Acts 7
Pulpit Commentary
Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
Verse 1. - And the high priest said for then said the high priest, A.V. The high priest spoke as president of the Sanhedrim (see Acts 9:1 and Matthew 26:62). Theophilus the son of Annas or his brother Jonathan is probably meant.
And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
Verse 2. - Brethren and fathers for men, brethren, and fathers, A.V. Haran for Charran, A.V. Brethren and fathers. The Greek is ἄνδρες ἀδελφοὶ (i.e. "men who are also my brethren") καὶ πατέρες. He adds "and fathers" out of respect to the elder and more dignified portion of the Sanhedrim. It seems probable that Stephen, as a Hellenist Jew, spoke in Greek, which is borne out by the quotations being from the LXX. (see Alford), though Meyer and others think he spoke in Hebrew. Greek was generally understood at this time by all educated persons (see Roberts, 'Discussions on Gospels,' Acts 2. - 7.). The speech itself is almost universally admitted to bear strong internal marks of genuineness and originality. But different estimates have been formed of its excellence, and different explanations given of its scope and object. Difficult but striking; long and prolix;" "at first sight absurd and out of place;" "wonderful but difficult;" "of inestimable value;" "a speech containing many things which don't seem much to the point;" "a powerful speech;" a speech combining "the address of the advocate and the boldness of the martyr;" - are some of the estimates that have been formed of it by modern commentators. As regards its scope and object, the two main clues to it are the accusation which Stephen rose to rebut, and the application with which he ended in vers. 51-53. If we keep these two things steadily in view, we shall not be very far wrong if we say that Stephen sought to clear himself by showing,

(1) by his historical summary, what a true and thorough Israelite he was in heart and feeling and fellowship with the fathers of his race, and therefore how unlikely to speak blasphemous words against either Moses or the temple;

(2) how Moses himself had foretold the coming of Christ as a prophet like himself, to enunciate some new doctrines;

(3) how at every stage of their history their fathers had resisted those who were sent to them by God, and that now his judges were playing the same part. Perhaps it may be further true, as Chrysostom explains it (Hom. 15, 16, 17.), that his intention in the early part of the speech was to show "that the promise was made before the place, before circumcision, before sacrifice, before the temple," in accordance with St. Paul's argument (Galatians 3:16-18); and that therefore the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant could not be dependent upon the Law or the temple. The God of glory. This unusual phrase identifies God, of whom Stephen speaks, with the God whose visible glory was seen by the patriarchs (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 18:1; Genesis 26:2; Genesis 28:12, 13; Genesis 35:9; Exodus 24:16, 17; Numbers 16:19; Isaiah 6; John 12:41). St. Paul uses a similar phrase, "The Lord of glory '(1 Corinthians 2:8). Our father. He thus identifies himself with his judges, whom he had just called "brethren." In Mesopotamia, which would be in Hebrew "Aram of the two rivers." The exact place, as we learn from Genesis 11:31, was "Ur of the Chaldees;" whence the Israelites were taught to say (Deuteronomy 26:5), "An Aramcan ready to perish was my father." That this appearance was in Ur, before he dwelt in Haran, is manifest from Genesis 11:31, because it is there said that they went forth from Ur "to go into the land of Canaan," which makes it quite certain that the appearance of God to Abraham had preceded their leaving Ur, and was the cause of it. And this is confirmed by Genesis 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7; and Josephus ('Ant.,' 1. 7:1). Moreover, the very language of the call shows plainly that it came to him when he was living in his native country, among his kindred, and in his father's house, i.e. at Ur, not in Haran, where they were only sojourners. There is nothing the least unusual, in Hebrew narrative, in the writer going back to any point in the preceding narrative with which the subsequent narrative is connected. Genesis 12. I precedes in point of time Genesis 11:31; similar examples are Genesis 37:5, 6; Judges 20, passim; 1 Samuel 16:21 compared with 1 Samuel 17:28; 1 Samuel 22:20, 21, compared with 1 Samuel 23:6; and many more. It is, however, of course possible that a fresh call may have been given after Terah's death, though it is by no means necessary to suppose it. Another imaginary difficulty arises from the statement in Genesis 12:4 that Abraham was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran, that Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and that Terah died at the age of two hundred and five; and from the statement in ver. 4 of this chapter that Abram did not leave Haran till Terah's death. From which it is concluded that Terah must have lived sixty years after Abram's departure (70 + 75 + 60 = 205). But the whole difficulty arises from the gratuitous supposition that Abram was Terah's firstborn because he is named first. If Terah were a hundred and thirty at the birth of Abram, he would be two hundred and five when Abram was seventy-five. Now, there is absolutely nothing to forbid the supposition that such was his age. It does not follow that because Abram is named first he was the eldest. He might be named first as being by far the most illustrious