohim, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" (Gen 22:12 BR).
The Angel of ADONAI is clearly distinguished in Scripture from other angels. In these encounters He delivers a message of revelation in the first person with the voice of divine authority. Indeed the Angel is identified as deity in the narrative with the verbal phrase "called from heaven" (Gen 22:11) and in the divine instruction the with first person construction "from Me." It is appropriate to view this heavenly personality as representing the Son of God. After all, Yeshua is ADONAI (John 8:58).
Abraham had always trusted and obeyed God, but in the context of carrying forward the great plan of redemption the "father of the faith" needed to demonstrate in unmistakable terms that God was truly first in his life and that he was worthy to be the "seed-bearer" of the Messiah. In later centuries God continued to test His covenant people for the purpose of determining whether they would love God first, obey Him and live by His commandments (Ex 16:4; 20:20; Deut 8:2; 13:3; Jdg 2:22; 3:4).
even: Grk. kai, conj. The conjunction introduces a clause that concludes in the next verse. having welcomed: Grk. anadechomai, aor. mid. part., to undertake or take upon oneself; receive, welcome. The verb properly means to receive up to the maximum limit and figuratively to welcome with gladness or openness, i.e. full, personal interest, open-heartedly, enthusiastically (HELPS). The middle voice describes the subject as participating in the results of the action. The high personal interest motivating the action accounts for why it is in the Greek middle voice (HELPS).
the promises: pl. of Grk. ho epaggelia. See verses 9 and 13 above. The plural form alludes to both the general promise of uncountable descendants and a specific son. The common translation of "had received the promises" may be misleading. The usual verb meaning "receive" is lambanō, which is often expressed in passive voice (see verse 13 above). The choice of using anadechomai in the middle voice stresses how emotionally invested was Abraham in the covenantal blessings God promised him, especially becoming a father after living so many years unable to produce a child.
he was offering: Grk. prospherō, impf. The imperfect tense depicts continuous action in past time. his only son: Grk. monogenēs, adj., masc., being the only one of a kind; sole, only, unique. The Greek text lacks the term for "son" (Grk. huios), but the adjective is masculine and insertion of "son" is appropriate. Most versions translate the adjective as "only son" but a few have the redundant "one and only son" (CSB, LEB, NIV, TLV, WEB). Some versions have "only-begotten son," to stress that Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sarah and as the result of a miraculous intervention.
Fruchtenbaum prefers "only begotten" to emphasize the uniqueness of Isaac, that he was the only son of Sarah and the only son to inherit the covenant (158). Benson favors "only begotten," because "Abraham had no other son by Sarah, his legitimate wife." Contrary to Christian prejudice Hagar was a legitimate wife (Gen 16:3; 25:6). Another factor behind the translation of "only begotten" is viewing the offering of Isaac as a type of Yeshua's sacrifice with Abraham representing the Father who "did not spare His own son" (Rom 8:34).
In the LXX monogenēs translates Heb. yachid (SH-3173), "only, only one, solitary," used of oneself (Ps 22:20; 35:17), and an only daughter (of Jephthah, Jdg 11:34). However, in the story of the offering of Isaac the adjective yachid is translated with Grk. agapētos ("beloved") (Gen 22:2, 12, 16). The LXX translators probably used agapētos instead of monogenēs for Isaac, since he was not Abraham's only son. However, Paul chose to make a literal translation of the Hebrew text.
The focus of the verbal phrase "was offering his only son" is on the actions Abraham took after he brought Isaac to Mt. Moriah in order to comply with the divine instructions. After arriving at the place of sacrifice he built an altar, arranged wood on it, bound Isaac, laid Isaac on the altar on top of the wood, and then took a knife to slay his son (Gen 22:9-10). At that point God intervened to offer deliverance and a substitutionary sacrifice (Gen 22:11-13).
Stern comments that the story of the Akedat-Yitzchak, the "Binding of Isaac" (Gen 22:1-19), is read in the synagogue as part of the liturgy for the second day of Rosh-Hashanah (some versions of the Siddur also include it in the first part of the daily morning prayers); and the service contains this prayer:
"Remember unto us, ADONAI our God, the covenant, the loving-kindness and the oath which you swore to Avraham our father on Mount Moriah. May the binding (akedah) with which Avraham our father bound his son Yitzchak on the altar appear before you, how he overcame his compassion in order to do your will with a perfect heart."
In the unbelieving Jewish community the Akedah is considered appropriate during the ten days of awe preceding Yom Kippur when Jewish people are concerned with sin and its punishment, death, as symbolized by sacrifices. In that context the "binding" of Isaac is viewed as having substitutionary value for atonement. Indeed, Rashi makes this point in his commentary on Genesis 22:14:
"The Lord will see this binding to forgive Israel every year and rescue them from trouble; so that it will be said, 'On this day' in all coming generations, 'on the mountain of the Lord is seen' the ashes of Yitzchak heaped up and serving for atonement."
Abraham referred to Isaac with the Hebrew term na'ar, SH-5288, boy, lad, youth (Gen 22:5). Most versions translate na'ar as "boy" or "lad." The term is used of a wide age range, from as young as a three month old infant (Ex 2:6); the boy Ishmael, 10-12 years old (Gen 21:12); Joseph at age 17 (Gen 37:2); a young man of marriageable age, at least 18 (Gen 34:19); and a young man old enough to fight (Gen 14:24; 2Sam 18:5) (BDB 654f). The LXX translates na'ar in Genesis 22:5 with Grk. paidarion ("boy, lad"), but the Greek term is used in Greek literature for young slaves (LSJ) and of a young man in Tobit (5:16; 6:2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 14).
Isaac was at least an adolescent since he was old enough to carry wood on his shoulders (22:6). A few versions translate na'ar as "young man" (AMP, AMPC, OJB, TLV), which is more accurate to the context than "boy" or "lad." The term na'ar is also applied to the "young men" that accompanied Abraham to Moriah (Gen 22:3), so why not Isaac? Josephus, the Jewish historian, puts his age as 25 (Ant. I, 13:2). As a type of Yeshua, Isaac could have even been about 33 and given his extended life been considered a young man at that point.
18 pertaining to whom it was spoken, "In Isaac your offspring will be named."
This verse functions as a parenthetical comment. pertaining to: Grk. pros, prep., root meaning "near, facing" (DM 110), to, towards, with, but here the preposition emphasizes relation; 'with reference to,' 'pertaining to.' whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. it was spoken: Grk. laleō, aor. pass. See verse 4 above. The choice of the verb emphasizes the fact of personal divine revelation. Paul then quotes from the LXX of Genesis 21:12. In: Grk. en, prep. Isaac: Grk. Isaak. See verse 9 above and the previous verse. your: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. offspring: Grk. sperma. See verse 11 above.
will be named: Grk. kaleō, fut. pass. See verse 8 above. Paul offers this quotation, which occurs before the instruction in Genesis 22, as reflecting irony that after promising heirs and descendants through Isaac in preference over Ishmael, God then directed the sacrifice of Isaac. Ordinarily such instruction from God would preclude descendants and amount to a broken promise. Yet, the idea that the God who revealed Himself to Enoch, Noah and Abraham would break a promise was untenable. God's promises are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).
19 having reasoned that even from death God was able to resurrect, consequently him also, as in a parable, he received back.
This verse continues the thought of verse 17, "Abraham offered Isaac…." having reasoned: Grk. logizomai, aor. mid. part., to count or calculate in a numerical sense, but also to infer, conclude, presume or to think upon, ponder (Mounce). In the LXX logizomai chiefly translates Heb. chashav (SH-2803), to think, account (BDB 362), which is used in the sense of to think in a certain way. Abraham conducted a logical analysis of God's instruction with consideration of God's character. Abraham told himself that God did not reveal His true agenda so the divine instruction must be a test of faithfulness. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 6 above. The conjunction introduces Abraham's conclusion from his analysis.
even: Grk. kai, conj. from: Grk. ek, prep. death: Grk. nekros may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead; here as an adjective. In the LXX nekros occurs about 60 times, mostly as a noun, but also as an adjective, and primarily translates Heb. participle mêt (SH-4191), to die, used of persons, first in Genesis 23:3 (DNTT 1:444). Although nekros lacks the definite article most versions translate the term as "the dead," which treats the term as a euphemism for Sheol, the place of the dead (Gen 37:35; 42:38). Some versions treat the term as referring to a condition rather than a place (CEV, ERV, GNB, NLV, NMB, Phillips, WE).
God: Grk. theos. See verse 3 above. was able: Grk. dunatos, adj., may mean (1) having power, competence or ability, able, powerful; or (2) capable of being realized, possible, realizable. The first meaning applies here. to resurrect: Grk. egeirō, pres. inf., to rise or raise, is used with a variety of meanings: (1) to arouse from sleep, to awake; (2) to recall the dead to life; (3) to cause to rise or raise, from a seat or bed; or (4) to raise up, produce, cause to appear, such as appear before the public or a judge, erect a building, or incite opposition. The second meaning is intended here.
Most Bible versions translate the verb as "to raise up," which conveys the idea of being raised from an earthly grave or Sheol, the underworld. The verb simply depicts reanimation of a dead body. Abraham could have deduced that God had the power to resurrect from the fact that God is the author of life, having created Adam and Eve, and from the miraculous physical regeneration of himself and Sarah enabling them to produce a son.
Abraham had surrendered his son to God, but God returned his only son to him. The assumption of Abraham's belief in resurrection is based on his words to his servants. Upon arrival at Moriah Abraham told his servants, "Stay here with the donkey and I and the young man will go over there, and worship and we will return to you" (Gen 22:5 BR). Stern comments that this verse does not focus on the ethical problem of human sacrifice, but on the strong faith Abraham had, in the face of the fact that Isaac's survival was indispensable to the fulfillment of God's covenantal promises.
Abraham clearly expected to bring Isaac back alive. Isaac demonstrated implicit trust in his father and cooperated with being bound to an altar. Just as Abraham was about to kill Isaac (Gen 22:10) God reversed the order and a ram was substituted for Isaac. In celebration Abraham gave a new name to the place, ADONAI-Yireh or "ADONAI will provide" (Gen 22:14). The conclusion of the story makes it clear that God's original unspoken intention was not for Abraham to actually kill his son, even though this is the literal meaning of the instruction in Genesis 22:2.
Jewish interpretation offers a different viewpoint. The Hebrew verb alah translated "offer him" literally means "to go up, ascend, or climb." God's instruction could be interpreted as "Take your son Isaac, go to Moriah and ascend the mountain for a burnt offering." Moreover, when Isaac questioned his father, Abraham said, "God will provide" (22:8). Rashi, the Medieval Jewish commentator, argues
"He did not say to him, 'Slaughter him,' because the Holy One, blessed be He, did not wish him to slaughter him but to bring him up to the mountain, to prepare him for a burnt offering, and as soon as he brought him up [to the mountain], He said to him, 'Take him down.'"
However, the LXX, which was translated by Jewish linguistic experts, makes the Hebrew grammar plain that God's instruction meant "offer him as a burnt offering." This is why Abraham deduced that he was being tested.
consequently: Grk. hothen, adv., marker of derivation, used here of a logical result based on Abraham's analysis; as a result of which, consequently. Danker notes that hothen appears frequently in Hebrews in reference to a deduction. Bible versions are divided on translation, some treating the adverb in a spatial sense as a reference to the place of the dead ("from whence," "from there"). Other versions opt for a more neutral translation ("from which"). him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Isaac. also: Grk. kai.
as in: Grk. en, prep. a parable: Grk. parabolē, something serving through comparison or analogy to encourage a new perspective; parable, proverb, figure, illustration. In the LXX parabolē translates Heb. mashal (SH-4912), oracle, parable, proverb, first in Numbers 23:7. Many versions translate the phrase as "figuratively speaking." he received back: Grk. komizō, aor. mid., be in receipt of, get or receive back. Abraham is the subject of the verb. The last clause of the verse represents Paul's interpretation of the "binding of Isaac."
The obedience of Abraham to carry out the sacrifice of his son and then God's deliverance constitutes an acted-out parable of the Messiah. This connection can be deduced in both the narrative of the actions of Abraham and Isaac and what happened after the substitutionary ram was sacrificed. The first noteworthy point is that Isaac went willingly to face death, just as Yeshua affirmed that he voluntarily gave his life (Matt 26:39; John 10:11, 17-18; Php 2:8). McKee cites the Apocrypha, Josephus and Clement of Rome:
"Remember whence you came, and the father by whose hand Isaac would have submitted to being slain for the sake of religion." (4Macc 13:12 RSV)
"For his sake also our father Abraham was zealous to sacrifice his son Isaac, the ancestor of our nation; and when Isaac saw his father’s hand wielding a sword and descending upon him, he did not cower." (4Macc 16:20 RSV)
"Now Isaac was of such a generous disposition as became the son of such a father, and was pleased with this discourse; and said, "That he was not worthy to be born at first, if he should reject the determination of God and of his father, and should not resign himself up readily to both their pleasures; since it would have been unjust if he had not obeyed, even if his father alone had so resolved." So he went immediately to the altar to be sacrificed." (Ant. I, 13:4)
"Isaac, with confidence, knowing the future, willingly became a sacrifice." (1Clement 31:3)
Next, just as Isaac carried the wood for the altar on his shoulders, so Yeshua carried the cross for his execution to Golgotha (Gen 22:6; John 19:17). Bruce comments that Irenaeus (Against Heresies, IV, 5:4) and many later writers recognized the Messianic typology of Isaac carrying the wood. Then Isaac was bound (Gen 22:9) and Yeshua was also bound (Matt 27:2). The offering of Isaac occurred on Mt. Moriah and Yeshua's sacrifice occurred in the vicinity of Mt. Moriah where the temple had been erected.
After the deliverance of Isaac the Angel of ADONAI (pre-incarnate Son of God) called to Abraham from heaven and made three special promises (Gen 22:16-18). First, Abraham's "seed" (descendants) will be as numerous as the stars of heaven, and the sand on the seashore. Second, Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) will possess the gates of his enemies (cf. Matt 16:18).
Third, in Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) the nations of the earth will be blessed. These promises were given because Abraham obeyed the voice of ADONAI. Paul makes the point in his letter to the congregations of Galatia that this "Seed" referred to Yeshua (Gal 3:16). Thus, the binding and release of Isaac prefigured the atoning death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. Yeshua himself offered this application when he said to the Pharisee rulers, "Your father Abraham celebrated that he should see my day. He saw it, and rejoiced" (John 8:56 BR).
20 Because of faithfulness also concerning things to come Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.
Reference: Gen 27:27-29, 39-40.
Paul now fast forwards to the time when Isaac was "old" (Gen 27:1). He was well over one hundred, since he had been 60 years old when Jacob and Esau were born (Gen 25:26), and his sons were 40 when Esau first married (Gen 26:34). Comparisons of various passages in Genesis yield the following ages for the patriarchs in the situation described here: Isaac at 135, and Jacob and Esau at 75 (TGR 430). Paul passes over the narrative of the birthright of the firstborn, which set the stage for the later event summarized in this verse.
Returning famished from a hunting trip and lacking self-control, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup (Gen 25:30-34). In ancient times the custom of "birthright" included three important rights for the firstborn son. (1) The firstborn would be superior rank in his family and therefore exercise leadership authority over the clan (Gen 49:3). (2) The firstborn had the spiritual responsibility of performing the priestly office and instructing his children in righteousness (Gen 18:19; 22:9; 26:25; 35:1; Num 8:17-19). (3) Then, the firstborn received a double portion of the paternal inheritance (Deut 21:17). With two sons the father's goods were divided into three parts, and the firstborn took two parts, and the second son the third part.
In Abraham's family birthright carried with it special and significant responsibilities no other family had. The chosen family had the responsibility of transmitting the tablets bearing the record of God's history that would be used by Moses to construct the Genesis story. The birthright also carried the title to the covenantal promises (Gen 27:4, 27-29) and of fellowship with ADONAI (Gen 28:4) (Keil 172). Most important of all was maintaining the Messianic line that would produce the Seed of Salvation (Gen 3:15; 22:17-18; cf. Gal 3:6). Esau did not possess the character worthy of these great privileges and responsibilities.
