Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Acts 7

Verse 1

1. εἶπεν δὲ κ.τ.λ., and the high-priest said: thus calling on Stephen for his defence.

εἰ ταῦτα. On εἰ with the indicative as a simple particle of interrogation see note on Acts 1:6. The usage is largely confined to St Luke.

Verses 1-53


Verse 2

2. ἄνδρες ἀδελφοὶ καὶ πατέρες. Render, Brethren and fathers. For an account of the argument in Stephen’s speech and its connexion with the whole design of the writer of the Acts, see Introduction, p. xv.

ὁ θεὸς τῆς δόξης. The expression occurs in LXX. of Psalms 28:3, but is not common. It is probably used here because Stephen is about to speak of the several stages of God’s manifestation. The equivalent of these words is applied (John 1:14) to the supreme manifestation in the incarnate Son. ‘We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.’

τῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν, to our father. There is another reading ὑμῶν, due probably to the correction of some one who remembered that Stephen was a Greek. But even if he were merely a proselyte he might use this expression, for Abraham is regarded as the father of proselytes. On Genesis 12:5, ‘the souls which they had gotten [Heb. made] in Haran,’ the Targum of Onkelos explains, ‘the souls which they (Abraham and his family) had brought to serve the Law,’ i.e. made proselytes: and on the same text Berashith Rabbah, p. 39, has: ‘Rabbi Eliezer, the son of Zimra, said: If all the men in the world were to combine to create even a single gnat, they could not infuse into it a soul; and thou sayest, ‘The souls which they made.’ But these are the proselytes whom they brought in. Yet, if so, why does it say they made them? This is to teach thee that when anybody brings near the stranger, and makes him a proselyte, it is as good as if he had created him.’

΄εσοποταμίᾳ. The ancestral home of Abraham is called ‘Ur of the Chaldees’ (Genesis 11:31), and it is said (Joshua 24:2-3) to have been ‘on the other side of the flood,’ i.e. beyond the Euphrates. It is not possible to determine the site of Ur, but the most probable opinion seems to be that which places it at Edessa, now called Orfah, and said to have been called Orrha in early times. If this were the place, the journey thence to Charran (O.T. Haran), i.e. Carrhæ, would not have been so very formidable for the father of the patriarch to undertake, and at Charran Terah remained till he died (Genesis 11:32). Abraham, when without his father, could remove with greater ease to the distant Canaan.

πρὶν ἢ κατοικῆσαι, before he dwelt. The verb implies a settled residence, though not necessarily a permanent abode. It is used (Matthew 2:23) of Joseph and Mary dwelling at Nazareth, and (Matthew 4:13) of the less fixed dwelling of Jesus at Capernaum.

Verse 3

3. καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, and said unto him. It does not appear from the narrative in Genesis whether there had been some divine communication which caused the first removal from Ur to Haran. We are only told (Genesis 11:31) that Terah took his family and removed, but as it is there added ‘to go into the land of Canaan,’ and as in the following chapter, where God’s order to remove is expressly given (Genesis 12:1), it is also said that ‘they went forth to go into the land of Canaan,’ we may reasonably conclude that the first removal had been enjoined by God, and that it was only on account of Terah’s age that the country for which they set forth was not reached at once. In Genesis 15:7 God says ‘I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees,’ language which implies a command given for the first removal. Cp. Nehemiah 9:7. Genesis 12:1 should be rendered ‘Now the Lord said unto Abram,’ not ‘had said,’ as A.V.

ἔξελθε ἐκ τῆς γῆς σου, Get thee out of thy land. Let γῆ be translated alike in both clauses of the verse. In Genesis 12:1 the words καὶ ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ πατρός σου are added after συγγενείας σου. Although the emigrants halted at Haran, their destination was known to be Canaan before they started from Ur. (See Genesis 11:31.)

Verse 4

4. Χαλδαίων, of the Chaldæans. The Chaldæans were the people of that country which had Babylon for its capital. The extent of the country signified by ‘the land of the Chaldæans’ must have varied at different periods.

μετὰ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν π. α., after his father was dead. According to the order of the narrative in Genesis, this seems to be so; but when the ages of Terah and Abraham are noticed, it appears that Abraham left Haran before his father’s death. For Terah was 70 years old when Abraham was born (Genesis 11:26), and Abraham was 75 years old when he departed out of Haran (Genesis 12:4), so that of Terah’s 205 years there were yet (205–145) = 60 years unexpired when his son went away. On this chronological difficulty Jewish literature has the explanation (Midrash Rabbah on Genesis, cap. 39) Abraham from the care of his father, and yet lest Abraham’s departure from Terah should lead others to claim the same relaxation of a commandment for themselves, Terah’s death is noticed in Holy Writ before Abraham’s departure, and it is also added, to explain the mention of death, that ‘the wicked (and among them Terah is reckoned, see Joshua 24:2) are called dead while they are alive.’

μετῴκισεν αὐτόν, he caused him to migrate. The ‘removed him’ of the A.V. is somewhat vague.

εἰς ἣν, in which. The use of εἰς in this way after κατοικέω and similar verbs is due to the implied idea ‘ye have come into and dwell.’ Cf. Matthew 2:23; Matthew 4:13, where the construction is made easy by a previous ἐλθών, which in the present verse must be mentally supplied.

Verse 5

5. καὶ οὐκ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ κ.τ.λ., and he gave him no inheritance in it. The first settlement of Abraham in Canaan is said (Genesis 12:6) to have been at the place of Sichem [Shechem] at the plain [rather, oak] of Moreh. He next dwelt on the east of Bethel, and in both these places he probably purchased land, for he built an altar at each; and on returning from Egypt (Acts 13:3) he came ‘to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai,’ which he hardly could have done unless the land had been his own, for he ‘was very rich in cattle.’