of the three, he might be named first because the subsequent genealogies - Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve Patriarchs - were deduced from him. There may, too, have been other sons of Terah, not named here because nothing was going to be said about them. Nahor is mentioned because Rebekah was his granddaughter (Genesis 24:15, 24) and Rachel his great-granddaughter. And Haran is mentioned because he was the father of Lot. Others, whether sons or daughters, would not be mentioned. If Terah, therefore, began to have children when he was seventy, it is quite probable that Abram may not have been born till he was a hundred and thirty. That the son named first need not necessarily be the eldest is clear from the order in which Shem, Ham, and Japheth are named, whereas it appears from Genesis 9:24 that Ham was the youngest, and from Genesis 10:2, 21 (according to the A.V. and the LXX., Symmachus, the Targum of Onkelos, and the old Jewish commentators), that Japheth was the eldest. In Joshua 24:4 God says, "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau," though Esau was the elder; and so Hebrews 11:20. So again in Exodus 5:20 we read, "Moses and Aaron" (see also Exodus 40:31; Numbers 16:43; Joshua 24:5; 1 Samuel 12:6; etc.), though it appears from 1 Chronicles 6:3 that Aaron was the eldest. So again we read in Genesis 48:5, "Thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh," and in ver. 20, "God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh," though in ver. I of the same chapter they are named according to the true order of birth - "Manasseh and Ephraim." It is, therefore, an unwarrantable inference that Abram was the eldest son because he is named first; and with the removal of this inference the difficulty vanishes; and Stephen was quite accurate when he said that God appeared to Abraham in Ur, before he dwelt in Haran, and that he did not move from Haran till the death of Terah. Haran. Charran in A.V. marks the difference between Haran (הָרָן), Lot's father, and the name of the place (הָרָן). It is called "the city of Nahor" (Genesis 24:10 compared with Genesis 47:43). It still exists as an Arab village, with the name of Harran (see 'Dictionary of Bible').
And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
Verse 3. - Thy land for thy country, A.V.
Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
Verse 4. - Haran for Charran, A.V.; God removed for he removed, A.V. The land of the Chaldaeans. In Genesis 11:28 Ur is called "Ur of the Chaldees." When his father was dead (see note to ver. 2). God removed. That God is the subject appears from the following verbs, "he gave," "he promised." The verb μετώκισεν, he removed, is the technical word for planting a colony. Wherein, etc. (εἰς η}ν); into which ye came and dwelt.
And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
Verse 5. - And for yet, A.V.; in for for a, A.V. He gave him none inheritance, etc. (comp. Hebrews 11:8, 9).
And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.
Verse 6. - In a strange land; a land belonging to some one else (Hebrews 11:9, γῆ ἀλλοτρία, as here); a land in which he had none inheritance, not yet become the possession of his seed; for as the writer to the Hebrews says, he dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob; not applicable, therefore, in the first instance to Egypt at all. And this sojourning as strangers and pilgrims lasted altogether four hundred and thirty years, vie. two hundred and fifteen years in Canaan, and two hundred and fifteen in Egypt; which agrees exactly with St. Paul's reckoning in round numbers of four hundred years from the giving of the promise to Abraham to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (Galatians 3:17). The "four hundred years" must not be taken in connection with the bondage" and the ill treatment which characterized the last half of the period, but as spoken of the whole period during which they had not possession of the promised land. Bring them into bondage. So the LXX.; but the Hebrew, as rendered in the A.V., has "and they shall serve them." But some (see Gesenius, 'Thes.') render the Hebrew as the LXX. Do. Four hundred years. This is a round number, as in Genesis 15:13. The exact time, as given in Exodus 12:40, 41, was four hundred and thirty years.
And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
Verse 7. - Which for whom, A.V. And serve me in this place. These words are not in Genesis 15, from which the preceding words are quoted. Instead of καὶ λατρεύσουσι μοί ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ, the LXX, following the Hebrew, have μετὰ ἀποσκεύης πολλῆς, "with great substance." The words "serve me in this place," seem certainly to have been suggested by Exodus 3:12, "Ye shall serve God upon this mountain;" but they give a perfectly correct account of what happened in this case.
And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
Verse 8. - Jacob the twelve for Jacob begat the twelve, A.V. He gave him the covenant of circumcision, subsequently to the gift of the land by promise. The argument suggested is apparently the same as St. Paul's in Romans 4:10-17.
And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
Verse 9. - Moved with jealousy against Joseph, sold him, for moved with envy sold Joseph, A.V., more correctly, and in accordance with Genesis 37:11, LXX.; and for but, A.V. Moved with jealousy, etc. Here breaks out that part of Stephen's argument which went to show how the Israelites had always ill-used their greatest benefactors, and resisted the leaders sent to them by God.
