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Bible Commentaries
Acts 7

Concordant Commentary of the New TestamentConcordant NT Commentary

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Verses 1-17

13 These synagogues were doubtless very lax in their adherence to the Jewish law and customs, yet they are not ashamed to charge Stephen with this, in order to inflame the Sanhedrin against him. The false witness did not consist in trumping up charges with no foundation in fact, but in perverting the truth, just as was done in the case of our Lord. Indeed, they brought up the very same charge ( Mat_26:61 ). While Christ was on earth, His body was the true temple of God ( Joh_2:21 ). Jehovah did not inhabit Herod's splendid pile. It did not house the Shekinah glory. The only times that it was tenanted by the Divine Effulgence was when He came into its courts. When He left it the last time, He exclaimed, "Lo! your house is left to you desolate!" ( Mat_23:38 ). Stephen had doubtless brought this truth home to them, and perhaps had also pressed our Lord's prediction concerning the destruction of Herod's shrine, so that not one stone should be left on another ( Mat_24:2 ). But in no case could he have said that Christ (Whom they contemptuously termed the Nazarene) would Himself destroy the temple. On the contrary, He said that, when they destroyed it, He would raise it up ( Joh_2:19 ). This He did in His resurrection ( Joh_2:22 ). And now the glory of God's presence illuminates the face of Stephen, so that he becomes, for the time, the messenger, or angel of God to them.

1 The address of Stephen is a model for presenting the Messiah to the Jews. They stumbled at His sufferings and rejection, so Stephen takes up the greatest of the nation's heroes, who were types of Messiah, and shows that, in each case, there was a preliminary separation or rejection. Abraham was compelled to leave his kindred and his father's house, Joseph was hated by his brethren, Moses was not recognized when he first came to help his people, even David, that unparalleled type of the coming King, not only spent years in rejection, but had to leave the building of the temple to Solomon. All of these are pictures of a rejected Messiah. In each the glory followed suffering and separation. Such is the picture which the ancient Scriptures draw, and the inference is clear that Jesus is Messiah.

2 Abram was first called out of his land and from his relatives, and went as far as Haran, accompanied by his father's household. Further obedience to the divine command seems to have been hindered by his father, and they went no further. At his father's death, he leaves his father's house and completes his journey to Canaan. Yet he received none of the land which should become his, and thus prefigures Him Who came to his own and received nothing but a tomb (Gen.23). The rite of circumcision likewise tells of the cutting off of His flesh on the cross.

9 Joseph is a marvelous miniature of the suffering and glorified Messiah. The jealous hatred of his brethren placed him in the pit and in the prison, but God was with him and exalted him to the highest place on earth. He became the deliverer, not only of his own brethren; but of all of Egypt also. The one whom they despised and ill-treated became their lord and saviour. The Sanhedrin could hardly miss the application of this to the Messiah Whom Stephen proclaimed. They were the brethren of Messiah ben Joseph.

11 The great affliction of Jacob is typical of the great affiiction of the end time, after which Messiah will make Himself known to His brethren.

14 The Septuagint, or Greek version, differs from the Hebrew text in Gen_46:26-27 by giving Joseph nine sons in place of two, and thus bringing the total up to seventy-five. But, as the enumeration in Genesis does not necessarily include all who are alluded to by Stephen,

there is no reason why they should give the same total. The Septuagint differs greatly from the Hebrew text in regard to numbers, especially in the genealogies, and it may preserve some true readings.

16 The bones of Joseph were transferred from Egypt to the land by Moses ( Exo_13:19 ). So the rest of the patriarchs were transferred to Sychem, where Jacob had bought a parcel of a field ( Gen_33:19 ), probably near, or adjoining the sepulcher which Abraham had bought before, of which there is no record in Genesis. If Stephen had made even a minute blunder regarding this the Sanhedrin would soon have set him right. They were much "higher" critics than any we have today.

Verses 18-40

18 It is probable that the lot of Israel in Egypt was pleasant under the dynasty which was acquainted with Joseph, who made these rulers absolute masters in Egypt, for he got for them all the silver and the cattle and the land in exchange for grain, in the time of the famine

(Gen.47). Such service could not be forgotten. So it was that Israel prospered in the land of Goshen until the reigning dynasty was displaced by a different line of rulers, who knew nothing of Joseph and were not indebted to him for their power.

20 Moses is a memorable example of God's method of meeting the wisdom of the world. Pharaoh plans the extermination of the Hebrew race, yet he himself nurtures and educates their deliverer!

22 Egypt is set before us as the sum of human wisdom, as Assyria was of human power. The Egyptian priests had a knowledge of science which, in some points at least, far surpassed what is known today. No scientist can accomplish the feats of Jannes and Jambres. Moses was far beyond our present standards of intellectual attainment.

23 The incident concerning Moses' rejection by his brethren at his first attempt to become their deliverer must have had a powerful effect on the Sanhedrin, for nothing would appeal to them more than a parallel between Moses and Messiah. Except to the most hardened heart, the fact that Moses was, in the first place, scorned by those whom he came to save, and his efforts in their behalf misunderstood, proved positively that Messiah would receive similar treatment. As Pharaoh menaced the life of Moses, so Herod sought the life of Christ. As his own people cast out Moses and refused to accept the salvation he offered them, so the Jews murdered the Messiah and rejected His deliverance. And we may add, as Moses came back and led them out, so will Messiah return and lead them into the blessings of the millennial kingdom.

30 The flaming thornbush is a notable symbol of the nation of Israel. They were in the midst of the fire of persecution and have often been since they came out of Egypt, yet they are never consumed. They are the only eonian nation.

