The Father of Faith Hebrews 11:8–22 – Israel My Glory (2024)

Now the book of Hebrews moves from the faith of men before the flood to the faith of men in the patriarchal period. The author uses Abraham’s faith to illustrate the type of commitment Jewish believers in Christ should emulate.

Submissive Faith
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called” by God and immediately left Ur of the Chaldeans, “not knowing where he was going.” With his wife, Sarah, and nephew Lot, he traveled to Canaan, which became the land of promise that “he would receive as an inheritance” (Heb. 11:8).

By faith, Abraham settled in this foreign country “with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (v. 9). He lived a nomadic life, dwelling in Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, and Beersheba. The only land Abraham owned in Canaan was the burial plot at Machpelah that he purchased for Sarah (Gen. 23).

Abraham had no permanent house (he lived in a tent) throughout his life because “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). His eyes were not fixed on an earthly city but on a heavenly, eternal one—the New Jerusalem whose architect was God (v. 16; 12:22; 13:14; Rev. 21:1—22:5). Since Abraham’s faith was fixed not on his temporal but on his ultimate destiny, he could wait obediently with patient endurance until God’s promises to him would be fulfilled.

Keep in mind how great Abraham’s faith was: He trusted God totally for the route he would take from Ur; he had no promise of inheriting any land during his journey because God only told him of the land inheritance after he reached Shechem (Gen. 12:6); and though he was promised the land by divine decree, he never took possession of it during his lifetime.

Sarah’s Faith
Along with Abraham, Hebrews calls Sarah a person of faith:

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore (Heb. 11:11–12; cf. Gen. 11:29—23:2).

Sarah knew God had revealed to Abraham that He would give him a son. But her faith wavered because she was barren for years and well past the age of childbearing. On hearing the news, she laughed at such a thought (Gen. 18:10–15); but a year later (after Isaac’s birth), she laughed with joy. Sarah had exceptional faith to believe she would become pregnant, carry the child to full term, and have the strength to survive childbirth at 90 years of age (17:17).

All commentators consider the phrase received strength to conceive seed a difficult text. Scholars take various positions on whether it refers to Abraham receiving strength to impregnate Sarah or Sarah receiving strength to conceive. The first position teaches that Abraham’s faith is the subject of the phrase and that he alone caused Sarah to conceive. Because of Abraham’s faith, Sarah received “strength” (power) to conceive after menopause. Therefore, God honored the faith of Abraham, not Sarah, in giving him Isaac.

The second position says Sarah is the subject of the verse and that it should be read that, even at her advanced age, she did her part in conceiving a child. Whichever interpretation one takes, Sarah possessed exceptional faith in this situation.

Hebrews 11:12 concludes, “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” A number of wonderful applications can be made. First, every Jewish person ever born was conceived because Abraham exercised faith and trust in God’s promise. Second, God was willing and able to provide the promised son, but He acted on the basis of Abraham’s faith. Third, Abraham, though 90 years old, did not waver at God’s promise but, by faith, claimed the impossible. Fourth, God honored Abraham’s faith and gave him a vast multitude of descendants. Fifth, the key to the impossible is faith in God.

Steadfast Faith
In the midst of talking about Abraham and his descendants, the author stopped abruptly to reflect on how these patriarchs lived by faith (Heb. 11:13–16). All of them (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph) died in faith, never receiving the promises given to them—many of which were contained in the Abrahamic Covenant that was passed down to Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 12:1–7; 26:2–5, 24; 28:10–15; 35:9–12; 46:2–4). These men steadfastly clung to the promises, though they saw them “afar off” (Heb. 11:13).

Although the patriarchs could only view these promises from a distance, they “were assured of them, [and] embraced them” (v. 13). Their faith gave them inner conviction that all God promised them would eventually be theirs—if not in their lifetimes, in the generations to follow.

They “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (v. 13; cf. Gen. 47:9; Ps. 39:12). They had no citizenship in the land in which they lived and “declare[d] plainly that they [sought] a homeland” (Heb. 11:14), but one much different from Ur in Mesopotamia or the land of Canaan.

Truly, if Abraham had yearned to return to Ur, he had many opportunities to do so (v. 15), but he and his posterity “desire[d] a better, that is, a heavenly country” (v. 16). The word desire means to “stretch out, yearn and strive after”; it was a continual, consuming desire that pervaded their lives on Earth.

The patriarchs were steadfast in their faith with a view to the promises of God: “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (v. 16). In other words, Abraham and his posterity did not go back to where they came from or doubt God’s promises. Thus God was not ashamed of them, nor were they ashamed to call Him their God. The precise nature of the city they were looking to receive is described in Hebrews 12:22–24 and Revelation 21:1—22:5.

Sacrificing Faith
Abraham’s character and faith were tested to the ultimate degree. He was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative [parable] sense” (Heb. 11:17–19; cf. Gen. 22:1–19).

God told Abraham to take Isaac to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Although Ishmael (through Hagar) was Abraham’s first son, Isaac is identified as “his only begotten son” (Heb. 11:17). This means that Isaac was unique and irreplaceable because he was the only son promised through Sarah and the son who would inherit the covenant promises passed down from Abraham.