And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
Verse 10. - Before for in the sight of, A.V. And delivered him, etc. And even so had he delivered his servant Jesus from the grave, and raised him to eternal life.
Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
Verse 11. - Famine for dearth, A.V.; Egypt for the land of Egypt, A.V. and T.R.; Canaan for Chanaan, A.V.
But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
Verse 12. - Sent forth for sent out, A.V.; the first time for first, A.V.
And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
Verse 13. - Race became manifest for kindred was made known, A.V. "Kindred" is a much better word here, because Joseph's "race" was already known to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:12); "was made known" is a far better phrase than "became manifest."
Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
Verse 14. - And Joseph sent for then sent Joseph, A.V.; called to him Jacob his father for called his father Jacob to him, A.V. Three score and fifteen souls. In Genesis 46:26, 27, the statement is very precise that "all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were three score and ten," including Joseph and his two sons. Moreover, the accuracy of the number is tested in two ways. First, the names of the sons and daughters of each patriarch are given, and they are found, on counting them, to amount to exactly seventy. And then the totals of the descendants of each of Jacob's four wives is given separately, and again the total is exactly seventy (33 + 16 + 14 + 7 = 70). It is true that the computation in ver. 26 does not agree with the above, for it makes the number of Jacob's descendants, exclusive of Joseph and his two sons, sixty-six instead of sixty-seven, which is the number according to the two above computations, and consequently the total number (when Joseph and his two sons are added) sixty-nine instead of seventy. But this is such a manifest contradiction that it seems almost a necessity to suppose a clerical error, שֵׁשׁ for שֶׁבַע, caused perhaps by the preceding שִׁשִׁים. It is also a singular anomaly that, in the enumeration of Leah's descendants, as well as in the general enumeration, Er and Onan are distinctly reckoned as well as mentioned. Jacob himself is nowhere reckoned in the Bible, though he is in the commentaries. But when we turn to the LXX., we find that in Genesis 46:20 there are added to Manasseh and Ephraim Machir the son and Gilead the grandson of Manasseh; and Suthelah and Taam the sons, and Edom (meaning Eran, LXX. Eden, Numbers 26:36) the grandson, of Ephraim, making the descendants of Rachel eighteen (it should be nineteen if Huppim, Genesis 46:21, is added) instead of fourteen; the number sixty-six of ver. 26 is preserved; the number of Joseph's descendants is given as nine (Huppim apparently being now reckoned), which, added to sixty-six, makes seventy-five; and accordingly in ver. 27 the LXX. read ψυχαὶ ἑβδομηκονταπέντε ("seventy-five souls"), instead of "three score and ten." But except in the addition of these five names of Joseph's grand and great-grand-children, the LXX. support the Hebrew text, even in the strange sixty-six of ver. 26. Stephen, as a Hellenist, naturally follows the LXX. But the question arises - How are we to understand the lists? Genesis 46:8 says, "These are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt;" and one naturally expects to find the names only of those who are described in vers. 5-7 as the migratory party from Canaan to Egypt. This expectation is somewhat disturbed by Er and Onan being included in the enumeration. This may, however, be accounted for by Pharez and Zerah being reckoned as their seed. But is it likely that Hezron and Hamul the sons of Pharez, and the other great-grandsons of Jacob, were born before the descent into Egypt? The answer to this is that, as Jacob was a hundred and thirty years old when he came down to Egypt (Genesis 47:28), there is no improbability in his having great-grandchildren (allowing forty years for a generation); on the contrary, every likelihood that he should. But on the other hand, as Joseph could not have been above fifty when Jacob came down to Egypt (30 + 14 + X.), Genesis 41:46, 29, 30, it does not seem likely or possible that Joseph should have had grown-up grandsons and a great-grandson, as the LXX. make him have. Indeed, to all appearance Manasseh and Ephraim were unmarried young men at the time that Jacob blessed them (Genesis 48:11, 16; Genesis 50:23). Therefore we may conclude certainly that the additional numbers of the LXX. are incorrect, if understood literally, of these who came down with Jacob from Canaan to Egypt. But there is nothing improbable in Benjamin having ten children. Judah, to whom grandchildren are attributed, was Jacob's fourth son, and might be forty or fifty years older than Joseph and Benjamin. Asher, to whom also grandsons are attributed, was the eighth son, and might be twenty years older than Joseph and Benjamin. Still, considering that Er and Onan are reckoned among those who came down to Egypt, it would not be surprising to find that some of those mentioned in the list were born after Jacob's arrival, but included on some principle which we do not understand. In other words, a literal interpretation of the statement of the Hebrew Bible involves no impossibilities, but a literal interpretation of the statement of the LXX. does.