However, Henry Morris notes that the father held the right to transfer the birthright from the eldest son to another, more deserving son (cf. 1Chr 5:1-2) (TGR 416). While Christian commentators have alleged that Jacob defrauded Esau, there was nothing unfair about the contract. In fact, Esau belittled his birthright (Gen 25:32). The exchange began with the demand from Esau that Jacob satisfy his sensual appetite. The terms of Jacob offered were unambiguous, and Esau could have said no. We should not fault Jacob because Esau agreed to the terms. Jacob's bargain served the will of God.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. The unspoken hero of faithfulness is actually Rebekah who was committed to preserving the covenant made with Abraham according to God's will (Gen 25:23). Mankind had early established the privilege of birthright, but God had determined that His covenantal election, as well as the Messianic line, would not be dependent on firstborn sons. It's no accident that God revealed His will to Isaac's wife.
also: Grk. kai, conj. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 7 above. things to come: Grk. mellō, neut.-pl. pres. part. See verse 8 above. The verb is used to introduce specific action that would predict future events. Isaac: Grk. Isaak, son of Abraham and Sarah. See verse 9 above. The situation described here occurred because Isaac feared his death was near (Gen 27:2, 7). His brother Ishmael was 137 when he died (Gen 25:17), which may have made Isaac think his own death was at hand (so Gill and Keil), but he actually lived to be 180 (Gen 35:28).
blessed: Grk. eulogeō, aor., may mean (1) to invoke divine favor; (2) to express high praise; or (3) bestow favor. The first meaning applies here. The corresponding Heb. verb is barak (SH-1288), to kneel or to bless (BDB 138). In the Tanakh barak is an endowment of favor or beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser, either from God to man, from man to man or parent to child (DNTT 1:208). The blessings grammatically (as confirmed by the LXX translation) express a wish, but at the same time are given as prophecy, a revelation of the future.
Jacob: Grk. ho Iakōb, second-born son of Isaac and Rebekah. See verse 9 above. Isaac actually blessed Jacob twice. The first blessing was given in the context of Isaac's purpose to provide the equivalent of a last will and testament. The blessing was intended for Esau, but the combination of Isaac's failing eyesight and Jacob's deception resulted in the blessing being given to Jacob.
"Therefore may Elohim give you the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the Land, and plenty of grain and new wine; 29 Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your kinsmen, and let the descendants of your mother bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you." (Gen 27:28-29 BR)
As stated this blessing replicates key provisions of the covenant God made with Abraham. The wish-prophecy contained in verse 28 is implied in God's promise to "bless" Abraham (Gen 12:2). Next, the wish-prophecy of various people groups serving Abraham is implied in God's promise of the land as an everlasting possession (Gen 12:7; 13:15; 15:17-21; 17:8). Finally, the provision to curse or bless people based on their treatment of the recipient of this blessing echoes the text of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12:3).
If this blessing had been given to Esau the spiritual consequences would have been catastrophic. Isaac (at that moment spiritually blind) would have deliberately disobeyed God, transferred the divine covenantal rights to the godless and wicked Esau and nullified God's plan to bring the promised Seed of redemption. According to Torah standards such flagrant rejection of God's instruction merits being cut off from the chosen people (cf. Lev 24:24-16; 1Sam 15:23). While Christian commentators malign Rebekah and Jacob, their actions served the will of God.
After Isaac realized the deception he declared to Esau that the blessing on Jacob could not be withdrawn, but in fact would be fulfilled (Gen 27:33). Esau then threatened to murder Jacob, so Rebekah confronted her husband, "I have loathed my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these daughters from the land, what good will my life be to me?" (Gen 27:46 BR). Isaac apparently realized that Rebekah had saved him from embarrassment before God. He offered no rebuke of Rebekah or Jacob. Thus in faithfulness to God's purpose Isaac voluntarily gave a second blessing to Jacob that left no doubt as to his rights.
"And may El Shaddai bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you so that you may be an assembly of peoples. 4 And may He give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your seed with you that you may inherit the land of your sojournings, which Elohim gave to Abraham." (Gen 28:3-4 BR)
The second blessing given by Isaac expressed a wish prayer that emphasizes the promises God first made to Abraham: to wit, that El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One, would make Jacob fruitful in descendants and a company of nations, and that he would possess the Land El Shaddai gave to Abraham, promises that would be later reiterated (Gen 35:11). God affirmed this blessing afterwards (Gen 28:13-15). If Isaac and God were not angry over the outcome why perpetuate the malicious defamation of Jacob?
and: Grk. kai, conj. Esau: Grk. ho Ēsau, a transliteration of Heb. Esav, the elder fraternal twin son of Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 25:24-26; 27:1, 32, 42; 1Chr 1:34). He is considered the father of the Edomite nation (Gen 26:1; Deut 2:4-29). Later in this letter Paul describes Esau as an immoral and godless man (Heb 12:16). Being a godless man he married three godless women that were a grief to his parents (Gen 26:34-35; 28:6-9). At birth his body was hairy and red, which easily distinguished him from his brother (Gen 25:25). Esau, the extrovert, was a favorite of his father and as a hunter provided him with his favorite meats.
Having lost his birthright, Esau was still eligible to receive from Isaac the blessing of the eldest son. Being deprived of the covenantal blessing Esau blamed Jacob for all his problems, failing to realize that the character flaw revealed in his selling of his birthright followed him all of his life. When Esau complained about Jacob's successful deception Isaac offered a blessing to him as compensation.
39 "Behold, your dwelling shall be the fatness of the land, and of the dew of heaven above. 40 And you shall live by your sword, and you shall serve your brother. And it shall come to pass when you become restless, you shall break his yoke from your neck." (Gen 27:39-40 BR)
The prophetic content of the blessing given to Esau was appropriate to his character. Neither he nor his descendants were to inherit the fertile land of Canaan (Gen 27:39). The prophecy implied the future location for Edom, which would lie south of the Dead Sea. The mention of the "yoke" foretold the submission of the Edomites to the rule of David and his successors (2Sam 8:14; 1Chr 18:12-13; 2Chr 21:8-9). The Edomites were constant enemies of the Jews, but they were finally subjugated by John Hyrcanus, a Hasmonean leader of the 2nd century B.C. He left them in possession of their land, but compelled them to undergo circumcision and adopt the Jewish law (cf. Ant. XIII, 9:1; XV 7:9; Wars IV, 5:5).
Stern comments that the "yoke" was not completely broken until the time of King Herod the Great. According to Josephus, Herod was an Idumean on his father’s side and an Arabian on his mother's (Ant. XIV, 1:3 and 7:3). The Idumeans descended from Esau, and inhabited the Sinaitic peninsula south of the Dead Sea. Herod succeeded to the throne first given to his father, Antipater, by Julius Caesar (Ant. XIV, 8:5).
After the "blessing" episode, Esau was angry enough to kill Jacob. Because of this hostility Rebekah advised Jacob to flee to his uncle Laban in Haran and stay there until Esau's anger abated, which she anticipated would be a short stay (verses 43-44). But as events transpired Jacob never saw his mother alive again. Years later the two brothers were reconciled when Jacob returned from Haran. As Jacob neared Canaan, he made plans for confronting his brother and allaying his presumed anger. Esau, with an army of 400, surprised Jacob and received him without bitterness (Gen 33:4-16). The two reconciled brothers met again for the final time at the death of their father (Gen 35:29).
21 Because of faithfulness Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
Paul advances the patriarchal story by seventy years, and twenty chapters in Genesis. Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Jacob: Grk. ho Iakōb, second-born son of Isaac and Rebekah. See verse 9 above. After "the blessing" Jacob obeyed his parents and set out for Haran. One night while en route Jacob had a visionary experience in which he saw a ladder stretching from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it.
In the vision ADONAI informed Jacob that Isaac's wish set forth in the second blessing would be accomplished in an extravagant manner. Absent in the divine revelation is any hint of censure over how Jacob obtained the first blessing. Instead, ADONAI made important covenantal promises. A significant element in the narrative is that Jacob saw ADONAI. Since the time of the global flood Jacob is only the fourth person after Abraham, Isaac and Hagar to actually see ADONAI.
ADONAI reiterated the covenantal blessing with more detail. Jacob was the heir to the covenant ADONAI made with Abraham and his father Isaac with all its promises. ADONAI assured Jacob that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan, that his descendants would multiply as the dust of the earth and spread out in all directions, that through him all the peoples of the earth would be blessed and that God would never leave him. In the intervening years Jacob's lengthy stay in Haran gained him four wives, eleven sons and a daughter.
After spending 20 years in Haran Jacob moved his family back to Canaan (Gen 31). While en route to Canaan Jacob again had an encounter with an angel. After wrestling the angel all night (Gen 32:24-30) Jacob was given the name Israēl ("God prevails" BDB 975). Shortly thereafter Jacob met his brother Esau with whom he gained a reconciliation. Eventually Jacob moved to Bethel where God appeared to him and again affirmed his continuing inheritance of the Abrahamic covenant, specifically mentioning the land promised to Abraham and Isaac and adding a new promise that Jacob would become a "company of nations" (Gen 35:11-12).
Not long after the return to Canaan Rachel died in giving birth to their twelfth son, Benjamin (35:16-20). After the death of Isaac follows the story of Joseph being sold into Egyptian slavery, famine, the drama of Joseph's brothers meeting him in Egypt, the removal of Jacob's family of seventy into Egypt and the reconciliation between father and sons (Gen 37—47). There in the land of Goshen Jacob lived out the rest of his life. Paul now conflates three different verses in the narrative of Joseph's life in the opposite order in which they appear in Genesis.
when dying: Grk. apothnēskō, pres. part. See verse 4 above. Jacob died at the age of 147 (Gen 47:28), but the use of the Greek participle translates the Qal participle of Heb. muth ("to die") in Jacob's statement to Joseph, "Behold, I am dying" (Gen 48:21). blessed: Grk. eulogeō, aor. (for Heb. barak). See the previous verse. Use of the verb alludes to the narrative of Genesis 48:20, "So he blessed them." each: Grk. hekastos, adj. used in reference to an individual person or thing; each, every, every one.
of the sons: pl. of Grk. ho huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios translates Heb. ben ("son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5); (2) to mean a more distant ancestor; or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of. The noun is used here of direct paternity.
of Joseph: Grk. Iōsēph, a transliteration of Heb. Yosef, which is explained in Genesis 30:24 and means "he adds, increases" (BDB 415). Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob and fulfilled Rachel’s longing for a child (Gen 30:22ff). The account of his life is found in Genesis Chapters 37–50. He was born in Paddan-Aram while Jacob served his father-in-law Laban (Gen 35:26). Jacob spent twenty years in Haran and when he returned to Canaan no information is provided on the ages of his sons at that time. The story of Joseph begins in Chapter 37 when he was 17. For a summary of Joseph's life and deeds see my article Joseph: Savior in Egypt.
After being elevated to power over Egypt the Pharaoh arranged Joseph's marriage to Asenath, the daughter of an Egyptian pagan priest (Gen 41:45). During the years of plenty she gave birth to two sons. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh ("making to forget") and the second-born Ephraim ("fruitfulness"). These two sons eventually became separate tribes in the Land of Israel. The reason for Jacob's blessing on Joseph's sons, which occurred before Jacob's final prophetic blessing on all his sons (Gen 49:1-28), is that Jacob had transferred the birthright of the firstborn from Reuben to Joseph because of Reuben "defiling his father's bed" (1Chr 5:1-2).
The age of Joseph's sons at the time of their blessing is uncertain. The LXX identifies the sons with the term paidion, which may denote a child ranging from new-born to the time of puberty. The two sons of Joseph were born before the seven-year famine (Gen 41:50). Jacob moved to Egypt in the third year of the famine (Gen 45:6) and then lived in Goshen 17 years before his death (Gen 47:28). The narrative seems to indicate that the time of Jacob's death was near (cf. Gen 47:29; 48:21), but then he spoke of being near death years before its occurrence (cf. Gen 42:38; 45:28; 46:30).
To pronounce the blessing Jacob placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Manasseh. In the circumstance use of the right hand signified precedence. In Scripture the "right hand" often figuratively represents honor, power and authority. Joseph was distracted with the placement of Jacob's hands on the heads of his sons and objected. Jacob explained that his action was purposeful and represented the future status of the two tribes that would descend from them. Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh (Gen 48:19), imitating the history of second-born Isaac being made greater than Ishmael and second-born Jacob being made greater than Esau.
Jacob then exhorted that his name and the name of Abraham and Isaac be upon the sons. In Hebrew literature "name" not only identifies someone with a proper name, but carries the extended sense of authority, qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. In other words Joseph had the responsibility to make sure that Ephraim and Manasseh retained their covenantal identity and followed the example of their forefathers in obedience to God's expectations. They must put their paternal heritage first, not their maternal heritage (cf. Gen 48:5). Eventually their descendants would leave Egypt and Jacob did not want his descendants taking Egyptian influence and values with them (cf. Lev 18:3).
Paul then quotes from the LXX text of Genesis 47:31. Almost all Bible versions quote this verse from the MT and ignore the LXX, except for a few (EXB, ICB, NCV, NIRV, NIV, TLV). and: Grk. kai, conj. he worshiped: Grk. proskuneō (from pros, "toward" and kuneō, "to kiss"), aor., properly, to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior; as an act of worship to demonstrate honor and adoration to God. In the LXX proskuneō primarily translates Heb. shachah (SH-7812), to bend down, which is used both of bowing down before men and of worship toward deity (BDB 1005). Thus, the verb emphasizes Jacob's submission to God's will (Lane 202).
leaning on: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 4 above. Many versions insert "leaned" or "leaning" to qualify the action. the top: Grk. akron, the extremity, when applied to vertical and horizontal things; head, top. of his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. staff: Grk. rhabdos (for Heb. matteh, SH-4294), a staff or rod. The MT actually has "bed" (Heb. mittah) whereas the LXX has rhabdos, "staff." Even though he was ill Jacob apparently sat up in order to pronounce his blessing on Joseph's sons.
The term "rod" or "staff" designates a straight, slender stick cut from a tree (Gen 30:37-41) (HBD). Staffs were used as walking sticks (Gen 32:10), for defense (Ps 23:4 ), for punishment (Ex 21:20), and as a mark of leadership (Num 17:2). Jacob had once testified that when he left his parent's home for Haran the only property he took with him was his staff (Gen 32:10). Now in the final hours of his life the staff was an instrument of worship.
Stern points out that the Hebrew words for "bed" and "staff" have the same three letters (mem-tet-heh), but the pointing is different, which gives the words their distinctive meanings. Although the Samaritan Pentateuch has the word for "bed," Paul (or possibly Luke) apparently regarded the LXX as the correct translation of a Hebrew text then in existence.
22 Because of faithfulness Joseph, completing his life, called to mind of the exodus of the sons of Israel and gave instructions concerning his bones.
Reference: Genesis 50:24-25; Exodus 13:19
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Joseph: Grk. Iōsēph. See the previous verse. Paul now advances the Genesis narrative by at least fifty years. completing his life: Grk. teleutaō, pres. part., come to an end, finish, complete, and in this context to reach the end-point of life. Some versions translate the verb as "dying." Hegg suggests the choice of the verb signifies persevering to the end. Joseph died at the age of 110, but he lived to see the third generation of his son Ephraim (Gen 50:22-23).
Before his death Joseph spoke to his surviving brothers and male relatives (Gen 50:24-25). called to mind: Grk. mnēmoneuō, aor., "to remember." See verse 15 above. of the exodus: Grk. ho exodos, a going out, departure from a place; and in this context the exodus from Egypt. In the LXX exodos translates the infinitive construct of Heb. yatsa (SH-3318), to depart, to go or come out, used in reference to Israel (Ex 19:1; Num 33:38; 1Kgs 6:1; Ps 105:38; 114:1). of the sons: pl. of Grk. ho huios. See the previous verse. The plural noun is used here in the broadest sense of all the descendants.
of Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The name here refers to Jacob whose name was changed by divine decree (Gen 32:28; 35:9). See the comment on Jacob in verse 9 above. Throughout the Tanakh, Jacob's descendants are called the "sons of Israel" (Ex 12:37) or "the house of Israel" (Ex 16:31). The phrase "the exodus of the sons of Israel" alludes to the prophecy given to Abraham:
"13 Know surely that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 But the nation whom they serve I am going to judge and afterward they will go out with great possessions. 15 But as for you, you will come to your fathers in peace. You will be buried at a good old age. 16 And in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete here.'"(Gen 15:13-16 BR)
We should note that God clarified the time of the exodus as the fourth generation from Abraham. Henry Morris suggests the 400 years was equivalent to "four generations," since men were still living in excess of one hundred years of age and older (TGR 327). Of course, Abraham did not say that his descendents would be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. In reality the time spent in Egypt was about 215 years (Josephus, Ant. II, 15:2). See my comment on Acts 7:6 for an analysis of the scholarly debate concerning the actual time spent in Egyptian bondage.
In any event the main body of Israelites that departed Egypt was at least 600,000 men besides women and children (Ex 12:37; 38:26; Num 1:45-46; 2:32), along with a mixed multitude of non-Israelites (Ex 12:38). Estimates of the total numbers in the Israelite company range as high as two million (TGR 101).
and: Grk. kai, conj. gave instructions: Grk. entellō, aor. mid., to give instruction with magisterial claim; instruct, command, order. concerning: Grk. peri. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. bones: pl. of Grk. ho osteon, bone, one of the structures composing the skeleton of a human or animal. Lane suggests that Jacob in requiring Joseph to exercise oversight of his burial in Canaan (Gen 47:28–31) undoubtedly influenced Joseph's determination that his remains would be transported from Egypt to Canaan as well.
