God's Martyrs
Hebrews 11:37-38
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins…


1. Some were stoned. This was a punishment determined by God in the Judicial Laws of Moses, to be executed upon several transgressors. Yet no judge had warrant from God to condemn any innocent person to this kind of death; yet Zacharias, for charging the Jews with their sins, and denouncing God's judgments against them, was stoned to death.

2. Some were sawn asunder: thus some say Isaiah was slain by Manasses. This was a cruel kind of execution.

3. Some were tempted by some cruel kind of death to forsake their God, yet they did net.

4. Some were slain by the sword, which is used as well by the magistrate against offending subjects as by the soldier against enemies. Martyrs might be thus slain, either judicially or extrajudicially, without any formal process of judgment; for many times they laid heinous crimes to their charge. Sometimes they made justice injustice, obedience to God disobedience to man, and virtuous acts heinous crimes; and so-called good, evil; and light, darkness. The whole signifies that the lives of the saints and prophets were taken away cruelly and most unjustly by several kinds of tormenting deaths.

II. Some were not slain, BUT LIVED A MISERABLE LIFE. For —

1. They wandered. They might be wanderers, either by constraint or voluntarily: by constraint, as when they were banished, or forcibly dispossessed of their houses; voluntarily, as when for fear of death, or to enjoy the quiet of conscience, they fled out of their country, or from the places of their habitation, so that they have no certain safe place of rest — they were continually flitting and removing, as not having where to lay their heads.

2. In this wandering condition they were destitute of raiment and clothes, whereby they might cover their shame, and defend their bodies from the injuries of heaven. They wanted stuff, or, if they had stuff, they could not have made them; and in this case they used sheep-skins and goat-skins. Which expression implies that their clothing was very mean and coarse; yea, not so much as shapen, sewed up, and fitted for their bodies, but only wrapped about some principal parts, leaving others naked. These did not deserve the name of garments, but were nothing else but skin upon skin, the skin of beasts upon the skin of man.

3. They were destitute, that is, in great want of other necessaries, and, as the word doth signify, very poor and indigent; for they had left all their substance, or it was taken from them, or they could have no use of it in their necessity. And if they wandered amongst strangers, little was to be expected from them; for strangers are many times used strangely, and few are sensible of their miseries. Some think the word may be turned (descerti) — deserted and forsaken; for in such a case few dare own their own flesh and blood and nearest relations. Yet the former sense seems to be more genuine, for their very habit did signify that their penury was very great.

4. They were afflicted; for in such a case their straits must be many, and the pressures and perplexities of body and mind very great, and such as none, but some who have been in their case, can truly apprehend.

5. They were tormented. The word may signify they were ill-handeled, sorely vexed, oppressed, and brought very low.

(G. Lawson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

WEB: They were stoned. They were sawn apart. They were tempted. They were slain with the sword. They went around in sheep skins and in goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated

God's Esteem of His People
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