So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
Verse 15. - And for so, A.V.; he died, himself for died, he, A.V.
And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
Verse 16. - And they were for and were, A.V.; unto Shechem for into Sychem, A.V., i.e. the Hebrew for the Greek form of the name (Genesis 34:2); tomb for sepulcher, A.V.; a price in silver for a sum of money, A.V.; Hamor for Erect, A.V. (Hebrew for Greek form); in Shechem for the father of Sychem, A.V. and T.R. As regards the statement in the text, two distinct transactions seem at first sight to be mixed up. One, that Abraham bought the field of Machpelah of Ephron the Hittite for a burial-place, where he and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah, were buried (Genesis 24:16, 17, 19; Genesis 25:9, 10; Genesis 35:27-29; Genesis 49:29-31); the other, that Jacob "bought a parcel of a field..., at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money," where the bones of Joseph were buried by Joshua (Genesis 33:19; Genesis 50:25; Joshua 24:32), and where, according to a tradition still surviving in the days of St. Jerome, the other patriarchs were also buried ('Epistol.'86," She came to Sichem, now called Neapolis (or Nablous), and from thence visited the tombs of the twelve patriarchs"). See also Jerome, 'De Optimo Genere Interpretandi. All Jewish writers, however, are wholly silent" about this tradition, perhaps from jealousy of the Samaritans (Lightfoot, vol. 8. p. 423). And Josephus affirms that all but Joseph were buried at Hebron ('Ant. Jud.,'2. 8:2); and that their beautiful marble monuments were to be seen at Hebron in his day. In the cave of Machpelah, however, there is no tomb of any of the twelve patriarchs except Joseph; and his so-called tomb is of a different character and situation from the genuine ones (Stanley's 'Lectures on Jewish Church,' 1st series, pp. 498-500. See also 'Sermons in the East': 'The Mosque of Hebron'). But on looking closer at the text it appears pretty certain that only Shechem was in Stephen's mind. For first he speaks of Shechem at once, And were carried over unto Shechem. And adds and were laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver of the sons of Hamor in Shechem. Except the one word "Abraham," the whole sentence points to Shechem. What he says of Shechem is exactly in accordance with Genesis 33:18, 19. And what he says of their fathers being carried over and buried at Shechem is exactly true of Joseph's bones, as related in Joshua 24:32. So that the one difficulty is the word "Abraham." It seems much more probable that this word should have been interpolated by some early transcriber, who saw no nominative case to ὠνήσατο, and who had in his mind a confused recollection of Abraham's purchase, than that Stephen, who shows such thorough knowledge of the Bible history, should have made a gross mistake in such a well-known and famous circumstance as the purchase of the field of Machpelah, or that Luke should have perpetuated it had he made it in the hurry of speech. It cannot be affirmed with certainty that Stephen confirms the story of the other patriarchs being buried at Shechem, though possibly he alludes to the tradition. The plural, "they were carried," etc., might be put generally, though only Joseph was meant (as Matthew 27:44; Matthew 26:8 compared with Luke 23:39; John 12:4), or "the bones of Joseph" might possibly be the subject, though not expressed. Lightfoot - followed by Bishop Wordsworth, who thinks that Abraham really did buy a field of Ephron in Sychem, when he was there (Genesis 12:6)-would thus be right in supposing that the point of Stephen's remark was that the patriarchs were buried in Shechem.
But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
Verse 17. - As for when, A.V.; vouchsafed unto for had sworn to, A.V. and T.R. Vouchsafed; ὁμολογεῖν, in the sense of" to promise," as in Matthew 14:7, and not unfrequently in Greek writers, for ὀμνύειν, to swear.
Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
Verse 18. - Over Egypt, R.T.; there arose another king for another king arose, A.V.
The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.
Verse 19. - Race for kindred, A.V., as in ver. 13; that they should cast out for so that they east out, A.V.; babes for young children, A.V.
In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:
Verse 20. - At which season for in which time, A.V.; he was nourished three months in his father's house for nourished up in his father's house three months, A.V. Exceeding fair (ἀστεῖος τῷ Θεῷ). In Exodus 2:2 it is simply ἀστεῖος, "a goodly child," A.V., and so in Hebrews 11:23, rendered "a goodly child," "a proper child," A.V. Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 2. 9:5, 7) describes Pharaoh's daughter as captivated by the size and beauty of the child, and as speaking of him to Pharaoh as of Divine beauty. And Justin (quoted by Whitby) says that the beauty of his person was greatly in his favor.
