All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. - Hebrews 11:13

This is stated after discussing the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. What are the promises being referred to here?

2 Answers 2


The promises referred to in Hebrews 11:13 are the promises God made to the patriarchs, but which find their fullest expression in the "better promises" of the New Covenant (8:6). All the promises of God ultimately find their fulfilment in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20;). It is to these men and women of faith (Hebrews 11) that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews encourages present day believers (the "heirs of promise") to look to and imitate, by remaining faithful (6:11-20), knowing that the promises of God are sure and steadfast, being confirmed in Christ (Rom 15:8).


Scripture of course does not record all of God's every detail of every one of their lives. Even considering the life of Methusela, it was rumored that God said destruction would not come upon the Earth while he lived (which is an indication of God's long-suffering, as he was the oldest person ever recorded to have lived).

In light of that, the above could be taken as a general statement of all the promises God made to each of these, however, we are given samples of what was promised to each of these.

Considering, the specific examples of the promises are explicit in some, but can be inferred from the text in others. With Abel, there was an implicit promise that God would avenge his blood. Whether Hebrews 11:13 refers to any other promises to him is merely speculation. However, with the promise to Abraham, the example is fairly clear from the text. Whether any of these had other specific implicit or explicit promises is again mere speculation, but these suffice as representative from the text.


And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Matthew 23:35


Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Jude 1:14


And God said, This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.

Geneis 9:12-16


The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.

Genesis 22:15-18

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