The fall of Jericho: Hebrews 11: 30
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, by the going round them seven days.
Fide muri Jericho corruerunt, circuitu dierum septem.Fall of Jericho: ...he describes what happened when they entered the promised land. This is mentioned in Jos. (6), where it is stated that at God’s command the priests for seven days should go around the first city beyond the Jordan, namely, Jericho, with the ark of the covenant, and on the seventh day the walls fell down. Here was something on the part of men, namely, that at the Lord’s command they went round, believing that God’s command would be fulfilled, and something on God’s part, namely, the walls fell down by their going round.
Spiritual interpretation of the events: Morally, Jericho is interpreted moon or defect, and signifies this world. Its walls are the obstacles by which some are held fast in the world. By the trumpets, which the Levites and priests sounded, the voice of preachers is signified. By the going round for seven days is designated the course of the present time, which is completed in seven days. By this we are given to understand that all the obstacles of the world fall at the continuous sound of preaching: ‘The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels and every height that exalts itself against the knowledge of God'..
Rahab: Hebrews 11:31
By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with the unbelievers, receiving the spies with peace.
Fide Rahab meretrix non periit cum incredulis, excipiens exploratores cum pace.Those who receive the preachers of the Gospel are freed from eternal death: ...he shows what was done by faith by one of the unbelievers, namely, by Rahab, as recorded in Joshua (chaps, 2 & 6). For when Joshua had sent spies to explore Jericho, they escaped with the aid of that woman who is called a harlot, i.e., an idolater. Or she was literally a harlot, with whom they stayed, not to sin but to hide...Therefore, she was freed by faith, hence, he says, by faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who were disobedient [unbelievers], because she had given friendly welcome to the spies. She did not perish with the unbelievers, who perished corporally, because the spies had sworn to free her and everyone of her father’s house; which they did...by the fact that she was freed by receiving them is designated that those who receives the preachers of the gospel are delivered from eternal death: ‘He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive the reward of a prophet’ (Mt. 10:11).
What need is there to say more? Time will fail me if I try to go through all the history of Gedeon, of Barac, of Samson, of Jephte, of David and Samuel and the prophets.
Et quid adhuc dicam? deficiet enim me tempus enarrantem de Gedeon, Barac, Samson, Jephte, David, Samuel, et prophetis:And many more old testament saints: Having described the things done through faith by the fathers before and during the very entry into the promised land, the Apostle now begins to give examples of those who were in the promised land...Yet it should be noted that some of them did some good things, and some evil things. Hence, they are listed here only as to the good things they did or received. Yet it is probable that all of them finally were saints. For this reason the Apostle lists them in the catalogue of saints.
Gideon: (Judges chaps. 6-8). He is mentioned first, both because he did nothing evil and because he did something very important; and probably because he received the greatest sign of the incarnation in the fleece and dew, concerning which it says in Ps. 71 (v. 6): ‘He shall come down like rain upon the fleece.’
Barak: (Judges chaps. 4-5), who was not as famous as Gideon, to whom that victory was not credited, but to the woman. Perhaps this is why he passes him by.
Samson: (Judges chaps. 13-16), who particularly deserves not to be mentioned here, because he sinned by killing himself. But Augustine in The City of God excuses this, because it is believed that he did this at God’s command. The sign of this is that he could not have destroyed such a house by his own power, but by God’s power, which does not cooperate with evil.
Jephthah (Judges chaps. 11-12), But there is a question about Jephthah, whether he sinned by immolating his daughter as he vowed. For it seems not, because Judges (11:29) says: ‘The spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah’ and then mentions the vow and the victory... something from the Holy Spirit was there, namely, an impulse to vow in general that he would immolate whatever he came upon that could be immolated; but there was also something from his own spirit, namely, that he immolated what he should not. In this he sinned, but later he repented.
Sins repented of: Similarly, Gideon sinned by making an ephod and tempting God, when he asked for a sign on the fleece. But he also repented later, as did David, whom he mentions next, saying, David and Samuel, who are discussed in the Books of Samuel, and the prophets, concerning whom time would fail me, if I wished to discuss them.
Theirs was the faith which subdued kingdoms, which served the cause of right, which made promises come true. They shut the mouths of lions, they quenched raging fire, swords were drawn on them, and they escaped. How strong [valiant] they became, who till then were weak, what courage they shewed in battle, how they routed invading armies! There were women, too, who recovered their dead children, brought back to life.
qui per fidem vicerunt regna, operati sunt justitiam, adepti sunt repromissiones, obturaverunt ora leonum, extinxerunt impetum ignis, effugerunt aciem gladii, convaluerunt de infirmitate, fortes facti sunt in bello, castra verterunt exterorum: acceperunt mulieres de resurrectione mortuos suos:Defending the common good: ...of all the outward acts of the moral virtues, the acts of courage and justice seem the most important, because they pertain most to the common good. For the republic is defended against its enemies by courage, and is preserved by justice. Hence, the Apostle commends the holy fathers on both: on courage, when he says, by faith they conquered kingdoms, i.e., kings, or even their kingdoms, as David and Joshua.
