37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
They were stoned,
Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, was stoned (2 Chr 24:20–22).
they were sawn in two,
Jewish legend indicates that Isaiah’s enemies sawed him in half. Israel hated his preaching so much that they brutally killed him.
They were tempted to renounce their faith. Job faced this kind of trial, but he never abandoned his trust in the Lord.
were slain with the sword.
The sword slew a few Old Testament believers. Jezebel killed the prophets (1 Kgs 18:4, 13; 19:10).
They wandered about in sheepskins [white] and goatskins [black],
Both Elijah and Elisha wore animal skins (Nu 31:20; 2 Kg 1:8). Many prophets dressed in hairy clothes (Zech 13:4; Mt 3:4; 7:15).
being destitute, afflicted, tormented—
People ostracized from their homes those who walked by faith. These words may refer to any prophet who refused to comprise the Word of God, including Elijah and Elisha. The three descriptions here describe economic privation. “Destitute” means believers deprived of the daily necessities of life. “Afflicted” carries the idea that they were put upon by society. “Tormented” is to be ill-treated by others.
of whom the world was not worthy.
The world is not worthy of those in chapter 11 believers who suffered from exercising their faith. The “world” here is that entity that is hostile to God. God commends these men and women (Heb 11:39), but the world hates them. No one should think that these people underwent a trial of their own making. There was nothing just about it. God’s estimate of them is very different than how the world views them.
They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
Abraham, Moses, and others wandered to find a better inheritance. Without houses, they fled to dens and caves. They wandered about seeking daily sustenance.
God does not promise believers freedom from trial and pain.
Faith in God’s promises allows us to endure trial (1 Pe 1:7). Fiery trial puts the belief to the test that shows what kind of faith we have. This kind of faith is a higher value than material possessions such as gold. All of our possessions will be left behind when we meet God. The trial of our faith is more precious than anything we possess. From God’s viewpoint, it is “precious.” Faith also anticipates our glorious future (Ro 8:18).