20 He Who is especially referred to as Jehovah in the Hebrew scriptures is here called a messenger or angel. The same term is used of the One seen by Moses on mount Sinai (53). Hence it is evident that the theophanies. or visible appearances of the invisible God, were carried out by intermediate agents. Indeed, the deity is identified with the messenger even in Exodus. First we are told that the angel of the Lord appeared in the midst of the bush. And when Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see, Elohim called unto him out of the midst of the bush ( Exo_3:2-4 ). The same is true of the giving of the law at Sinai. Moses went up unto Elohim, and Jehovah called unto him out of the mountain ( Exo_19:3 ). Yet we are assured that the law was prescribed through messengers in the hands of a mediator ( Gal_3:19 ), and that it was spoken by messengers ( Heb_2:2 ).

35 The prime point with Stephen is that it was the one whom they had disowned who was chosen by God to be their redeemer and judge. Just so with Messiah. The fact that He had been disowned was no proof that He was false. It was, rather, the great sign which identified Him with the types of old, for Moses was rejected by the people even after he led them out of Egypt and had received the law and wrought wonderful miracles to attest his office. This should be the key note in all evangelism of the people of the covenant. A prophet like Moses must suffer at the hands of his own people. This thought ought also to cheer the hearts of His lesser slaves who find themselves rejected and despised because of their faithfulness to Him.

36 The forty years covered by the book of Acts is the antitype of the wilderness wanderings. It is characterized by the same stubborn unbelief which strewed the bones of Israel along the wilderness, so that those who left Egypt did not enter the land of promise. Neither did those of the Pentecostal era enter the kingdom. The epistle to the Hebrews unfolds this likeness, for it was written to explain why the promise of the kingdom waits.

37 Accused of disloyalty to Moses, he proves the falsity of the charge by his constant reference to Moses' writings.

Verses 41-60

41 Idolatry is, etymologically, the offering of divine service to that which can be perceived by the senses. In this way, all objects of worship, even if they are supposed to be representations of the true God, are idols. God will have no images of Himself but One-His beloved Son. He is the Image of the invisible God ( Col_1:15 ). The idolatry here mentioned is usually referred to Israel in the wilderness. But their conduct at that time was hardly the occasion of the Babylonian exile. In neither Amos ( Act_5:25-27 ) nor Acts is the time given, but it was, most likely, in the days of the kings, before the captivity. One of the causes of their exile was that they had transgressed very much after all the abominations of the nations ( 2Ch_36:14 ). In the land they corrupted the form of the wilderness worship, substituting the tabernacle of Moloch for the testimony which Jehovah had directed to be constructed according to the model Moses had seen. It is possible that the Hebrew should be translated "your king", rather than "Moloch". Amos writes concerning Israel ( Amo_1:1 ), so that the reference may be to their first king, Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. He, like Aaron, made a "calf" or bull for the people to worship. In fact, he made two, and placed one in Bethel and the other in Dan ( 1Ki_12:25-30 ). In one case it was a revolt from the prophet of Jehovah, in the other it was secession from the rightful king and the house of David. Besides the false tabernacle, they also had a substitute for the glory, which seems to have been an image of one of the constellations. Thus they worshiped the "host of heaven". Raiphan, or Remphan, is sometimes identified with Saturn, but it is not certain.

44 Stephen is charged with speaking against the temple. Hence he traces God's dwelling place to the temple of Solomon, yet proves from Scripture that the true temple is not made with hands. The God of glory had left that temple tenantless ( Eze_9:3 ; Eze_10:4 ; Eze_10:18 ; Eze_11:23 ) and had taken up His abode in His Son, as He had tabernacled amongst them, full of grace and truth ( Joh_1:14 ). And now the glory was in their midst, irradiating the face of Stephen.

48 The quotation from Isaiah provoked opposition.

See Act_22:22 .

51 A review of Israel's history reveals a series of apostasies. All of God's spokesmen suffered at their hands. Even while maintaining the outward form they were always at variance with the holy Spirit. This charge is of special import at this time, for this is the first great crisis in this book. The holy Spirit's testimony to Jerusalem is summarily rejected. The question, Art Thou at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel? receives an emphatic negative, so far as Jerusalem and Judea are concerned. The testimony now goes to Samaria.

55 Stephen begins his address with "the God of glory" and now he beholds the glory in heaven, and Jesus standing, ready to return and bless them should they repent. After this He is always represented as seated, His work accomplished, waiting until the apostate nation is ready to receive Him as their Messiah.

59 Like his Master, Stephen prays for his murderers with his last breath. But, for the nation, this sin against the holy Spirit could not be pardoned. Until Paul's last visit, we hear of no further testimony in Jerusalem.

55 Stephen was the messenger sent after the departed Nobleman with the message "We do not want this man to reign over us!" ( Luk_19:14 ).

1 With Stephen was interred the hope of the kingdom. Yet at the same time God begins to hint at another testimony of a very different character. The kingdom called for righteousness. It visited iniquity with swift judgment. In preparing for the new departure, God introduces Saul of Tarsus, not as a just or holy man, but as a malignant and vicious enemy. This is necessary because He is about to deal with those who are sinners and enemies on the ground of grace. Grace cannot be shown to those who deserve aught. Merit mars it and hinders its outflow. Saul was, in very truth, the foremost of sinners. He exceeded the most rabid of the Sanhedrin in his hatred of Messiah and His people. If any man deserved to be damned, that man was Saul of Tarsus. Yet, eventually, he it is who is raised to the highest pinnacle of glory-far beyond the fondest hopes of Stephen or the twelve apostles. Such is the potency of grace when it is unhindered by human help!

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 7". Concordant Commentary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/aek/acts-7.html. 1968.
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