Joseph obviously did not know when the exodus would occur, but he likely anticipated that he would be embalmed (Gen 50:26), which would effectively preserve his bones. Moses then records that Israel did indeed take the bones of Joseph with them when they left Egypt (Ex 13:19) and he was buried in the vicinity of Shechem (Josh 24:32; Acts 7:16; Sotah 13b) where Jacob had purchased land (Gen 33:18-19). This land became an inheritance for the descendants of Joseph (Gen 48:21-22; John 4:5).
According to non-biblical Jewish sources the remains of the brothers of Joseph were also removed from Egypt at the time of their deaths like Jacob and then buried in Hebron in the tomb of Abraham (Jubilees 46:9; Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs 2:8; 7:7; 8:9; 11:20; 12:12; Josephus, Ant. II, 8:2).
Heroes of Faithfulness: Moses to Joshua, 11:23-31
23 Because of faithfulness Moses, having been born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw the child was beautiful, and they did not fear the edict of the king.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. In this verse the faithfulness is parental. Moses: Grk. Mōusēs transliterates Heb. Mosheh, which may be derived from Egyptian mes meaning "child" or "son" (BDB 602), since the daughter of Pharaoh named him (Ex 2:10). She explained the chosen name by saying, "Because I drew [Heb. mashah, "to draw"] him out of the water." Josephus offers a slightly different account of the naming:
"Hereupon it was that Thermuthis [the daughter of Pharaoh] imposed this name Mouses upon him, from what had happened when he was put into the river; for the Egyptians call water by the name of Mo, and such as are saved out of it, by the name of Uses: so by putting these two words together, they imposed this name upon him." (Ant. II, 9:5)
The story of Moses is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. His life can be divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt (Ex 2:11; Acts 7:23), the second his years in Midian (Ex 7:7; Acts 7:30), and the third from Exodus from Egypt through the years spent in the wilderness until his death (Ex 16:35; Deut 34:7). Stern notes that this chapter devotes more space to Moses than to any of the other heroes of faith, except Abraham. Moreover, Moses is the central figure in extra-biblical Jewish sources available in the first century. For a summary and analysis of his life and deeds see my article Moses, Servant of God.
having been born: Grk. gennaō, aor. pass. part., to father, beget or procreate. In the LXX gennaō is used chiefly for Heb. yalad (SH-3205), to bear, bring forth, to beget, to father (first use in Gen 4:18), which can refer to either the male or female role in conception and birth (DNTT 1:176). The passive voice of the verb conveys the female role in giving birth. Scholars are divided over the date of Moses' birth, but the best conservative estimate based on biblical dating references (Jdg 11:26; 1Kgs 6:1; Acts 13:19-20) is in the early 15th century B.C., c. 1527 (Archer 196, 459).
was hidden: Grk. kruptō, aor. pass., to keep from view, to conceal or hide. In the Hebrew text of Exodus 2:2-3 Jochebed does the hiding, but in the LXX the hiding is attributed to both parents. three months: Grk. trimēnos, adj., lasting three months according to the lunar calendar. by: Grk. hupo, prep., may be used as (1) a marker of agent or cause; by; or (2) as a marker of a relatively lower position; below, under. The first meaning applies here and stresses "under the authority of." his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. parents: pl. of Grk. patēr, normally used of a male biological parent, someone who fulfilled the role of a father or an ancestor.
In the LXX patēr translates ab (SH-1, "av"), father, with the same range of meaning (Gen 2:24) (DNTT 1:616f). The term properly refers to one who imparts life and is committed to it; a progenitor, bringing into being to pass on the potential for likeness (HELPS). Thus, the plural form of the noun refers to the biological parents of Moses, although it is possible that Paul intended those living in the paternal line as approving the decision to hide infant Moses. The names of the parents of Moses are identified as Amram (Heb. Amram, "exalted people"), and Jochebed (Heb. Yokebed, "Yah is glory") (Ex 6:20; Num 26:59). See the Additional Note below on the parents of Moses.
because: Grk. dioti, conj. See verse 5 above. Paul then conflates the text of Exodus 2:2-3. they saw: Grk. horaō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 5 above. The verb in the Hebrew text of Exodus 2:2 is feminine singular, referring to Jochebed, but the LXX verb is masculine plural, denoting both parents. the infant: Grk. ho paidion, the diminutive form of pais ("child), a young child; baby, child, infant. The great majority of versions translate the noun as "the child." Several versions have "the baby" (ERV, EXB, GW, ICB, NOG, NCV, WE), which is more precise considering the source text.
In the LXX paidion occurs first in Genesis 17:12 without Hebrew equivalent to denote a male baby to be circumcised and thereafter translates four different terms that convey the age range of infant to young man (DNTT 1:283). In regard to Moses paidion occurs in Exodus 2:3 to translate Heb. yeled (SH-3206), child, son, boy, youth.
was beautiful: Grk. asteios, adj., elegant, pretty, fair, fine, beautiful, handsome. The adjective occurs only twice in the Besekh, the other referring to Moses (Acts 7:20). In the LXX of Exodus 2:2 asteios translates Heb. tôv (SH-2896; BDB 397), pleasant, agreeable or good. One rabbinic sage concluded on the basis of this verse that the Hebrew name of Moses was Tobiah, derived from tôv (Sotah 12a).
and: Grk. kai, conj. they did not: Grk. ou, adv., negative particle. fear: Grk. phobeomai, aor. pass., 3p-pl., to fear. The verb has two basic meanings that are opposite: (1) to be in a state of apprehension, fearful and (2) to have special respect or reverence for, i.e., deep respect. The first meaning applies here. the edict: Grk. ho diatagma (from diatassō, "to arrange, give orders to"), a decree issued by a sovereign or other authority; edict, mandate, order. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh.
of the king: Grk. ho basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek (SH-4428), first in Genesis 14:1. In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed, but the authority wielded. A monarchy controlled the executive, judicial and legislative functions of government. The title of the Egyptian king is given in the next verse. Philo had written a similar summary of this event:
"Accordingly as the child Moses, as soon as he was born, displayed a more beautiful and noble form than usual, his parents resolved, as far as was in their power, to disregard the proclamations of the tyrant. Accordingly they say that for three months continuously they kept him at home, feeding him on milk, without its coming to the knowledge of the multitude" (Philo, On the Life of Moses I; 3:9)
The content of Pharaoh's edict is found in Exodus 1:16 and first spoken to the Hebrew midwives:
"When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live."
It is important to understand the cultural situation that led to Pharaoh's edict. The book of Exodus begins with a historical transition: "Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph" (Ex 1:8 TLV). Over a century has passed since the death of Joseph and a new royal government had arisen. A tradition as old Josephus states that a Hyksos dynasty was ruling Egypt when Joseph came to the country (Against Apion 1:14-15). The Hyksos were a Semitic people that immigrated from the Eastern Mediterranean and settled in the Nile delta two centuries before Joseph. A century later they were in control of Lower Egypt.
But, in the century since Joseph's death the Hyksos kings were driven out by native Egyptians. The native Egyptian rulers were unsympathetic toward the Semitic people who had come in under the Hyksos rulers. The new king "knew nothing of Joseph," which does not mean ignorance of Joseph existence, because his history and the benefits done by him to the Egyptian nation would have been in their records. Rather, the new Egyptian king in nationalistic pride had no regard for the memory of Joseph. The new king refused to recognize the benefits Joseph provided to his nation, ungratefully neglected them, and showed no respect to his legacy.
The new Egyptian king, or Pharaoh, recognized that the people of Israel had been fruitful and multiplied and in terms of sheer numbers had a greater population than the native Egyptians (Ex 1:7, 9). What he refused to consider was the contribution of the Israelites to the economic well-being of the country. And, to allow the Israelites to have equal rights with the Egyptians could tip the balance of power and threaten national identity.
So, Pharaoh decided to preempt the fake problem he invented by declaring the Israelites to be threats to national security. His solution was NOT to evict the Israelites from the country but to enslave them for labor in government public works. He also decreed that newly born baby boys among the Israelites should be killed (Ex 1:15, 16, 22). This is the first recorded instance of institutional anti-Semitism.
According to Jewish tradition Jochebed was one of the Hebrew midwives that defied Pharaoh (Targum Jonathan; Ginzberg II, 4.3). Three months after his birth when the infant Moses could no longer be hidden Jochebed placed her son in an unorthodox cradle, an ark of bulrushes, in the Nile River (Ex 2:3). After discovery by Pharaoh's daughter the mother of Moses was paid to take him and nurse him until he was weaned (Ex 2:5-11).
Additional Note: The Parents of Moses
The genealogy of Moses is traced from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Levi to Kohath to Amram (Ex 6:16-18; 1Chr 1:34; 2:1; 6:1-3). According to the Hebrew text of Exodus 6:20 (DSS 4Q1; the MT; and the SP) "Amram took Jochebed his father's-sister as wife." The text identifies Jochebed with the noun Heb. dodah, (SH-1733, aunt), i.e., the sister of Kohath, the father of Amram, making her the aunt of Amram. Egyptian culture at the time of Moses permitted similar unions between close relatives. This marriage relationship was not banned until the laws were given at Sinai (Lev 18:12), so it was not sinful.
In contrast the LXX of Exodus 6:20 says, "And Amram took Jochebed, daughter of the brother of his father to himself for a wife." The LXX treats the Hebrew word dodah as a genitive case rather than nominative case, meaning "of his father's sister." Thus, the LXX makes Jochebed a cousin of Amram. Targum Onkelos (1st cent. A.D.) concurs with the DSS with "Amram took his aunt [father’s sister] Yocheved for his wife and she bore him Aharon and Moshe."
However, Targum Jonathan (2nd cent. A.D.) reads "And Amram took Jokeved his cousin to wife, and she bare him Aharon and Mosheh." Targum Jerusalem (4th cent. A.D.) concurs with Targum Jonathan that Jochebed was a cousin of Amram. The LXX as the earliest text to speak of the marriage, and the correction of Targums Jonathan and Jerusalem, deserve being given greater weight in determining the familial relationship of Amram and Jochebed.
Philo said this of the parents of Moses: "And his father and mother were among the most excellent persons of their time, and though they were of the same time, still they were induced to unite themselves together more from an unanimity of feeling than because they were related in blood" (On the Life of Moses I, 2:7). Josephus describes Amram as "one of the nobler sort of the Hebrews" who bore a burden for the condition of his people and spent time in intercessory prayer for the nation's deliverance (Ant. II, 9:3).
Jochebed and Amram had three children: Miriam, Aaron and Moses (Num 26:59). Aaron was three years older than Moses (Ex 7:7), so his birth occurred before the decree of Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew male infants. Miriam was the sister who watched over baby Moses (Ex 2:4), thus making her the firstborn of Amram and Jochebed. Three months after the birth of Moses when he could no longer be hidden Jochebed placed her son in an unorthodox cradle, an ark of bulrushes, in the Nile River (Ex 2:3). After discovery by Pharaoh's daughter Jochebed was paid to nurse him until he was weaned and then he was raised as a son of Pharaoh (Ex 2:5-11).
24 Because of faithfulness Moses, having become great, refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh,
Reference: Exodus 2:10-11; Philo, On the Life of Moses I.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Here, Moses is described as possessing the virtue. Moses: Grk. Mōusēs. See the previous verse. Paul then quotes the verbal phrase from the LXX of Exodus 2:11. having become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 3 above. The participle summarizes the long period of life since birth, about 40 years.
great: Grk. megas, adj., large or great in extent and is used of used of size, measure, quantity, time, age, rank or influence. In the LXX the verbal phrase megas ginomenos translates the Heb. verb gadal (SH-1431), "to grow up, to become great." Most versions translate the verbal phrase as "having grown up" in the sense of reaching adulthood. The Hebrew verb has the meaning of maturing in age in Exodus 2:2, "And the child grew." From childhood to adulthood Moses lived as the son of the daughter of Pharaoh. Stephen, in his defense sermon, affirmed that "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; moreover he was mighty in his words and deeds" (Acts 7:22).
Philo says that Moses learned arithmetic, geometry, and every branch of music, the hieroglyphics, the Assyrian language, and the Chaldean knowledge of the heavens, and the mathematics (On the Life of Moses I, 5:23). Josephus says, "Now Moses' understanding became superior to his age, nay, far beyond that standard; and when he was taught, he discovered greater quickness of apprehension than was usual at his age" (Ant. II, 9:6).
However, Paul more likely means "having become great" in the sense of royal status (Bruce, McKee). A few versions translate megas with "great" (AMPC, DARBY, DLNT, MJLT, NMB, YLT). The book of Exodus offers little information on the life of Moses in Egypt after he reached adulthood, but Josephus records that Moses was appointed as a general of the Egyptian army to repel an invasion of the Ethiopians (Ant. II, 10:1-2). While the account is wholly omitted in Scripture, the report was accepted by the church father Irenaeus (Fragments XXXII). It is possible that Stephen alluded to such a prominent role of Moses when he said that Moses was mighty in words and in deeds (Acts 7:22).
refused: Grk. arneomai, aor. mid., to give a negative answer or refuse to affirm or confess; say no, deny, and at worst to disown or repudiate. to be called: Grk. legō, pres. pass. inf. See verse 14 above. the son: Grk. huios. See verse 21 above. of the daughter: Grk. thugatēr, a female offspring, daughter, or a female descendant. In the LXX thugatēr translates Heb. bath (SH-1323), which is used of a female child born of a woman, an adopted daughter, a daughter-in-law and young women generally.
of Pharaoh: Grk. Pharaō, the common title, not a personal name, of kings of ancient Egypt (Josephus, Ant. VIII, 6:2). The title is the Hebrew form of the Egyptian term meaning "great house." Scripture never gives the birth name of any Pharaoh. Josephus gives the name of Pharaoh's daughter as Thermuthis (Ant. II, 9:5). Paul alludes to the report of Exodus 2:10 that Thermuthis adopted Moses as her son. The last clause of this verse is significant because Thermuthis intended for Moses to succeed her father to the throne of Egypt (Ant. II, 9:7). Philo says that Moses was
"looked upon as the grandson of this mighty king, and being almost considered in the expectations of all men as the future inheritor of his grandfather's kingdom, and being always addressed as the young prince" (On the Life of Moses I, 7:32).
But, something happened in Moses' 40th year. Moses decided to pay a visit to his kinsmen laboring in slavery (Ex 2:11; Acts 7:23) and that visit changed his perspective.
25 rather having chosen to suffer affliction with the people of God than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin.
Reference: Exodus 2:11; Philo, On the Life of Moses I.
rather: Grk. mallon, adv., a marker of degree, used here of a change in circumstance involving an alternative, with focus on increase in consideration; rather. having chosen: Grk. haireō, aor. mid. part., to make a selection expressing preference; choose, prefer. to suffer affliction with: Grk. sugkakoucheomai, pres. pass. inf., be badly treated along with someone, share mistreatment or persecutions with. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. the people: Grk. ho laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically. In the LXX laos translates Heb. am (SH-5971), nation, people, inhabitants of a city or location; first in Genesis 14:16.
of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 3 above. The specific phrase "people of God" occurs two times in the Tanakh (Jdg 20:2; 2Sam 14:13) and three times in the Besekh (also Heb 4:9; 1Pet 2:10) for the covenant people. In verse 22 above Paul referred to the "sons of Israel" but here he emphasizes that the people of Israel is the people God chose out of all the nations on the earth for a relationship of special favor (Deut 7:7-8). than: Grk. ē, conj., used to denote (1) an alternative, 'or,' or (2) a comparative function, 'than.' The second usage applies here. to have: Grk. echō, pres. inf. See verse 10 above.
enjoyment: Grk. apolausis, the faculty or experience of enjoyment or pleasure. of sin: Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. The first meaning is intended here. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. The Tanakh has no main general word for sin like is found in the Besekh (DNTT 3:577).
In the LXX hamartia particularly translates Heb. avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity, first in Genesis 15:16 for the iniquity of the Amorites; and Heb. chatta'ah (SH-2403), sinful thing, guilt of sin, punishment for sin or a sin offering, first in Genesis 18:20 for the perversions committed in Sodom. Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7). The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior.
Paul could refer to Moses rejecting "sin" prior to the commandments given at Sinai, because God's expectations for righteous living were well known from the beginning (Gen 6:5, 9; 9:4-7; 17:1; 18:19; 26:5). The sinful culture of ancient Egypt that accepted infanticide, slavery, worship of false gods, and sexual perversion is revealed in the statutory prohibitions God enacted at Sinai (e.g., Ex 20:2; Lev 18:3) and Paul's summary of cultural degeneration in Romans 1:18-32.