οὐδὲ βῆμα ποδός, not so much as to set his foot on. The expression is in LXX. Deuteronomy 2:5. The land which God gave to Abraham’s seed would be held on a very different tenure from that on which Abraham held that which he bought or hired.

καὶ ἐπηγγείλατο. The promise ‘unto thy seed will I give this land’ was first made (Genesis 12:7) when Abraham was at the place of Shechem, and in its greater fulness when he returned from Egypt (Acts 13:15-16).

οὐκ ὄντος αὐτῷ τέκνου, when he had no child. We cannot learn from Holy Writ now long a time after the promise Abraham lived before Isaac was born, but we can see that it was a long period, for when he went down to Egypt Sarah was a fair woman in the prime of her beauty (Genesis 12:14), and she was ‘waxed old’ (Acts 18:12) before her son was born.

Verse 6

6. ἐλάλησεν δέ. The words are in substance taken from Genesis 15:13-14, though here turned into an indirect narration.

ἔτη τετρακόσια, four hundred years. This number agrees with that stated in Genesis; but in Exodus 12:40, and also by St Paul (Galatians 3:17), the time is said to have been four hundred and thirty years. The period is reckoned so as to include part of the lives of the patriarchs in Canaan, and the variation may be accounted for if one number dates back to the first call, and the second only to the departure from Haran; or the one may be reckoned from the time of the covenant of circumcision, and the other from the promise of the land. Or it may be that one is merely a round number and the other an attempt at greater exactness. We can come to no certain conclusion in the matter, but we can see that both numbers were current among the Jews, for Josephus (Ant. II. 15. 2) makes the time 430 years, and elsewhere (Ant. II. 9. 1, and Bell. Jud. v. 9. 4) 400 years.

Verse 7

7. ᾦ ἐὰν δουλεύσουσιν, to whom they shall be in bondage. This construction of the future indicative after ἐὰν is not uncommon in the LXX. Cf. Deuteronomy 5:27, λαλήσεις πάντα ὅσα ἂν λαλήθει κύριος ὁ θεός. So too Judges 10:18; Judges 11:24, &c. In all these instances a future indicative stands also in the antecedent clause.

On God’s suffering Israel to be in bondage Chrysostom has ὁρᾷς; ὁ ἐπαγγειλάμενος, ὁ δοὺς τὴν γῆν, πρότερον τὰ κακὰ συγχωρεῖ· οὕτω καὶ νῦν, εἰ καὶ βασιλείαν ἐπηγγείλατο, ἀλλ' ἀφίησιν ἐγγυμνάζεθαι τοῖς πειρασμοῖς.

ἐξελεύσονται, they shall come forth. The first prophecy of this exodus (Genesis 15:14) adds μετὰ ἀποσκευῆς πολλῆς, ‘with great substance.’

καὶ λατρεύσουσίν μοι κ.τ.λ., and shall serve me in this place. These words are not in the promise given to Abraham, but are taken from Exodus 3:12, where the original promise is repeated and sent to the Israelites through Moses. The place meant in that verse is Sinai, called there Horeb, the mountain of God. Stephen in his speech combines the two that he may describe the promise in its fulness, and he mentions the worship of God in that place, because the one great object of his address is to demonstrate that what is laid to his charge concerning the highest worship of God being no longer restricted to the Temple and Jerusalem, is nothing more than what they were taught by a study of their own history.

Verse 8

8. διαθήκην περιτομῆς, the covenant of circumcision. This was given the year before Isaac was born (Genesis 17:21).

Verse 9

9. ζηλώσαντες, moved with envy. The same word is used (Acts 17:5) of the hostile feelings of the Jews at Thessalonica against Paul and Silas. In the history (Genesis 37:4), it is said in the LXX. οἱ ἀδελφοὶ ἐμίσησαν αὐτόν, but below in Acts 7:11, ἐζήλωσαν αὐτόν.

ἀπέδοντο, they sold. The same word in LXX. Genesis 37:28.

καὶ ἧν ὁ θεὸς μετ' αὐτοῦ, and God was with him. The statement (with κύριος for ὁ θεὸς) is thrice repeated Genesis 39:2; Genesis 39:21; Genesis 39:23, and is used by Stephen to give point to his argument that God’s presence is not circumscribed, and so His worship should not be tied to a special place.

Verse 10

10. For the history, see Genesis 39-41.

ἡγούμενον. This same word is employed about Joseph in Sirach 49:15 οὐδὲ ὡς Ἰωσὴφ ἡγούμενος ἀδελφῶν, στήριγμα λαοῦ.

Verse 11

11. ἐφ' ὅλην τὴν Αἴγυπτον, over all Egypt.

χορτάσματα, sustenance. The word is generally used of food for cattle rather than men. See LXX. Genesis 24:25; Genesis 24:32, &c. But we may suppose that, though in the history the sufferings of the people are most noticed, the famine also affected the supplies of cattle-food, and the one word is used to embrace all.

Verse 12

12. ὄντα σιτία εἰς Αἴγυπτον, that there was corn in Egypt. The force of the preposition implies ‘to be had by going down into Egypt.’ See above on Acts 7:4.

σιτία is found in the LXX. Proverbs 30:22 ἐὰν ἄφρων πλησθῇ σιτίων, ‘if a fool be filled with meat.’ But it is not a common word, which will account for σῖτα taking its place in later MSS.

πρῶτον, first, i.e. before he himself went away from Canaan into Egypt.

Verse 13

13. ἀνεγνωρίσθη, was made known. The verb used in the LXX. (Genesis 45:1) of this event.

φανερὸν ἐγένετο, became known. The LXX. has ἀκουστὸν ἐγένετο, ‘it was heard of,’ but this is in reference to the report of the coming of Joseph’s brethren.

