Hebrews 11:2
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
11:1-3 Faith always has been the mark of God's servants, from the beginning of the world. Where the principle is planted by the regenerating Spirit of God, it will cause the truth to be received, concerning justification by the sufferings and merits of Christ. And the same things that are the object of our hope, are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion and expectation, that God will perform all he has promised to us in Christ. This persuasion gives the soul to enjoy those things now; it gives them a subsistence or reality in the soul, by the first-fruits and foretastes of them. Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. It is a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, and good. This view of faith is explained by many examples of persons in former times, who obtained a good report, or an honourable character in the word of God. Faith was the principle of their holy obedience, remarkable services, and patient sufferings. The Bible gives the most true and exact account of the origin of all things, and we are to believe it, and not to wrest the Scripture account of the creation, because it does not suit with the differing fancies of men. All that we see of the works of creation, were brought into being by the command of God.For by it - That is, by that faith which gives reality to things hoped for, and a certain persuasion to the mind of the existence of those things which are not seen.

The elders - The ancients; the Hebrew patriarchs and fathers.

Obtained a good report - Literally, "were witnessed of;" that is, an honorable testimony was borne to them in consequence of their faith. The idea is, that their acting under the influence of faith, in the circumstances in which they were, was the ground of the honorable testimony which was borne to them in the Old Testament; see this use of the word in Hebrews 7:8, and in Hebrews 7:4 of this chapter. Also Luke 4:22; Acts 15:8. In the cases which the apostle proceeds to enumerate in the subsequent part of the chapter, he mentions those whose piety is particularly commended in the Old Testament, and who showed in trying circumstances that they had unwavering confidence in God.

For by it the elders obtained a good report. By whom are meant, not merely old men, or elders in age, but such who lived in ancient times; some before the flood, and to a great age, and others who were in office, civil or ecclesiastical, and were the ancestors and predecessors of the Hebrews; who in general obtained or received a good report from God; that they were the chosen of God, and were justified and accepted with him; that they were the children and friends of God, and should be glorified; and from men, from good men, for their faith and holiness; and from evil men, for their good works: and these also believed the report of the Gospel, and gave a good report of God, and of the good land, and adorned their profession; particularly, Abel received a good report, that he was righteous; and Enoch, that he pleased God, and walked with him; and Noah, that he was a just man, perfect in his generation, and also walked with God; and Abraham, that he was a believer, a friend of God, and one that feared and obeyed him; and Job, that he was a man that feared God, and shunned evil; and Moses, that he was a meek man, and a faithful one; and David, that he was a man after God's own heart, and fulfilled his will; and so others: and they received this report by faith, and as a fruit of it; which shows that faith is no new thing, and that the character of a believer is an old and honourable one. The apostle mentions this, to take off the Hebrews from any esteem of their traditionary elders, who had got a name, not by their faith, but by their traditions; and to engage their imitation of men of antiquity, authority, and wisdom superior to them; and to let them know, unless they had the same faith with their ancestors, it would be a vain thing to boast of descent from them. {2} For by it the {a} elders obtained a good report.

(2) He shows that the fathers ought to be accounted of by this virtue.

(a) That is, those fathers from whom we came: and whose authority and example ought to move us very much.

For by it (ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ)

Lit. for in this. Rend. therein: in the sphere and exercise of faith: as believers. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:10. For introduces a proof of the preceding statement concerning the nature of faith. Faith has power to see and realize the unseen, for the experience of the fathers proves it.

The elders obtained a good report (ἐμαρτυρηθήσαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι)

The elders for the more common the fathers: the saints of the O.T. dispensation, many of whose names are recorded in this chapter. Εμαρτυρηθήσαν, lit. were borne witness to. God bore witness to them in the victory of their faith over all obstacles, and their characters and deeds as men of faith were recorded in Scripture. For this use of ματυρεῖν in the passive, see Acts 6:3; Acts 10:22; Acts 16:12; Romans 3:21; Hebrews 7:8, Hebrews 7:17. Notice that the statement in this verse does not begin the list of examples, which commences with Hebrews 11:4, but is closely attached to the definition in Hebrews 11:1 as a comprehensive justification of it.

2. For—So high a description of faith is not undeserved; for … [Alford].

by it—Greek, "in it": in respect to … in the matter of," it, "or, as Greek more emphatically, "this."

the elders—as though still living and giving their powerful testimony to the reasonableness and excellence of faith (Heb 12:1). Not merely the ancients, as though they were people solely of the past; nay, they belong to the one and the same blessed family as ourselves (Heb 11:39, 40). "The elders," whom we all revere so highly. "Paul shows how we ought to seek in all its fulness, under the veil of history, the essential substance of the doctrine sometimes briefly indicated" [Bengel]. "The elders," as "the fathers," is a title of honor given on the ground of their bright faith and practice.

obtained a good report—Greek, "were testified of," namely, favorably (compare Heb 7:8). It is a phrase of Luke, Paul's companion. Not only men, but God, gave testimony to their faith (Heb 11:4, 5, 39). Thus they being testified of themselves have become "witnesses" to all others (Heb 12:1). The earlier elders had their patience exercised for a long period of life: those later, in sharper afflictions. Many things which they hoped for and did not see, subsequently came to pass and were conspicuously seen, the event confirming faith [Bengel].

For by it the elders obtained a good report - By the elders are meant ancestors, forefathers, such as the patriarchs and prophets, several of whom he afterwards particularly names, and produces some fact from the history of their lives.

It is very remarkable that among the whole there is root one word concerning poor Adam and his wife, though both Abraham and Sarah are mentioned. There was no good report concerning them; not a word of their repentance, faith, or holiness. Alas! alas! did ever such bright suns set in so thick a cloud? Had there been any thing praiseworthy in their life after their fall, any act of faith by which they could have been distinguished, it had surely come out here; the mention of their second son Abel would have suggested it. But God has covered the whole of their spiritual and eternal state with a thick and impenetrable veil. Conjectures relative to their state would be very precarious; little else than hope can be exercised in their favor: but as to them the promise of Jesus was given, so we may believe they found redemption in that blood which was shed from the foundation of the world. Adam's rebellion against his Maker was too great and too glaring to permit his name to be ever after mentioned with honor or respect.

The word εμαρτυρηθησαν, which we translate obtained a good report, literally signifies, were witnessed of; and thus leads us naturally to God, who by his word, as the succeeding parts of the chapter show, bore testimony to the faith and holiness of his servants. The apostle does not mention one of whom an account is not given in the Old Testament. This, therefore, is God's witness or testimony concerning them.

11:2 By it the elders - Our forefathers. This chapter is a kind of summary of the Old Testament, in which the apostle comprises the designs, labours, sojournings, expectations, temptations, martyrdoms of the ancients. The former of them had a long exercise of their patience; the latter suffered shorter but sharper trials. Obtained a good testimony - A most comprehensive word. God gave a testimony, not only of them but to them: and they received his testimony as if it had been the things themselves of which he testified, Heb 11:4,5,39. Hence they also gave testimony to others, and others testified of them. 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. The ancient men of God, through faith, so lived, that they have obtained a good name.
Hebrews 11:1
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