Wesley's Notes on the Bible
Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
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,
7:2 And he said - St. Stephen had been accused of blasphemy against Moses, and even against God; and of speaking against the temple and the law, threatening that Jesus would destroy the one, and change the other. In answer to this accusation, rehearsing as it were the articles of his historical creed, he speaks of God with high reverence, and a grateful sense of a long series of acts of goodness to the Israelites, and of Moses with great respect, on account of his important and honourable employments under God: of the temple with regard, as being built to the honour of God; yet not with such superstition as the Jews; putting them in mind, that no temple could comprehend God. And he was going on, no doubt, when he was interrupted by their clamour, to speak to the last point, the destruction of the temple, and the change of the law by Christ. Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken - The sum of his discourse is this: I acknowledge the glory of God revealed to the fathers, ver. 2; Ac 7:2 the calling of Moses, ver. 34, 7:34 and c; the dignity of the law, verse s 8,38,44 Ac 7:8,38,44; the holiness of this place, verse s 7,45,47. Ac 7:7,45,47 And indeed the law is more ancient than the temple; the promise more ancient than the law. For God showed himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their children freely, ver. 2, and c; 9, and c; 17, and c; 32,34,35; Ac 7:2,9,17,32,34,35 and they showed faith and obedience to God, ver. 4, 20, and c, 23, Ac 7:4,20,23 particularly by their regard for the law, ver. 8, Ac 7:8 and the promised land, ver. 16. 7:16 Meantime, God never confined his presence to this one place or to the observers of the law. For he hath been acceptably worshipped before the law was given, or the temple built, and out of this land, ver. 2, 9, 33, 44. Ac 7:2,9,33,44 And that our fathers and their posterity were not tied down to this land, their various sojournings, ver. 4, and c; 14, 29, 44, Ac 7:4,14,29,44 and exile, ver. 43, show. Ac 7:43 But you and your fathers have always been evil, ver. 9; Ac 7:9 have withstood Moses, ver. 25, and c, 39, and c; Ac 7:25,39 have despised the land, ver. 39, Ac 7:39 forsaken God, ver. 40, and c, Ac 7:40 superstitiously honoured the temple, ver. 48, Ac 7:48 resisted God and his Spirit, ver 50, Ac 7:50 killed the prophets and the Messiah himself, ver. 51, Ac 7:51 and kept not the law for which ye contend, ver. 53. Ac 7:53 Therefore God is not bound to you; much less to you alone. And truly this solemn testimony of Stephen is most worthy of his character, as a man full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith and power: in which, though he does not advance so many regular propositions, contradictory to those of his adversaries, yet he closely and nervously answers them all. Nor can we doubt but he would, from these premises, have drawn inferences touching the destruction of the temple, the abrogation of the Mosaic law, the punishment of that rebellious people; and above all, touching Jesus of Nazareth, the true Messiah, had not his discourse been interrupted by the clamours of the multitude, stopping their ears, and rushing upon him. Men, brethren, and fathers - All who are here present, whether ye are my equals in years, or of more advanced age. The word which in this and in many other places is rendered men is a mere expletive. The God of glory - The glorious God, appeared to Abraham before he dwelt in Haran - Therefore Abraham knew God, long before he was in this land. Gen 12:1.
And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
7:3 Which I will show thee - Abraham knew not where he went.
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.
7:4 After his father was dead - While Terah lived, Abraham lived partly with him, partly in Canaan: but after he died, altogether in Canaan.
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.
7:5 No, not to set his foot on - For the field mentioned, Ac 7:16, he did not receive by a Divine donation, but bought it; even thereby showing that he was a stranger in the land.
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.
7:6 Gen 15:13.
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.
7:7 They shall serve me - Not the Egyptians.
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.
7:8 And so he begat Isaac - After the covenant was given, of which circumcision was the seal. Gen 17:10.
And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
7:9 But God was with him - Though he was not in this land. Gen 37:28.
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.
Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
7:12 Sent our fathers first - Without Benjamin.
And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
7:14 Seventy - five souls - So the seventy interpreters, (whom St. Stephen follows,) one son and a grandson of Manasseh, and three children of Ephraim, being added to the seventy persons mentioned Gen 46:27.
