What does Hebrews 11:19 mean?
ESV: He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
NIV: Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
NASB: He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
CSB: He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead; therefore, he received him back, figuratively speaking.
NLT: Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
KJV: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
NKJV: concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
Verse Commentary:
Faith, in a biblical sense, is not blind. It is based on prior experience, and means trusting that God can work in ways we cannot immediately see (Hebrews 1:1–3). The ultimate example of this type of faith is Abraham's obedience to God, when commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1–14). This was the same son through whom God had sworn to fulfill His promises to Abraham (Hebrews 11:18; Genesis 21:12). In literal terms, this command would seem to be a violation of God's nature, as well as a break in His agreement with Abraham.

And yet, Abraham had seen God provide him with a son despite doubts and delays (Genesis 17:17; 21:5). Abraham had seen God rescue Lot (Genesis 19:15–16), despite Abraham's fears about the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 18:22–23). So, when God gave His mysterious command, Abraham was willing to trust in God and obey—proving by his actions that he possessed a true, godly faith (James 2:14–17). For this reason, he was not only rewarded by God (Genesis 22:15–18), who never intended to let Isaac die (Genesis 22:12), but he became an example of faith for the rest of humanity.

Here, the writer of Hebrews offers one of the justifications Abraham would have held as part of his faith in God. At the time Abraham spoke with God, Scripture had not recorded any instances of God bringing someone back from the dead. And yet, Abraham's faith in God's assurances was strong enough that he felt God could resurrect Isaac, if need be. Poetically speaking, God did "bring back" Isaac from death, by sparing him after Abraham had committed to follow through with the sacrifice.
Verse Context:
Hebrews 11:17–31 makes a subtle shift from the prior verses. Earlier, the writer had given examples of faithful obedience leading to God's blessings. Those cases were mostly general, where a willingness to trust God was weighed against an uncertain future. In this passage, however, we are shown men and women who chose to trust God despite immediate, personal hardships. This, as well, is a crucial aspect of faith, which the writer has already defined as a confident trust in God.
Chapter Summary:
True, godly faith is defined as trust, relying on God when looking to the future, and obeying even when we don't fully understand all details. The great figures of the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Moses, and David, all lived according to this type of faith. Ultimately, that means trusting God's intent to make good on His promises from an eternal perspective. The model of faith presented by those people, in light of the struggles they faced, ought to inspire Christians towards a more confident, purposeful faith.
Chapter Context:
Up to this point, the book of Hebrews has given extensive evidence proving that Jesus Christ, and the new covenant He brought about, is God's ultimate plan for mankind's salvation. Chapter 10 provided an additional warning about the danger of falling away from this truth. Chapter 11 begins by clarifying the meaning of the word ''faith,'' primarily by listing examples of Old Testament figures who exemplify it. The ultimate application of this knowledge should be a motivation to ''hold fast'' to the gospel, despite hardships. That encouragement is a major theme of chapter 12.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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