Verse 14

14. ἐν ψυχαῖς ἑβδομήκοντα πέντε, threescore and fifteen souls. The form of expression is a copy of LXX. (Deuteronomy 10:22) ἐν ἐβδομήκοντα ψυχαῖς κατέβησαν οἱ πατέρες σου, and the ἐν is simply a translation of the Hebrew בְּ, the idea being ‘they went down [consisting] in so many souls.’

The number, threescore and fifteen, is taken from the LXX. In the Hebrew (Genesis 46:8-27) the number is but seventy, including Jacob himself. The five additional names given in the LXX. are Machir the son and Galaad the grandson of Manasseh, and the two sons of Ephraim, Taam and Soutalaam, with Soutalaam’s son, Edom. So in Exodus 1:5 the Hebrew has 70, and the LXX. 75. There were many traditions current on this subject, and the Rabbis notice too that 69 persons (they exclude Jacob) are reckoned for 70 in the account given Genesis 46. In the Midrash Shemuel, c. 32, there are various suggestions thrown out. First it is said the one wanting was Jochebed, who became wife of Amram and mother of Moses, for it is mentioned (Numbers 26:59) that she was a daughter of Levi born in Egypt, and the tradition is that she was born ‘between the walls,’ i.e. just as the people were entering Egypt, and so she is to be counted in the number. Another tradition is attached to Genesis 46:23, ‘The sons of Dan, Hushim.’ As the last word is a plural form, and sons are spoken of in the verse, therefore it is thought that there were two Hushim, an elder and a younger. Also (T. B. Baba Bathra 123 a ad fin.) there is mentioned the tradition that there was a twin with Dinah. We may thus see that there were traditions current which probably were well known to the translators of the LXX., and gave rise to their number. They however are not consistent, for in Deuteronomy (Acts 10:22) they give 70 as the number which went down into Egypt. Stephen, as was to be expected from the other quotations in this book, and also because he was a Grecian Jew, follows the LXX.

Verse 15

15. καὶ κατέβη Ἰακώβ, and Jacob went down. Now the whole race whom God had chosen to himself was in Egypt, away from the land of promise, and remained there for a long period, yet God was with them in their exile, and His worship was preserved for the whole time. This seems the point which Stephen desires to emphasize by so frequent a repetition of the words ‘into Egypt.’

καὶ ἐτελεύτησεν αὐτὸς κ. ο. π. ., and he died, himself, and our fathers. Of the transportation of the bodies of the patriarchs to Canaan we have no record in Holy Writ. Josephus (Ant. II. 8. 2) says ‘the posterity and sons of these men, after some time, carried their bodies and buried them at Hebron.’ In the discussion of Exodus 13:19 Carry up my bones away hence with you, it is said (Mechilta, ed. Weiss, 1865, Vienna, 8vo. p. 30) that the bodies of the patriarchs were carried out of Egypt with the returning Israelites, and it is argued that this is implied in the expression with you, which Moses quotes as uttered by Joseph, who must have known that his brethren to whom he was speaking would all be dead before the exodus. Therefore with you could only be used if their bodies were to be transported as well as his own.

Verse 16

16. εἰς Συχέμ, to Sychem, i.e. the O. Test. ‘Shechem.’

ἐν Συχέμ, in Sychem. The place and the son of Emmor had the same name, the place from the man or vice versâ. And hence came the substitution of τοῦ for ἐν.

The statement in this verse about Abraham’s purchase of land from Emmor appears incapable of being reconciled with the record of the Old Testament. There we find (Genesis 49:30) that Abraham, bought the field and cave of Machpelah, which is before Mamre (i.e. Hebron), from Ephron the Hittite. This is there spoken of as the general burial-place of the family; there were buried Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob’s wife Leah. And of Jacob we read (Genesis 33:19) ‘he bought a parcel of a field where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father.’ We are not told that this was for a burial-place, and it is rather to be judged that it was not so, because it is added ‘he erected there an altar.’ Moreover it is in Machpelah that Jacob desires to be buried (Genesis 47:30; Genesis 49:30) and is buried (Genesis 50:13). We have seen (note on Acts 7:5) that ‘the place of Shechem’ was one of the resting-places of Abraham when he came first into Canaan, and that probably he bought a possession there, for he built an altar. The bones of Joseph were laid in Shechem (Joshua 24:32). There were two burial-places connected with the patriarchal families. In the report of Stephen’s speech we find that Abraham is said to have bought what Jacob really purchased, but there may also have been land purchased by Abraham ‘in the place of Shechem.’ We have only to suppose that in his speech Stephen, speaking of the burial of the whole family, mentioned, in accordance with the tradition of Josephus, the burial-place of the fathers in Hebron, which Abraham bought, and noticed the laying of Joseph’s bones at Shechem which Jacob bought, and that into the report of what he said a confusion has been introduced by the insertion of Abraham’s name for Jacob’s in the abbreviated narrative. We have pointed out in several places that the speeches recorded can be no more than abstracts of what was said, and the degree of inaccuracy here apparent might readily be imported in the formation of such an abstract, and yet the original speech have correctly reported all the traditions.

Stephen dwells on ‘Shechem’ in the same way as before he had dwelt on ‘Egypt,’ to mark that in the ancient days other places were held in reverence by the chosen people, and that of old God had been worshipped in Shechem, though at the time when he was speaking it was the home of their enemies the Samaritans.

Verse 17

17. καθὼς δὲ ἤγγιζεν κ.τ.λ., but as the time of the promise drew nigh, i.e. the time for its fulfilment. The fathers ‘all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off,’ Hebrews 11:13.

ἧς, which. For the attraction, see note on Acts 1:1.

ὡμολόγησεν ὁ θεός, God had vouchsafed. The same word is used (Matthew 14:7) of the promise made by Herod to the daughter of Herodias. Cf. also LXX. Jeremiah 51:25, ποιοῦσαι ποιήσομεν τὰς ὁμολογίας ἡμῶν ἂς ὡμολογήκαμεν, ‘we will surely perform our vows that we have vowed.’ And in Acts 7:26 immediately following we have the same various reading as in our text, ὤμοσα and ὡμολόγηκα, the latter being the text in Trommius, the former the variation; in Holmes and Parsons this arrangement is reversed, while Tischendorf only gives ὤμοσα.

