How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.Hebrews 11:32-35
I am sure you wonder what I am doing with this block of text from the letter to the Hebrews. I told you we are moving on the next group of the examples of people who operated by faith and yet I have included verse 32 again. The astute ones among you will notice something else. I have only given you the first part of verse 35; I have omitted the second part of the verse, namely:-
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.Hebrews 11:35
Now why would I have done that? Those of you who bothered to click the link I gave you to the Nugget A Puzzling Paradox # 30 in Gem 2152 will have been able to work it out. The author of Hebrews has listed for us a number of groups of people who are the examples of faith.
- Those who the writer chose by name and spelled out why he had chosen them.
- Those he chose but told us he didn’t have time to give us the details.
- The others.
I haven’t referenced the second part of the verse above as Hebrews 11:35b simply because my website doesn’t recognise letters [a] [b] in the nomenclature (the system). I believe there ought to be a division set internally in verse 35 between “Women received their loved ones back again from death.” (Hebrews 11:35a) and “But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:35b). There is also debate among the commentators and textual experts as to whether the verses found in Hebrews 11:33-35 refer to the six heroes listed in verse 32 or whether others are included as well. If you read the list of achievements of the six people mentioned in verse 32
- overthrew kingdoms
- ruled with justice
- received what God had promised them
- shut the mouths of lions
- quenched the flames of fire
- escaped death by the edge of the sword
- weakness was turned to strength
- strong in battle
- put whole armies to flight
then in a general sense these achievements could be applied to all six heroes whose names are mentioned. It is clear that all six did those things but so too did others. Samson, David and Daniel shut the mouths of lions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego quenched the flames of fire; well actually God the father or Jesus, the fourth one in the fire, did the quenching. David, Elisha, Elijah and Jeremiah escaped death by the sword, while it is fair to say all found their weakness was turned to strength, found themselves strong in battle and put armies to flight.
The point is that this passage is written as though this list of those for whom the writer has no time to spell out the details is an open ended list. I am not going go into the details of the grammar of the section which proves something else is going on here, because of the risk of boring you with Greek grammar. I wish to encourage rather than bore you to tears. What I will say is that the author of Hebrews appears to write this section in a way which leaves the list open ended. I am sure you would be able to add names of people whose names should be added to this list.
Let’s look for a moment at the example found in Hebrews 11:35a – Women received their loved ones back again from death. In one sense this was true of Deborah and Jael and many others in the time of the judges and it was also true of the widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17). It is also true of the Shunamite’s son in the time of Elisha. But stop and consider the New Testament examples of the widow in Nain and Mary and Martha who gained their brother back from the dead. In each case they too had a mustard seed of faith to believe that their loved ones could be returned to them.
These examples listed could also easily be applied in the Inter-Testamental time to the Maccabean revolt and to what happened during the persecution of Christians in the time of the author of the letter to the Hebrews. I believe this list of heroes is not meant to be a dead list of people in the past but a live list which the recipients of the letter could have added to.
Do you realise you too could add to this list? Why don’t you turn this into an exercise of faith for yourself?
- Make a list of the people you know whose names belong in this list too.
- Yes if you have to, choose people from the past, from history.
- But if you can, list the names of people you know personally who could be added to this list. I certainly can!
My point is that I believe the writer meant this to be a list that the people to whom he was writing could have added more names. This can be a live, relevant list of current names for you. See what names you can add to the list. My list could be very long, made up the names of the people I know about and those I know personally or those I have met but forget their names. Be assured God doesn’t!
When all seems dark remember to P.U.S.H (PRAY UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS) never lose faith!Rick Godwin
Don’t pray in KJV English unless you are 400 years old. [Make your faith relevant].Ian
It’s not the size of your faith, but the size of your God, that matters.Rick Warren
The most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say yes to the present risenness of Jesus Christ.Brennan Manning