1 Now, [having] faith is being sure of [receiving] what is hoped for, and certain [of the existence] of what is not visible. 2 For the men of old [i.e., the forefathers. See 1:1], received [God's] approval [for their faith].
3 By [having] faith, we understand that the universe was formed by God's word [See Gen. 1:1-27], so that what is seen has not been made out of what is visible.
4 By [having] faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. [And] because of his faith he was commended by God for being righteous, when God expressed approval of his offerings. By means of his faith, Abel still speaks [to us], even though he is dead.
5 By [having] faith, Enoch was taken [to be with God], so that he did not have to die. And he could not be found because God had taken him away. For he had been commended [by God] before he was taken away, that he had pleased God. [Note: The Hebrew of Gen. 5:24 says, "he walked with God"]. 6 And unless one has faith, it is impossible for him to be pleasing to God, for the person who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
7 By [having] faith, when Noah was warned [by God] about conditions that had not yet been seen [i.e., regarding events of the coming Flood], he acted out of reverent concern [for God] by constructing a ship to save [i.e., rescue] his household [from the Flood waters]. By this [i.e., his faith which led to action], Noah condemned the world and inherited righteousness because of his faith.
8 By [having] faith, when Abraham was called [by God] to leave [his homeland] and go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance [i.e., Palestine], he obeyed God and went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By [having] faith, he became an alien in the foreign country that had been promised to him. He lived in tents, along with Isaac [his son] and Jacob [his grandson], who [also] were to receive the same inheritance he had been promised. 10 For he was looking forward to [living in] a city with [lasting] foundations, designed and built by God. [Note: This undoubtedly refers to heaven].
11 By [having] faith, Sarah herself received the ability to have children, even though she was [sterile, being] past the age of child-bearing, since she considered God faithful to His promise. [Note: Some translations consider "Abraham" to be the subject of this highly controversial verse. See Lightfoot, pages 222-225]. 12 Therefore, from one man [Abraham], who was as good as dead [i.e., because of having a sterile wife], were born descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the [grains of] sand on the seashore.
13 These people [all] continued to have faith until they died, [even though] they had not obtained [all] the things God had promised, but had [only] seen them and welcomed them from a distance. And they had confessed to being strangers and aliens on earth. 14 For those who say such things make it obvious that they are looking for a country of their own [i.e. heaven]. 15 And indeed, if they had remembered [with longing] the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return to it. 16 But instead, they longed for a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
17 By [having] faith, when Abraham was tested [by God], he offered Isaac [as a sacrifice]. [Even though] he had received the promises [of having many descendants], he was ready to offer his only conceived [and eventually born] son, 18 [even though] he had been told [by God, Gen. 21:12], "Your descendants will be traced through Isaac." 19 [So], he reasoned that God was able to raise up [Isaac] from the dead, which, in a sense, he did receive him back [from the dead].
20 By [having] faith, Isaac pronounced a future blessing on Jacob and Esau. [See Gen. 27:26-40]. 21 By [having] faith, Jacob blessed each of Joseph's sons just before he died, and bowed in worship [to God] while leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By [having] faith, when Joseph was about to die, he mentioned the Israelites' departure [from Egypt] and gave [them] instructions concerning his bones [i.e., that they were to take them back to Palestine. See Gen. 50:25].
23 By [having] faith, Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw that he was a handsome child, and they were not afraid of the king's decree [to destroy all male Hebrew children]. 24 By [having] faith, when Moses was grown up, he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 but chose rather to suffer mistreatment with God's people [i.e., the Israelites] than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a brief time. 26 He considered suffering ridicule for Christ's sake to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking forward to his reward.
27 By [having] faith, he left Egypt, not being afraid of the king's anger, for he endured [all the rigors of wandering in the desert] because he could see the invisible God. 28 By [having] faith, he established the Passover Festival [Note: This festival was first celebrated in Egypt by the fleeing Israelites, then observed annually in commemoration of that event], and had [lambs'] blood sprinkled [on the door jambs] to prevent the one who destroyed the firstborn children from touching them. [See Ex. 12:23]. 29 By [having] faith, the Israelites passed [safely] through the Red Sea as if it were dry ground, but when the Egyptians attempted to do it, they were drowned.
30 By [the people having] faith, the walls of Jericho fell in response to their marching around them for seven days. 31 By [having] faith, Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed along with the disobedient [inhabitants of Jericho] because she welcomed the [twelve] spies in peace.
32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me if I were to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and [all] the prophets, 33 who, by [having] faith, conquered kingdoms, practiced what was right, and obtained what was promised [by God]. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 they put out raging fires, and they escaped being killed by swords. They were strengthened when weak, became mighty in battle, and defeated foreign armies. 35 Women received their dead [loved ones] back to life. Others were tortured but refused to be rescued, so they could obtain a better resurrection. 36 And [still] others experienced mockings and floggings, and were even chained up and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were executed by the sword. They traveled around in sheepskin and goatskin clothing; they were destitute, afflicted and mistreated. 38 (The world did not deserve such people). They wandered in deserts and mountains, [living] in caves and [even] holes in the ground.
39 And all of these people were commended [by God] for their faith, yet did not receive [all of] what was promised to them, 40 because God had planned to give us something better [than they got], so that they would not be complete without us. [Note: The idea here is that these faithful people of Old Testament times did not receive the fullest of blessings until Christ came to make them available to both them and us together].