ηὔξησεν ὁ λαός, the people grew. Another point in Stephen’s argument. God’s blessing went with them into Egypt (Exodus 1:7; Exodus 1:12). The number of those who came out of Egypt was (Exodus 12:37) ‘six hundred thousand on foot that were men, besides children.’

Verse 18

18. βασιλεὺς ἕτερος ἐπ' Αἴγυπτον, another king over Egypt.

Verse 19

19. κατασοφισάμενος τὸ γένος ἡμῶν, dealt subtilly with our race and, &c. The expression is from the LXX. (Exodus 1:10), κατασοφισώμεθα αὐτούς are the words of the new king.

ἐκάκωσεν τοὺς πατέρας, he evil entreated our fathers. In the account of the taskmasters, the LXX. says they were appointed ἴνα κακώσωσιν αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις. Beside the hard tasks put upon the people according to the record in Exodus, Josephus adds (Ant. II. 9. 1) that the Egyptians ‘made them to cut a great many channels for the river, and set them to build pyramids; forced them to learn all sorts of mechanical arts and to accustom themselves to hard labour.’

τοῦ ποιεῖν τὰ βρέφη ἔκθετα αὐτῶν, in causing their young children to be cast out. The words are rather a description of what the Egyptian king did in his tyranny (Exodus 1:22), than (as A.V.) of what the Israelites were driven to by their despair.

With the genitival infinitive in this clause, expressive of that wherein the κάκωσις consisted, of. 1 Kings 16:33, καὶ προσέθηκεν Ἀχαὰβ τοῦ ποιῆσαι παροργίσματα τοῦ παροργίσαι τὸν κύριον θεὸν τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.

εἰς τὸ μὴ ζωογονεῖσθαι, to the end that they might not live. The verb is used, in the active voice, three times (Exodus 1:17-18; Exodus 1:22) of the conduct of the midwives in saving the children alive. Cf. also the remarkable use of the word in Luke 17:33.

Verse 20

20. ἀστεῖος τῷ θεῷ, exceeding fair. Literally, ‘fair unto (i.e. in the sight of) God.’ This is a Hebrew mode of expressing a high degree of any quality. Thus (Jonah 3:3) ‘Nineveh was an exceeding great city’ is ‘a city great unto God.’ Similar instances are found Genesis 10:9; Genesis 23:6; Genesis 30:8, &c. Cf. also 1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 10:4. In the Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, c. 48, we have ‘The parents of Moses saw his face as (that of) an angel of God.’

Verse 21

21. ἀνείλατο, took him up. The word of the LXX. (Exodus 2:5). Jewish tradition says that the king had no son, and so Moses was designed by the king’s daughter to succeed to the kingdom. See Josephus (Ant. II. 9. 7), where she speaks of him as ‘a child of a divine form and generous mind.’

Verse 22

22. ἐπαιδεύθη ΄ωϋσῆς, Moses was instructed. As was to be expected if he were designed for the kingdom. The wisdom on which the Jewish traditions most dwell is the power of magic, and such knowledge as Pharaoh’s wise men are represented as having in the book of Exodus.

ἧν δὲαὐτοῦ, and was mighty in his words and deeds. Josephus (Ant. II. 10. 2) tells that Moses was a great captain among the Egyptians and led that people to victory against the Ethiopians.

Verse 23

23. ὡς δὲ ἐπληροῦτοχρόνος. Render, but when he was well-nigh forty years old. The verb intimates that the forty years were just being completed. For the fixing of this time we have no authority in the Old Testament. We learn thence that Moses was eighty years old when he was sent to speak before Pharaoh for the deliverance of the Israelites (Exodus 7:7), and that he was a hundred and twenty years old when he died (Deuteronomy 34:7). In Midrash Tanchuma on Exodus 2:6, we are told ‘Moses was in the palace of Pharaoh twenty years, but some say forty years, and forty years in Midian, and forty years in the wilderness.’ Stephen’s words agree with this tradition, which no doubt was known in his day to every Jew.

ἀνέβη ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν. The phrase is not classical, but is found in the LXX. frequently, as 2 Kings 12:4; Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 3:16 and Ezekiel 38:10, ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἀναβήσεται ῥήματα ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν σου, ‘in that day shall things come into thy heart.’

ἐπισκέψασθαι, to visit. The same verb is used in Luke 7:16, ‘God hath visited His people,’ and means to look upon generally with kindness (cf. ἐπισκέπτεσθαι, James 1:27), and this is the old sense of the English visit. See Shaksp. Rich. II. I. 3. 275:

‘All places that the eye of heaven visits.’

Verse 24

24. καταπονουμένῳ, oppressed. The word is used 2 Maccabees 8:2 of the suffering Jews in the time of Judas Maccabæus, though some MSS. there give καταπατούμενον = downtrodden.

πατάξας, having smitten, i.e. to death, as is seen by the context. See Exodus 2:12, where the same word is used.

Verse 25

25. ἐνόμιζεν δὲ συνιέναισωτηρίαν αὐτοῖς. Render, and he supposed that his brethren understood that God by his hand was giving them deliverance. There is no condition in the sentence. The traditions, in the atmosphere of which Stephen moved, represent the death of the Egyptian as no mere ordinary killing by superior strength, but as brought about by mysterious divine power, which Moses feeling within himself expected his kindred to recognize.

Verse 26

26. αὐτοῖς μαχομένοις unto them as they strove, viz. to ‘two men of the Hebrews’ (see Exodus 2:13). The quotation which follows makes plain what was otherwise not yet clear, that the persons contending in this second case were Israelites. Similarly in Acts 7:24 there had been no mention of an ‘Egyptian’ or anything to make clear who the doer of the wrong was. But the minds of the hearers supplied all these details without difficulty.

