What does Hebrews 11:33 mean?
ESV: who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
NIV: who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,
NASB: who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,
CSB: who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,
NLT: By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,
KJV: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Verse Commentary:
The prior verse rapidly listed a series of Old Testament heroes who exemplified godly faith. As defined earlier, this "faith" means a forward-looking trust in God, naturally leading to obedience (Hebrews 11:1–3). Each of the figures listed was celebrated for his victory over Israel's enemies, mostly described in the book of Judges. At the same time, these men also suffered from sins and failures, which are also recorded in the Bible. God's interest in these men was not due to their perfection, and their success was not a result of their own flawless lives. Rather, they overcame their enemies through a trust in God, which led them to obey (Hebrews 11:32).

The prior verse ended with a mention of "Samuel and the prophets," referring more or less to the entire line of Old Testament prophets. Just as the former verse rapidly listed the names of Old Testament heroes, verses 33, 34, and 35 summarize the stunning successes gained by these men who lived by faith. The feats named here are meant to include all of the faithful from the Old Testament, not merely the prophets. The accomplishments seem to build, climaxing with a reference to the greatest possible victory: resurrection from death. The text then transitions to describe the kind of hardships these believers endured.

As seen in the lives of heroes already listed in this chapter, those who obediently lived out faith in God were able to achieve military success (Joshua 3:7; 6:20), turn back those who oppressed Israel (Judges 8:28), and see God fulfill His promises (Exodus 13:8–9). Some, like Daniel, even miraculously survived in the presence of lions (Daniel 6:19–23).
Verse Context:
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.
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.
Accessed 4/16/2024 1:31:08 AM
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