Spiritual victories: Nevertheless, the saints spiritually overcame kingdoms, namely the kingdom of the devil, of whom Job says: ‘He is king over all the children of pride,’ and the kingdom of the flesh: ‘Let not sin reign in your mortal body’; also the kingdom of the world: ‘My kingdom is not of this world’. But they conquered by faith: ‘This is the victory which overcomes the world, our faith’. For no one can despise present things except for the sake of goods to come, because it is mainly by contempt that the world is overcome, therefore, because faith shows us the invisible things for which the world is despised, our faith overcomes the world.
Acts of justice: ...justice is sometimes a general virtue, namely, when it obeys the divine law...But sometimes it is a special virtue and consists in human actions and exchanges, namely, when a person renders to everyone his due. But the saints had both...
God keeps his promises: ...he shows what they obtained, because they received the promises. For God’s promise is efficacious, because God never fails to keep His promise...he mentions particular benefits conferred on them: first, those which pertain to the removal of evil; secondly, to the performing of good...
Valiant women: An account of their resurrection or rather of their revival is found in 1 Kg. (chap. 17) and 2 Kg. (chap. 4)...just as those temporal benefits were given to them as to sick persons for sustenance by the merit of their faith, so they were the figures of coming good things, which will be given to us by the merit of faith...There were women, too, who recovered their dead children, brought back to life.
But others were racked, not accepting deliverance, that they might find a better resurrection.And others had trial of mockeries and stripes, moreover also of bands and prisons. They were stoned, they were cut asunder, they were tempted, they were put to death by the sword,
alii autem distenti sunt non suscipientes redemptionem ut meliorem invenirent resurrectionem. Alii vero ludibria, et verbera experti, insuper et vincula, et carceres: lapidati sunt, secti sunt, tentati sunt, in occisione gladii mortui sunt,Suffering for the faith: Having given examples of the holy fathers of old who did many great things for the faith, the Apostle now gives examples or those who suffered for the faith...he shows why they refused release. It was not because God exercised no providence over them, but that they might obtain eternal life, which is better than release from any present punishment or any resurrection of the present life; hence, he says, that they might rise again to a better life: ‘I will rise again on the last day...
The root of merit is charity: However, not every martyr is greater than every confessor, but some martyr can be greater than some confessor; and conversely, some confessor than some martyr, although not universally. For one can be compared to another as to the type of work or as to the degree of charity. But no art of itself is as meritorious as dying for Christ, because a man is giving what is most dear, namely, his own life: ‘Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justices’ sake. But if considers the root of all merit, which is charity, then a work proceeding from greater charity is more meritorious. Consequently, one simple confessor could have greater merit before God. But the Apostle is speaking of the type of work, saying, that they might rise again to a better, i.e., a greater and more glorious, life. Hence, better implies a comparison between the state of the present life and the future resurrection, or a comparison between the glory of the resurrection of one person and the glory of another...
Hebrews 11: 37b-38
they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being in want, distressed, afflicted: Of whom the world was not worthy; wandering in deserts, in mountains, and in dens, and in caves of the earth.
circuierunt in melotis, in pellibus caprinis, egentes, angustiati, afflicti: quibus dignus non erat mundus: in solitudinibus errantes, in montibus, in speluncis, et in cavernis terræ.Skins of sheep and goats: ...A goatskin, in addition to being hairy, is vile...such clothing can be worn with an evil intention, as when they are worn from vainglory; but good, if they are worn out of contempt for the world and to chastise the flesh. But especially those who profess a state of repentance should show the signs of their profession; hence, it is lawful for them to use such clothing, as the prophets did: but not for display.
Poverty:...This prefigured the state of the New Testament, of which it says in Matthew: ‘If you would be perfect, go sell what you have.’...
Without dwelling of their own: ...roamed about in deserts, in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth, which are places suited to contemplation and penance.
And all these being approved by the testimony of faith, received not the promise; God providing some better thing for us, that they should not be perfected without us.
Et hi omnes testimonio fidei probati, non acceperunt repromissionem, Deo pro nobis melius aliquid providente, ut non sine nobis consummarentur.Received not the promise: But that no one might believe that this was due to lack of merit, he gives the reason for that delay: Since God had foreseen something better for us...all these, though well attested by their faith... did not receive what was promised, i.e., of glory, or the promised land, until Christ...they received temporal things, but not spiritual...
Something better: ...the consummation of which the Apostle speaks can refer to the essential reward, namely, to happiness, which is obtained through Christ...which the saints will not be given generally until after the general resurrection, although some perhaps already have it by a special privilege. Therefore, they are not consummated without us, but are perfected with a double stole, so that, as a Gloss says, the joy of each will become greater in the common joy of all. Hence, God provides for us in this matter. Therefore, he says, Since God has foreseen something better for us: ‘Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity’. For man rejoices with many rejoicing: ‘If they kept the faith who waited so long, much more should we who receive right away’ (Gloss); ‘This day you shall be with me in paradise.