4) Heb 11:5–6: The author of Hebrews sought to lessen the influence of those who persecuted the recipients of this letter (Heb 10:32–34). The writer called them to shift their focus to seeking the Lord’s approval, rather than directing their attention to the people surrounding them.[1]

Therefore, this chapter concerning Old Testament (OT) heroes emphasizes their faith and their spiritual demeanor (Heb 11).[2]

This passage pays tribute to the obscure figure Enoch,[3] noting that he received divine approval.[4] Genesis 5:21–24 does not explicitly mention Enoch’s trust in the Lord.[5] However, in this text he shines forth as an example of a “righteous one who by faith shall live” (Heb 10:35–39).[6]

The author began by writing, “By faith Enoch was transposed. He did not see death, and he was not found because God translated him.”

Note the difference from “and he [was] not, because God took him” (Gen 5:24). This occurs because the quotation comes from the Greek translation of Gen 5:24, rather than from the Hebrew text.

In secular Greek, “to transpose” (metatithēmi) means “to bring to another place.”[7] Here the author interpreted the word to signify that Enoch bypassed death.[8]

Seeing (eidon) death meant experiencing it (Ps 89:48; Luke 2:26).[9] Since the author cited neither a point of departure nor a place of arrival, the text implies Enoch’s removal to heaven.[10]

Clement of Alexandria (150–220 AD) attributed Enoch’s transfer to heaven to his behavior. He wrote, “Let us take (for instance) Enoch, who, being found righteous in obedience, was translated, and death was never known to happen to him.”[11]

Similarly, Jewish literature never cites Enoch as a model of faith.[12] According to the second century BC book of Sirach, “Enoch pleased the Lord, and was taken up; he was an example of repentance to all generations” (Sir 44:16, RSV).[13]

Hebrews takes an entirely different approach.[14] Concerning Enoch, the author wrote, “before his removal he had been attested to be found pleasing to God.” Again, the switch from “walked with God” to “was found pleasing to God” adheres to the Greek translation of Gen 5:24.

The people who translated the OT from Hebrew into Greek typically avoided any terms which gave human characteristics, such as walking, to the Lord.[15] That appears to be what happened here, as well as in the quotation from the book of Sirach.[16]

Nevertheless, those who walk in intimate fellowship with the Lord do delight him (Col 1:9–10).[17] Therefore, believers must emulate Enoch’s relationship with the Lord by pleasing God.[18]

Developing a lifestyle of prayer enables us to draw near to the Lord (Heb 4:16; Heb 10:19–22).[19] Ultimately, we shall transcend death (Col 1:13–14).[20]

However, we can accomplish this only by the work of God in our lives (Heb 13:20–21). All believers can experience the close fellowship with God which Enoch did, for the Holy Spirit dwells within us (John 14:16–27; Gal 5:16–26). This gives us an advantage which even Christ’s disciples did not have while they were with him (Luke 24:49; John 16:5–15).

Indeed, “without faith it is impossible to please [him].”

This statement summarizes the argument of Heb 3:7–4:2. True worship necessitates two components of faith.[21]

First, “the one who comes to God must believe that he exists.” No one can sincerely approach the Lord in prayer without a firm conviction of his reality.[22] The Lord is one of the things “not seen” (Heb 11:1–2).[23]

Surprisingly, the statement that God exists has no biblical parallels. However, Scripture does condemn those who live as if there were no God (Ps 10:4; Ps 53:1).[24]

The author did not mean any deity, but referred to the God who first spoke through the OT prophets and then through his Son (Heb 1:1–3).[25]

People living in the Ancient Near Eastern milieu did not question the existence of God. That idea developed in the Greco-Roman era. “That God exists” appears in the form of a creed similar to those developed in the Greek-speaking synagogues of that era.[26]

For example, during the conflict between Antiochus IV and the Maccabees, a Jewish legal expert gave this testimony to the king, “We worship with due respect the only God who really exists” (4 Macc 5:24, CEB).

The Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BC–40 AD) also alluded to this when he wrote:

In his before mentioned account of the creation of the world, Moses teaches us also many other things, and especially five most beautiful lessons which are superior to all others. In the first place, for the sake of convicting the atheists, he teaches us that the Deity has a real being and existence [Exod 3:14].

Now, of the atheists, some have only doubted of the existence of God, stating it to be an uncertain thing; but others, who are more audacious, have taken courage, and asserted positively that there is no such thing; but this is affirmed only by men who have darkened the truth with fabulous inventions.[27]

Our belief requires far more than intellectual assent. It involves drawing near to the Lord in worship and service as we diligently pursue a relationship with him.[28]

Consequently, the author of Hebrews added this second aspect of faith, “And to the ones who continually seek (ekzēteō) him, he becomes a rewarder.”[29] Seeking God involves religious devotion and prayer. Deuteronomy 4:29; Ps 34:4 and Ps 69:32–33 all employ the same word in the Greek translation of the OT.[30]

The word “rewarder” (misthapodotēs) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and rarely in secular Greek. It literally means “a paymaster,” one who delivers a just wage.[31]

Thus, a life of faith necessitates confidence that the Lord shall deliver what he promises to his people.[32] Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author declared that God is worthy of our trust (Heb 1:8–12; Heb 2:14–18; Heb 5:7–9; Heb 9:11–14; Heb 10:11–18).[33]

Enoch not only relied upon the Lord but experienced him as the source of his greatest delight.[34] God promises that those who seek him with all their hearts shall receive the exceedingly great joy of finding him (Ps 17:15; Ps 43:4).[35]

Consider Ps 37:4. What is the greatest desire of those who delight themselves in the Lord? Is it not God himself? For believers, to live in the presence of the Lord comprises our greatest aspiration (Rev 21:1–5).

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Heb 11:5–6. Why does the quotation here differ from Gen 5:24? How does walking with God bring him pleasure? What does it mean to have faith in God? How did Enoch exemplify this? In what ways are we like Enoch?

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Methuselah

 

[Related posts include Walking with God (Gen 5:21–24); The New Holy City (Rev 21:10–11); A Return to Paradise (Rev 22:1–5, 20); Greek Translation of the Old Testament; and Intertestamental History]

[Click here to go to Chapter 4: The Generations of Adam (Genesis 5:1–27)]

 

[1]David A. deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 390.

[2]Guthrie, Hebrews, 375.

[3]deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews,” 389.

[4]Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 336.

[5]Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 574.

[6]Gareth L. Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 529–30.

[7]Christian Maurer, “μετατιθημι” (metatithēmi), TDNT 8:161–2, 161.

[8]deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews,” 389.

[9]Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 336.

[10]Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 575.

[11]Clement, First Clement (NPNF01; trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1897), 9:3, 7, https://archive.org/stream/antenicenefather01robe#page/6/mode/2up.

[12]Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 336.

[13]Italics mine.

[14]Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 574.

[15]Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. ed., 284.

[16]Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 336.

[17]Guthrie, Hebrews, 376.

[18]Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 337.

[19]Guthrie, Hebrews, 376.

[20]deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews,” 390.

[21]Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 576.

[22]Guthrie, Hebrews, 376.

[23]Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 531.

[24]Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 577.

[25]Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. ed., 286–7.

[26]Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 338.

[27]Philo, “On the Creation of the World,” in The Works of Philo Judaeus, vol. 1 (trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), section 170, 51, https://archive.org/stream/worksofphilojuda01yonguoft#page/50/mode/2up.

[28]Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 531.

[29]Present active participles in Greek depict a repeated or continuous action.

[30]Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 577.

[31]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “μισθαποδοτης” (misthapodotēs), BDAG, 653.

[32]Guthrie, Hebrews, 376–7.

[33]Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. ed., 287.

[34]Lane, Hebrews 9–13, 338.

[35]Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Rev. ed., 287.