Hebrews 11:33
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(33) Subdued kingdoms.—Better, overcame kingdoms. To all the deliverers of Israel of whom we have read in Hebrews 11:32 (and especially to David, 2 Samuel 8, 10, 11) these words will apply. They also “wrought righteousness,” as each judge or king or prophet “executed judgment and justice unto all his people” (2Samuel 8:15).

Obtained promises.—Do these words mean that these men of faith won promises of future blessing (such as were vouchsafed to David and the prophets), or that promises of deliverance were fulfilled to them? There seems no reason for doubting that the writer’s language may include both thoughts. The words which follow (though illustrated in the history of Samson and of David) clearly point to Daniel (Hebrews 6).

Hebrews 11:33-34. Who through faith subdued kingdoms — As Joshua, the Judges, David, and others; wrought righteousness — Lived righteous and holy lives, and administered justice impartially, 1 Samuel 12:3-5. Obtained promises — Namely, of particular mercies, as Sarah, Hannah, Manoah, and the prophets in general, both for themselves, and to deliver to others; stopped the mouths of lions — By their faith prevailed with God to do it, as Daniel, Daniel 6:22 : quenched the violence of fire — As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel 3. He does not say they quenched fire, which may be done by natural means, but they took off, restrained the violence, the power of fire with respect to themselves. The fire continued still, and retained its burning power, for it slew the men that cast them into the furnace. But by faith they disarmed it of its power to hurt themselves, so that not one hair of their heads was singed. To these examples, whence the nature of faith clearly appears, those more ancient ones are subjoined, (by a transposition and in an inverted order,) which receive light from these. Jephthae escaped the edge of the sword; Samson out of weakness was made strong; Barak became valiant in fight; Gideon put to flight the armies of the aliens. Faith animates to the most heroic enterprises, both civil and military. Faith overcomes all impediments, effects the greatest things, attains to the very best, and inverts, by its miraculous power, the very course of nature. One thing, however, is necessary to be observed by the reader, namely, that these celebrated worthies are not represented by the apostle as being justified by their faith, but only as performing miracles, and heroic, valiant actions by it: nor are they all commended for their good conduct in general; for several of them failed in their duty in divers instances, through the want of an abiding principle of faith and holiness in their hearts, even as the Israelites in general, who by faith had passed through the Red sea, lost their faith, rebelled, and were doomed to die in the wilderness.11:32-38 After all our searches into the Scriptures, there is more to be learned from them. We should be pleased to think, how great the number of believers was under the Old Testament, and how strong their faith, though the objects of it were not then so fully made known as now. And we should lament that now, in gospel times, when the rule of faith is more clear and perfect, the number of believers should be so small, and their faith so weak. It is the excellence of the grace of faith, that, while it helps men to do great things, like Gideon, it keeps from high and great thoughts of themselves. Faith, like Barak's, has recourse unto God in all dangers and difficulties, and then makes grateful returns to God for all mercies and deliverances. By faith, the servants of God shall overcome even the roaring lion that goeth about seeking whom he may devour. The believer's faith endures to the end, and, in dying, gives him victory over death and all his deadly enemies, like Samson. The grace of God often fixes upon very undeserving and ill-deserving persons, to do great things for them and by them. But the grace of faith, wherever it is, will put men upon acknowledging God in all their ways, as Jephthah. It will make men bold and courageous in a good cause. Few ever met with greater trials, few ever showed more lively faith, than David, and he has left a testimony as to the trials and acts of faith, in the book of Psalms, which has been, and ever will be, of great value to the people of God. Those are likely to grow up to be distinguished for faith, who begin betimes, like Samuel, to exercise it. And faith will enable a man to serve God and his generation, in whatever way he may be employed. The interests and powers of kings and kingdoms, are often opposed to God and his people; but God can easily subdue all that set themselves against him. It is a greater honour and happiness to work righteousness than to work miracles. By faith we have comfort of the promises; and by faith we are prepared to wait for the promises, and in due time to receive them. And though we do not hope to have our dead relatives or friends restored to life in this world, yet faith will support under the loss of them, and direct to the hope of a better resurrection. Shall we be most amazed at the wickedness of human nature, that it is capable of such awful cruelties to fellow-creatures, or at the excellence of Divine grace, that is able to bear up the faithful under such cruelties, and to carry them safely through all? What a difference between God's judgement of a saint, and man's judgment! The world is not worthy of those scorned, persecuted saints, whom their persecutors reckon unworthy to live. They are not worthy of their company, example, counsel, or other benefits. For they know not what a saint is, nor the worth of a saint, nor how to use him; they hate, and drive such away, as they do the offer of Christ and his grace.Who through faith subdued kingdoms - That is, those specified in the previous verses, and others like them. The meaning is, that some of them subdued kingdoms, others obtained promises, etc. Thus, Joshua subdued the nations of Canaan; Gideon the Midianites; Jephtha the Ammonites; David the Philistines, Amalekites, Jebusites, Edomites, etc.

