Vincent's Word Studies
Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
Then said the high-priest
"The glorified countenance of Stephen has caused a pause of surprise and admiration, which the high-priest interrupts by calling upon the accused for his defence" (Gloag).
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,
Addressing the audience generally.
Addressing the members of the Sanhedrim.
Outward, visible glory, as in the shekinah and the pillar of fire.
See on Luke 22:43.
And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
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.
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.
See on 1 Peter 1:4.
Not so much as to set his foot on (οὐδὲ βῆμα ποδός)
Lit., not even the stepping of a foot. From the original meaning, a pace or step, which occurs only here in the New Testament, comes the sense of a step considered as a raised place or seat, and hence a tribune or judgment-seat, which is its meaning in every other passage of the New Testament.
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.
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.
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.
The covenant of circumcision
There is no article, and it is better omitted in rendering. He gave him a covenant, the peculiar character of which is defined by the next word - of circumcision; i.e., of which circumcision was the completion and seal.
And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
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.
See on Matthew 13:21.
Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
For their cattle: fodder. See on shall be filled, Matthew 5:6.
But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
In Egypt (ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ)
But the best texts read εἰς Αἴγυπτον, into Egypt, and construe with sent forth: "he sent forth our fathers into Egypt."
And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
Note the repetition of the name. "A certain sense of patriotic pride is implied in it."
Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
Threescore and fifteen
Lit., "in (ἐν) threescore and fifteen;" the idiom expressing the sum in which all the individuals were included.
So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
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.
But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
Rev., more correctly, as; the word being not a particle of time, but meaning in proportion as.
Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
Not merely a successor, but a monarch of a different character.
As sixty years had elapsed since Joseph's death, and a new dynasty was coming to the throne, this may be taken literally: did not know his history and services. Some explain, did not recognize his merits.
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.
Dealt subtilely (κατασοφισάμενος)
Only here in New Testament. Lit., to employ cunning against. See on σοφὸς, wise, James 3:13.
So that they cast out (τοῦ ποιεῖν ἔκθετα)
Lit., make exposed. The verb ἐκτίθημι, to set out, or place outside, is not uncommon in classical Greek for the exposure of a new-born child. Thus Herodotus, of Cyrus, exposed in infancy: "The herdsman's wife entreated him not to expose (ἐκθεῖναι) the babe" (i., 112). The rendering of the A. V., "so that they cast out," is correct, expressing the result, and not Pharaoh's design.
Young children (βρέφη)
Incorrect. See on 1 Peter 2:2. Rev., rightly, babes.
Or, be preserved alive. See on Luke 17:33.
In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:
Better, season or juncture. "Sad, seasonable" (Bengel). See on Acts 1:7.
Exceeding fair (ἀστεῖος τῷ θεῷ)
Lit., fair unto God: a Hebrew superlative. Compare Jonah 3:3 : great unto God; A. V., exceeding great. Genesis 10:9, of Nimrod: a mighty hunter before the Lord. 2 Corinthians 10:4 : mighty unto God; i.e., in God's sight. Ἀστεῖος, fair (only here and Hebrews 11:23), is from ἄστυ, a town, and means originally town-bred; hence refined, elegant, comely. The word is used in the Septuagint of Moses (Exodus 2:2), and rendered goodly. The Jewish traditions extol Moses' beauty. Josephus says that those who met him, as he was carried along the streets, forgot their business and stood still to gaze at him.
And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
Took up (ἀνείλετο)
Used among Greek writers of taking up exposed children; also of owning new-born children. So Aristophanes: "I exposed (the child) and some other woman, having taken it, adopted (ανείλετο) it" ("Clouds," 531). There is no reason why the meaning should be limited to took him up from the water (as Gloag).
And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
It came into his heart (ἀνέβη ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν)
Lit., "it arose into his heart." "There may be something in the depth of the soul which afterward emerges and ascends from that sea into the heart as into an island" (Bengel). The expression is imitated from the Hebrew, and occurs in the Septuagint: "The ark shall not come to mind;" lit., go up into the heart (Jeremiah 3:16). See, also, Jeremiah 32:35; Isaiah 65:17.
And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
Only here in New Testament. The word means originally to ward off from one's self, with a collateral notion of requital or revenge.
For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
See on understanding, Mark 12:33.
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?
With the suggestion of a sudden appearance as in a vision; possibly with the underlying notion of a messenger of God. See on Luke 22:43.
Would have set them at one (συνήλασεν αὐτοὺς εἰς εἰρήνην)
Lit., drove them together to peace; urged them.
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?
Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
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.