συνήλλασσεν. The tense implies a continuous endeavour, though without result.

Verse 27

27. ἐφ' ἡμῶν with אABCHP.

Verse 28

28. ὃν τρόπον ἀνεῖλες, as thou killedst. The Israelite knew of the slain Egyptian, whose body Moses had hidden in the sand, but as things stood between Egyptians and Israelites he would hardly think of laying a charge against a fellow Israelite, though he was ready at once to use his knowledge to alarm Moses, when any interference with himself was attempted.

Verse 29

29. ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ. The preposition marks the occasion. Upon this speech. Josephus (Ant. II. 11. 1) makes no mention of this reason for the flight of Moses, but says that the Egyptians were jealous of him, and told the king ‘that he would raise a sedition, and bring innovations’ into the land. And in consequence of the plots against him bred of these suspicions Moses fled away secretly.

καὶ ἐγένετο πάροικος, and became a sojourner. Madian is the Greek form for the Hebrew Midian, which form would, for clearness’ sake, be better here. By ‘the land of Midian,’ which is only found in Scripture history, is probably meant the peninsula on which Mount Sinai stands (see Exodus 3:1).

υἱοὺς δύο. These sons were Gershom and Eliezer; their mother was Zipporah the daughter of Jethro (Exodus 18:2-4).

Verse 30

30. ἐτῶν τεσσεράκοντα, forty years, thus making, with the forty years mentioned in Acts 7:23, eighty years, the age at which Moses went unto Pharaoh (Exodus 7:7).

ὤφθηἄγγελος, an angel appeared to him. It is better to write Sinai than to conform to the Greek spelling Σινᾶ. See previous verse.

Verse 31

31. Omit πρὸς αὐτόν with אAB. Vulg. has ‘vox Domini, dicens.’

Verses 31-34

31–34. These verses give in substance the history as recorded in Exodus 3:2-10

Verse 32

32. Omit ὁ θεὸς before Ἰσαὰκ and Ἰακώβ with אABC. The Vulg. has ‘Deus’ in each place.

Verse 33

33. ἐφ' with אABCD.

Verse 34

34. ἰδὼν εῖδον, I have seen, I have seen. Literally, ‘having seen I have seen.’ This construction is employed in the LXX. continually to represent the Hebrew infinitive absolute, which was used to give emphasis to the finite verb. The English of A.V. in Exodus 3:7 (where the LXX. has the same Greek as here) is well given, ‘I have surely seen.’

ἀποστείλω. The tense is the same in Exodus 3:10.

Verse 35

35. Stephen now addresses himself to another point and shews how in old time the people had rejected Moses, though he had the witness of God that his commission was divine. He wishes to teach his hearers that they are now acting in like manner towards Jesus.

τοῦτον ὁ θεὸςἀπέσταλκεν σὺν χειρί, him God sent with the hand. Here Stephen appeals to history. God, he says, sent back the rejected Moses to be a ruler and deliverer, and he leaves them to draw the conclusion that what God had done in the case of Moses, he would also do in the case of the prophet whom Moses had foretold as one who was to be like himself. Cp. Galatians 4:23; 1 Timothy 2:14; Hebrews 7:6.

σὺν χειρί implies with the power. Cf. Acts 11:21, ‘the hand of the Lord was with them.’

ἀγγέλου. That this angel was Jehovah Himself, is seen from Exodus 3:4, ‘when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him.’ So that the whole phrase = ‘with the power of God.’

Verse 36

36. οὖτος ἐξήγαγεν, this man led them out, having God’s power with him.

σημεῖα ἐν γῇ Αἰγύπτῳ, signs in the land of Egypt. There is much authority for the reading ἐν τῇ Αἰγύπτῳ.

ἐν ἐρυθρᾷ θαλάσσῃ, in the Red Sea. The Jewish traditions make the plagues sent on the Egyptians at the Red Sea more than those which had been sent to them in Egypt. Thus in the Mechilta (ed. Weiss, p. 41) the Egyptians are said to have received ten plagues in Egypt, but fifty at the Red Sea, because the magicians speak of the afflictions in Egypt (Exodus 8:19) as ‘the finger of God,’ while at the Red Sea it is said (Exodus 14:31), ‘and Israel saw that great work [Heb. hand] which the Lord did upon the Egyptians.’

Verse 37

37. προφήτην. The prophecy is in Deuteronomy 18:15, and has been already quoted by St Peter (Acts 3:22) as referring ultimately to the Messiah. Its quotation to those who had rejected Jesus is the key-note of what is more openly expressed in Acts 7:51, ‘as your fathers did, so do ye.’

Verse 38

38. ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, in the congregation, i.e. with the congregation of Israel assembled at Mt. Sinai.

μετὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου, with the angel. As in 35, the angel is God Himself; just so in Acts 7:31 the voice which spake is called ‘a voice of the Lord.’

Σινᾶ, Sinai.

καὶ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν, and with our fathers. Jewish tradition says that the whole world was present at Sinai. Thus Midrash Rabbah on Exodus, cap. 28 ad fin.: ‘Whatever the prophets were to utter in prophecy in every generation they received from Mount Sinai’; and presently after, commenting on the words of Moses (Deuteronomy 29:15), him that is not here with us this day, it is said, ‘these are the souls which were yet to be created,’ i.e. to be sent into the world; and to explain (Deuteronomy 5:22) and he added no more (on which they found the teaching that all revelation was completely given at Sinai), they say, ‘the one voice was divided into seven voices, and these were divided into the seventy tongues,’ which Jewish tradition held to be the number of the languages of the world.