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.
7:16 And were carried over to Shechem - It seems that St. Stephen, rapidly running over so many circumstances of history, has not leisure (nor was it needful where they were so well known) to recite them all distinctly. Therefore he here contracts into one, two different sepulchres, places, and purchases, so as in the former history, to name the buyer, omitting the seller, in the latter, to name the seller, omitting the buyer. Abraham bought a burying place of the children of Heth, Gen. xxiii. Gen 23:1 - 20 There Jacob was buried. Jacob bought a field of the children of Hamor. There Joseph was buried. You see here, how St. Stephen contracts these two purchases into one. This concise manner of speaking, strange as it seems to us, was common among the Hebrews; particularly, when in a case notoriously known, the speaker mentioned but part of the story, and left the rest, which would have interrupted the current of his discourse, to be supplied in the mind of the hearer. And laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought - The first land which these strangers bought was for a sepulchre. They sought for a country in heaven. Perhaps the whole sentence might be rendered thus: So Jacob went down into Egypt and died, he and our fathers, and were carried over to Shechem, and laid by the sons (that is, decendants) of Hamor, the father of Shechem, in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money.
But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
7:17 Exod 1:7.
Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
7:18 Another king - Probably of another family.
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.
7:19 Exposed - Cast out to perish by hunger or wild beasts.
In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:
7:20 In which time - A sad but a seasonable time. Exod 2:2.
And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
7:21 Pharaoh's daughter took him up - By which means, being designed for a kingdom, he had all those advantages of education, which he could not have had, if he had not been exposed.
And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
7:22 In all the wisdom of the Egyptians - Which was then celebrated in all the world, and for many ages after. And mighty in words - Deep, solid, weighty, though not of a ready utterance.
And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
7:23 It came into his heart - Probably by an impulse from God.
And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
7:24 Seeing one wronged - Probably by one of the task masters.
For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
7:25 They understood it not - Such was their stupidity and sloth; which made him afterward unwilling to go to them.
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?
7:26 He showed himself - Of his own accord, unexpectedly.
But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
7:27 Who appointed thee - Under the presence of the want of a call by man, the instruments of God are often rejected.
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.
7:30 The angel - The Son of God; as appears from his styling himself Jehovah. In a flame of fire - Signifying the majesty of God then present. Exod 3:2.
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,
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.
Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
7:33 Then said the Lord, Loose thy shoes - An ancient token of reverence; for the place is holy ground - The holiness of places depends on the peculiar presence of God there.
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.
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.
7:35 This Moses whom they refused - Namely, forty years before. Probably, not they, but their fathers did it, and God imputes it to them. So God frequently imputes the sins of the fathers to those of their children who are of the same spirit. Him did God send to be a deliverer - Which is much more than a judge; by the hand of - That is, by means of the angel - This angel who spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai expressly called himself Jehovah, a name which cannot, without the highest presumption, be assumed by any created angel, since he whose name alone is Jehovah, is the Most High over all the earth, Psalm lxxxiii, 18. Psa 83:18. It was therefore the Son of God who delivered the law to Moses, under the character of Jehovah, and who is here spoken of as the angel of the covenant, in respect of his mediatorial office.
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.
7:37 The Lord will raise you up a prophet - St. Stephen here shows that there is no opposition between Moses and Christ. Deut 18:15
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:
7:38 This is he - Moses. With the angel, and with our fathers - As a mediator between them. Who received the living oracles - Every period beginning with, And the Lord said unto Moses, is properly an oracle. But the oracles here intended are chiefly the ten commandments. These are termed living, because all the word of God, applied by his Spirit, is living and powerful, Heb 4:12, enlightening the eyes, rejoicing the heart, converting the soul, raising the dead. Exod 19:3.
To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into 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.
7:40 Make us gods to go before us - Back into Egypt. Exod 32:1.
And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
7:41 And they made a calf - In imitation of Apis, the Egyptian god: and rejoiced in the works of their hands - In the god they had made.
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?