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,
The sight (τὸ ὅραμα)
Always in the New Testament of a vision. See on Matthew 17:9.
To behold (κατανοῆσαι)
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.
Trembled (ἔντρομος γενόμενος)
Lit., having become trembling; having fallen into a tremor.
Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
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.
I have seen, I have seen (ἰδὼν εἶδον)
Lit., having seen I saw. A Hebraism. See Exodus 3:7 (Sept.). Compare Judges 1:28 : utterly drive them out; lit., removing did not utterly remove. Judges 4:9 : going I will go; i.e., I will surely go. Genesis 37:8 : reigning shalt thou reign; i.e., shalt thou indeed reign. So Rev. here, "I have surely seen."
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.
By the hand (ἐν χειρὶ)
The best texts read σύν χειρὶ, "with the hand;" i.e., in association with the protecting and helping power of the angel.
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.
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.
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:
To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
Turned back in their hearts
Not desiring to go back, but longing for the idolatries of Egypt.
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.
Shall go before us
As symbols to be borne before them on the march. Compare Nehemiah 9:18.
And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
They made a calf (ἐμοσχοποίησαν)
Only here in New Testament, and not in Septuagint. Bengel says, "A very notorious crime is denoted by an extraordinary and newly-coined word." This was in imitation of the Egyptian bull-worship. Several of these animals were worshipped at different places in Egypt. Apis was worshipped at Memphis. Herodotus says: "Now this Apis, or Epaphus, is the calf of a cow which is never afterward able to bear young. The Egyptians say that fire comes down from heaven upon the cow, which thereupon conceives Apis. The calf which is so called has the following marks: He is black, with a square spot of white upon his forehead, and on his back the figure of an eagle. The hairs in his tail are double, and there is a beetle upon his tongue" (iii., 28). He was regarded by the Egyptians, not merely as an emblem, but as a god. He was lodged in a magnificent court, ornamented with figures twelve cubits high, which he never quitted except on fixed days, when he was led in procession through the streets. His festival lasted seven days, and all came forward from their houses to welcome him as he passed. He was not allowed to reach the natural term of his life. If a natural death did not remove him earlier, he was drowned when he reached the age of twenty-five, and was then embalmed and entombed in one of the sepulchral chambers of the Serapeum, a temple devoted expressly to the burial of these animals.
Another sacred bull was maintained at Heliopolis, in the great Temple of the Sun, under the name of Mnevis, and was honored with a reverence next to Apis. Wilkinson thinks that it was from this, and not from Apis, that the Israelites borrowed their notions of the golden calf. "The offerings, dancing, and rejoicings practised on the occasion, were doubtless in imitation of a ceremony they had witnessed in honor of Mnevis during their sojourn in Egypt" ("Ancient Egyptians," 2 sen, vol. ii., p. 197). A third sacred bull, called Bacis, was maintained at Hermonthis, near Thebes. It was a huge, black animal, and its hairs were said to grow the wrong way. Other bulls and cows did not hold the rank of gods, but were only sacred.
Lit., led up. See on James 2:21.
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?
To worship (λατρεύειν)
Rev., more correctly, serve, See on Luke 1:74.
The host of heaven
Star-worship, or Sabaeanism, the remnant of the ancient heathenism of Western Asia, which consisted in the worship of the stars, and spread into Syria, though the Chaldaean religion was far from being the simple worship of the host of heaven; the heavenly bodies being regarded as real persons, and not mere metaphorical representations of astronomical phenomena. It is to the Sabaean worship that Job alludes when, in asserting the purity of his life (Job 31:26, Job 31:27), he says: "If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hands: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above." Though not a part of the religion of the Egyptians, Rawlinson thinks it may have been connected with their earlier belief, since prayer is represented in hieroglyphics by a man holding up his hands, accompanied by a star (Herodotus, vol. ii., p. 291).
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.
Tabernacle of Moloch
The portable tent-temple of the god, to be carried in procession. Moloch was an Ammonite idol to whom children were sacrificed. According to Rabbinical tradition, his image was hollow, heated from below, with the head of an ox and outstretched arms, into which children were laid, their cries being stifled by the beating of drums.
The texts vary between Remphan, Rephan, and Romphan. It is supposed to be the Coptic name for Saturn, to which the Arabs, Egyptians, and Phoenicians paid divine honors.
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.
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;
That came after (διαδεξάμενοι)
Only here in New Testament. The verb originally means to receive from one another, in succession; and that appears to be the more simple and natural rendering here: having received it (from Moses). Rev., very neatly, in their turn.
Joshua. The names are the same, both signifying Saviour. See on Matthew 1:21.