ὃ ἐδέξατο λόγια ζῶντα, who [i.e. Moses] received living oracles. Moses is thus shewn to have been a mediator (see Galatians 3:19), and thus to have prefigured the mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6) and of the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15), even Jesus (Hebrews 12:24).

The oracles are called living, just as ‘the word of God’ is called living [A.V. quick] (Hebrews 4:12), because it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. On this effect cf. St Paul’s language concerning the Law (Romans 7:9), ‘when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.’ But there is at the same time the other sense in the word, which appears when (John 6:51) Christ calls Himself ‘the living bread which came down from heaven.’ For the Law pointed onward to Christ, who should lead His people ‘unto living fountains of waters’ (Revelation 7:17). For the thought, Cf. 1 Peter 1:23, ‘the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.’

Verse 39

39. ᾧ οὐκ ἠθέλησαν ὑπήκοοι γενέσθαι κ.τ.λ., to whom our fathers would not be obedient. For they said (Numbers 14:4) ‘Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.’ This was after the return of the spies, when the people became discontented with the leadership of Moses and Aaron.

καὶ ἐστράφησαν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν, and in their hearts turned back into Egypt, as is told Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:4-5, in which passages the desires of the people are all represented as turned to the good things which they had enjoyed in the land of their slavery.

Verse 40

40. θεοὺς οἳ προπορεύσονται, gods which shall go before us. The verse is almost exactly in the words of the LXX. of Exodus 32:1.

Verse 41

41. καὶ εὐφραίνοντο, and they rejoiced. It was not the voice of them that shout for the mastery, nor of them that cry for being overcome, but the noise of them that sing which Moses (Exodus 32:18) heard when he came down from the mount.

Verse 42

42. ἔστρεψεν δὲ ὁ θεός, but God turned, i.e. changed His treatment of the people. Cf. Isaiah 63:10, ‘but they rebelled and vexed His Holy Spirit, therefore He was turned (ἐστράφη) to be their enemy.’ The word is not often found in this sense.

λατρέυειν τῇ στρατιᾷ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, to serve the host of heaven. God had previously warned them against this kind of idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:19), but we learn from the records of their historians (2 Kings 17:16) and their prophets (Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5) that the warning was given in vain.

ἡ στρατιὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ is a Hebrew notion, and the expression is often found in the LXX. Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 8:2; 2 Chronicles 33:3; Zephaniah 1:5.

ἐν βίβλῳ τῶν προφητῶν. The Hebrews divided their Scriptures into three sections, the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa (called the Psalms, Luke 24:44), and each of these parts is looked upon as a special and separate book. The Law comprised the five books of Moses. The earlier prophets were the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: the later prophets were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the twelve which we now call Minor Prophets. The Hagiographa consisted of the following books in the order here given: Psalms (and the expression of Luke 24:44 will be understood because the Psalms stand first in this section), Proverbs, Job, the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther (these five last mentioned were called the five rolls, being written on separate rolls for use at special festival services), Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.

μὴ σφάγια κ.τ.λ. Render, did ye offer unto me slain beasts and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? The whole passage to the end of Acts 7:43 is a quotation from Amos (Acts 5:25-27). The question in this verse is to be answered in the negative, for in their hearts, though they were sacrificing to Jehovah, they had turned back into Egypt, and such service God counts as no service at all.

Verse 43

43. καὶ ἀνελάβετε. Render, and ye took up. The conjunction is the ordinary copulative, and the thought is continuous, ‘your hearts were after your idols, and ye took up their images,’ more truly than my ark. In the Hebrew the word for ‘took up’ is that regularly employed for the ‘bearing’ the ark of the covenant. So the prophet reproaches them with paying to Moloch honour which they had been taught to render to Jehovah.

τὴν σκηνήν, the tabernacle. The Hebrew word which the LXX. have rendered σκηνή is not the usual form for that word. It seems probable that it is intended for a proper name, Siccuth.

καὶ τὸ ἄστροναὐτοῖς, the star of your god Rephan, the figures which ye made to worship them. This clause differs widely from the Hebrew, which gives, ‘and Chiun your images, the star of your god which ye made to yourselves.’ The LXX. seem to have read the words in a different order. Rephan, which is by them substituted for Chiun, is said to be the Egyptian name for Saturn (see Spencer de Leg. Heb. p. 667), and may have been used by them as an equivalent for the other name which is found nowhere else but in Amos. The whole idea of the passage seems to be that the stars were being worshipped, and so it is an illustration suited for Stephen’s argument. προσκυνεῖν αὐτοῖς is an addition not in the LXX.

ἐπέκεινα Βαβυλῶνος, beyond Babylon. The Hebrew of Amos and the LXX. say beyond Damascus. But as Babylon was the place most connected in the mind of the Jew with captivity, the alteration in the quotation may be due either to the prominence of such connexion in Stephen’s mind, or in the thoughts of the reporter of the speech, who thus inadvertently wrote Babylon. At this point Stephen closes the digression which began at the 37th verse, and which is meant to point out that the Jews are doing towards Jesus just what their fathers did to Moses and against God. He now resumes the argument that God’s worship was not meant to be always fixed to one place.

Verse 44

44. ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτυρίου, the tabernacle of the testimony. This name is found first in Exodus 38:21 (Exodus 37:19, LXX.). The ark is also called ἡ κιβωτὸς τοῦ μαρτυρίου, as in Exodus 25:21, &c. The name was no doubt given because all the contents of the ark, which was the most sacred part of the tabernacle fittings, were testimonies to God’s rule or to His power exerted for His people. Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, and the tables of the Law were all stored up therein. And this ark, above which God made His presence seen, was in the wilderness and moving from place to place.

ἦν τοῖς πατράσιν ἡμῶν, our fathers had, &c. Concerning a historic religion, like that of the Jews, this was, or ought to have been, a weighty argument.

καθὼς διετάξατο ὁ λαλῶν, even as He had appointed who spake, &c. For the command see Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30; Exodus 27:8.