The specific circumstance which Paul mentions here occurred when Moses approached his fortieth birthday (Ex 2:11; Acts 7:23). He left the palace, a place of sinful pleasures, to visit the Israelite people where they labored in bondage. This departure from the palace was apparently for the purpose of identifying himself as being the son of Jochebed, not an Egyptian woman, and associating with his suffering people. As he was engaged in this on-site inspection he saw an Egyptian supervisor beating a Hebrew worker (Ex 2:11). Such treatment was common so there must be a particular reason why Moses got involved.
Rashi cites the midrash Exodus Rabbah 1:29 as explaining that the Egyptian supervisor had surreptitiously been intimate with Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan (Lev 24:10). Her husband discovered the matter and confronted the Egyptian taskmaster who "returned him to hard labor and struck him and sought to kill him." As the self-appointed leader of Israel Moses learned of the situation and decided the Egyptian's conduct merited death and so killed him (Ex 2:12).
26 having considered the reproach of the Anointed One of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking toward the reward.
Reference: Exodus 2:14; Psalm 89:50-51; Philo, On the Life of Moses I.
having considered: Grk. hēgeomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 11 above. the reproach: Grk. ho oneidismos, demeaning faultfinding, undeserved condemnation; an insult aimed to damage or disgrace reputation (HELPS); a reproach, a reviling. According to Josephus, Moses himself experienced reproach. After his victory over the Ethiopians and his marriage to the daughter of the king of the Ethiopians (Ant. II, 10:2), Egyptian favor turned to hatred. Pharaoh's advisers warned that "he would take occasion, from his good success, to raise a sedition, and bring innovations into Egypt; and told the king he ought to be slain" (Ant. II, 11:1).
of the Anointed One: Grk. ho Christos (from chriō, "to anoint with olive oil"), lit. "the Anointed One." In the LXX Christos is used to translate Heb. Mashiach ("Anointed One"). Mashiach appears in the Tanakh 39 times and is used for (1) the High Priest (Lev 4:5, 16); (2) the kings of Israel (1Sam 12:3; 2Sam 22:51); (3) the patriarchal fathers (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:15); and (4) the Messianic King, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) (BDB 603; DNTT 3:335ff). The fourth usage defined the term among Jews in the first century.
Most Christian versions translate the noun as "Christ," although some have "the Christ," and Messianic Jewish versions have "the Messiah." The use of the royal title appears to allude to Yeshua, but Stern comments Moses did not know of Yeshua, and then suggests that there is no evidence that he had specific knowledge of a coming Messiah, Savior or Son of God. However, Yeshua said that Moses wrote about him (John 5:46). Since Moses wrote the Pentateuch he knew of the early promises of the Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), the Seed of Abraham (Gen 22:17-18), and the Shiloh of Judah (Gen 49:10). For an explanation of these biblical prophecies of the Messiah see my article The Messiah in the Pentateuch.
Much later Moses recorded the revelations of a Star that would come out of Jacob (Num 24:17-19) and of a future prophet like himself (Deut 18:15, 19). Moses, as the author of Genesis, understood very well that God promised a man who would bring redemption from the curse of sin. Moreover, he knew that the promised redeemer would be the descendant from a particular family line. Hegg, therefore, asserts that Moses had the promise of the Messiah before him, and that it was his intention to identify with the Messiah. Hegg also notes that Paul had previously made a connection between Moses and the Messiah:
"10 For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were immersed into Moses, in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink for they were drinking from the spiritual rock accompanying them; now the rock was the Messiah. … 9 Neither should we test the Messiah as some of them tested Him and were destroyed by serpents." (1Cor 10:1-4, 9 BR)
Bruce and Lane suggest a possible origin for the mention of "reproach" in Psalm 69:9, "the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me." Paul quotes this line of the psalm in Romans 15:3 as a Messianic prediction of Yeshua. Paul may have applied the words of David here to Moses, who similarly experienced mistreatment by his brothers. Because he, like Messiah, chose to share the suffering of the people of God. As an alternative Ellicott pointed out an association of the words "reproach" and "Anointed One" in another Messianic psalm:
"Remember, ADONAI, the reproach of your servants; how I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples: with which Your enemies have reproached, ADONAI; with which they have reproached the footsteps of Your Anointed." (Psalm 89:50-51 BR)
The phrase "footsteps of the Anointed" is idiomatic for the days preceding the Messiah's arrival. The priestly author of the psalm, Ethan, in effect speaks of himself as bearing "the reproach of the Anointed of ADONAI;" pleading in His name and identifying himself with His cause. Lane also prefers Psalm 89:50-51 as a more probable source of the reference to the "reproach of the Anointed One." The first "Anointed One" was Abraham, followed by Isaac and Jacob (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:6, 15). The people of Israel were the people of the Anointed One.
The national existence of Israel originated in the promise to Abraham, which was a promise of the Anointed One, the Seed of Abraham (Gen 22:17-18). God had predicted that Abraham's descendants would be oppressed and reviled (Gen 15:13-16) and that prophecy came to complete fruition in the time of Moses. Thus, in the tradition of the predicted "Anointed One" Moses apparently viewed himself as the deliverer of his people. Indeed, when Moses attempted to mediate a dispute between two Hebrews they challenged him with the question "Who made you a prince and a judge over us?" (Ex 2:14 ESV).
of greater: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 24 above. The adjective is used here in a comparative sense. value: Grk. ploutos (from polus, "much"), properly wealth in a material sense, but also figurative of relative worth in a non-material sense, here the latter. Most versions translate the noun as "wealth" or "riches," but some have "value" (ISV, MSG, NIRV, NIV). NJB translates the phrase as "more precious" and a few versions have "worth more" (GNB, NLV, NTE).
than the treasures: pl. of Grk. ho thēsauros, a store-house for precious things; hence: a treasure, a store. of Egypt: Grk. Aiguptos, a land in northeastern Africa, home to one of the earliest civilizations, and an important cultural and political influence on ancient Israel. See the map here. The Hebrew name in the Tanakh is Mitzrayim (Mizraim in Christian Bibles). The English word Egypt is derived from the Greek word via Middle French "Egypte" and Latin "Aegyptus."
Not considered by commentators is that the treasures of Egypt properly began during the reign of Joseph who took radical actions to save the nation from famine.
● Instead of encouraging private storage of grain to save for the anticipated famine Joseph imposed a 20% "flat tax" on all grain production, in order to create a national reserve held in storage cities under Pharaoh's protection (Gen 41:34-36).
● Joseph sold the legally confiscated grain to people from other nations suffering the famine (cf. Gen 42:5), and even charged the Egyptians to buy their own grain from the reserve (Gen 42:6; 47:15). Requiring the Egyptian people to buy their own grain from the government resulted in the people running out of money and they were forced to sell their land to Pharaoh for food.
● Joseph's economic system designed to save the Egyptian nation from the famine had the consequence of transferring ownership of all currency, livestock and land in Egypt to Pharaoh, while exempting the pagan priests (Gen 47:13-25). Pharaoh gained unprecedented and unparalleled power and the people became serfs (Gen 47:23-24). Joseph made the flat tax permanent (Gen 47:26), thereby ensuring the growth of Pharaoh's power. Joseph unwittingly set the stage for the oppression of the Israelites during the days of Moses.
Like Joseph in his days as ruler Moses grew up in the lap of luxury. The wealth of Pharaoh was expanded by the building of storage cities (Ex 1:11), which became important centers of government and idolatrous worship. The wealth of Pharaoh grew exponentially. McKee notes, for example, that thousands of pounds of gold were discovered in King Tutankhamen's tomb.
for: Grk. gar, conj. he was looking: Grk. apoblepō, impf., look away from all other objects and focus on one; look unwaveringly, look intently, look forward. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. toward: Grk. eis, prep. the reward: Grk. ho misthapodosia (from misthos, "reward" and apodídōmi, "return, give back"), rendering of return for performance, a paying back, whether negative or positive, here the latter; payment, recompense, reward. The noun occurs only in this letter (also 2:2; 10:35).
Paul also designates God as "the rewarder" of those who seek him in faith (verse 6 above). Lane comments that the notion of reward is, of course, rooted in the Tanakh (Gen 15:1) and comes to expression in other Jewish Hellenistic writers (e.g., 4Macc 16:25; 17:12, 18; Philo, Allegorical Interpretation of the Law I, XXVI.80; Who is the Heir? 26). Moses could have been the heir of unimaginable riches. However, he knew that he could only enjoy the Egyptian inheritance at the cost of complicity in the wickedness of the king (Lane 210).
Moses recognized that the advantages that accrued to him as the son of the pharaoh's daughter were obtained through the oppressive enslavement of the Hebrew nation. Yet, Moses longed for the fulfillment of God's covenantal promises given to Abraham of deliverance from oppression and possession of the land of Canaan. Moses therefore made a decision to relinquish the material wealth of Egypt for something more important. Thus, his willingness to identify with his suffering kinsmen became a type of the Suffering Messiah.
27 Because of faithfulness he left Egypt, not having feared the anger of the king; indeed he persevered as seeing the Unseen One.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Paul then offers a "midrashic interpretation" of the narrative of Exodus 2:14-15 (Lane). he left: Grk. kataleipō (from kata, "down" and leipō, "to leave, leave behind"), aor., to leave behind, depart from, forsake. In the LXX kataleipō occurs nearly 300 times to translate three different Hebrew verbs meaning to leave or forsake (DNTT 3:248), but the verb is never used in reference to Moses. Egypt: Grk. Aiguptos. See the previous verse.
Leon Morris points out that Moses departed Egypt on two occasions: he fled to Midian after he had slain the Egyptian (Ex 2:11-15) and he led the Israelites out of Egypt at the Exodus (Ex 14:15, 21-22; 15:22). The former leaving is intended here considering the chronology of verses 28 and 29 of this chapter. Also, the singular verb "he left" contrasts with the narrative of the Exodus of an entire nation and the Exodus was the result of Pharaoh's request, not anger (Ex 12:31-32). Considering Paul's commentary complimenting Moses in verses 24-26 the verbal clause could be translated as "he forsook Egypt" (KJV, NKJV) and intend a figurative meaning of forsaking the materialistic and idolatrous values of Egypt.
not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 5 above. having feared: Grk. phobeomai, aor. pass. part. See verse 23 above. the anger: Grk. ho thumos, a passionate state of mind, the precise quality being determined by the context. The term may indicate (2) intense desire or passion or (2) wrath or anger, here the latter. Thumos as a human emotion could be described as being like the flame which comes from dried straw. It quickly blazes up and just as quickly dies down. of the king: Grk. ho basileus. See verse 23 above. Noteworthy is the fact that Pharaoh is never described as expressing thumos or any word for anger.
The phrase "anger of the king" interprets the report of Exodus 2:15 that Pharaoh sought to kill Moses after hearing about the incident of the homicide committed by Moses. Paul's description presents a conundrum, because it seems to contradict the report of Exodus 2:14 that "Moses was afraid." For this reason, some commentators (Hegg, Stern and Westcott) interpret verse 27 as occurring in the period covered by Exodus 5:1–15:21.
Lane points out that Philo (Life of Moses I, 49-50; Allegorical Interpretation III, 14) and Josephus agree in eliminating the motive of fear from the account of Moses' departure from Egypt. They bear independent witness to a tradition of interpretation that stressed Moses' fearlessness with respect to the Pharaoh, a tradition of which Paul was aware. Paul's interpretation is also supported by the testimony of Stephen:
23 "Now when a period of forty years was being fulfilled to him, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the sons of Israel. 24 And having seen someone being wronged, he defended him and acted in retaliation for the one being mistreated, having struck down the Egyptian. 25 Moreover he was supposing the brothers to understand that God was giving them deliverance by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 Also the following day he appeared to those quarreling and sought to reconcile them into peace, having said, 'Men, you are brothers, so that why wrong one other?' 27 But the one wronging the neighbor shoved him, having said, 'Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Are you not wanting to kill me, that way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' 29 And at this statement Moses fled and became a sojourner in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons." (Acts 7:23-29 BR)
The fear Moses experienced occurred upon learning that his killing the Egyptian taskmaster was common knowledge. The fear is not associated with his flight from Egypt. Fruchtenbaum suggests that Moses left Egypt because he was rejected by his own people. Guthrie offers a better interpretation in line with Stephen's narrative that the fear of Moses arose out of concern that God's purposes would be thwarted if he did not escape and so should be distinguished from fear for his life.
Another consideration is the report of Josephus that Moses was hated by the advisers of Pharaoh and they advocated that Moses be slain. Thus, the decision of Pharaoh to seek the death of Moses was the result of simple political expedience and not personal rage. In his departure from Egypt Moses exhibited courage to face an uncertain future. The following clause explains the manner in which Moses overcame fear.
indeed: Grk. gar, conj. With the conjunction Paul advances the narrative of Moses to the end of his time in Midian and his return to Egypt. he remained steadfast: Grk. kartereō, aor., to be steadfast, bear patiently, endure or persevere in doing (LSJ). The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. In the LXX kartereō occurs a small number of times and translates Heb. chazakh (SH-2388), to be or grow firm or strong, strengthen, first in Job 2:9 as a character quality of Job. The verb also occurs in Isaiah 42:14 without Hebrew equivalent to describe a woman that endures labor to birth a child.
The accolade here is comparable to Paul's previous description of Moses: "Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant" (Heb 3:5). as if: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 9 above. The adverb is used here to emphasize the subjective reason for the steadfastness. Paul then engages in a play on words. seeing: Grk. horaō, pres. part. See verse 5 above. Here the verb refers a visual experience and the present tense emphasizes the continuing inspiration derived from the experience.
the Unseen One: Grk. aoratos, adj. (from alpha, "negative particle" and horaō, "to see"), properly, not seen or invisible to the physical eye; unseen, invisible (HELPS). This special adjective occurs elsewhere in the Besekh only in the letters of Paul, particularly in reference to God (Rom 1:20; Col 1:15, 16; 1Tim 1:17). In contrast the LXX never uses aoratos to describe God, but the term appears frequently in the writings of Philo (e.g., On Creation 69; On Abraham 183; Life of Moses II, 65; Special Laws I, 18, 20). Most versions translate the adjective as "invisible," but some have "unseen" (AMP, CJB, NASB, NASU, OJB).
The translation of "unseen" is preferred given the play on words with the verb "seeing" and as shorthand for Paul's later description of the Sovereign God who dwells in unapproachable light and whom no man has seen or is able to see (1Tim 6:16; cf. John 1:18; 1Jn 4:12). Bruce comments that if "faith is the conviction of things not seen" (verse 1 above), it is first and foremost a conviction regarding the unseen God, which is then emphasized in the affirmation of verse 6 above that anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists.
Paul affirms that the confidence of Moses in the existence of the unseen God who created the heavens and the earth and who called Abraham and his descendants into covenantal relationship was the secret of his boldness in carrying out God's instructions. The faith of Moses became sight upon encountering the burning bush at Horeb and hearing the divine voice "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex 3:6). This personal revelation gave Moses the courage to return to Egypt and face Pharaoh.
Philo says that in contrast to Moses this new Pharaoh did not acknowledge any deity that could be discerned by the intellect, apart from those objects which are visible to the sight (Life of Moses I 88). Yet, Moses repeatedly quoted the demand of the Unseen God to Pharaoh to release the Israelites (Ex 5:1; 7:16-17; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:13). The closing verbal phrase is paradoxical, since after the Exodus at Sinai when Moses asked to see God he was told "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!" (Ex 33:20).
Yet, in that same narrative the Torah records "ADONAI spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend" (Ex 33:11). So Moses had the privilege of being allowed into the very intimate presence of God without seeing His physical form.
28 Because of faithfulness he carried out the Passover and the application of the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. he carried out: Grk. poieō, perf., a verb of physical action, which may mean (1) to produce something material or bring something into existence; or (2) to express by deeds the thoughts of the mind; act, do, perform. The majority of versions translate the verb as "kept," which would be appropriate for a subsequent observance.
Given the first time nature of the following named event some versions have "instituted" or "ordained" (AMPC, CSB, NMB, RGT, VOICE). A few versions have "established" (GW, GNB, ISV, NOG). However, the verb applies to the two following nouns, and thus alludes to the compliance of Moses to carry out or complete the instructions ADONAI gave to him and Aaron, which were repeated to the people of Israel and recorded in Exodus 12:1-22. The CJB has "he obeyed the requirements for." The verb is third person singular and denotes the action of Moses when he assembled the elders of Israel and gave them the instructions (Ex 12:21).
the Passover: Grk. ho Pascha, the Passover. In the LXX pascha translates Heb. pesakh (SH-6453), the Passover, which occurs first in Exodus 12:11 for the special evening meal. For a detailed description of Passover observance in biblical times see my web article The Passover. Divine instructions for the observance of the first Passover were given at the new moon in the first month of spring, Abib, later called Nisan by Israel (Esth 3:7; Neh 2:1). On the 10th day a year-old male lamb would be chosen for each household and subsequently killed on the 14th day of the month.