The words offered up (v. 17) appear twice, first in the perfect then in the imperfect tense. In God’s mind, the act of offering Isaac was already completed, and He had already accepted it before Abraham put Isaac on the altar. Abraham’s obedience was a great act of faith. He knew God had promised him many descendants through Isaac who was the long-awaited son of promise and miraculous child of his old age. Abraham must have struggled trying to reconcile God’s command to offer Isaac and the promise of descendants through Isaac; but neither Genesis nor Hebrews addresses this issue. It seems that Abraham left the problem with God (Rom. 4:20–21).

So convinced was he that God would fulfill His promises that he believed God would raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:19). In fact, Abraham had told his servant, “The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5, emphasis added). Abraham must have been convinced that, if God could birth Isaac through two reproductively dead bodies (Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born), He could raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:12). The phrase also received him in a figurative sense (v. 19) means Abraham received Isaac from the dead, not literally but symbolically.

Sons of Faith
The book now moves from Abraham’s faith to that of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. It mentions incidents near the end of their lives, probably to emphasize that they, like Abraham, trusted God’s promises throughout their lives.

  • “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (v. 20; cf. Gen. 27:1—28:5). Isaac was a man of faith and believed in God’s promises to Abraham his father (Gen. 28:4).
  • “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph” (Heb. 11:21; cf. Gen. 48). Although Jacob blessed all his sons while on his death bed (Gen. 49), the author only mentioned the blessing of Joseph’s sons. Jacob knew he would die before God’s promises would be fulfilled, yet by faith he passed the blessing on according to God’s will. Both Isaac and Jacob manifested the same faith in the promises given to Abraham.
  • “By faith Joseph, when he was dying…gave instructions concerning his bones” (Heb. 11:22; cf. Gen. 50:24–26). The author could have illustrated Joseph’s faith many ways, but he chose this incident because it clearly shows how strongly Joseph believed God would fulfill the promises made to his forefathers. His request was the same as his father Jacob’s, yet he knew he would never live to see the promises fulfilled. During the Exodus, Moses honored Joseph’s request and brought his bones up from Egypt (Ex. 13:19; Josh. 24:32).

The men of faith who lived in this period of Israel’s history were highly cherished by the Jewish people. During times of persecution, the patriarchs’ faith and endurance gave them hope and encouraged them never to give up their faith. The hope was that Jewish believers would emulate these men of faith.

The Father of Faith Hebrews 11:8–22 – Israel My Glory (1)

David M. Levy is a Bible teacher, author, former pastor, and the retired director of International Ministries for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

The Father of Faith Hebrews 11:8–22 – Israel My Glory (2024)


Who is the father of faith in Hebrews 11? ›

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

Who was the father of faith in the Bible? ›

For Christians, Abraham is seen as the “father of the faith” and is honored for his obedience. The Apostle Paul expands the concept of being a descendent of Abraham when he writes in his letter to the Galatians: “So also Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteous- ness.”

How does Hebrews 11 define faith? ›

The closest that the Bible comes to offering an exact definition is Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” From this particular passage we see that the central feature of faith is confidence or trust.

Can you believe in God without faith? ›

6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for. he who comes to God must believe that He is and that. He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Who is our father in faith? ›

Abraham, or Abram, has been called our father in faith, and a great model of faith; and the apostle Paul and reformer Luther have cited our Genesis reading today as the case in point. So if we want to talk about what faith really is, Abraham's story seems like a good place to start.

Who is considered the father of the Hebrew people and faith? ›

In Jewish tradition, Abraham is called Avraham Avinu (אברהם אבינו), "our father Abraham," signifying that he is both the biological progenitor of the Jews and the father of Judaism, the first Jew.

What is the meaning of Hebrews 11 22? ›

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.

Why is faith so important to God? ›

Without faith, we simply cannot please God. Faith in God's character and promises motivates us to love and obey Him. When we don't have faith, we start to believe bad, untrue things about God. We believe that He's not good, loving, and faithful.

What pleases God the most? ›

When we put our faith in Jesus as our Savior, we are pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him.” Faith comes from the heart (Rom. 10:10), and God looks on the heart — not the actions (1 Sam.

What kind of faith pleases God? ›

The Bible also shows us that not just any faith will do. We cannot expect God to be pleased with a faith just because we approve of it. The faith that pleases God is a belief that comes from God, not from some other source or from within ourselves.

What's the difference between faith and belief? ›

Faith involves reliance and trust, and it endures in the face of doubts, whereas belief is simply something we take to be true. “I can have faith in things or people without a corresponding belief, and I can believe things that I don't have faith in,” he said.

Who is the father of word of faith? ›

History. The Baptist minister E.W. Kenyon (1867–1948) is generally cited as the originator of Word of Faith's teachings. Kenyon's writings influenced Kenneth Hagin Sr., the recognized "father" of the Word of Faith movement.

Who are the men of faith in Hebrews 11? ›

Faith Exemplified (Hebrews 11:4-38):

It features various individuals who glorified God through their outstanding faith. From Abel, Enoch, and Noah to Abraham, Sarah, and Moses, these men and women proved that faith can lead us to please God, defeat sin, and bring positive change to an evil world.

Who is the father in the faith Bible verse? ›

Abraham, our father of faith, believed God, and the substance of his faith released God's righteousness to him. So the true children of Abraham have the same faith as their father! And the Scripture prophesied that on the basis of faith God would declare gentiles to be righteous.

Why is Hebrews 11 called the Hall of faith? ›

Simply put, chapter 11, called the “Hall of faith” or “Faith Hall of fame,” is a list of men and women who were determined to follow God. Though they lived in different times and faced different circ*mstances, each of them chose to show loyalty to the Lord.

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