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

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

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

33. subdued kingdoms—as David did (2Sa 8:1, &c.); so also Gideon subdued Midian (Jud 7:1-25).

wrought righteousness—as Samuel did (1Sa 8:9; 12:3-23; 15:33); and David (2Sa 8:15).

obtained promises—as "the prophets" (Heb 11:32) did; for through them the promises were given (compare Da 9:21) [Bengel]. Rather, "obtained the fulfilment of promises," which had been previously the object of their faith (Jos 21:45; 1Ki 8:56). Indeed, Gideon, Barak, &c., also obtained the things which God promised. Not "the promises," which are still future (Heb 11:13, 39).

stopped the mouths of lions—Note the words, "because he believed in his God." Also Samson (Jud 14:6), David (1Sa 17:34-37), Benaiah (2Sa 23:20).

These, by the same gospel faith, subdued kingdoms, defeating the mighty enemies of the church; and eminently amongst them, David, who conquered Edom, Moab, Ammon, and the Syrian kingdoms, and extended his conquests to the Euphrates. This he and they did in obedience to God’s call, in dependence on God’s promise both of conduct and victory. All was done by God’s arm at the instance of faith and prayer, Psalm 18:29-42 20:5,9.

Wrought righteousness; they were all of them eminently righteous in their persons, and in their administration of justice to others: the utmost of their abilities were laid out in it, as became righteous judges, as to all matters of God and men, Judges 6:1-40 1 Samuel 7:15,17 12:2,6.

Obtained promises; a real and actual possession of all those good things which God secured to them by promise; especially as to Gideon and Barak, victory and success over the Canaanites and Midianites, Judges 4:1-24 6:1-40; Samson, victory over the Philistines; David, victory over the church’s enemies. All which they first obtained in the promise, and then in the execution. Faith secured all, giving a real enjoyment of all the good made theirs in the promise, and then in the event; and will give the fulness of all good in general promises made to the church and them in the end.

Stopped the mouths of lions: Daniel, an eminent prophet of God, believed in him, and for his testimony to him was cast into the den of lions to be devoured, where God stops the mouths of them on his faith and prayer, and opens them to destroy their adversaries, Daniel 6:22. By the power and strength of God, both Samson and David slew those lions which would have preyed both on them and others, Judges 14:6 1 Samuel 17:34-36. Faith obtained this success for them. Who through faith subdued kingdoms,.... As David did particularly; who subdued Syria, Moab, Ammon, Amalek, Edom, and the Philistines, 2 Samuel 8:12. War, in some cases, is lawful; and kingdoms may be subdued; and faith makes use of means to do it: these kingdoms, though subdued by faith, yet not without fighting. Believers have no reason to be afraid of kings, or kingdoms; and this should encourage the saints, in their combats with the powers of darkness.

Wrought righteousness; exercised vindictive justice, in taking vengeance on the enemies of God, and his people; civil righteousness, in the discharge of their offices; and moral righteousness, in their conversation before God and men; which, being imperfect, was not justifying: wherefore they stood in need of another, and better righteousness, which is perfect and durable; and, in consequence of which being known, embraced, and received, men work righteousness: it may be observed, that to do works of righteousness in faith, and by it, is something very considerable; it is reckoned here among actions of the greatest fame; and that true faith is an operative grace, it works by love, and is always attended with works of righteousness; and that righteousness is a fruit and evidence of faith; and that faith is not the believer's righteousness; and that the righteousness of faith is not that which faith works, but which it receives.