The first Passover meal had only three ingredients – roasted lamb, unleavened bread (Heb. matzah) and bitter herbs (Heb. maror) (Ex 12:8). These foods were chosen for both practical and theological reasons (Deut 16:3). The lamb had to be roasted in its entirety over an open fire without breaking any bones. Under no circumstances was the lamb to be eaten raw or boiled with water. The matzah was prepared as a flatbread, using just whole grain flour, water and oil. The dough prepared by hand was flattened, then poked or pricked with a sharp instrument to keep the finished product from puffing up and baked at a high temperature.
The meal was to be eaten with shoes on and staff in hand and "in haste" (Ex 12:11), presumptively ready to depart, because they could not be sure when permission would be received from Pharaoh to leave the country. However, the instruction in verse 22 not to leave their houses before morning would clarify the common translation of verse 11 that the Passover meal was to be eaten in a hasty manner. We should not assume the meal that took hours to prepare was gulped down in a few minutes.
The noun that Bible versions translate as "haste" or "hurriedly" (Heb. chippazon) also means "in trepidation," and is derived from a verb that means "to tremble, to be alarmed." This meaning is emphasized by the last clause of that verse "it is the Passover of ADONAI." In other words, this is not an ordinary meal, because it is eaten in honor of the Holy One revealed in the burning bush. The requirement of being girded, wearing sandals in the house, and a staff in the hand, were marks of readiness to obey, not indicators of leaving in the middle of the night. Indeed, in verse 10 any lamb that remained uneaten by morning was to be burned.
The first Passover was the means of deliverance from a plague of death on the firstborn. Thereafter, Passover would celebrate God’s great work of redemption (Ex 23:14-15; Lev 23:4-8; Num 28:16-25; Deut 16:1-8). The Passover deliverance made salvation distinctly national in scope and truly set Israel apart as a special people. Gentiles were allowed to share the meal as long as they were circumcised (Ex 12:48). Thus, God's provision demonstrated that His plan of salvation for Gentiles has always been based on inclusion in Israel (cf. Eph 2:11-13).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the application: Grk. ho proschusis, a pouring, sprinkling or spreading (BAG). The noun, which many versions translate as a verb, occurs only here in the Besekh. The CJB has "the smearing" and the NIV has "the application." of the blood: Grk. ho haima, the fluid that circulates in the principal vascular system of human beings and vertebrate animals, blood. The term has several figurative uses. In the LXX haima translates Heb. dam (SH-1818), blood of humans or animals with the same range of meaning, first in Genesis 4:10. The action described here alludes to the divine instruction:
"You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts" (Ex 12:22).
so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that, so that, that. the Destroyer: Grk. ho olothreuō, pres. part., cause to perish, destroy. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The Greek participle occurs in the LXX of Exodus 12:23 to translate the participle of Heb. shachath (SH-7843), to destroy or ruin. As a verbal noun the participle describes something about the mission of this celestial being (cf. Isa 54:16; Jer 4:7; 51:1).
would not: Grk. mē, adv. harm: Grk. thigganō, aor. subj., touch or handle, especially to do violence or injure (Thayer). their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. firstborn: Grk. ho prōtotokos (from prōtos, "first" and tiktō, "bring forth"), adj., first in time, being the first child in order of birth or enjoying the status of a first child; firstborn, preeminent (Zodhiates). In the LXX prōtotokos translates Heb. bekorah (SH-1062), right of the firstborn, birthright (Gen 4:4; 25:31), and then Heb. bekor (SH-1060), firstborn of a womb, whether animal or human, and for humans the references are usually for a firstborn son (Gen 10:15).
The last clause alludes to the divine instruction that the Destroyer would kill all the firstborn in the land of Egypt on a particular night (Ex 12:12). This was the tenth and last plague on Egypt. God imposed the catastrophic judgments on Egypt as an inducement to convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage. The miraculous signs performed by Aaron and Moses mocked Egypt's pantheon of gods and goddesses to demonstrate their powerlessness and ultimately their non-existence (Num 33:4) (DSB 96, 99).
The tenth plague was against Pharaoh himself, considered to be the son of Ra and the ultimate power of Egypt. This Pharaoh was apparently not a firstborn son. The only way to prevent the Destroyer from killing the firstborn of Israel was to apply blood to the door frames of Israelite houses Ex 13:2).
29 Because of faithfulness they passed through the Red Sea as through dry land, which the Egyptians, having made an attempt, were destroyed.
Reference: Exodus 14:21-29; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, II, 16:1-6.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Here the virtue is applied to the Israelites that followed Moses. Even though the Israelites were frightened and complained (Ex 14:10-14), they nevertheless obeyed the instructions of Moses at the critical point. they passed through: Grk. diabainō (from dia, "through" and bainō, "to stride"), aor., 3p-pl., denotes the legs separated in movement, functioning spatially to "go through," cross over, pass through.
the Red: Grk. ho eruthros, adj., red, the color resembling blood. In the LXX eruthros substitutes for Heb. suph (SH-5488), reed or rushes, used almost exclusively in mentions of the prominent sea. Suph could also denote the name of a city, which Greek included in the wider name of "Red Sea" (BDB 693). BDB further explains that suph was originally given to the upper end of the Gulf of Suez, extending into the Bitter Lakes, shallow and marshy, whence "reeds," probably also reddish in color.
Sea: Grk. thalassa is used of both oceanic bodies of water and inland bodies of water. In the English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. In the LXX thalassa translates Heb. yam (SH-3220), "sea," which is used for salt-water oceans and seas (Gen 1:10; 14:3), and a fresh-water sea (Num 34:11). The name "Red Sea" was originally given to the major gulf separating Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula. See a modern map here.
Since there are no physical boundaries in the oceans the Red Sea properly incorporates both the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba (Pliny, Natural History, Book V, Chap. 12). In the LXX, translated by Jewish scholars, the name "Red Sea" is applied most often to the major gulf on the eastern shore of Egypt (Ex 10:19; 13:18; 15:4, 22; 23:31; Num 33:10, 11; Deut 11:4; Josh 2:10; 4:23; Neh 9:9; Ps 106:7, 9, 22; 136:13, 15). In narratives of Israel's wandering in the eastern part of the Sinai peninsula the name is applied to the Gulf of Aqaba (Num 14:25; 21:4; Deut 1:40; 2:1; cf. 1Kgs 9:26).
as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 9 above. The adverb is used for comparison purposes. through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 4 above. dry: Grk. xēros, adj., having a condition that lacks moisture; dry, arid. land: Grk. gē. See verse 9 above. The phrase "dry land" (for Heb. charabah, "dry ground") depicts desert terrain. The crossing of the Red Sea was a mighty miracle, perhaps second only to the deliverance of Noah and his family by an ark from the global deluge and certainly the greatest miracle performed by Moses. The crossing of the Gulf of Suez, which is 75 miles at its widest point, probably took place at the northern end where the distance was about 12 miles. (See my commentary on Acts 7:36.)
The Exodus narrative makes several important points that illustrate the extraordinary nature of the miracle. God purposely had Moses lead the Israelites to the Red Sea rather than allowing them to take the "easy road" to Canaan (Ex 13:17-18). At the direction of ADONAI Moses stretched out his staff upon the sea and a strong wind divided the waters into a natural canal and dried the seabed (Ex 14:21-22, 29; 15:19; Josh 2:10; Ps 106:9). Josephus says that Moses "smote" the Sea with his rod to part the waters. The MT and SP say the agent was an east wind, but the LXX and Philo (On the Life of Moses I, 176) say it was a south wind.
The MT may have changed "south" to read "east" for theological reasons, but a south wind is more logical for creating a canal wall. An east wind could have been used to dry the bottom of the canal. In any event the Hebrew narrative says there was a wall of water on either side of the Israelites. The term for wall (Heb. chomah, Ex 14:22) was normally used for the walls of cities, which could be as much as 40 feet in height. Thus, the wall of water was considerably higher than the height of the Israelites.
The access into and exit from the seabed was a gentle slope with the seabed being flat, which made for easy walking (cf. Ps 105:37; 106:9). The Israelites did not get their feet wet or muddy. The Gulf of Suez has a maximum depth of 230 feet with an average depth of 130 feet. Henry Morris notes that the dividing of the Red Sea was a great miracle, requiring God to create some unknown form of energy which could hold the deep waters stationary as well as against the force of gravity (DSB 104).
For a graphic illustration watch Cecil B. DeMille's famous 1956 film The Ten Commandments. Since the Israelites traveled by day and night (Ex 13:21), the crossing was accomplished within a twenty-four hour period, perhaps as little as the twelve hour period of the night (cf. Ex 14:20-21, 27, 30). One commentator pointed out that if the Israelites walked double file, the line would be 800 miles long and would require 35 days and nights to get through. So, there had to be a space in the Red Sea, 3 miles wide so that they could walk 5,000 abreast to get over in one night.
Philo affirmed this scientific fact by saying that the sea-bed between the two walls of water "dried up and became a broad, and level, and easy road" (Life of Moses I, 177). Bruce called Philo's comment an exaggeration, but he obviously did not think through the implications of the Exodus narrative.
which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. the Egyptians: pl. of Grk. Aigyptios, adj., inhabitants of Egypt, an Egyptian. In the Exodus narrative the Egyptians were members of Pharaoh's army. having made: Grk. lambanō, pl. aor. part. See verse 8 above. an attempt: Grk. peira, an effort to accomplish by making a trial of something; a trial, an attempt. were drowned: Grk. katapinō, aor. pass., 3p-pl., to swallow up, drown and thereby destroy. With the pillar of cloud God kept the Egyptian army away from the massed Israelites so they were able to complete the trek across the isthmus in the night without interference.
In the morning the cloud lifted and as the Israelites exited the isthmus the Egyptian army entered to pursue them, presumptively led by Pharaoh (Ex 14:23-28). God then sent a spirit of confusion or anxiety into the minds of the Egyptian soldiers about their precarious position. God next caused the chariot wheels to suffer mechanical failure, which further increased anxiety. Finally, with the Israelites safely out of the isthmus God directed Moses to stretch his hand over the sea to eliminate the canal, thereby destroying the enemy army.
30 Because of faithfulness the walls of Jericho fell having been encircled for seven days.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Paul now advances the historical narrative past the forty years Moses led Israel in the wilderness and his death. Paul does not specify who exhibited the virtue, so he may have intended Joshua and the nation of Israel or more specifically God Himself who caused the action described.
the walls: pl. of Grk. ho teichos, a wall, especially one surrounding a city. The referenced city wall was so considerable that houses were built upon them (Josh 2:15), and provided with a gate which was closed at night (Josh 2:5). Archaeological excavations revealed that the outer wall of the city was constructed of large, heavy stone (Archer 202). of Jericho: Grk. Hierichō, which transliterates Heb. Yericho (place of fragrance) (SBD). Jericho was a city of high antiquity, situated in a plain traversed by the Jordan River about 740 feet below sea level, five miles west of the Jordan and seven miles northwest of the Dead Sea. See the map here.
Israel encamped exactly opposite Jericho in the final days of Moses (Num 22:1; Deut 34:1) and after Joshua's succession as leader of the nation many preparations were made preceding the event described in this verse. Joshua sent spies to reconnoiter the city and its defenses (Josh 2:1) and less than a week later the spies returned with a favorable report (Josh 2:24). Next the nation crossed the Jordan aided by a miraculous damming of the river which enabled the people to walk across on dry ground (Josh 3:14-17). During the crossing twelve stones were selected from the river bed and used to erect a memorial of the event (Josh 4:1-7).
Perhaps two weeks before the victory over Jericho ADONAI spoke to Joshua and decreed that all the males must be circumcised. Because of the rebelliousness of the generation that came out of Egypt, all the males born in the wilderness during the forty years of wandering had not been circumcised (Josh 5:2-7). This covenantal requirement enabled the nation to observe Passover, which occurred shortly thereafter (Josh 5:10-11). Paul repeats the historical narrative of Joshua 6:20.
fell: Grk. piptō, aor., 3p-pl., to descend or drop from a higher place or position to a lower place or position. In the referenced verse of the LXX piptō translates Heb. naphal (SH-5307), to fall, here in the literal sense. The MT qualifies the fall with the noun tachath (SH-8478), underneath, below, which many versions translate as "flat." The significance of the term is that the fall encompassed the entire height of the wall down to the foundation. The LXX qualifies the fall with the noun kuklos (SG-2945), a circle or ring, i.e. (adverbially) all around. In other words, the entire wall that encompassed the city fell.
having been encircled: Grk. kukloō, pl. aor. part., adoption of movement that is around; encircle, surround. for: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 4 above. Here the preposition expresses purpose. seven: Grk. hepta, the numeral seven. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours, (2) the full twenty-four hour period, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) an imprecise time period (BAG). The first and third meanings apply here. In the LXX hēmera translates Heb. yom (SH-3117), day, first in Genesis 1:5. This seven day period coincided with the observance of Passover and Unleavened Bread (Josephus, Ant. V, 1:5).
The clause summarizes the outcome of the instructions given to Joshua:
3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. 4 Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead." (Josh 6:3-5)
We should note that the narrative does not attribute the falling of the walls to the blowing of the rams' horns or the shout of the people. Joshua simply reported that at a specified occasion on the seventh day the walls would fall, and that they actually fell as predicted. The miracle may, therefore, be regarded as both the fulfillment of prophecy and direct Divine action. Israel would not have possessed the military knowledge to conduct siege warfare, so without a surrender by the king divine intervention was necessary to expedite conquering the city.
Some scholars attribute the walls falling to God's foreknowledge of the geological situation in which the city is presumed to have been built on unconsolidated sedimentary deposits and compare with the destruction of San Francisco in 1906 by an earthquake. The problem with the naturalistic explanation is both the coincidence of the fall occurring at the precise moment predicted and the fact that only the wall fell. The people did not fall and the houses in the city did not fall. Earthquakes of this magnitude are not selective in impact.
Liberal scholarship dates the entrance of Israel into Canaan as the 13th century B.C. (Varughese 139). Influenced by the archaeological excavations of Jericho by John Garstang (1876-1956) some conservative Bible scholars put the destruction of Jericho about 1400 B.C. (Archer 202; Purkiser 444). Henry Morris notes that other conservative archaeologists have argued cogently in favor of accepting the traditional date c. 1450 B.C. (DSB 261). Ussher puts the date of the city's fall as 1451 B.C. (50).
McKee comments that not surprisingly, the faith of the Israelites and God's defeat of Jericho would be a battle cry to many others, as seen when Judas conquered the city of Gilead during the Maccabean revolt.
"But Judas and his men, calling upon the great Sovereign of the world, who without battering-rams or engines of war overthrew Jericho in the days of Joshua, rushed furiously upon the walls. 16 They took the city by the will of God, and slaughtered untold numbers, so that the adjoining lake, a quarter of a mile wide, appeared to be running over with blood." (2Macc 12:15-16 RSV)
31 Because of faithfulness Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those having disbelieved, having received the spies with peace.
Reference: Joshua 2:1-24; 6:17-25; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, V, 1:2, 5, 7.
Because of faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue as the motivating cause behind the following described action. Paul then restates and interprets the report of Joshua 6:25. Rahab: Grk. Rhaab, which transliterates Heb. Rachab ("broad"), first introduced in Joshua 2:1. Rahab was apparently a prominent citizen and homeowner in Jericho. The Joshua narrative mentions her family relations of father, mother, brothers and sisters (Josh 2:13), but provides no information on her descendants.
the prostitute: Grk. ho pornē (from pernēmi, "export for sale"), a woman who sold her body for sexual uses or one who yields herself to defilement for the sake of gain; courtesan, harlot or prostitute. In the LXX of Joshua 2:1 pornē translates Heb. zonah, a feminine noun derived from the verb zanah (SH-2181), commit fornication; be or act as a prostitute. The Hebrew text says the Israelites came "to the house of a woman, a harlot, and named Rahab," which presents some ambiguity. The Hebrew phrase might be simply distinguishing Rahab as the owner of a house in which a harlot could be found.
The phrase "house of a harlot" might also imply that Rahab operated an inn and provided female companionship to male guests. There is no evidence that she was a temple prostitute. Indeed, the Tanakh passes no judgment on Rahab's character. Josephus identifies Rahab as an innkeeper, not a harlot (Ant. V, 1:2). The Targum Jonathan also understood Rahab to be a "hostess." However, the Targumist did not use the readily available Aramaic cognate zun in his translation. Instead, he transliterated the Greek term pandokeus "one who receives all comers; innkeeper," into Aramaic as a translation of zonah (McDaniel).
