Hebrews 11: 8–22 Hebrews 11: 8–22by David M. L e v y
Now the book of Hebrews moves from the faith of men before the flood to the faith of
men in the patriarchal period. The
author uses Abraham’s faith to illustrate the type of commitment Jewish
believers in Christ should emulate.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he
was called” by God and immediately
left Ur of the Chaldeans, “not knowing
where he was going.” With his wife,
Sarah, and nephew Lot, he traveled to
Canaan, which became the land of
promise that “he would receive as an
inheritance” (Heb. 11: 8).
By faith, Abraham settled in this
foreign country “with Isaac and Jacob,
the heirs with him of the same promise” (v. 9). He lived a nomadic life,
dwelling in Shechem, Bethel, Hebron,
and Beersheba. The only land Abraham
owned in Canaan was the burial plot
at Machpelah that he purchased for
Sarah (Gen. 23).
Abraham had no permanent house
(he lived in a tent) throughout his life
because “he waited for the city which has
foundations, whose builder and maker is
God” (Heb. 11: 10). His eyes were not
fixed on an earthly city but on a heavenly,
eternal one—the New Jerusalem whose
architect was God (v. 16; 12: 22; 13: 14; Rev.
21:1—22: 5). Since Abraham’s faith was
fixed not on his temporal but on his ulti-
mate destiny, he could wait obediently
with patient endurance until God’s
promises to him would be fulfilled.
Along with Abraham, Hebrews
calls Sarah a person of faith:
By faith Sarah herself also received
strength to conceive seed, and she bore
a child when she was past the age,
because she judged Him faithful who
had promised. Therefore from one
man, and him as good as dead, were
born as many as the stars of the sky in
multitude—innumerable as the sand
which is by the seashore (Heb. 11: 11–
12; cf. Gen. 11:29—23: 2).
Sarah knew God had revealed to
Abraham that He would give him a son.
But her faith wavered because she was
barren for years and well past the age of
childbearing. On hearing the news, she
laughed at such a thought (Gen. 18: 10–
15); but a year later (after Isaac’s birth),
she laughed with joy. Sarah had excep-
tional faith to believe she would become
pregnant, carry the child to full term,
and have the strength to survive child-
birth at 90 years of age (17: 17).
In the midst of talking about
Abraham and his descendants, the
author stopped abruptly to reflect on
how these patriarchs lived by faith
(Heb. 11: 13–16). All of them (Abraham,
Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph) died in faith,
never receiving the promises given to