Obtained promises; the promise of the land of Canaan; particular promises of victory over their enemies; promises concerning the Messiah, and of everlasting life and happiness: their faith was not the cause of promises being made, nor of their being fulfilled; but was the grace by which these believers received them, believed them, and waited for the accomplishment of them; and, in some sense, enjoyed the things promised before hand; their faith realizing things future and invisible to them: to obtain a promise from God is a great and marvellous thing; it is an instance of rich grace; and there is never a promise, but what is great in itself, and precious to the saints: all God's promises are obtained; they are sure, and are certainly fulfilled; and it is the work and business of faith to receive, and enjoy them.

Stopped the mouths of lions: a lion was slain by Samson, and another by David; but the most remarkable instance of stopping the mouths of lions, was in the den, into which Daniel was cast; and this may encourage the faith of God's people, when they are in the midst of men, comparable to lions; and may animate them not to fear the devouring lion, Satan.

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained {s} promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

(s) The fruit of the promises.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 11:33. Οἳ διὰ πίστεως κατηγωνίσαντο βασιλείας] who by virtue of faith subdued kingdoms. The διὰ πίστεως with emphasis placed at the head dominates the whole description following, so that it continues equally to sound forth in connection with all the finite verbs as far as περιῆλθον, Hebrews 11:37.

οἵ, however, connects in a lax manner that which follows with that which precedes, in so far as, Hebrews 11:33-34, respect is had, in part at least, to yet other persons besides those mentioned Hebrews 11:32. As regards the subject-matter, therefore, there would have been more accurately written in place of the mere οἵ: “who with others like-minded.”

καταγωνίζεσθαι further, in the N. T. a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, signifies to get the better of or overpower. With Böhme to attach to the same the signification: “to acquire by fighting” (“certamine sibi paraverunt regna; quod nostra lingua succinctius ita dixeris: sie haben sich Herrscherwürden erkämpft”), is opposed to the usus loquendi.

The statement itself for the rest is true, as of David, who vanquished the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:17-25; 2 Samuel 8:1; 2 Samuel 21:15 ff.), Moabites, Syrians, Edomites (2 Samuel 8:2 ff.), and Ammonites (2 Samuel 10; 2 Samuel 12:26 ff.), so also of the four judges, mentioned Hebrews 11:32, inasmuch as Gideon smote the Midianites (Judges 7), Barak the Canaanites (Judges 4), Samson the Philistines (Judges 14 ff.), Jephthah the Ammonites (Judges 9).

εἰργάσαντο δικαιοσύνην] wrought righteousness and justice, namely, for their subjects, in virtue of their quality as judges or kings. Comp. ποιεῖν κρίμα καὶ δικαιοσύνην, 2 Samuel 8:15; 1 Chronicles 18:14; 2 Chronicles 9:8, al. Too generally Erasmus, Schlichting, Grotius, Schulz, Stein, and others (comp. already Theodoret: τοῦτο κοινὸν τῶν ἁγίων ἁπάντων): they did that which was morally good or pious.

ἐπέτυχον ἐπαγγελιῶν] obtained promises, i.e. either: came into the possession of blessings which God had promised them (Piscator, Owen, Huët, Böhme, Stuart, de Wette, Delitzsch, Alford, Maier, Moll, Hofmann, Woerner, and the majority), or: received words of promise on the part of God (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Primasius, Schlichting [Whitby?], Bleek, Ebrard, Kurtz, al.). Either interpretation is admissible. Yet in the first case, that no contradiction with Hebrews 11:39 (comp. also Hebrews 11:13) may arise, only, what the absence of the article before ἐπαγγελιῶν also permits, blessings and successes of earthly nature could be meant. In the first case, one may think of Jdg 7:7 and the like, while in the second case the words are specially to be referred to the Messianic promises given to David and the prophets.

ἔφραξαν στόματα λεόντων] closed the jaws of lions. Comp. with regard to Daniel, Daniel 6:22 (1Ma 2:60); with regard to Samson, Jdg 14:6; with regard to David, 1 Samuel 17:34 ff.33. subdued kingdoms] The allusion is specially to the conquest of Canaan by Joshua, and to the victories of David (2 Samuel 5:17-25; 2 Samuel 21:15, &c.).

wrought righteousness] The allusion is somewhat vague, but seems to refer to the justice of Judges and Kings (1 Samuel 12:3-4; 2 Samuel 8:15; 1 Chronicles 18:14, &c.), and perhaps especially to the Judgment of Solomon. “To execute judgment and justice” belonged especially to the Princes of Israel (Ezekiel 45:9).