William Whiston (1667–1752), the translator of the works of Josephus said:
"I still call this woman Rahab, an innkeeper, not a harlot, the whole history, both in our copies, and especially in Josephus, implying no more. It was indeed so frequent a thing, that women who were innkeepers were also harlots, or maintainers of harlots, that the word commonly used for real harlots was usually given them." (Ant. V, 1:5, note 169).
did not: Grk. ou, adv. perish with: Grk. sunapollumi, aor. mid., destroy with/together; to perish along with. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having disbelieved: Grk. apeitheō (from alpha, negative particle "not" and peitheō, "persuaded"), pl. aor. part., to refuse to believe or to be persuaded, to refuse conformity, thus resulting in disobedience. Bible versions are divided in translating the participle as being disobedient or not believing. In this context the verb probably refers to the refusal of the idolatrous Canaanites to recognize the God of Israel as the only God.
The choice of the verb may alludes to the spiritual condition of the Canaanites mentioned in the prophecy of the exodus given to Abraham: "the iniquity of the Amorites is not complete" (Gen 15:16). Canaanite culture was characterized by idolatry and immorality and God decreed holy war to exterminate them from the land (Ex 23:23-24; Deut 7:1-5; Josh 3:10). The residents of Jericho became afraid after hearing of Israel's miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and Israel's defeat of Sihon and Og (Josh 2:10), but this fear did not motivate repentance and religious conversion.
having received: Grk. dechomai, aor. mid. part., to receive, frequently with the connotation of enthusiastic acceptance; accept, receive, welcome. The verb alludes to the provision of hospitality. the spies: pl. of Grk. ho kataskopos, a person sent to gather intelligence in a secretive manner, usually in a hostile context; a scout or a spy. with: Grk. meta, prep. peace: Grk. eirēnē, peace, which has a variety of applications and here denotes a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostility.
In the LXX eirēnē translates Heb. shalom (SH-7965), peace and friendship in human relations. Shalom has a greater range of meaning than eirēnē, including (1) personal welfare, health and prosperity; (2) contentment, peace, quiet, security and tranquility in the community; (3) peace from war; and (4) peace with God especially in covenant relation.
In the biblical narrative Joshua sent two spies from Shittim to reconnoiter the military strength and capabilities of Jericho. Arriving in the city in the daytime the spies sought a place to stay and found the inn near the wall owned by Rahab. When the king of Jericho learned of the spies' presence, he sent men to arrest them. She refused to betray the spies to the king's men, and she hid them on the roof of her house. She pretended that they had escaped before the shutting of the gate, and sent the arresting officers on a false chase toward the Jordan River.
Rahab then told the spies of the fear that the coming of the Israelites had caused in the minds of the Canaanites, spoke the Sacred Name and confessed her own belief in the God of Israel, "ADONAI your God, He is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath" (Josh 2:11). She asked that the spies promise to spare her family members and the men promised her mercy provided she would keep their visit secret and she gathered her family in her house. In addition she was to identify her house by hanging a scarlet cord out of the window. The spies made their escape and after three days returned to Joshua.
True to the agreement with Rahab, Joshua spared Rahab and her family and afterward they lived among the Israelites (Josh 6:17-25). Rahab did not have a past life of faithful service to God, but Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua, considers Rahab as righteous based on her assistance to the spies (Jas 2:25). It is fair to say that her intention to serve the God of Israel had to be present before the spies came to her. Rahab eventually married Salmon of the tribe of Judah and became the mother of Boaz (Matt 1:5), and thus an ancestor of King David and Yeshua.
Heroes of Faithfulness: Judges to the Maccabees, 11:32-38
This next section covers the remaining history of Israel, from the 15th to the 2nd centuries B.C. Paul is highly selective in his nominations of Israelite heroes, all faithful to the God of Israel and worthy of admiration and emulation. In mentioning names and events Paul does not follow a strict historical chronology since his purpose is to illustrate the importance of faithfulness to God.
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me telling about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, both David and Samuel, and the prophets,
Reference: Judges 4:1-10; 6:11−8:35; 11:1−12:7; 13:1−16:31.
And: Grk. kai, conj. what: Grk. tís (for Heb. mah, SH-4100), interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. more: Grk. eti, adv. See verse 4 above. shall I say: Grk. legō, pres. subj. See verse 14 above. For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. time: Grk. ho chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time, or (2) a point or definite moment in time. The first meaning applies here. would fail: Grk. epileipō, fut., not to suffice for any purpose or for the attainment of an end; fail, fall short. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh.
me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. telling: Grk. diēgeomai, pres. mid. part., relate in full, describe, narrate. Lane comments that this is a common homiletical and literary idiom for indicating that time and space are limited. about: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 7 above. Paul now lists several Bible personalities, although not in the order in which their names and stories appear in the Tanakh. He comments that he lacked adequate time to relate in full the great stories of faithfulness. The six individuals named span the interval from the period of the Israelite confederacy following the death of Joshua to the early monarchy.
Gideon: Grk. Gedeōn, which transliterates Heb. Gid'ôn, a personal name meaning, "one who cuts to pieces" (HBD). Gideon, the son of Joash of the tribe of Manasseh, was the fifth major judge of Israel during its confederacy, c. 1245 B.C. (Ussher 54). His story appears in Judges 6:11−8:35. He was also nicknamed Jerub-Baal (Jdg 7:1). Gideon is especially remembered for the miracle of the wet fleece on dry ground and the dry fleece on wet ground, which he requested to confirm God's will (Jdg 6:36-40). Gideon then led a chosen Israelite army of only 300 men victoriously against a superior Midianite army with divinely inspired strategy (Jdg 7:1-25).
Gideon judged Israel for forty years, and to his credit rejected a proposal to be crowned as king (Jdg 8:22-23). However, he made a bad decision in asking the people to give him their golden jewelry and ornaments taken as spoils of war spoil. From these items he made a worship symbol which led the people into idolatry (Jdg 8:24-27). Gideon had "many" wives and seventy sons, but his family did not follow his God (Jdg 8:30, 33).
Barak: Grk. Barak, which transliterates Heb. Baraq, the son of Abinoam of the tribe of Naphtali, c. 1285 B.C. (Ussher 53). The story of Barak is found in Judges 4:6-22. He was summoned by the judge and prophetess Deborah to assume military leadership of the Israelites in a campaign against Canaanite forces under the command of Sisera. Barak mustered the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun and defeated the Canaanites in battle near Mt. Tabor. Afterward Barak's exploits were celebrated in a famous song (Jdg 5:12, 16). Samuel later identified Barak as Bedan, and mentioned him as one who delivered the Israelites from their enemies (1Sam 12:11).
Samson: Grk. Sampsōn, which transliterates Heb. Shimshôn, a personal name meaning "of the sun" (HBD). Samson, from the tribe of Dan, was the twelfth judge of Israel during its confederacy, born c. 1156 B.C. (Ussher 56). His story is recounted in Judges 13:1−16:31. At God's direction he was dedicated as a Nazirite by his childless parents, which meant abstaining from drinking wine or liquor and from cutting his hair (cf. Num 6:2-8). Later Samson married a Philistine woman against his parents' wishes, but they did not know it was "of ADONAI" (Jdg 14:4).
Bible commentators are generally critical of Samson, accusing him of being a headstrong young man with little or no self-control. This criticism views every major crisis in his life resulting in clashes against the Philistines as having been brought on by his relationships with Philistine women. However, the narrative of Samuel describes how the "Spirit of ADONAI" "came upon" him at least five times to enable him to perform amazing feats of physical power (Jdg 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 16:28-29). God surely knew the weakness of Samson, but nevertheless viewed him as a worthy candidate for service.
Paul does not diminish the good Samson did for Israel, because of his actions toward the end of his life. Samson engaged in sexual relations with a Philistine harlot in Gaza (Jdg 16:1) and "loved" a Philistine woman named Delilah who brought about his defeat (Jdg 16:4-20). Samson is included in this catalog of heroes because he delivered Israel from oppression and served as a judge for twenty years (Jdg 15:18-20; 16:31).
Jephthah: Grk. Iephthae, which transliterates Heb. Yiftach, a personal name meaning "he will open" (HBD). Jephthah, the son of Gilead of the tribe of Manasseh, was the eighth judge of Israel during its confederacy, c. 1188 B.C. (Ussher 55). His story is found in Judges 11:1−12:7. Gilead apparently took a woman as a wife who had been a harlot, much as Hosea would centuries later, and this union produced Jephthah. Gilead took a second wife who birthed at least two sons, and when the boys reached adulthood, Jephthah was deprived of his birthright and driven from his home because he was "the son of an harlot" (Jdg 11:1).
For an unknown period of time Jephthah lived in Tob, a district near the border of Syria. There he gathered a group of discontented men, engaged in raids and became known as a "mighty warrior." When the Ammonites threatened Israel, Jephthah was sought to lead an army. His victory over the Ammonites came about because of a vow he made to ADONAI. If he returned home safely he would dedicate to God whatever first came out of his house or offer him as a burnt offering. Although it was his daughter who greeted him, Jephthah did fulfill his vow.
Criticism of Jephthah's vow as "rash" and the assumption that he literally "sacrificed" his daughter is as old as the Talmud. Such an act would actually be murder and for commentators to speak of such wickedness as a "sacrifice" is much too charitable. Jephthah would have known that human sacrifice violated the Torah and fulfilling his vow in that manner would not be a higher priority than obeying the sixth commandment. In fact the textual evidence does not support the conclusion that he killed his daughter (Jdg 11:39). Jephthah's daughter willing accepted her father's vow to be a spiritual burnt offering, and devoted her life to God.
The story of Jephthah ends with the comment that he judged Israel six years, the shortest term of office for the Judges. Samuel identified Jephthah as one of chief deliverers of Israel (1Sam 12:11) and Paul had no qualms including Jephthah in his catalog of faithful heroes. Of all the Judges of that turbulent time Jephthah "bore a cross" like no other. Rejected by his own family and assailed by fellow Israelites, he could have easily turned away from God. Yet, he was willing to consecrate his all for the sake of God and his people. His daughter found no fault in him; why should we? For a detailed analysis of the life of Jephthah see my article Jephthah: Faithful Hero.
Yeshua called his disciples to deny self and to take up a cross daily (Luke 9:23). No one would suppose that we should take his words literalistically, as some commentators do with Jephthah's words, but the challenge still remains. The apostle Paul also appealed to disciples to "present your bodies a sacrifice--living, sanctified, acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1). How many disciples of our Lord are prepared to surrender their lives, their fortunes and even their children as implied in Yeshua's exhortation? We need more warriors with the mettle of Jephthah to stand against the spiritual warfare engulfing our world and pressuring the people of God on every side.
both: Grk. te, conj. used to denote both connection and addition, as well as connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; and, also, both. This conjunction is used due to the close association of the following two names which are given out of chronological order.
David: Grk. David, which transliterates Heb. David ("dah-veed"), a personal name meaning "beloved" or "favorite" (HBD). David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears when God sent Samuel to anoint him as the next king (1Sam 16:13). At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan. In the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority.
His accomplishments in the religious sphere are especially noteworthy. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14).
Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 23:5-6; 33:21). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
and: Grk. kai, conj. Samuel: Grk. Samouēl, which transliterates Heb. Sh'mu'el, a personal name meaning "name of God" (HBD). Samuel was the last judge, the first king-maker, priest, and prophet who linked the period of the Judges with the Israelite monarchy. Samuel's father, Elkanah, lived in the hill country of Ephraim (1Sam 1:1) and for that reason was called an "Ephraimite" (Heb. Ephrathi), not because of descent from the tribe of Ephraim. In reality Elkanah descended from the Levitical clan Kohath (1Chr 6:33-38). Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, but Hannah was barren.
Born in answer to Hannah's fervent prayer, Samuel was dedicated to the Lord before his birth (1Sam 1:10-11) and then raised by Eli at the Shiloh sanctuary (1Sam 1:28; 2:11, 20). Samuel eventually married, and two sons, Joel and Abijah, are named (1Sam 8:1). Samuel was considered a prophet (Acts 13:20) because he heard audibly from God and spoke the words of God. He received his first prophetic mission as a young lad (1Sam 3:1, 11-14) and continued to hear directly from God, so that the people of Israel recognized Samuel as a prophet,
"19 So Samuel grew up and ADONAI was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 Then all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was entrusted as a prophet of ADONAI. 21 ADONAI started to appear once more in Shiloh, for ADONAI revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of ADONAI." (1Sam 3:19-21 TLV)
Samuel continued to speak forthrightly for God (1Sam 7:3; 9:6-9; 12:20-25; 15:1-3, 10-29) and he served as the prototype for future prophets who advised and confronted the kings of Israel and Judah. Samuel served as a priest (1Sam 7:5-9; 9:11-14). Psalms 99:6-7 relates that God spoke with Samuel from out of the pillar of cloud as God had previously with Moses and Aaron. Jeremiah regarded Samuel and Moses as the two great intercessors of Israel (Jer 15:1). Samuel also served as a judge-deliverer as the former Judges (1Sam 12:11) and administered justice at Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, and Ramah (1Sam 7:15-17).
Samuel is credited according to Jewish tradition of being the principal author of the books of Judges, Ruth and the two books bearing his name, although in the Hebrew Bible the two books of Samuel are one book. The fact of Samuel's death is reported but not his age (1Sam 25:1). He died in Ramah and was buried there.
and: Grk. kai. the prophets: pl. of Grk. ho prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. The plural noun likely intends all the Hebrew prophets that are recorded in the Tanakh following Samuel. Bible scholars generally categorize prophets as "non-canonical," those for whom no Bible books are named; and "canonical," those who left literary works later approved as Scripture. In the LXX prophētēs primarily translates Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; used frequently for both canonical and non-canonical prophets, first of Abraham (Gen 20:7).
Prophets may also be distinguished as (1) court prophets who gave advice to kings; (2) temple prophets who prophesied in worship services; and (3) seers who saw visions. Court prophets included Gad (1Sam 22:5) and Nathan (2Sam 7:2) who advised King David and King Solomon. Temple prophets included the singers Heman (1Chr 25:5); Asaph (2Chr 29:30); and Jeduthun (2Chr 35:15). The singers were commissioned by David "to prophesy" with musical instruments and worship compositions (1Chr 25:1).
The "seer" (Heb. chozeh , SH-2374; BDB 302), had the ability to reveal hidden secrets and future events. With him the emphasis was on visions rather than on his words (DNTT 3:77). The term "seer" was used of the prophets Gad (2Sam 24:11), Iddo (2Chr 9:29; 12:15), Hanani (2Chr 19:2) and Amos (Amos 7:12). Sometimes a "man of God" (Heb. ish Elohim) appeared on the scene to deliver a message from God. These men included Shemaiah (1Kgs 12:22), Elijah (1Kgs 17:18); Elisha (2Kgs 4:7); Igdaliah (Jer 35:4) and four unnamed prophets (1Sam 2:27; 1Kgs 13:1; 20:28; 2Chr 25:7).
The age of the prophets, including canonical or literary prophets and their contemporaries who left no writings, lasted from the 10th century B.C. to the 5th century B.C. The most notable prophets are as follows:
● 10th Century B.C.: Samuel (1Sam 3:20), plus the court prophets and temple prophets.
● 9th Century B.C.: Jehu (1Kgs 16:7), Elijah (1Kgs 18:36), Elisha (1Kgs 19:16), Micaiah (1Kgs 22:9), Obadiah, Joel.
● 8th Century B.C.: Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah.
● 7th Century B.C.: Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum.
● 6th Century B.C.: Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah.
● 5th Century B.C.: Malachi.
The Hebrew prophets were wholly devoted to the God of Israel and could be trusted to speak on His behalf, whether foretelling (predicting or telling beforehand) or forth-telling (declaring a message to be heeded). The prophets offered four types of messages: (1) accusation, naming sins and warning Israel and Judah of the sins that will lead to judgment; (2) judgment, announcing consequences in the form of disasters and foreign oppression; (3) instruction, teaching how to avoid wrath and turn back to God; and (4) future hope, promises of restoration and revival, including promises of Messiah.
The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of prophets. They were a diverse group with different personalities, vocations and manner of ministry. Some left literary works that later became authoritative Scripture. Others left no writings. Some gave advice to kings. Some prophesied in worship settings. Some saw visions. Some proclaimed a message in startling symbolic actions. Some were gentle, some were fiery, some were confrontational, some worshipful, some full of joy, others full of sadness. But, they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21).
Paul then follows up his list of personalities and reference to "prophets" with a summary of their acts of faithfulness in verses 33-38 below.
