This verse appears in the famous “roll call of the faithful” chapter in Hebrews. The writer pays tribute to the people of past generations who remained faithful to God, in spite of great persecution.
Execution by being sawed in two is cruel and inhumane by modern standards, but this form of capital punishment was apparently practiced in the ancient world. It was not out of character for the cruel Assyrians, who were known to cut off the ears and hands of their victims just for sport (Judg 1:6).
But even King David of Judah may have practiced this form of torture and execution against the Ammonites. After capturing their capital city, Rabbah, he “brought out the people that were in it, and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes” (1 Chron 20:3).
HEBREWS 11:37 – They were stoned, they were sawn asunder [sawed in two, NIV], were tempted, were slain with the sword.