Into the possession (ἐν τῇ κατασχέσει)
Rev., when they entered on the possession.
Before the face (ἀπὸ προσώπου)
More strictly, "away from the face." The same expression occurs in the Septuagint, Deuteronomy 11:23.
Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
More correctly, asked: through Nathan. See 2 Samuel 7:2.
But Solomon built him an house.
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
The Most High
In contrast with heathen gods, who were confined to their temples.
Temples made with hands (χειροποιήτοις ναοῖς)
The best texts omit ναοῖς, temples. The meaning is more general: in things made with hands. The expression is, however, used of a sanctuary in Isaiah 16:12 : "Moab shall come to his sanctuary (τὰ χειροποίητα)." The phrase work, or works of men's hands, is common in the Old Testament of idols. See Deuteronomy 4:28; 2 Kings 19:18; 2 Chronicles 32:19; Psalm 115:4. Compare Mark 14:58; Ephesians 2:11; Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:24; 2 Corinthians 5:1.
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?
Rev., more correctly, "what manner of house" (ποῖον).
Hath not my hand made all these things?
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Stiff-necked and uncircumcised (σκληροτράχηλοι καὶ ἀπερίτμητοι)
Both only here in New Testament.
It is a very strong expression, implying active resistance. Lit., to fall against or upon. Used of falling upon an enemy. Only here in New Testament.
Ye have been (γεγένησθε)
More correctly, as Rev., ye have become.
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:
Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
Stronger than the simple relative who, and emphasizing their sin by contrast with their privileges: inasmuch as ye were those who received, etc.
By the disposition of angels (εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων)
Lit., unto ordinances of angels. Εἰς means with reference to. Disposition (διαταγή) is used by A. V. in the sense of arrangement, as we say a general disposed his trooPsalms The word occurs only here and Romans 13:2, where it is rendered ordinance. The kindred verb διατάσσω occurs often, and mostly in the sense of command or appoint. See Matthew 11:1; Luke 3:13. In 1 Corinthians 11:34, it is translated set in order. The reference is most probably to the Jewish tradition that the law was given through the agency of angels. See Deuteronomy 33:2. Compare Psalm 68:17. Paul expressly says that the law was administered by the medium of angels (Galatians 3:19). Compare the word spoken by angels (Hebrews 2:2). Render, therefore, as Rev., as it was ordained by angels.
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
They were cut
Originally to eat greedily, with a noise, as wild beasts: hence to gnash or grind the teeth.
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,
See on James 2:15.
Looked up steadfastly
And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
I see (θεωρῶ)
See on Luke 10:18.
The Son of man
A title never applied to Christ by any of the apostles or evangelists, except here by Stephen. See on Luke 6:22.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
Lit., held together.
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.
According to the Rabbis, the scaffold to which the criminal was to be led, with his hands bound, was to be twice the size of a man. One of the witnesses was to smite him with a stone upon the breast, so as to throw him down. If he were not killed, the second witness was to throw another stone at him. Then, if he were yet alive, all the people were to stone him until he was dead. The body was then to be suspended till sunset.
A young man (νεανίου)
Which, however, gives no indication of his age, since it is applied up to the age of forty-five. Thirty years after Stephen's martyrdom, Paul speaks of himself as the aged (Plm 1:9).
The first mention of the apostle to the Gentiles.
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Calling upon God
God is not in the Greek. From the vision just described, and from the prayer which follows, it is evident that Jesus is meant. So Rev., the Lord.
An unquestionable prayer to Christ.
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.
Lay not this sin to their charge (μὴ στήσῃς αὐτοῖς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ταύτην)
Lit., fix not this sin upon them.
He fell asleep (ἐκοιμήθη)
Marking his calm and peaceful death. Though the pagan authors sometimes used sleep to signify death, it was only as a poetic figure. When Christ, on the other hand, said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth (κεκοίμηται)," he used the word, not as a figure, but as the expression of a fact. In that mystery of death, in which the pagan saw only nothingness, Jesus saw continued life, rest, waking - the elements which enter into sleep. And thus, in Christian speech and thought, as the doctrine of the resurrection struck its roots deeper, the word dead, with its hopeless finality, gave place to the more gracious and hopeful word sleep. The pagan burying-place carried in its name no suggestion of hope or comfort. It was a burying-place, a hiding-place, a monumentum, a mere memorial of something gone; a columbarium, or dove-cot, with its little pigeon-holes for cinerary urns; but the Christian thought of death as sleep, brought with it into Christian speech the kindred thought of a chamber of rest, and embodied it in the word cemetery (κοιμητήριον) - the place to lie down to sleep.