7:42 God turned - From them in anger; and gave them up - Frequently from the time of the golden calf, to the time of Amos, and afterward. The host of heaven - The stars are called an army or host, because of their number, order, and powerful influence. In the book of the prophets - Of the twelve prophets, which the Jews always wrote together in one book. Have ye offered - The passage of Amos referred to, chap. v, 25, and c, Amos 5:25 consists of two parts; of which the former confirms ver. 41, Ac 7:41,42 of the sin of the people; the latter the beginning of ver. 42, concerning their punishment. Have ye offered to me - They had offered many sacrifices; but God did not accept them as offered to him, because they sacrificed to idols also; and did not sacrifice to him with an upright heart. Amos 5:25.
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.
7:43 Ye took up - Probably not long after the golden calf: but secretly; else Moses would have mentioned it. The shrine - A small, portable chapel, in which was the image of their god. Moloch was the planet Mars, which they worshipped under a human shape. Remphan, that is, Saturn, they represented by a star. And I will carry you beyond Babylon - That is, beyond Damascus (which is the word in Amos) and Babylon. This was fulfilled by the king of Assyria, 2Kings 17:6.
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.
7:44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony - The testimony was properly the two tables of stone, on which the ten commandments were written. Hence the ark which contained them is frequently called the ark of the testimony; and the whole tabernacle in this place. The tabernacle of the testimony - according to the model which he had seen - When he was caught up in the visions of God on the mount.
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;
7:45 Which our fathers having received - From their ancestors; brought into the possession of the Gentiles - Into the land which the Gentiles possessed before. So that God's favour is not a necessary consequence of inhabiting this land. All along St. Stephen intimates two things:
1. That God always loved good men in every land:
2. That he never loved bad men even in this. Josh 3:14.
Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
7:46 Who petitioned to find a habitation for the God of Jacob - But he did not obtain his petition: for God remained without any temple till Solomon built him a house. Observe how wisely the word is chosen with respect to what follows.
But Solomon built him an house.
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
7:48 Yet the Most High inhabiteth not temples made with hands - As Solomon declared at the very dedication of the temple, 1Ki 8:27. The Most High - Whom as such no building can contain. 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?
7:49 What is the place of my rest? - Have I need to rest?
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.
7:51 Ye stiff necked - Not bowing the neck to God's yoke; and uncircumcised in heart - So they showed themselves, ver. 54; Act 7:54 and ears - As they showed, ver. 57. Act 7:57 So far were they from receiving the word of God into their hearts, that they would not hear it even with their ears. Ye - And your fathers, always - As often as ever ye are called, resist the Holy Ghost - Testifying by the prophets of Jesus, and the whole truth. This is the sum of what he had shown at large.
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.
7:53 Who have received the law by the administration of angels - God, when he gave the law on Mount Sinai, was attended with thousands of his angels, Gal 3:19; Psa 68:17.
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their 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,
7:55 But he looking steadfastly up to heaven, saw the glory of God - Doubtless he saw such a glorious representation, God miraculously operating on his imagination, as on Ezekiel's, when he sat in his house at Babylon, and saw Jerusalem, and seemed to himself transported thither, Eze 8:1 -
4. And probably other martyrs, when called to suffer the last extremity, have had extraordinary assistance of some similar kind.
And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
7:56 I see the Son of man standing - As if it were just ready to receive him. Otherwise he is said to sit at the right hand of God.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
7:57 They rushed upon him - Before any sentence passed.
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.
7:58 The witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul - O Saul, couldst thou have believed, if one had told thee, that thou thyself shouldst be stoned in the same cause? and shouldst triumph in committing thy soul likewise to that Jesus whom thou art now blaspheming? His dying prayer reached thee, as well as many others. And the martyr Stephen, and Saul the persecutor, (afterward his brother both in faith and martyrdom,) are now joined in everlasting friendship, and dwell together in the happy company of those who have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
7:59 And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit - This is the literal translation of the words, the name of God not being in the original. Nevertheless such a solemn prayer to Christ, in which a departing soul is thus committed into his hands, is such an act of worship, as no good man could have paid to a mere creature; Stephen here worshipping Christ in the very same manner in which Christ worshipped the Father on the cross.
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.