And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
Verse 22. - Instructed for learned, A.V.; he was mighty for was mighty, A.V.; in his words and works for in words and in deeds, A.V. and T.R. The statement of Moses being instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, though not found in Exodus, was doubtless true. Josephus makes Thermeutis speak of him as "of a noble understanding;" and says that he was "brought up with much care and diligence." And Philo, in his life of Moses(quoted by Whitby), says he was smiled in music, geometry, arithmetic, and hieroglyphics, and the whole circle of arts and sciences.
And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
Verse 23. - Well-nigh for full, A.V. When he was precisely forty years old (Meyer) The exact meaning seems to be "when he was in the act of completing forty years." The account in Exodus 2:11 only says, "When Moses was grown" (μέγας γενόμενος, LXX.); the age of forty years, and the number of years, forty, that he sojourned in Midian, as given below, ver. 30, are traditional. "There are that say that Moses was forty years in Pharaoh's palace, forty years in Midian, and forty years in the wilderness" (Tauchum, in Exodus it.). "Moses was forty years in Pharaoh's court, and forty years in Midian, and forty years he served Israel" (Beresh. Rabb.), both quoted by Lightfoot ('Comment. and Exercitations upon the Acts'). The sum total of the three periods of forty years is given as the length of Moses' life, viz. a hundred and twenty years (Deuteronomy 34:7). Ver. 24. - Smiting for and smote, A.V.
And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
Verse 25. - And he supposed that his brethren understood for for he supposed that his brethren would have understood, A.V.; was giving them deliverance for would deliver them, A.V.
And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
Verse 26. - The day following for the next day, A.V.; he appeared for be showed himself, A.V.
But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
Verse 28. - Wouldest for wilt, A.V.; killedst for diddest, A.V.
Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
Verse 29. - And Moses fled for then fled Moses, A.V.; became a sojourner for was a stranger, A.V.; Midian for Madian, A.V.
And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.
Verse 30. - Fulfilled for expired, A.V.; an angel appeared for there appeared... an angel, A.V.; an angel for an angel of the Lord, A.V. and T.R.; Sinai for Sina, A.V.
When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
Verse 31. - And when for when, A.V.; behold for behold it, A.V.; there came a voice of the Lord for the voice of the Lord came unto him, A.V. There came a voice. The A.V. is surely right. The Lord has only one voice; and φωνὴ Κυρίου ισ that voice. The grammatical effect of Κυρίου υπον φωνὴ is to make it definite, as in ἄγγελος Κυρίου (see Acts 5:19, note).
Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
Verse 32. - Saying, A.V., is omitted; of Isaac and of Jacob for the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, A.V. and T.R.; and for then, A.V.
Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
Verse 33. - And the Lord said unto him for then said the Lord to him, A.V.; loose the shoes for put off by shoes, A.V. Loose the shoes, etc. In Exodus 3:5 it is λύσαι... ἐκ τῶν ποδῶν σου. Iamblichus, quoted by Meyer, refers the Pythagorean precept, "Sacrifice and worship with thy shoes off," to an Egyptian custom. The custom of Orientals to take off their sandals on entering mosques or other sacred places, as existing to the present day, is noticed by many travelers (see also Joshua 5:15).
I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
Verse 34. - I have surely seen (literally, seeing I have seen - the well-known Hebrew idiom for emphatic affirmation) for I have seen, I have seen, A.V.; have heard for I have heard, A.V.; and I am for and am, A.V., the change is in accordance with the A.V. of Exodus 3:7, 8.
This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
Verse 35. - Him hath God sent for the same did God send, A.V.; both a ruler for a ruler, A.V. and T.R.; with the hand for by the hand, A.V. and T.R. (σὺν for ἐν), but giving no clear sense in English. The meaning seems to be that Moses was to rule and save with the strength given him by the angel But it is much simpler to take ἐν χειρὶ as equivalent to the common Hebrew phrase בְיָד, meaning instrumentality, "by means of," "through," and to join it with "did send." The angel who spake to Moses in the bush in the Name of God was God's instrument in sending Moses. When an angel gives a message from God, the words are always given as spoken by God himself (see e.g. Joshua 2:1-3). In this verse Stephen, having with great oratorical skill entranced their attention by his recital of God's marvelous revelation of himself to Moses, now takes them off their guard, and shews how their fathers treated Moses just as they had treated Jesus Christ; and how God in the case of Moses had chosen and magnified the very man whom they had scornfully rejected; just as now he had exalted Jesus Christ to be a Prince and a Savior, whom they had crucified.
He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
Verse 36. - This man for he, A.V.; led them forth for brought them out, A.V. ; having wrought for after that he had showed, A.V. ; Egypt for the land of Egypt, A.V. and T.R.
