What does Hebrews 11:32 mean?
ESV: And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—
NIV: And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets,
NASB: And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,
CSB: And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets,
NLT: How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.
KJV: And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
Prior verses gave a certain level of detail, pointing to various Old Testament examples. These were given to show how godly faith—which really means trust—was exemplified by the actions of these figures. This trusting obedience not only proved their reliance on God, it also resulted in victory (Hebrews 11:17–31). That sense of victory, driven by obedience, itself inspired by godly faith, is the theme of these next few verses. In this passage, the writer will present a reminder of just how much God has proven His power, through the faithful obedience of His people.
Instead of detail, however, the writer makes this point through volume. Multiple heroes of Israeli history are mentioned here, as are numerous examples of divine intervention, leading up to the ultimate sign of divine victory: resurrection from death (Hebrews 11:35).
While these figures are all linked by their success, they are also notable for imperfections. Scripture describes people as they truly are, and even these heroes of the faith are linked to personal failures. That only serves to further emphasize God's ability to use sinful, error-prone people to complete His will. It should also help to encourage those who have struggled with sin not to give up. They, too, can "hold fast" to their faith, seeing how God was able to give victory even to those who made mistakes.
Gideon started off as a coward, hiding from the enemy (Judges 6:11), and hesitant to believe God's promises (Judges 6:36–40). Eventually, he obeyed God, even in a seemingly-impossible fight (Judges 7:8), and obtained victory for Israel (Judges 7:22–23).
Barak was so plagued by doubt and insecurity that he could not fight God's enemies without the overt spiritual support of a woman, Deborah (Judges 4:4–9). In that culture, this would have been seen as unthinkable, even shameful. And yet, by acting on God's promises, he was successful in spite of great opposition (Judges 4:15–16).
It would be fair to say that Samson's personal flaws are not merely part of his story, they are his story (Judges 14—16). Yet it was God who enabled Samson such stunning success against the Philistines (Judges 14:4; 15:14–15), even in his own death (Judges 16:28–30).
Jephthah obtained victory (Judges 11:32–33), due to his faith in God (Judges 11:29), and in spite of his shameful birth (Judges 11:1–2), but proved he lacked common sense by making a rash vow (Judges 11:30–31). The emphasis here, of course, is on his success due to his obedience to God.
David, the greatest of Israel's kings, achieved all of his success as a direct result of honoring and obeying God (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 17:37). Even David, however, was linked to sin and error (2 Samuel 11:2–5), some of which led to the destruction of his own family (2 Samuel 12:10–15).
Samuel and the prophets, likewise, are credited with amazing miracles and feats of evangelism. Upcoming verses will summarize a few of these accomplishments.
Hebrews 11:32—12:2 is one of Scripture's most stirring and inspirational passages. The theme of earlier verses was Old Testament heroes who exemplified faith, defined as a forward-looking trust in God. The emphasis of these examples moved from general faith, to faith in the face of hard choices, to faith resulting in victory. Here, the writer includes all of these, in a rapid-fire list of people who demonstrated the power of true, godly faith. As a letter delivered to persecuted Jewish Christians, these examples are meant to be encouraging and inspiring, as well as convicting. God waited to deliver the ultimate fulfillment of His promises so that we—those who are alive now—would have an opportunity to be saved. Given that privilege, Christians ought to strive to endure, and to hold fast, living out that same godly faith.
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.
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.
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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