Read Introduction to Hebrews

11 So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”

11 So [as] I swore in My wrath,

The word “swore” indicates that God made an oath about Israel not entering the Promised Land. This indicates something of the intensity of how God viewed spiritual failure. As result of some Israelites’ unbelief about the promised land God did not allow those who initially came out of Egypt to go in (Nu 14:20-35; Deut 1:34-40).

God pronounces a verdict on the Israelites of old by an oath. The oath is the next phrase “they shall not enter My rest.” By accepting the report of the ten spies God made a final decision about their future. God’s oath made His decision irrevocable.

‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”

“Rest” in this context is Israel’s right to enter in the Promised Land. The theocratic nation could rest after entering God’s provision of a national entity. The word “rest” means to cease from activity. The compound for “rest” here means to change from activity to period of refreshing tranquility.

Many Israelites at Kadesh-barnea died; God did not permit the generation that came out of Egypt to enter the Promised Land. Those born during the 40 years of wandering were permitted to enter the land. This is based on Numbers 14:28-30. The unbelief early as Meribah (Ex 17:1-7) manifested full-blown rebellion against God later at Kadesh-barnea. Rebellion leads to catastrophic failure in living for God.

The failure of Israel was not a refusal to believe on the Messiah to receive eternal life but rejection of God’s promise to lead them to the Promised Land. It was an issue of God’s mission for them rather than of their salvation. “Rest” is not heaven but the Promised Land itself.

God declared that the “rest” Israel forfeited at Kadesh-barnea is still available to the readers of the book of Hebrews (He 4:1-11). The word “rest” occurs 8 times in this and the next chapter.

“Rest” in Psalm 95:11 is the right to worship in the presence of the Lord and to enjoy covenantal blessings. The first six verses are a call to worship (Ps 95:1-6). The book of Hebrews exhorts its readers to enter God’s sabbath rest (He 4:9-10). The emphasis in chapter four is not on cessation of activities but on the privilege to celebrate God’s presence among believers. The Sabbath celebration was designed to be a time of festive praise. This kind of “rest” is available to Christians today (He 4:4). Thus, rest for the New Testament believer is worship of God because of the safety of His presence.

“Rest” in Hebrews has to do with Jewish Christians who were about to revert to Judaism. Their challenge was to “hold fast” their confidence in Christ (He 3:6, 14). Otherwise, they might lose their physical lives (He 3:17-19). They need to enter “His rest” (He 4:1,3) by placing their faith in the life-sustaining God (He 4:4). The resting place for believers is the heavenly sanctuary where Jesus is now seated (He 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2) serving as the believer’s High Priest (He 3:1; 4:14; 7:25-8:2; 9:11-15, 23-26; 10:19-22).

Israel is a picture of the believer’s walk with God. They could have claimed God’s promises, but they did not do so because of unbelief that God would deliver them from the “giants” of the land. The Promise Land is a picture of claiming the promises of God. God’s “rest” is the enjoyment of His blessings, His promises.


Unbelief is a forerunner to failure in the Christian life.


The context of the quotation of this verse was when Israelites approached the Promised Land. God sent out twelve men to spy out the land from Kadesh-barnea. The majority (10) came back with a negative report. They saw their enemies as giants and themselves as “grasshoppers.” The minority report from Caleb and Joshua was optimistic. Most people believed the majority report and complained to Moses and Aaron. They refused to enter the Promised Land. We find God’s response to this unbelief in Numbers 14:22-23. He did not allow the people who initially came from Egypt to enter the Promised Land. He did not permit Moses himself to enter the land.

The privilege of worshiping God can be jeopardized by a hard heart (Ps 95:8-10). There are consequences for unbelief.