Verse 45

45. ἣν καὶ εἰσήγαγον διαδεξάμενοι κ.τ.λ., which also our fathers having received it after, &c. All the generation that came out of Egypt was dead at the entry into Canaan except Caleb and Joshua.

μετὰ Ἰησοῦ, with Joshua. See above on Acts 7:29-30.

ἐν τῇ κατασχέσει κ.τ.λ., when they took possession [lit. in their taking possession] of the nations whom God thrust out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David. Till this time the tabernacle existed, and, as the history tells us, was not always in one place in the land of Canaan, and at the time when the first proposal for a permanent temple is made by David (2 Samuel 7:2) and approved by Nathan, God forbids the building of it by David. All which goes to strengthen Stephen’s argument that the worship should not be fettered to one place.

Verse 46

46. εὑρεῖν σκήνωμα τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰακώβ, to find a tabernacle for the house of Jacob. This is the reading preferred by most critics. Tischendorf says ‘τῷ οἴκῳ minime sensu caret, sed facile apparet cur τῷ θεῷ a tot testibus cum omnibus interpretibus substitutum sit.’

The text must mean ‘to find a fit place in which the house of Jacob might worship.’ But the reference is so clearly to Psalms 132:5, ‘until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob,’ that it seems impossible to accept the evidence of אBDH when ACEP and all the versions are on the other side.

Moreover St Stephen’s argument has nothing to do with the place of worship of the house of Israel, but with the fact that God’s tabernacle, where His presence dwelt, was frequently changed, and that David was anxious to change it again, having no feeling that God’s presence was tied to one place. On this Chrysostom says ὁρᾷς, ὅτι ἐκεῖ τόπος ἅγιός ἐστιν, ἔνθα ἂν ᾖ θεός.

Verse 48

48. οὐχἐν χειροποιήτοις κατοικεῖ, dwelleth not in places made with hands. Stephen allows that in the days of Solomon there seemed to be a more permanent abode appointed for God’s worship, but instantly points out that God through His prophet (Isaiah 66:1-2) had taught that He was not controlled by or confined to any place.

Verse 49

49. ὁ οὐρανὸς κ.τ.λ. The quotation is nearly verbatim from the LXX.

Verse 51

51. σκληροτράχηλοι, Ye stiffnecked. A charge often brought against the Jews in the Old Testament, cf. Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3, &c., so that it is a very suitable expression when Stephen is declaring that the people of his time were ‘as their fathers.’

ἀπερίτμητοι, uncircumcised. As the rite of circumcision was the sign of submission to the Jewish religion in its fullest requirements, so the word uncircumcised became a synonym for obstinate resistance to what God had revealed, and the phrase in the text consequently signifies ‘ye who shut your heart and ears against the truth.’

ἀπερίτμητα τὰ ὦτα occurs Jeremiah 6:10 and ἀπερίτμητοι καρδίας, Jeremiah 9:26. Cf. also Leviticus 26:41; Ezekiel 44:7; Ezekiel 44:9.

It seems very likely that at this part of his discourse Stephen saw that the language he had been using was distasteful to his audience. Observing this effect he proceeds with language which implied how far they were from being God’s people, though they called themselves Israelites. They were in his eyes as those whom they named ‘sinners of the Gentiles.’ (Galatians 2:15.)

ἀεί, always. From the days of Moses to whom your fathers would not be obedient, down to the days of Jesus whom ye have crucified.

Verse 52

52. τίνα κ.τ.λ., which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? Cf. the history 2 Chronicles 36:16, ‘they mocked the messengers of God and despised His words and misused His prophets.’ And Christ (Matthew 23:37) brought the same charge against Jerusalem, ‘thou that killest the prophets.’

τοῦ δικαίου, of the righteous One. Jesus is so named by St John (1 John 2:1), and the name also occurs with the same application Acts 3:14; Acts 22:14, where the same rendering should be given that the passages may be brought into due connexion.

ἐγένεσθε, ye are become. Thus proving yourselves true children of those who misused the prophets of old time.

Verse 53

53. οἵτινες κ.τ.λ., ye who received the Law, from Sinai.

εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων. Literally, ‘unto ordinances of angels,’ which signifies ‘at the ministration of angels’ or ‘as it was ordained by angels.’ St Paul (Galatians 3:19) has the same expression concerning the Law, that it was ‘ministered by angels.’ The LXX. have in Deuteronomy 33:2, speaking of the giving of the Law, ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι μετ' αὐτοῦ, and Josephus (Ant. XV. 5. 3) represents the same tradition, ‘We have learned from God the most excellent of our doctrines and the most holy part of our Law by angels.’ So Pesikta Rabbathi, par. xxi., ‘There came down with the Holy One to Sinai twenty-two thousand ministering angels, like the camp of the Levites.’

καὶ οὐκ ἐφυλάξατε, and ye kept it not. Stephen here points back along the whole history of the Jews, and shews how the Law, which was intended to lead men to Christ, had not been guarded in its best sense, the spirit having been sacrificed to the letter, and so the result had been that they rejected and slew Him of whom the whole Law was speaking. The Law, given by angels, was the glory of Israel, the perverse use of it had proved their shame and destruction.

Verse 54

54. ἀκούοντες δὲ ταῦτα διεπρίοντο κ.τ.λ., now when they heard these things they were cut to the heart. On the verb, which is only found here and in Acts 7:33, see note there. It expresses the sort of cutting that would be made by a saw, its effect is always one of irritation, and at last it came to be synonymous with gnashing the teeth for rage, with which expression it is here combined.

καὶ ἔβρυχον τοὺς ὀδόντας ἐπ' αὐτόν, and gnashed their teeth at him.

Verses 54-60


Verse 55

55. δόξαν θεοῦ, the glory of God. Some visible sign of God’s presence, such as the Shechinah had been to the Jews of old. See Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:17, in the latter of which passages it is described as like devouring fire. It is defined by the Jews as some concentration of God’s omnipresence.