33 who through faithfulness conquered kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,
Reference: Joshua 14:6-7; 1Samuel 17:34-36; Daniel 6:1-27; 1Maccabees 2:60; 3Maccabees 6:7; 4Maccabees 16:3, 21; 18:13; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, X, 11:5-7.
who: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. The plural pronoun refers back to the named personalities in verse 32, but could also apply to the Hebrew heroes named previously. through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 4 above. With the noun following in the genitive case, the preposition expresses instrumentality or means. faithfulness: Grk. pistis (for Heb. emunah). See verses 1 and 3 above. The use of the noun stresses possession of the godly virtue of trust in God and loyalty to God, but ultimately the following actions were accomplished through God's faithfulness and power.
Paul then presents three sets of verbal clauses to summarize the achievements of the individuals he named. The use of the three triplets may reflect Luke's influence, since Luke-Acts has numerous uses of three action verbs in a verse.
conquered: Grk. katagōnizomai, aor. mid., 3p-pl., gaining the advantage in a struggle, subdue (in warfare); conquer, defeat, overcome. The verb does not occur in the LXX, but it is found in Philo and Josephus (BAG). The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. There are several comparable Hebrew verbs found in passages depicting military victories over the enemies of God's people, especially in regard to the heroes of faith Paul refers to in this chapter.
kingdoms: pl. of Grk. basileia may mean kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. For the use of the term the size of the territory was immaterial, ranging from a city to a country to an empire. In the LXX basileia translates Heb. mamlakh (SH-4467; BDB 575), kingdom, sovereignty, dominion, reign, first in Genesis 10:10; and Heb. malkuth (SH-4438; BDB 574), royalty, royal power, reign, kingdom, first in Numbers 24:7. Bruce notes that p46, the earliest manuscript (c. 200 A.D.), reads basileis ("kings").
The verbal phrase "conquered kingdoms" summarizes an important accomplishment of faithful Israelites mentioned in this chapter: Abraham (Gen 14:14-17), Moses (Num 21:21-35; Deut 1:3-4), Joshua (Josh 6:15-21; 10:33; 12:7), Barak (Jdg 4:15); Gideon (Jdg 6:16; 7:19-23); Jephthah (Jdg 11:32-33); Samson (Jdg 15:15-16; 16:28-30); Samuel (1Sam 15:33); and David (1Sam 19:8; 2Sam 1:1; 5:20; 8:1-3). Lane notes that the courageous acts of the Judges brought relief from oppression but no enduring peace, until David expanded the borders of Israel from the Egyptian frontier to the Euphrates River (cf. 1Kgs 4:20–21).
worked: Grk. ergazomai, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to work, be at work, do, carry out, either with (1) the focus on effort itself in the course of activity, or (2) the result of effort. Both of these meanings can have application here. A number of versions translate the verb as "administered" (AMP, CSB, ISV, NCB, NET, NIV, NRSV, TLV). NASB has "performed acts of" and a few versions have "worked" (CJB, DLNT, NKJV, OJB, WEB). righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See verse 7 above. The term normally refers to living according to Torah standards, and the verbal phrase also occurs in Acts 10:35, where Peter tells Cornelius that "in every nation the one fearing Him and working righteousness is accepted by Him."
However, Lane says the verbal phrase as used here has specific reference to the establishment and administration of just government. In this context it is appropriate to recall the final address of Samuel, in which he reviewed his tenure of judging Israel with absolute integrity (1Sam 12:3–5, 23). A synonymous expression is used with reference to David, who ruled over Israel, "and David was administering judgment and justice for all his people" (LXX 2Sam 8:15; 1Chr 18:14; cf. 1Kgs 10:19). Many versions translate the verbal phrase as referring to the administration of justice (e.g., CEB, CSB, ESV, ISV, LEB, MSG, NCB, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV).
On the other hand Hegg suggests that the intent may be to emphasize the truism that genuine faith is seen in what one does, not simply in what one believes (Eph 2:8-10; Jas 2:20, 26). Righteousness is more relational than legal, so "working righteousness" abstains from harmful behavior, but more importantly does good for others. Some of the individuals named in this chapter are distinguished as manifesting righteousness: Noah (Ezek 14:14; Heb 11:7); Abraham (Gen 15:6; 18:19; 20:5); David (2Sam 22:21; 1Kgs 3:6); and Daniel (Ezek 14:14).
obtained: Grk. epitunchanō, aor., 3p-pl., have success in gaining something; acquire, attain, obtain, secure. promises: pl. of Grk. epaggelia. See verse 9 above. The concept of "promise" is a chief characteristic of God's covenantal relationship with His people. In Paul's list the ones who "obtained covenantal promises" include Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. See my article The Everlasting Covenants. However, the verbal phrase can also apply to personal promises received from God, such as Sarah (Gen 18:10), Barak (Jdg 4:6–7, 14), Gideon (Jdg 6:12–16; 7:7), and David (1Sam 23:4; 2Sam 5:19).
The second triplet, which continues into the next verse, celebrates personal deliverance. shut: Grk. phrassō, aor., 3p-pl., create a barrier so as to obstruct a function; block, stop. the mouths: pl. of Grk. stoma, the bodily organ used for speaking, tasting, eating and drinking; mouth. of lions: pl. of Grk. leōn, lion. While modern taxonomy recognizes at least seven subspecies of lion, the biblical term makes no such distinction. The lion is one of the most frequently mentioned animals in the Bible. The clause points to the casting of Daniel into a pit with at least two lions (Dan 6:16). The incident occurred as a result of jealous fellow government administrators manipulating the king to require everyone to offer prayers to him for thirty days.
When Daniel continued to faithfully pray to his God in his own home, he was formally accused of violating the law and the king was forced to render punishment. When the king checked on Daniel and found him alive, Daniel reported that an angel had "shut" the mouths of the lions (Dan 6:22; 1Macc 2:60). Daniel's accusers were then thrown to lions. See my commentary on Daniel 6. In addition, the historical allusion could include both Samson (Jdg 14:5-6) and David (1Sam 17:34-36) who "shut" the mouths of lions permanently by killing them (Fruchtenbaum).
34 extinguished the power of fire, escaped the edges of the sword, were strengthened from weakness, became mighty in war, put to flight the armies of foreigners.
Reference: Daniel 3:23-25; 1Kings 19:2-4, 2Kings 6:31-33.
extinguished: Grk. sbennumi, aor., 3p-pl., cause a process or action to cease; extinguish, quench, put out. the power: Grk. dunamis. See verse 11 above. of fire: Grk. pur, a fire, as a physical state of burning. The verbal clause alludes to the experience of Daniel's three friends, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego), reported in Daniel 3:1-27. These three men were administrators in the government of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1:19), and close friends of Daniel (Dan 2:17). According to the narrative King Nebuchadnezzar had an golden idol erected and commanded universal worship of it.
Anyone who refused to bow to a idol was to be thrown into a fiery kiln. Daniel's three friends refused to obey the order to commit idolatry and were summarily thrown into the fire. Hananiah and his companions were confident that God was able to deliver them from the blazing furnace, but they had received no assurance that He would do so (Dan 3:17–18). Even so their allegiance to God was unwavering and as a result the "power of the fire" was eliminated in terms of its effects on the three men.
The Jewish men suffered no burns, no singed hair, no smoke inhalation and not even the smell of fire on them (Dan 3:27). The presence of a fourth man in the fire no doubt made the difference. The king likened the fourth man to a "son of the gods." See my commentary on Daniel 3. The two accounts of deliverance through divine intervention reported in the book of Daniel are also mentioned side by side in the Maccabean writings (1Macc 2:59–60; 3Macc 6:6–7; 4Macc 16:3, 21; 18:12–13).
The third triplet deals with personal attainments of a military nature. escaped: Grk. pheugō, aor., 3p-pl., to make a decisive movement away to avoid a hazard, to flee or to escape. Lane says the aorist tense is perfective, indicating the success of fleeing. the edges: pl. of Grk. stoma, the organ of the mouth, but used here in a figurative sense of a sharp edge. Lane says the unusual plural reproduces a Semitic idiom for the edge of the sword. of the sword: Grk. machaira, refers to a relatively short weapon with a sharp blade, mainly used for stabbing and close quarters combat. The term is used for a dagger and the Roman short sword.
Normally in the Tanakh the idiom of "the edge of the sword" depicts successful warfare against an enemy, typically wielded by Israelites (e.g., Ex 17:13; Num 21:24; Josh 8:24; 10:30; Jdg 1:8; 4:16; 1Sam 15:8). Lane comments that "escape" from the edge of the sword brandished by enemies or a tyrant marked the experience of David (e.g., 1Sam 17:45–47; cf. Ps 144:10) and of the prophets: Elijah escaped from Jezebel (1Kgs 19:1–3), Elisha from Jehoram (2Kgs 6:26–32), and Jeremiah from Johoiakim (Jer 26:7–24).
were strengthened: Grk. dunamoō, aor. pass., 3p-pl., cause to possess capability; strengthen, empower, enable. from: Grk. apo, prep. weakness: Grk. astheneia, (from alpha, as a negation, and sthenos, "strength"), without strength, and here referring to an incapacity for functioning effectively because of some limitation or vulnerability. The term does not necessarily imply a physical disability. Lane says the phrase "from weakness" has a temporal sense and is equivalent to the classical use of ek in the sense "out of a former state of weakness."
This clause could certainly pertain to Samson who was renewed in power at the end of his life after having lost his strength (Jdg 16:17–21, 25–30; cf. Jdg 15:19). The description could also apply to Elijah who was strengthened by one meal to fast for forty days and nights (1Kgs 19:7-8).
became: ginomai, aor. pass., 3p-pl. See verse 3 above. mighty: Grk. ischuros, adj., strong, used here to highly capable for special exertion or activity. in: Grk. en, prep. war: Grk. polemos, to wage war. While the noun polemos in Greek literature may refer to strife, conflict or quarrels, in Scripture the term refers generally to armed conflict and hostilities between nations or kingdoms. When used of armed conflict, the term may indicate a single battle or a war of some duration consisting of many battles. Again, this clause can easily apply to Joshua, Barak and David (Fruchtenbaum).
put to flight: Grk. klinō, aor., 3p-pl., cause to fall back, cause to turn away. Lane says that in context the verb has the nuance of breaking a military formation. the armies: pl. of Grk. parembolē, a spatial or structural arrangement for a group, here referring to an army in a battle formation. of foreigners: pl. of Grk. allotrios, adj. See verse 9 above. Since the adjective refers to non-Israelites, the clause does not necessarily depict an invasion of the land from outside its borders. The reference is simply to enemies of Israel.
The last clause of the verse may simply be a restatement of the previous clause. The clause may also allude to the final testimony of Joshua: "One of you can put a thousand to flight, for ADONAI your God, He Himself is fighting for you, just as He said to you." (Josh 23:10 TLV). The description would certainly apply to David in his battle victories causing Canaanite armies to flee (1Sam 17:51; 19:8; 30:17).
35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; but others were tortured, not having accepted release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection.
Reference: 1Kings 17:8-24; 2Kings 4:8-37; 2Maccabees 6:18−7:42.
Women: pl. of Grk. gunē, an adult female person, without respect to age, marital or social status except as defined in the context. In the LXX gunē translates Heb. ishshah (SH-802), woman, wife (Gen 2:22). The plural noun considers women in the history of Israel besides Sarah, the model of Hebrew womanhood (1Pet 3:6). received back: Grk. lambanō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 8 above. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. dead: pl. of Grk. ho nekros, adj. See verse 19 above. by: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "out of." See verse 3 above.
resurrection: Grk. anastasis (from ana, 'up, again' and histēmi, 'to stand'), a standing or rising up, and used here of a rising from the condition of death; i.e., brought back to life after death. See my article The Mystery of the Resurrection. Anastasis is the principal Greek word in the Besekh for resurrection, with references divided between the resurrection of Yeshua and the resurrection at the end of the age (John 11:24). Paul's assertion here repudiates the Sadducee denial of resurrection being taught in the Tanakh.
Those brought back to life from death include the son of the widow of Zarephath (1Kgs 17:17-24), the Shunammite's son (2Kgs 4:34-36), and the man thrown into Elisha's grave (2Kgs 13:20-21). Paul would have known about the resurrection by Yeshua of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:14-15) and Lazarus (John 11:43-44), as well as the restoration of Dorcas (Acts 9:40), but his focus is primarily on the heroes of faithfulness in the Tanakh.
but: Grk. de, conj. See verse 1 above. The conjunction is used here for contrast to introduce an important point. others: pl. of Grk. allos, adj. used to distinguish from one or more other entities; one, other (of two). The adjective implies other persons not named in this chapter who were faithful to God. Not all God-fearing people experienced divine deliverance, but there is no implication that they were denied divine help because of being deficient in faith, whether belief or trust. Rather, the use of pistis, standing for emunah in this chapter repeatedly emphasizes unwavering loyalty to God.
were tortured: Grk. tumpanizō, aor. pass., 3p-pl., to torture by beating. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The tympanum seems to have been a wheel-shaped instrument of torture, called "a rack," over which criminals were stretched as though they were skins, and then horribly beaten with clubs or thongs (Thayer). The Hebrews in Egyptian bondage were beaten (Ex 2:11) and Jeremiah was beaten and thrown into prison, being falsely accused of treason (Jer 37:15). Yet, Paul intends a more particular occasion of torture.
not: Grk. ou, adv. having accepted: Grk. prosdechomai, aor. part., to receive to oneself, used here in the sense of acceptance. release: Grk. apolutrōsis, freedom or liberation from an oppressive circumstance; deliverance, release, redemption. In other words, these persons of faith did not accept the opportunity to gain freedom so as to avoid torture (Lane). A graphic illustration occurred during the oppression of Judea by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (2nd cent. B.C.):
"18 Elea'zar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine's flesh. 19 But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, 20 as men ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural love of life. … 30 When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said: "It is clear to the Lord in his holy knowledge that, though I might have been saved from death, I am enduring terrible sufferings in my body under this beating, but in my soul I am glad to suffer these things because I fear him." (2Macc 6:18-20, 30 RSV).
The following chapter (2Macc 7) records the martyrdom of seven brothers and their mother, who for their adherence to God's commandments were put to death with cruel tortures. Lane further comments that "the experience of such humiliation was one of recent memory for the Jewish community in Alexandria when the Roman prefect Flaccus (appointed A.D. 32) arranged a spectacle in a theater that consisted of Jews being scourged, hung up, bound to a wheel, brutally mauled and hauled off for their death march through the middle of the orchestra" (Philo, Against Flaccus §85).
so that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 28 above. they might obtain: Grk. tugchanō, aor. subj., 3p-pl., be privileged to receive a benefit; obtain. a better: Grk. kreittōn, adj. See verse 16 above. resurrection: Grk. anastasis. The reference to a better resurrection alludes to the fact that all of the people in biblical history that were restored to life eventually died again. However, Daniel was promised a resurrection that will result in everlasting life (Dan 12:2). Paul implies that before the denial of resurrection by the Sadducees the Israelite people believed that death in martyrdom would be rewarded with life in the presence of God (cf. Job 19:26; Ps 16:10; 49:15; 73:24).
For the disciple of Yeshua the blessed hope is to receive immortal and incorruptible bodies like that of our Lord (Rom 8:29; 1Cor 15:42-54; Php 3:20; 1Jn 3:2). Paul describes the resurrection this way. "But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (1Cor 15:54).
36 And others received a trial of mockings and floggings, moreover even chains and imprisonment.
Reference: 1Kings 22:26-27; 2Chronicles 18:25-26; Jeremiah 37:15; 38:6.
And: Grk. de, conj. See verse 1 above. others: pl. of Grk. heteros, adj., other, used here in the sense of different than those mentioned in the previous verse. The description of this verse could apply to Jews during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, but such cruel treatment was also experienced by Israelites in previous centuries. received: Grk. lambanō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 8 above. a trial: Grk. peira. See verse 29 above. The noun is used here of adverse treatment, not necessarily a legal proceeding.
of mockings: pl. of Grk. empaigmos, mockery, scoffing, scorn, taunt. The term is rare in Scripture, occurring in Ezekiel 22:4 for Heb. qallasah (SH-7048), mockery. The term also occurs in the Apocrypha (Sirach 27:23; Wisdom 12:25; 2Macc 7:7, 10). Elisha suffered mocking from a large group of young men, and he cursed them with judgment from God (2Kgs 2:23-24). During the rebuilding of Jerusalem the workers endured mocking from Canaanite officials (Neh 2:19; 4:1). However, Paul probably has the experience of faithful Jewish people during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes.
and: Grk. kai, conj. floggings: pl. of Grk. mastix, a device used for whipping. In the Besekh it refers to a whip of leathern thongs with pieces of metal sewn up in them and used by Romans (Acts 22:24). The term appears in the LXX for Heb. shôt (SH-7752), a scourge or whip, an implement designed for punishment (1Kgs 12:11, 14; 2Chr 10:11, 14). moreover: Grk. de. even: Grk. eti, adv. expressing continuance of an action or circumstance or expressing addition, whether of time or degree; even, in addition, yet.
chains: pl. of Grk. desmos, a medium or device used for restraining someone, bond or fetter. A bond could be of rope, leather or metal to bind the hands and/or feet, or even stocks. Most versions have "chains." Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks (Jer 20:2). and: Grk. kai. imprisonment: Grk. phulakē, may mean (1) a place for detaining a law-breaker; (2) a sentry station with a contingent of guards; or (3) a period of time for mounting guard, watch. The first meaning applies here.