This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
Verse 37. - God for the Lord your God, A.V. and T.R.; from among for of, A.V. The R.T. omits the words him shall ye hear, which follow in Dent. 18:15, and seem to be referred to in Matthew 17:5 (αὐτοῦ ἀκούσεσθε αὐτοῦ ἀκούετε). The addition of the words adds much to the point of Stephen's application (see above, Acts 3:22).
This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
Verse 38. - Sinai for Sins, A.V. (Hebrew for Greek form); living cracks for the lively cracks, A.V. In the church. St. Stephen probably used the word ἐκκλησία without any reference to its special meaning, "the Church." It is used in a secular sense in Acts 19:32, 39, and of the congregation of Israel in the LXX. of 1 Chronicles 13:2; 1 Macc. 2:56; Ecclus. 44:15; and elsewhere. In Stephen's time it could hardly have become widely known as the designation of the flock of Christ. On the whole, the marginal rendering, "the congregation," seems best, but with the idea attached that it was the Lord's congregation. The angel which spake. It may be doubted whether the phrase, "the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai," refers to the angel spoken of in ver. 30, or to the angel by whose mouth God spake the words of the ten commandments on Mount Sinai, as recorded in Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-22. Chrysostom and most commentators seem to understand it of the angel who gave the Law; but Whitby, not without reason, thinks the reference is to the burning bush. Living oracles. In like manner, St. Paul calls the Holy Scriptures "the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2), and in Hebrews 5:12 we read again of "the first principles of the oracles of God," and St. Peter says, "Let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11). For the force of the living or lively oracles, see 1 Peter 1:23, 25. Stephen magnifies Moses by reminding his hearers how he had received the Law from God to give to the people.
To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
Verse 39. - Obedient for obey, A.V.; turned back in their hearts unto Egypt for in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, A.V. Our fathers would not be obedient, though God had bestowed such signal marks of favor upon them. Turned back in their hearts. A striking instance of their rejection of God's chiefest mercies.
Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Verse 40. - Which shall go for to go, A.V.; led us forth for brought us, A.V.
And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
Verse 41. - Brought a sacrifice for offered sacrifice, A.V. (see Exodus 32:6, with which the A.V. agrees best); hands for own hands, A.V.
Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
Verse 42. - But for then, A.V.; to serve for to worship, A.V.; did ye offer unto me slain beasts and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? for O ye house of Israel, have ye offered, etc., by the space of forty years in the wilderness? A.V. The passage which follows is nearly verbatim et literatim the LXX. of Amos 5:25, 27, except the well-known substitution of "Babylon" for "Damascus" in Amos. This, according to Lightfoot, with whom most commentators agree, was in accordance with a very common practice of readers in the schools and pulpits of the Jews, to adapt and accommodate a text to their own immediate purpose, keeping, however, to historical truth. Here Stephen points to the Babylonish Captivity as the punishment of the sins of their fathers, thus warning them of more terrible judgments to follow their rejection of Christ.
Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
Verse 43. - And for yea, A.V.; the god Rephan for your god Remphan, A.V. and T.R.; the figures for figures, A.V. The god Rephan. Rephan, or Raiphan, or Remphan, as it is variously written, is the LXX. translation of the Hebrew Chiun in Amos 5:26. The best explanation of this is that Rephan is the Coptic name of the planet Saturn, well-known of course to the LXX., and that Chiun is the Hebrew and Arabic name of the same star, which they therefore translated by Rephan. With regard to the difficulty which has been felt by many that there is no mention of any such worship of Moloch and Chiun in the wilderness, and that sacrifices were continually offered to the Lord, it seems to arise from an entire misconception of the passage in Amos. What Amos means to say is that because of the treacherous, unfaithful heart of Israel, as shown in the worship of the golden calf and all their rebellions in the wilderness, all their sacrifices were worthless. Just as he had said in Amos 5:22, "Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts;" "I hate, I despise your feast days; Take away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols" (Amos 5:21, 23): just as Isaiah also says, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?... I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts ... Bring no more vain oblations; ... it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting" (Isaiah 1:11-13, etc.); and again, "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood" (Isaiah 66:3): so all the sacrifices offered up during forty years in the wilderness were no sacrifices at all, and their hypocrisy was clearly seen when they reached the land of Canaan, and, according to Moses' prophetic declaration, "forsook God which made them... aria sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not" (Deuteronomy 32:15-18), such as Chiun and Moloch, Baalim and Ashtoreth. This later idolatry was the fruit and the judicial punishment of their first declension and apostasy in the wilderness, and led to the Captivity in Babylon. It was on seeing their unfaithfulness in the wilderness that" God turned and gave them up to serve the host of heaven."
Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
Verse 44. - The testimony for witness, A.V.; even as he appointed who spake for as he had appointed, speaking, A.V.; figure for fashion, A.V. Chrysostom calls attention to the mention of the wilderness, as showing that God's presence and service were not confined to Jerusalem.
Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
Verse 45. - In their turn for that come after, (διαδεξάμενοι), A.V.; Joshua (the Hebrew form) for Jesus (the Greek form of the name), A.V.; when they entered on the possession of the nations for into the possession of the Gentiles, A.V.; which God thrust for whom God drave, A.V. In their turn; more literally, having received it in succession. It only occurs here in the New Testament. Meyer quotes 4 Macc. 4:15, "On the death of Seleucus, his son Antiochus received the kingdom in succession ;" and classical writers. When they entered, etc. There are three ways of construing the words ἐν τῇ κατασχέσει τῶν ἐθνῶν -

(1) as the A.V., taking ἐν in the sense of εἰς, and making the phrase synonymous with the laud of Canaan, the land which the Gentiles then possessed;

(2) in (their) taking possession (of the land) of the Gentiles, i.e. when they took, taking κατάσχεσις in a transitive sense, which seems to be the sense of the R.V.:

(3) with Meyer, during the holdings or possession by the Gentiles of the land, that, viz. into which their fathers brought the tabernacle. The first seems the most simple and in accordance with the Greek of the New Testament, and with what follows of the expulsion of the nations before the Israelites.
Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
Verse 46. - In the sight of for before, A.V. (ἐνώπιον); asked for desired, A.V.; habitation for tabernacle, A.V. (σκήνωμα). Habitation. In Deuteronomy 33:18 σκήνωμα stands in the LXX. for אִהֶל, and in 2 Peter 1:13, 5:14, for the human body as the tabernacle or temporary dwelling of the soul or spirit. And the idea of a temporary or movable dwelling seems to suit Stephen's argument better than that of a fixed one. The מִשְׁכָנות of Psalm 132:5 (to which perhaps, as well as 2 Samuel 7:1-6, Stephen refers) is equally applicable to a tent.
But Solomon built him an house.
Verse 47. - A house for an house, A.V. The οϊκος (the house) of ver. 47, which Solomon built, seems to be almost in contrast with the σκήνωμα (the tabernacle).
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
Verse 48. - Houses (in italics) for temples, A.V. and T.R. The word ναοῖς (here, but not in Acts 17:24) is omitted in the R.T. In Isaiah 16:12. LXX. (quoted by Meyer), χειροποίητα (plural) is used without a substantive for the "sanctuary" (מִקְדּושׁ) of Moab. For the sentiment that the infinite God, Creator of heaven and earth, cannot be contained in a house built by the hands of men, see also 2 Chronicles 6:18, as well as the passages above quoted. Stephen justifies himself from the charge of having spoken blasphemous words against the temple by citing Isaiah 66:1.
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
Verse 49. - The heaven for heaven, A.V.; the earth the footstool of my feet for earth is my footstool, A.V.; what manner of house for what house, A.V.
Hath not my hand made all these things?
Verse 50. - Did not my hand make for hath not my hand made, A.V.
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Verse 51. - Stiff-necked; hard of neck, inflexible. The word σκληροτράχηλος only occurs here in the New Testament. But it answers in the LXX. to the Hebrew קְשֵׁה־עֹרֶף (hard of neck); see Exodus 33:3, 5, and elsewhere. In applying this expression to his hearers, Stephen was using the identical language of Moses when he conveyed God's rebuke to them. Considering that they professed to be standing on Moses' side against Stephen, this must have made his words doubly cutting to them. Uncircumcised in heart; ἀπερίτμητος only occurs here in the New Testament, but it is found in 2 Macc. 1:51 2Macc. 2:46; and in the LXX. of Exodus 12:48; Judges 14:3; 1 Samuel 17:26, and elsewhere for the Hebrew עֹרֵל. The word, in its application to his Jewish audience, contains a whole volume of rebuke. They prided themselves on their circumcision, they trusted in it as a sure ground of favor in the sight of God; but all the while they were on a level with the heathen whom they despised, and were to be reckoned among the uncircumcised whom they loathed. For they were without the true circumcision, that of the heart. Here again Stephen was teaching in the exact spirit and even words of Moses and the prophets. See Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16 (where Stephen's two reproaches occur together); Jeremiah 9:26; Ezekiel 44:7; and many other passages. Compare the teaching of St. Paul (Romans 2:28, 29; Philippians 3:2, 3; Colossians 2:11; and elsewhere).
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Verse 52. - Did not... persecute for have not... persecuted, A.V.; killed for have slain, A.V. ; righteous for just, A.V.; have now become for have been now, A.V.; betrayers for the betrayers, A.V. The close resemblance of Stephen's words to those of our Lord recorded in Luke 13:33, 34; Matthew 5:12; Matthew 23:30, 31, 34-37, lend some support to the tradition that he was one of the seventy, and had heard the Lord speak them. But the resemblance may have arisen from the Spirit by which he spake, "the Spirit of Christ which was in" him.
Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
Verse 53. - Ye who received for who have received, A.V. ; as it was ordained by angels for by the disposition of angels, A.V.; kept it not for hove not kept it, A.V. Ordained by angels. This phrase, thus differently rendered (εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων), is one of extreme difficulty: διαταγή means properly appointment," or "ordinance," as in Romans 13:2; and εἰς, which has a great variety of uses in the Greek of the New Testament, means "at," or "upon," or "on the occasion of," as Matthew 12:41, "At the preaching of Jonah." So here they received the Law "at" or "on the occasion of," the "ordering" or "appointing" of angels. When the angels, who were commissioned by God and spoke in his Name, gave the Law, the Israelites so received it. The A.V., "by the disposition of angels" very nearly ex- presses the true sense. Another sense of εἰς - "in view of" - comes to nearly the same thing. St. Paul speaks of the part taken by the angels in the giving of the Law, and in language strikingly resembling the text. He says of it, that it was "ordained through ['by,' A V] angels" God ordained or appointed the Law, but the angels were the instruments or ministers of its promulgation. And it is also distinctly referred to in Deuteronomy 33:2, where the LXX. read, "On his right hand the angels were with him." In the foregoing verses the application which Stephen had all through been contemplating is hurled with accumulated force at the consciences of his hearers, and cuts them to the heart, but does not bring them to repentance.
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
Verse 54. - Now when for when, A.V. They were cut to the heart (see Acts 5:33 and notes).
But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
Verse 55. - Looked up steadfastly (ἀτενίσας); see Acts 6:15; Acts 3:4, and note. The glory of God; i.e. the visible glory which surrounds and proclaims God's near presence (see Exodus 24:10, 16, 17; Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 21:14, 23, etc.). Jesus standing. Sitting at the right hand of God is the usual attitude ascribed to our Lord in token of his victorious rest, and waiting for the day of judgment. Here he is seen standing, as rising to welcome his faithful martyr, and to place on his head the crown of life Revelation 2:10). Whether Stephen saw these glorious things in the flesh or out of the flesh he probably knew not himself.
And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Verse 56. - The Son of man. Our Lord's usual designation of himself (see Matthew 8:10; Matthew 26:64; etc.; and also Daniel 7:13), but nowhere but here spoken of Jesus by any other.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
Verse 57. - But for then, A.V.; rushed for ran, A.V. (ὥρμησαν).
And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
Verse 58. - They cast for cast, A.V. ; garments for clothes, A.V.; the feet of a young man for a young man's feet, A.V.; named Saul for whose name was Saul, A.V. They cast. We have here the identical phrase of Luke 4:29. The witness. According to Deuteronomy 17:7, "the hands of the witnesses were to be first upon" the idolater "to put him to death." They took off their clothes, their outer garments, so as to be free to hurl the stones at their victim with greater force. The feet of a young man. The word νεανίας is found only here and in Acts 20:9; Acts 23:17, 18, 22; and frequently in the LXX. for the Hebrew נַעִר. A man might be called a νεανίας probably to the age of thirty. This appearance of Saul upon the stage of St. Luke's narrative is an element which will soon change the whole current of the narrative, and divert it from Jerusalem to the whole earth. Nothing can be more striking than this introduction of the young man Saul to our view as an accomplice (albeit "ignorantly in unbelief") in the martyrdom of Stephen. Who that stood there and saw him keeping the clothes of the witnesses would have imagined that he would become the foremost apostle of the faith which he sought to destroy from off the face of the earth?
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Verse 59. - The Lord (in italics) for God (in italics), A.V. The A.V. is certainly not justified by the context, because the words which follow, "Lord Jesus," show to whom the invocation was made, even to him whom he saw standing at the right hand of God. At the same time, the request, Receive my spirit, was a striking acknowledgment of the divinity of Christ. Only he who gave the spirit could receive it back again, and keep it safe unto the resurrection. Compare "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46).
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Verse 60. - Cried with a loud voice. Compare again Luke 23:46, and with Stephen's prayer, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, compare Luke 23:34. He fell asleep. Blessed rest after life's toilsome day! Blessed contrast with the tumult of passion and violence which brought him down to the grave! How near, too, in his dying was that likeness to his Lord advanced, which shall be perfected at his appearing (1 John 3:1)! "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord,... that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them." St. Augustine ('Sermons in Festo Sti. Stephani;' Conybeare and Howson, vol. 1. p. 82) attributes Saul's conversion to the prayer of Stephen: "Si Stephanus non orasset, Ecclesia Paulum non haberet."

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