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Hebrews 11:33

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Who through faith subdued kingdoms - As Joshua, who subdued the seven Canaanitish nations; and David, who subdued the Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, and Edomites. 2 Samuel 8, etc.

Wrought righteousness - Did a great variety of works indicative of that faith in God without which it is impossible to do any thing that is good.

Obtained promises - This is supposed to refer to Joshua and Caleb, who, through their faith in God, obtained the promised land, while all the rest of the Israelites were excluded; to Phineas also, who, for his act of zealous faith in slaying Zimri and Cosbi, got the promise of an everlasting priesthood; and to David, who, for his faith and obedience, obtained the kingdom of Israel, and had the promise that from his seed the Messiah should spring.

Stopped the mouths of lions - Daniel, who, though cast into a den of lions for his fidelity to God, was preserved among them unhurt, and finally came to great honor.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Who through faith subdued kingdoms - That is, those specified in the previous verses, and others like them. The meaning is, that some of them subdued kingdoms, others obtained promises, etc. Thus, Joshua subdued the nations of Canaan; Gideon the Midianites; Jephtha the Ammonites; David the Philistines, Amalekites, Jebusites, Edomites, etc.

Wrought righteousness - Carried the laws of justice into execution, particularly on guilty nations. They executed the great purposes of God in punishing the wicked, and in cutting off his foes.

Obtained promises - Or obtained “promised blessings” (Bloomfield, Stuart); that is, they obtained as a result of their faith, promises of blessings on their posterity in future times.

Stopped the mouths of lions - As Samson, Judges 14:6; David, 1 Samuel 17:34 ff; and particularly Daniel; Daniel 6:7, following To be able to subdue and render harmless the king of the forest - the animal most dreaded in early times - was regarded as an eminent achievement.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
After all our searches into the Scriptures, there is more to be learned from them. We should be pleased to think, how great the number of believers was under the Old Testament, and how strong their faith, though the objects of it were not then so fully made known as now. And we should lament that now, in gospel times, when the rule of faith is more clear and perfect, the number of believers should be so small, and their faith so weak. It is the excellence of the grace of faith, that, while it helps men to do great things, like Gideon, it keeps from high and great thoughts of themselves. Faith, like Barak's, has recourse unto God in all dangers and difficulties, and then makes grateful returns to God for all mercies and deliverances. By faith, the servants of God shall overcome even the roaring lion that goeth about seeking whom he may devour. The believer's faith endures to the end, and, in dying, gives him victory over death and all his deadly enemies, like Samson. The grace of God often fixes upon very undeserving and ill-deserving persons, to do great things for them and by them. But the grace of faith, wherever it is, will put men upon acknowledging God in all their ways, as Jephthah. It will make men bold and courageous in a good cause. Few ever met with greater trials, few ever showed more lively faith, than David, and he has left a testimony as to the trials and acts of faith, in the book of Psalms, which has been, and ever will be, of great value to the people of God. Those are likely to grow up to be distinguished for faith, who begin betimes, like Samuel, to exercise it. And faith will enable a man to serve God and his generation, in whatever way he may be employed. The interests and powers of kings and kingdoms, are often opposed to God and his people; but God can easily subdue all that set themselves against him. It is a greater honour and happiness to work righteousness than to work miracles. By faith we have comfort of the promises; and by faith we are prepared to wait for the promises, and in due time to receive them. And though we do not hope to have our dead relatives or friends restored to life in this world, yet faith will support under the loss of them, and direct to the hope of a better resurrection. Shall we be most amazed at the wickedness of human nature, that it is capable of such awful cruelties to fellow-creatures, or at the excellence of Divine grace, that is able to bear up the faithful under such cruelties, and to carry them safely through all? What a difference between God's judgement of a saint, and man's judgment! The world is not worthy of those scorned, persecuted saints, whom their persecutors reckon unworthy to live. They are not worthy of their company, example, counsel, or other benefits. For they know not what a saint is, nor the worth of a saint, nor how to use him; they hate, and drive such away, as they do the offer of Christ and his grace.
Ellen G. White
Lift Him Up, 368.6

But before you can expect this help, you must do what you can on your part. Watch and pray. Let your prayers be fervent. Let this be the language of your heart, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Have a set time, a special season for prayer at least three times a day. Morning, noon, and at night Daniel prayed to his God, notwithstanding the king's decree, and the fearful den of lions. He was not ashamed or afraid to pray, but with his windows opened he prayed three times a day. Did God forget His faithful servant when he was cast into the lions’ den? O, No. He was with him there all night. He closed the mouths of these hungry lions, and they could not hurt the praying man of God (Youth's Instructor, October 1, 1855). LHU 368.6

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Ellen G. White
In Heavenly Places, 268.3

“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Hebrews 11:33-37). HP 268.3

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 157

Faith such as this is needed in the world today—faith that will lay hold on the promises of God's word and refuse to let go until Heaven hears. Faith such as this connects us closely with Heaven, and brings us strength for coping with the powers of darkness. Through faith God's children have “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” Hebrews 11:33, 34. And through faith we today are to reach the heights of God's purpose for us. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Mark 9:23. PK 157.1

Faith is an essential element of prevailing prayer. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” “If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 5:14, 15. With the persevering faith of Jacob, with the unyielding persistence of Elijah, we may present our petitions to the Father, claiming all that He has promised. The honor of His throne is staked for the fulfillment of His word. PK 157.2

The shades of night were gathering about Mount Carmel as Ahab prepared for the descent. “It came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.” As he journeyed toward the royal city through the darkness and the blinding rain, Ahab was unable to see his way before him. Elijah, who, as the prophet of God, had that day humiliated Ahab before his subjects and slain his idolatrous priests, still acknowledged him as Israel's king; and now, as an act of homage, and strengthened by the power of God, he ran before the royal chariot, guiding the king to the entrance of the city. PK 158.1

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 513

Caleb obtained the inheritance upon which his heart had been set for forty years, and, trusting in God to be with him, he “drove thence the three sons of Anak.” Having thus secured a possession for himself and his house, his zeal did not abate; he did not settle down to enjoy his inheritance, but pushed on to further conquests for the benefit of the nation and the glory of God. PP 513.1

The cowards and rebels had perished in the wilderness, but the righteous spies ate of the grapes of Eschol. To each was given according to his faith. The unbelieving had seen their fears fulfilled. Notwithstanding God's promise, they had declared that it was impossible to inherit Canaan, and they did not possess it. But those who trusted in God, looking not so much to the difficulties to be encountered as to the strength of their Almighty Helper, entered the goodly land. It was through faith that the ancient worthies “subdued kingdoms, ... escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” Hebrews 11:33, 34. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4. PP 513.2

Another claim concerning the division of the land revealed a spirit widely different from that of Caleb. It was presented by the children of Joseph, the tribe of Ephraim with the half tribe of Manasseh. In consideration of their superior numbers, these tribes demanded a double portion of territory. The lot designated for them was the richest in the land, including the fertile plain of Sharon; but many of the principal towns in the valley were still in possession of the Canaanites, and the tribes shrank from the toil and danger of conquering their possessions, and desired an additional portion in territory already subdued. The tribe of Ephraim was one of the largest in Israel, as well as the one to which Joshua himself belonged, and its members naturally regarded themselves as entitled to special consideration. “Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit,” they said, “seeing I am a great people?” But no departure from strict justice could be won from the inflexible leader. PP 513.3

His answer was, “If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if Mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.” PP 513.4

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