Online Bible Commentary
Our Rewards Await Us
Hebrews 11:29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (NIV)
In this, the faith chapter, the writer of the book of Hebrews recognizes those men and women of God who exhibited a great faith. Those recognized for their faith previously in this chapter are Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah (Abraham’s wife), Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, and Moses. In this passage, many more are inducted into God’s “Hall of Faith”.
“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land” (v. 29a). The writer recognizes all those Israelites of the exodus, some two million people, who bravely walked through the Red Sea after God had parted the waters. It is most likely that the Israelites crossed near the town of Suez, where the distance across the Sea was about three miles at high tide.
Some have suggested that the crossing was at the Sea of Reeds, a much smaller sea in the area. However, to suggest that would call into question not only the Old Testament account in the Hebrew, but also the account in this verse. The word translated “Red” in this verse is the Greek word “eruthros”, which means “red”. Also, the Egyptians followed with more than 600 chariots, along with all of the king’s horsemen, and troops (Ex. 14:7-9). An army of that size, said to be some 600,000 men, could not have been “drowned” (v. 29b) by the closing of the smaller Sea of Reeds.
So, the Israelites showed extreme faith as they took that first small step into a dried up river bed with walls of water on both sides. The average depth of the Red Sea is about 3,000 feet, which meant the walls of water on either side would have been at least 1,500 feet, the height of a 15 story building. Not only that, they exhibited great faith as they looked ahead to the three mile journey, with, no doubt, the thought of “how long will the walls hold up?” Could any of us have so great a faith? God rewarded them by saving them from being returned to slavery, and recognized them here for their great faith.
God also recognized the great faith of those Israelites who walked around the walls of Jericho for seven days, believing in God’s power to crumble the walls (v. 30). Recent archaeological research at Jericho confirms that the city was destroyed about 1400 B.C.
Joshua led the Israelites having received orders from the “commander of the army of the Lord”, likely a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ “(Jos. 5:14). This “commander” appeared to Joshua and ordered him to “take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy” (Jos. 5:15). A similar phrase was spoken to Moses from the burning bush when he was receiving his orders from God, perhaps another preincarnate visit of Jesus.
Joshua and the Israelites demonstrated great faith during the seven day walk around Jericho. Only a miracle could cause the walls to fall, handing over the city to the Israelites. Through their faith God worked His miracle. The Israelites were rewarded for their faith with the Promised Land.
Also, the fall of Jericho by the power of God sent the same message to the enemies of the Israelites as did the crossing of the Red Sea. The message was that the same God that performed a miracle to rescue the Israelites of Moses would also rescue the Israelites of Joshua.
The prostitute Rahab, and her family, were the only survivors of the siege at Jericho (v. 31). They were protected because of their faith. Rahab hid the two Israelite spies, and Joshua blessed her faith in God by sparing her life and those of her family. It took great faith in the power of God to hide the spies. Had God not been successful in overthrowing the city, Rahab and her family would have surely been put to death by the authorities in Jericho.
Later Rahab became the wife of Salmon and the mother of Boaz. Boaz married Ruth, who became the great grandmother of David. Rahab was blessed again for her faith, by becoming part of the lineage of Jesus Christ.
There is a common theme throughout this chapter of how our faith in God is rewarded with blessing. We may not see all of God’s promises come to fruition in our lifetime, but we will be blessed if we remain faithful. God rewards our steadfast faith in Him. Let us never give up, or give in. Let us continue to fight the good fight, for our rewards await us.