καὶ Ἰησοῦν ἑστῶτα, and Jesus standing. Stephen was permitted to behold Jesus triumphing in the flesh in which He had been crucified. The position of standing rather than that of sitting as described elsewhere (Matthew 26:64, &c.) may have been to indicate the readiness of Jesus to strengthen and help His martyr.

Verse 56

56. τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, the Son of Man. This title, which in the Gospels is only used by Christ when speaking of Himself, is here first employed by another, and can fitly be so employed now, for the prophecy which Christ uttered of Himself (Matthew 26:64), ‘hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power,’ is now fulfilled, and its fulfilment is to be preached to the world.

Verse 57

57. κράξαντες δέ, but they cried outand, &c.

συνέσχον τὰ ὦτα, stopped their ears, thus shewing that they merited the description given in Acts 7:51. The verb signifies to compress, to hold tight together, and is often used in the LXX. of the shutting of heaven that there should be no rain. Cf. Deuteronomy 11:17; 1 Kings 8:35, &c. On the action thus described cf. T. B. Kethuboth 5 b, ‘Wherefore is the whole ear hard but the flap soft? That if any hear an unbecoming word he may press up the flap and shut his ear.’

καὶ ὥρμησαν ὁμοθυμαδόν, and rushed with one accord. As though he had been one convicted of idolatry, in which case (Deuteronomy 13:9-10) ‘the hand of all the people’ was to be upon the offender.

Verse 58

58. ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, out of the city. In accordance with the Law (Leviticus 24:14) the person to be stoned must be carried without the camp, and to the people of Jerusalem the walls of the city were as the limits of the camp. Though there was much popular excitement exhibited in this proceeding, we are not to think that it was looked upon by those who were actors in it as other than the carrying out of the law.

There was a place set apart for such punishment. The person to be stoned was placed on an elevation twice the height of a man, from whence with his hands bound he was thrown down, and then a stone as much as two men could carry was rolled down upon him by the witnesses, after which all the people present cast stones upon him.

καὶ οἱ μάρτυρες, and the witnesses, who must take a prominent part in the infliction of the penalty.

τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν, their clothes, i.e. their loose outer garments, that they might be more ready for the task which they had to discharge. The law which ordained that the first stone should be thrown by the witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:7) was meant to restrain hasty accusation. Men would only bring an accusation for grave reasons when they knew that their own hands must be first upon the condemned person.

νεανίου, of a young man. Saul was already of such an age that the authorities could entrust him (Acts 9:2) with the duty of going to Damascus to arrest the Christians in that city. The Greek word is applied to persons up to the age of forty. In the Epistle to Philemon [9] St Paul speaks of himself as aged. That Epistle was probably written about A. D. 63, and the death of Stephen took place about A.D. 35, therefore Saul may well have been then between 30 and 40 years of age.

καλουμένου Σαύλου, called Saul. The name is the same as that of the first King of Israel, and signifies ‘one asked for’ (i.e. in prayer). This Saul was also of the tribe of Benjamin, and had come from his home at Tarsus in Cilicia to attend on the lessons of the great teacher Gamaliel (Philippians 3:5-6; Acts 22:3).

Verse 59

59. ἐπικαλούμενον, calling upon the Lord. The noun must be supplied from the Κύριε which immediately follows.

The verb ἐπικαλέομαι is used afterwards of St Paul’s appeal to Cæsar, Acts 25:11; Acts 26:32; Acts 28:19.

δέξαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου, receive my spirit, i.e. at its departure from my body, which he perceived was close at hand.

Verse 60

60. θεὶς δὲ τὰ γόνατα, and kneeling down: to pray, probably before the stoning commenced. This shews that the proceeding of the people was somewhat deliberate, and not a mere act of mob violence.

τιθέναι τὰ γόνατα is common in N.T., but is not classical, nor found in the LXX., where κάμπτειν is the usual verb. On Stephen’s kneeling Chrysostom remarks ὅθεν θεῖος αὐτοῦ καὶ ὁ θάνατος γέγονεν.

μὴ στήσῃς αὐτοῖς, lay not to their charge. More literally, ‘set it not down against them.’ The verb is the same as in LXX. Zechariah 11:12, καὶ ἔστησαν τὸν μισθόν μου τριάκοντα ἀργυροῦς, ‘and they weighed (or set) as my price thirty silverlings,’ from which sense the text may be explained = ‘charge it not upon them.’

It is to be observed that both the prayers of Stephen are addressed to Jesus as God. The tone of both cannot but bring to the memory the words of Jesus addressed to the Father in His agony, ‘Into thy hands I commend My spirit’ (Luke 23:46) and ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34). As Christ had died, so did His servant learn to die.

ἐκοιμήθη, he fell asleep. The verb is common in the LXX. in the phrase ἐκοιμήθη μετὰ τῶν πατέρων αὐτοῦ, of the kings when they die. It is also used (Matthew 27:52) of ‘the saints which slept’ and arose after the Crucifixion. How far its use in the Old Test. Scriptures implies a belief in an awakening is not easy to decide, for the word is used of death in the classical writers. Cf. Soph. Electra 509.

Acts 8:1. συνευδοκῶν, consenting, i.e. approving of all that was done. The verb is found 1 Maccabees 1:57, εἴ τις συνευδόκει τῷ νόμῳ, of assenting or approving of a law; and 2 Maccabees 11:35, καὶ ἡμεῖς συνευδοκοῦμεν, ‘therewith we also are well pleased.’ The word implies entire approbation. So Luke 11:48, συνευδοκεῖτε, ‘ye allow (i.e. praise and approve of) the deeds of your fathers.’ St Paul also says of himself (Acts 22:20), ‘when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed I also was standing by and consenting (συνευδοκῶν) unto his death.’

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 7". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.