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Hebrews 11:37

ESV They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—
NIV They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--
NASB They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented
CSB They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated.
NLT Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.
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;

What does Hebrews 11:37 mean?

Verses 35 through 38 list some of the many hardships inflicted on those who remained faithful to God. These difficulties were experienced by the same people who obtained the amazing successes recently described (Hebrews 11:32–35). The point being made in this particular part of the book of Hebrews is that true faith—meaning trust—involves the intent to "hold fast" when we are under pressure to despair, or to abandon our faith (Hebrews 3:6; 10:23; Philippians 4:12–13).

Listing the atrocities suffered by faithful believers is meant to accomplish two major purposes. First, this serves to remind the reader that God can and will "work together for good" everything that happens in the life of those who trust in Him (Romans 8:28). Those who maintained faith in God, despite these terrible situations, were the same who saw God respond with the victories listed in this same passage. All the while, though, we are encouraged to remember that the trusting faith which pleases God is set on His ultimate plan, not our immediate circumstances (Hebrews 11:10–16).

As the end of this chapter will show, these hardships are also listed to convict the reader. This letter was originally written to persecuted Christians. By describing the truly awful experiences of some who held faith in God, those who are in less-dire circumstances should feel conviction. Other believers have endured outright torture, imprisonment, and beatings for the sake of their faith; is our "hard time" really too much for us to bear? Instead of despairing or withering under our struggles, we should be motivated to "hold fast," in no small part due to the examples of these earlier believers.

Even more convicting, these believers are still awaiting the ultimate fulfillment of God's promises, for a very humbling reason. God is extending the opportunity for salvation to us—here, now, today—delaying the rewards of those earlier believers for our sake (Hebrews 11:40)!
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