Imprisonment was experienced by the seer Hanani by King Asa (2Chr 16:10), the prophet Micaiah by King Ahab (1Kgs 22:26-27) and Jeremiah by government officials (Jer 37:15-16; 38:6). Previously both Joseph (Gen 39:20) and Samson (Jdg 16:21) suffered imprisonment. Lastly, Yeshua experienced all the adverse treatment mentioned in this verse.
37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed by murder of the sword. They went about in sheepskins, in goats' skins, being destitute, being persecuted, being mistreated,
Reference: 1Kings 19:10; 2Chronicles 24:21; Ascension of Isaiah 5:11-14; 2Maccabees 8:2.
They were stoned: Grk. lithazō, aor. pass., 3p-pl., to inflict harm or punishment by hitting with stones. The verb lithazō does not occur in the LXX, but the synonym lithoboleō (to stone to death) does regularly occur to translate Hebrew verbs for stoning. Stoning was the preferred means of execution prescribed in the Torah (Ex 21:28; Lev 20:27; 24:14, 16, 23; Num 15:35; Deut 13:10; 17:5; 21:21; 22:21, 24). However, the historical reference here refers to illegal stoning. The first mention of an innocent person being stoned is Naboth at the instigation of Queen Jezebel (1Kgs 21:8-14).
Most commentators suggest the victim in view here is Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who was stoned at the order of King Joash (2Chr 24:21; cf. Matt 23:35; Luke 11:51). According to the writings of various church fathers Jeremiah was stoned by fellow Jews in Egypt (Bruce), but Jewish literature offers no confirmation of this claim.
they were sawn in two: Grk. prizō, aor. pass., 3p-pl., to saw, to cut in two with a saw. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. To be 'sawn asunder' was a punishment King David inflicted on the Ammonites (2Sam 12:31; 1Chr 20:3). Again the verb is used here of unjust and illegal killing. Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was put to death by King Manasseh by being sawn in half (Yebamoth 49b; Ascension of Isaiah 1:9; 5:2).
they were killed: Grk. apothnēskō, aor., 3p-pl. by: Grk. en, prep. murder: Grk. phonos, the act of taking a human life; killing, murder, slaughter. Here the verb is used of illegal killing, i.e., murder (Matt 15:19). In Scripture the definition of murder does not include killing in self-defense or killing in war. In the LXX phonos translates Heb. chereb (SH-2719), a sword (Ex 5:3); nakah (SH-5221), to smite (Ex 22:2); and dam (SH-1818), bloodshed (from negligence, Deut 22:8).
of the sword: Grk. machaira. See verse 34 above. Elijah laments to God of prophets who were killed by the sword under the ruthless tyranny of Queen Jezebel (1Kgs 19:10). Jeremiah records that the prophet Uriah was murdered with the sword by King Jehoiakim (Jer 26:20-23).
They went about: Grk. perierchomai, aor., 3p-pl., move about in an irregular pattern; to go about, go around, move about. in: Grk. en. sheepskins: pl. of Grk. mēlōtē, the skin of a sheep. In the LXX mēlōtē is used for Heb. addereth (SH-155), a cloak or mantle worn by Elijah (1Kgs 19:13; 2Kgs 2:8), which afterward was passed to Elisha (1Kgs 19:19; 2Kgs 2:13-14). Apparently the mantle was made from sheepskin. in goats: pl. of Grk. aigeios, adj., belonging to a goat. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. skins: pl. of Grk. derma, an animal's hide produced by flaying; a hide, a skin. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Lane suggests that the "hairy cloak" appears to have become the standard uniform of the prophets (cf. Zech 13:4; Ascension of Isaiah 2:10).
being destitute: Grk. hustereō, pl. pres. pass. part., to be in a relatively deficient or disadvantaged state or condition; be in want. The verb describes a lack of material goods, which could include having property confiscated, or losing the means of livelihood. being persecuted: Grk. thlibō, pl. pres. pass. part., to press or squeeze. The verb is used here in a figurative sense of being afflicted, oppressed or persecuted. being mistreated: Grk. kakoucheō, pl. pres. pass. part., to ill-treat, treat evilly, hurt, torment. In the LXX kakoucheō translates Heb. anah (SH-6031), to be bowed down, afflicted (1Kgs 2:26; 11:39). Lane comments on the three verbs:
"The portrayal of the rudely dressed prophets as homeless wanderers, ―destitute, afflicted and mistreated, is an apt summarization of the itinerant ministries of Elijah and Elisha (cf. 1Kgs 17:2–16; 19:1–19; 2Kgs 1:3–15; 2:23; 4:1–2, 8–12, 38–43; 8:1–2). It is equally appropriate for others who chose to endure severe hardships rather than to compromise their convictions. Following the seizing of Jerusalem by the troops of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, earnest Jews fled, only to find themselves destitute and hunted." (228f)
The last three verbs of the verse could easily represent in a broad sense the adverse experience of faithful Israelites during the oppression of the Babylonian, Persian, Seleucid (2Macc 8:2) and Roman empires.
Some manuscripts include the verb peirazō (to tempt or test) after the verb "stoned": p13 (3rd/4th c.), Codex Alexandrinus (5th c.), the Vulgate (4th c.), the Syriac-Palestinian (5th-7th c.), and various late manuscripts (6th to 12 c.) (GNT 772). The reading is preserved in some versions (ASV, DRA, JUB, KJV, NASU, NASB-20, NKJV, NLV, WE). The reading is not found in the earliest manuscript (p46, c. 200), Codex Sinaiticus (4th c.) or Codex Vaticanus (4th c.). The UBS committee gave the reading a "C" rating, meaning there is a considerable degree of doubt. Many scholars offer various reasons to exclude the verb since it seems out of place in the list of adverse experiences of faithful Israelites (Metzger).
38 (of whom the world was not worthy); wandering in deserts and mountains, and caves and holes of the ground.
of whom: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. the world: Grk. ho kosmos. See verse 7 above. Here the term signifies the world as mankind or the power structures of mankind opposed to God, spiritually ruined and depraved. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. worthy: Grk. axios, adj., having worth or value, in the sense of being weighed on a scale. Some versions treat the clause as parenthetical enclosing it in parentheses, thus referring to those named in the previous six verses (AMP, ASV, KJV, MRINT, NASB, NET).
wandering: Grk. planaō, pl. pres. mid. part., to cause to wander, to roam. The verb is used here to depict the result of being outcasts. in: Grk. epi, prep. The preposition introduces geographical and topographical places in which the wandering occurred and served as refuges. deserts: pl. of Grk. erēmia, a lonely or uninhabited region; waste, desert. and: Grk. kai, conj. mountains: pl. of Grk. oros, mountain, hill, or hill-country. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation. In contrast, biblical terms were used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height.
and: Grk. kai. caves: pl. of Grk. spēlaion, cave or cavern as a natural formation. and: Grk. kai. holes: pl. of Grk. opē, an opening, a crevice in a rock. of the ground: Grk. ho gē. See verse 9 above. The first mention of such an adverse condition was in the time of Samuel when the threat of the Philistines forced Israelites to hide in caves, in thickets, in cliffs, in cellars, and in pits (1Sam 13:6). Then afterward David hid in caves to elude the wrath of King Saul (1Sam 22:1; 24:3) and finally from his son Absalom (2Sam 17:9).
Fruchtenbaum notes the adverse experience of Obadiah, a friend of Elijah, during the reign of Queen Jezebel. "Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water" (1Kgs 18:4). Elijah himself lodged in a cave when he fled from Queen Jezebel (1Kgs 19:9). Lane comments that the description here would fit the situation in the 2nd cent. B.C. Following the seizing of Jerusalem by the troops of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, earnest Jews fled, only to find themselves destitute and hunted.
"Judas Maccabeus, with about nine others, got away to the wilderness, and kept himself and his companions alive in the mountains as wild animals do; they continued to live on what grew wild, so that they might not share in the defilement." (2Macc 5:27).
Bruce observes that these men and women of faith were outlawed as people unfit for civilized society, but in reality civilized society was unfit for them. They might well recite the psalmist's cry to God: "But for Your sake we are killed all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered" (Ps 44:22). What really matters is the opinion of God as affirmed in the Apocrypha: "God tested them and found them worthy of Himself" (Wisdom 3:5 RSV).
Stern comments that the people who trusted God were unappreciated in their time by the rest of humanity; conversely the world was not worthy of them!
"Worldly people, since they themselves do not truly trust God, cannot fully appreciate those whose lives are based utterly on trust, because their values are so different. But as soon as worldly people, by God's grace (Ep 2:8.9), take the tiniest step of faith themselves, then the great faith reported in this chapter takes on an altogether different significance for them and becomes a source of inspiration." (714)
Future of the Faithful, 11:39-40
39 And all these, having been commended through their faithfulness, did not receive the promise,
And: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 13 above. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 2 above. The reference "all these" refers the complete list of Bible heroes in this chapter. having been commended: Grk. martureō, pl. aor. pass. part. See verse 2 above. Hegg notes that the verb with its use in verse 2 and now in this verse, serves as bookends for this chapter. The intent of the verb is not just in reference to specific accolades of Bible characters (as of Abraham, Moses or David), but more importantly the testimony of Scripture of the faithful character and conduct of the persons Paul identifies.
through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 4 above. their: The plural pronoun, inserted in many versions, is appropriate as complementary of the reference "all these." faithfulness: Grk. ho pistis. See verse 1 above. As the verb "commended" implies the divine approval was based on what the men and women of God did, as Paul describes in detail in this chapter, not on what they believed (e.g. Jas 2:21, 25). The heroes trusted God and in that trust obeyed God in whatever He called them to do.
did not: Grk. ou, adv. receive: Grk. komizō, aor. mid., 3p-pl., be in receipt of, here connected with the idea of fulfillment. The middle voice conveys receiving to oneself. the promise: Grk. ho epaggelia. See verse 9 above. Many versions translate the noun with a verbal construction, "what had been/was promised." The singular form of the noun stands in contrast to the plural form in verses 13, 17 and 33 above. The singular form is used in verse 9 above for the "land of promise," but Paul notes in verse 10 that for Abraham the promise was really a city.
Bruce interprets "the promise" as the age of the New Covenant (343). However, the thought of this verse continues into the next verse and concludes in the next chapter, verse 2. In this context the unfulfilled promise of the heroes of faithfulness mentioned in this chapter is that of the Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), the Seed of Abraham (Gen 22:17-18), and the Shiloh of Judah (Gen 49:10), i.e., the Messiah. Hegg comments,
"Those 'people of old' with whom our author begins the chapter, did not see the glorious fulfillment of the promises made in covenant to the fathers since it was in the promised work of Messiah that the covenant promises would come to completion."
Paul makes this declaration in his letter to the Corinthian congregation: "For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes" (2Cor 1:20 NASB).
40 God having provided something better for us, so that not apart from us should they be made perfect.
God: Grk. ho theos, the God of Israel. See verse 3 above. having provided: Grk. problepō (from pro, "before" and blepō, "to see"), aor. mid. part., to foresee, thus 'plan ahead' or 'provide.' Bible versions are divided in translating the verb as either "planned" or "provided," although a few versions have "foreseen" (DARBY, MW, NABRE, OJB, RSV). The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. something: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun used to indicate non-specification; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. better: Grk. kreittōn, adj. See verse 16 above. for: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 7 above.
us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The plural pronoun alludes to the Messianic Jews and grafted-in Gentiles of the Body of Messiah, the beneficiaries of the New Covenant. so that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 28 above. not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 5 above. apart from: Grk. chōris, prep. See verse 6 above. us: Grk. hēmeis. should they be made perfect: Grk. teleioō, aor. pass. subj., 3p-pl., bring to a point at which nothing is missing, complete or perfect. The focus of the verb here is bringing to the ultimate point of spiritual maturation.
In the LXX teleioō occurs 25 times and translates four different Hebrew verbs with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:60). In this letter (7:19; 9:9; 10:1, 14; 11:40; 12:23) teleioō is used in a moral sense meaning to make perfect, to fully cleanse from sin, in contrast to Levitical cleansing (Zodhiates). As Fruchtenbaum, Hegg, McKee and Stern point out, the goal of perfecting the Old Covenant people of God together with the New Covenant people of God anticipates the sanctifying glorification that will occur in the resurrection and Second Coming of Yeshua (cf. 1Th 3:12-13; 5:23; 1Pet 4:1; 1Jn 3:2; Rev 22:11). Paul emphasizes in other letters the "summing up" of all things in Messiah will occur at the consummation of the age and the Second Coming (Rom 11:26; Eph 1:9-10; 1Th 4:17).
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot. ed. Charles Van der Pool. Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation and Strong's numbering system. Online.
Archer: Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. Moody Bible Institute, 2007.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
Benson: Joseph Benson (1748-1821), Commentary of the Old and New Testaments. T. Carlton & J. Porter, 1857. Online.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1964. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Chrysostom: John Chrysostom (347-407), Homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Oxford Edition. ed. Philip Schaff; trans. J. Walker, et. al. (Online)
CJB: David Stern, Complete Jewish Bible. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998, 2016. Online.
Coke: Thomas Coke (1747-1814), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DSB: The Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995. [KJV with annotations by Dr. Henry M. Morris.]
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Eisenbaum: Pamela Eisenbaum, annotations on "The Letter to the Hebrews," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Fruchtenbaum: Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, "Hebrews," Ariel's Bible Commentary: The Messianic Jewish Epistles. Ariel Ministries, 2005.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
Ginzberg: Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews. Public Domain, 1909. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Gruber: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. [Translation of the New Testament Majority Text and annotations by the author.]
Guthrie: Donald Guthrie, Hebrews. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1983. [Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 15].
Hegg: Tim Hegg, A Commentary on the Book of Hebrews. Vol. 2. TorahResource, 2016.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Henry: Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (1710). Unabridged Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1991. Online.
HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.
Keil: C.F. Keil (1807-1888), Pentateuch, Vol. 1, Commentary on the Old Testament (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, 1866-1891), Hendrickson Publishers, 1996. Online.
Lane: William L. Lane, Word Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 9-13. Word Books, 1991. Online.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (1889). rev. by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English with Interlinear Translation. Zondervan, 1986.
McDaniel: Thomas F. McDaniel, The Rehab of Rahab, Clarifying Baffling Biblical Passages. Private Paper, Palmer Seminary, 2007. Accessed 11 December 2022.
McKee: John Kimball McKee, Hebrews for the Practical Messianic. Messianic Apologetics, 2012.
Morris: Leon Morris, Hebrews. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 12. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
NASBEC: New American Standard Bible Exhaustive Concordance, Updated Edition. Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.
NTW: William Barclay, New Testament Words. The Westminster Press, 1974.
OJB: Phillip Goble, Orthodox Jewish Bible. Artists for Israel International, 2011. Online.
Purkiser: W.T. Purkiser, ed. Exploring the Old Testament. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1955.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
SBD: Sir William Smith (1813-1893), A Dictionary of the Bible. John Murray, 1893. Online. aka "Smith's Bible Dictionary."
Setterfield: Barry Setterfield, The Genealogy Differences in the Masoretic, Alexandrian LXX and Samaritan Pentateuch. Genesis Science Research, 2010. Online.
SECB: James Strong (1822–1894), Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1890). Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TDSS: The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. Rev. ed. Trans. Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr. and Edward Cook. HarperOne, 2005.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Harper Brothers, 1889). Hendrickson Publishers, 2003. Online.
TGR: Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific & Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Baker Book House, 1976.
TLV: Tree of Life Version, Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society, 2014. Online.
Varughese: Alex Varughese, ed., Discovering the Old Testament: Story and Faith. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2003.
Vincent: Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1922), The Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1886. Online.
Westcott: B.F. Westcott (1825-1901), The Epistle to the Hebrews. 2nd ed. Macmillan and Co., 1892. Online.
Wright: N.T. Wright, Hebrews for Everyone. (The New Testament for Everyone). Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
Zodhiates: Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009), ed. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. AMG Publishers, 1992, 1993.
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