What does Hebrews 11:38 mean?
ESV: of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
NIV: the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
NASB: ( people of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, on mountains, and sheltering in caves and holes in the ground.
CSB: The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
NLT: They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
KJV: (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Verse Commentary:
The opening phrase of this verse is especially poignant, given the list of atrocities which led up to it. The writer of Hebrews has cataloged some of the horrible evils inflicted on those who "held fast" (Hebrews 10:23) to their faith in God (Hebrews 11:35–37). The purpose of listing these evils is to point out that those with a godly faith—a forward-looking trust in God—can endure these kinds of persecutions. And, that God will honor those who maintain their faith even when the world makes it hard to be faithful.

Further, as the last two verses of this chapter will explain, knowing how much earlier believers have suffered ought to convict those who hear the gospel today. Those prior heroes were looking forward to God's ultimate, final fulfillment of His promises (Hebrews 11:10–16). Not only did these believers die before God had brought about that end, they are still waiting for God to complete His plan (Hebrews 11:39). This means that we, those who are alive and hearing the gospel today, are especially blessed by God. He is waiting to judge the world—even waiting to give His promised rewards to heroes of old—for our sake!

This verse also references the earthly poverty often experienced by those who are faithful to God. Moses, in an earlier example, was said to have turned away from the riches of his adoptive Egyptian home, in order to faithfully identify with his Hebrew family (Hebrews 11:24–26).
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 12:55:59 AM
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