Hebrews 11:30-40 A Great Cloud Of Witnesses.
Joshua was chosen to take the baton of covenantal succession from Moses forward. Joshua and Caleb were the two out of the twelve spies who by faith in God’s word of promise, believed that it was their future to take possession of the land promised. Therefore, immediately upon entering this land, they marched in faith around the walls of Jericho, showing that the battle was the LORD’s, and all that they were called to do was to walk by faith into the future (v. 30 Cf. Josh. 6:20). Associated with this journey of faith, there is also the example of Rahab the harlot, who in lying to the authorities, bore true witness to the God who spoke the word of promise. It must not be missed that she put out a scarlet cloth from her place, not only to escape death by the people of God, but as symbolic of the blood of the Passover, which in faith she sought to keep. “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she received the spies with peace” (v. 31 Cf. Josh. 2:1, 9; 2:25; 6:23).
Our author struggles, because there are so many witnesses he could mention, who all were people of faith in the flow of salvation and covenantal history, such as bore testimony to his time when fulfillment was taking place with the Messiah who had come (v. 32a). Gideon is the next one he mentions in order. In his time, the Israelites had turned to the Baals, and in judgment the LORD sent their enemies against them, destroying their crops, and the Midianites in particular, keeping them in bondage. When the people cried out to the LORD He answered them, and He reminded them, through a prophet, of the deliverance out of Egypt. It was then in continuity with that covenant through Moses, that the LORD spoke to Gideon, through the Angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Son (Jud. 6:7-7:24). Then in obedience to the LORD he destroyed the idols of Baal (7:25ff), and would then go on, with a mere 300 warriors, to defeat the Midianites (Chs 7-8). Just prior to this there was also the victory of Barak (Jud. 4:6-24).
All these examples which our author is enumerating are those who out of obedience to the word of the LORD set out to gain the land that was promised. Like those who died in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt, it was a sin to be wanderers in the wilderness, than to be men and women of faith going forward to conquer the land that was promised. This was also the case with Samson (Cf. Jud. 13:24-16:31), and Jephthah just before him also (Cf. Jud. 11:1-29; 12:1-7). Following them there was of course David (I Sam. 16-17), Samuel before him (I Sam. 7:9-14), and all the prophets (v. 32). Their victories were victories by the LORD through faith, which “subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises” (v. 33a). What follows in the rest of verse 33 are really just examples of what we first find here-all was done through faith in the word of promise. The faith of Daniel and his companions, for example, would stop the mouth of lions, and quench the violence of fire (Dan. 6:22; 3:23-28).
Following upon Daniel and his companions, many would escape “the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again” (vv. 34-35a). The latter certainly occurred with the Lord Jesus, but this also occurred with Elijah (I Kgs. 17:22). Our author also reiterates the point that these old covenant saints did believe in the resurrection (v. 36b). Some were imprisoned, or stoned, or sawn in two, or “wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (vv. 37b-38 Cf. I Kgs. 18:4, 13, 19:9; 21:13; II Kgs. 1:8; Zech. 13:4). There were many who lived by faith, believing in the promise of the covenants (v. 39 Cf. vv. 2, 13). These were and are all witnesses (12:1), who looked forward to the time of the last days of the old covenant, and the coming of the Anointed One in the renewal of the new (v. 40 Cf. 5:9).