obtained promises] If we compare the expression with Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39, we see that the primary reference must be to temporal promises (see Joshua 21:43-45, &c.); but they also obtained at least a partial fruition of spiritual promises also.

stopped the mouths of lions] Samson (Jdg 14:5-6), David (1 Samuel 17:34-35), Daniel (Daniel 6:22), Benaiah (2 Samuel 23:20).Hebrews 11:33-34. Οἱἀλλοτρίων, who—of aliens) After he had just enumerated seven Subjects, he adds nine Predicates, and the verbs weightily (forcibly) begin the clauses. For it is of David especially that those words are used, κατηγωνίσαντο βασιλείας, they subdued kingdoms; 2 Samuel 8:1, etc. Of Samuel, εἰργάσαντο δικαιοσύνην, they wrought righteousness; 1 Samuel 8:9; 1 Samuel 12:3, etc., 1 Samuel 12:23, 1 Samuel 15:33. Finally, of the prophets generally, ἐπέτυχον ἐπαγγελιῶν, they obtained promises: for it was to them properly speaking that this was vouchsafed, that the promises, afterwards to be fulfilled in Christ, were put forth by them: for example, Daniel 9:21. Here the meaning of the phrase agrees with the word, prophets. So we say in the present day, to obtain a diploma: comp. note on Hebrews 11:9. It is likewise said of the prophets, ἔφραξαν στόματα λεόντων, ἔσβεσαν δύναμιν πυρὸς, they shut the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, Daniel 6:22 (where the LXX. have the same phrase), Daniel 3:27 : which are the last miracles mentioned in the Old Testament, and that too in the Hagiographa. And in this passage, what is ascribed to GOD and His angel in the passage quoted, is predicated of believers themselves. In short, to these examples, from which faith more manifestly shines forth, those more ancient examples are subjoined which receive evidence from them, by the figure Chiasmus (such as we find at Matthew 22:46), and in retrograde order;[72] for it is said especially of Jephthah, ἔφυγον στόμα μαχαίρας, they escaped the edge of the sword, Jdg 12:3 : of Samson, ἐνεδυναμώθησαν ἀπὸ ἀσθενείας, out of weakness were made strong, Jdg 15:19; Jdg 16:28-29 : of Barak, ἐγενήθησαν ἰσχυροὶ ἐν πολέμῳ, became valiant in fight, Jdg 4:14-15 : of Gideon, παρεμβολὰς ἔκλιναν ἀλλοτρίων, turned to flight the armies (the camp) of the aliens, Jdg 7:21 : so that these four predicates, comp. Hebrews 11:32, correspond individually (severally, respectively) to as many subjects in retrograde order, including the gradation. Thus faith animates the greatest, nay, heroic deeds, both civil and military. Finally, observe that the authority of the earlier and later prophets is summarily approved by this group (congeries) of subjects and predicates.

[72] The critical notes [App. Crit. Ed. ii., P. iv., N. xiv., p. 918] show this order according to the following plan:—Through faith (διὰ πίστεως)

This formula is now substituted for the instrumental dative πίστει by faith. The reason for the change cannot perhaps be accurately formulated, but will be appreciated by one who feels the Greek idioms as better suiting the more general illustrations which follow.

Subdued kingdoms (κατηγωνίσαντο βασιλείας)

The verb N.T.o , olxx, signifies fought down; overcame by struggle, as Barak, Judges 4; Gideon, Judges 7; Jephthah, Judges 11; David, 2 Samuel 5.

Wrought righteousness (ἠργάσαντο δικαιοσύνην)

For the phrase comp. Acts 10:35. Referring not merely to their personal virtues, but to the public exercise of these as leaders, as 2 Samuel 8:15; 1 Chronicles 18:14; 1 Samuel 12:4. Faith showed itself in the association of righteousness with power. Comp. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 54:14; 1 Kings 10:9.

Obtained promises (ἐπέτυχον ἐπαγγελιῶν)

See on Hebrews 6:15.

Stopped (ἔφραξαν)

The verb means to fence in; block up. Rare in N.T. See Romans 3:19; 2 Corinthians 11:10, and comp. φραγμός a fence, Matthew 21:33; Ephesians 2:14. Occasionally in lxx, as Job 38:8; Proverbs 21:13; Zechariah 14:5. The reference is no doubt to Daniel, Daniel 6:22; comp. 1 Macc. 2:60.

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