Hebrews 11:37

37 1They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a]2they were killed with the sword. 3They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated--

Hebrews 11:37 Meaning and Commentary

Hebrews 11:37

They were stoned
As Naboth, by the order of Ahab, ( 1 Kings 21:13-19 ) , Zachariah in the court of the Lord's house; ( 2 Chronicles 24:21 ) and the character of Jerusalem is, that she stoned the prophets that were sent unto her, ( Matthew 23:37 ) .

They were sawn asunder;
to which there seems to be an allusion in ( Matthew 24:51 ) . There is no instance of any good men being so used in Scripture: perhaps reference is had to some that suffered thus in the time of Antiochus. The Jews have a tradition, that the Prophet Isaiah was sawn asunder in the times of Manasseh, and by his order; which some think the apostle refers unto; though it seems to be all fictitious, and ill put together. The tradition is in both Talmuds: in the one, the account is this: F26 that

``Manasseh sought to kill Isaiah, and he fled from him, and fled to a cedar, and the cedar swallowed him up, all but the fringe of his garment; they came and told him (Manasseh), he said unto them, go and saw the cedar, (wronw) , "and they sawed the cedar", and blood was seen to come out.''

And in the other F1 thus,

``says R. Simeon ben Azzai, I found a book of genealogies in Jerusalem, and in it was written that Manasseh slew Isaiah.''

And after relating the occasion of it, being some passages in Isaiah Manasseh was displeased with and objected to; and the prophet not thinking it worth his while to return an answer, or attempt to reconcile them with other passages, objected, knowing that the king would use him contemptuously; he is made to say,

``I will swallow (or put myself into) a cedar, they brought the cedar, (wronw) , "and sawed it asunder", and when it (the saw) came to his mouth, he expired.''

Another Jewish writer F2 out of the Midrash, reports it thus;

``Manasseh sought to slay him, and Isaiah fled, and the Lord remembered him, and he was swallowed up in the middle of a tree; but there remained without the tree the fringe of his garment; and then Manasseh ordered the tree to be cut down, and Isaiah died.''

And it is become a generally received opinion of the ancient Christian writers, that Isaiah was sawn asunder; as of Justin Martyr {c}, Origen F4, Tertullian F5, Lactantius F6, Athanasius F7, Hilary F8, Cyril of Jerusalem F9, Gregory Nyssene F11, Jerom F12, Isidorus Pelusiota F13, Gregentius F14, Procopius Gazaeus F15, and others; but more persons seem to be designed:

were tempted;
either by God, as Abraham, and Job; or by the devil, as all the saints are; or rather by cruel tyrants, to deny the faith, and renounce the worship of God, as Eleazar, and the seven brethren with their mother; at least some of them were, 2 Maccabees 6,7. Some think the true reading is (eprhyhsan) , "were burned"; as one of the seven brethren were in the Apocrytha,

``Now when he was thus maimed in all his members, he commanded him being yet alive to be brought to the fire, and to be fried in the pan: and as the vapour of the pan was for a good space dispersed, they exhorted one another with the mother to die manfully, saying thus,'' (2 Maccabees 7:5)

and as Zedekiah and Ahab were roasted in the fire, by the king of Babylon, ( Jeremiah 29:22 ) though they were lying prophets, and cannot be referred to here; see ( Daniel 11:33 ) . This clause is wanting in the Syriac version:

were slain with the sword;
as the priests at Nob, by the order of Saul; ( 1 Samuel 22:18 1 Samuel 22:19 ) . The prophets of the Lord by Jezebel, ( 1 Kings 18:22 ) ( 19:10 ) and many in the times of the Maccabees; ( Daniel 11:33 ) and in the Apocrypha:

``And there were destroyed within the space of three whole days fourscore thousand, whereof forty thousand were slain in the conflict; and no fewer sold than slain.'' (2 Maccabees 5:14)

they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins;
with the wool or hair upon them; and with such Elijah and Elisha might be arrayed; since the former is said to be a hairy man, or covered with a hairy garment, as John the Baptist was, who came in his spirit and power, and also in his form; and the latter, wore the mantle of the other; ( 2 Kings 1:8 ) ( 2 Kings 2:8 2 Kings 2:14 ) and to these reference may be had, who were obliged to wander about, because of those who sought their lives; and was the case of others who were forced, by reason of persecution, to quit their habitations, and wander abroad; and some clothed themselves in this manner, to show their contempt of the world, and their contentment with mean apparel; and others, because they could get no other raiment:

[being] destitute;
of bodily food, as Elijah, who was fed by ravens, and by the widow of Zarephath; ( 1 Kings 17:6-15 ) ,

pressed, drove to the greatest straits, despairing of, life, and weary of it, as the same prophet, ( 1 Kings 19:4-10 ) ,

or evilly treated, reproached, vilified, persecuted, and made the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things.


F26 T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 28. 3.
F1 T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 49. 2.
F2 Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 12. 2.
F3 Dialog. cum Tryph. p. 249.
F4 In Jer. Homil. 19. p. 197. in lsa. Homil. 1. fol. 101. & in Matt. Homil. 26. fol. 51.
F5 De Patientia, c. 14. Scorpiace, c. 8.
F6 De vera sapientia, l. 4. c. 11.
F7 Vol. I. de Incarnat. p. 55, 65. Vol. II. dicta & Interpret. Parab. p. 325, 353.
F8 Contr. Constant, p. 199. & enarrat. in Psal. cxviii. p. 465.
F9 Cateches. 2. sect. 9. p. 29. & Cateches. 13. sect. 3. p. 169.
F11 Vol. II. de Castigat. p. 749.
F12 In Isa. lvii. 2.
F13 L. 4. Ep. 205.
F14 Disputat. cum Herbano Judaeo, p. 19.
F15 In Reg. l. 4. c. 21. 16.

Hebrews 11:37 In-Context

35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
37 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--
38 of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,

Cross References 3

  • 1. 1 Kings 21:13; 2 Chronicles 24:21
  • 2. 1 Kings 19:10; Jeremiah 26:23
  • 3. 2 Kings 1:8

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Some manuscripts add they were tempted
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