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THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 7
OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN
I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 7:
I. Stephen's Speech: 7:1-53
A. The Life of Abraham: 7:2-8
B. The Life of Joseph: 7:9-16
C. The Life of Moses: 7:17-44
D. David and Solomon: 7:45-50
E. Summation: 7:51-53
II. The Crowd's Reaction/Stephen's Death: 7:54-60
II. INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS:
Various critics of the Bible have ridiculed Stephen's speech. Stott notes, 'George Bernard Shaw...Calling Stephen "a quite intolerable young speaker" and "a tactless and conceited bore"..Others have found his speech lacking not only in interest but in point.' (p. 129) Unfortunately, such critics are just as blind as those who were persecuting Stephen.
Far from being a rambling, pointless speech or a tedious rehearsal of Jewish history, this speech is a classic answer to the charges of which he had been accused.
Points to Note:
The speech proves that Stephen and the early Christians believed that the Old Testament was inspired history. To them it wasn't myth, fable or Jewish folklore. It was an inspired, accurate account of God's dealings with individuals and nations
He had been accused of showing disrespect to the Law (6:13). But in his overview of Jewish history, he shows incredible respect for the Law--for quotations and observations from the O.T. comprise his sermon. In addition, Stott notes, 'What he did was not to rehearse the salient features of the Old Testament story, with which the Sanhedrin were as familiar as he, but to do so in such a way as to draw lessons from it which they had never learned or even noticed. His concern was to demonstrate that his position, far from being "blasphemous" because disrespectful to God's word, actually honoured it..' (p. 130)
He had been accused of denigrating the temple (6:13). But in his speech he points to the divine origin of the temple (7:45-48). But more importantly, Stephen exposes a Jewish misconception. 'They conceived of Yahweh (God) as so completely identified with the temple that its existence guaranteed his protection of them...Stephen pointed out, the great figures of the Old Testament never imagined that God was imprisoned in a building.' (Stott p. 130) Thus repeatedly in this speech we find God working and active outside of Palestine, even in Ur, Haran, Egypt, etc..And Solomon (builder of the first temple), recognized that God cannot be limited to a building or place (7:48-50). Thus, the temple, which obviously cannot hold God, must be only a temporary "house" for God, just like the tabernacle.
He had been accused of speaking against Moses (6:14). Yet, Moses is a central character in his defense (7:17-44). In all of his examples, Stephen demonstrates that the faithful have always been willing to "move" when God moves--God commanded Abraham to leave (7:3); the Israelites came to Egypt for grain (7:14); they felt Egypt (7:36); they built the tabernacle and the temple. Hence the O.T. is filled with "change". In addition, Moses himself had spoken of another prophet (7:37)-more change was coming. Thus, even Moses anticipated a change in the customs which had been delivered through him (6:14). In addition, another aspect to this line of reasoning is that people had found favor with God before many of these "customs" had been instituted. And the promise of the Messiah ( Gen_12:3 ) had been given before circumcision, before the law and before the temple. 'and that therefore the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant could not be dependent upon the Law or the temple.' (P.P. Comm. p. 215) (See Gal_3:16-18 ; Rom_4:9 ff)
And probably one of the main thrusts of the whole section: 'the insistence that the Jewish people's refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah was all of a piece of their attitude to God's messengers throughout the O.T. period. Joseph's brothers hated him, although he was God's appointed deliverer for them; Moses, another divinely appointed deliverer, was repudiated by his people more than once. The prophets too were persecuted and killed by those to whom they ministered, and at last He of whom the prophets spoke had been handed over to death by those to whom His saving message was first brought near.' (Bruce p. 142) (7:51-53) 'how at every stage of their history their fathers had resisted those who were sent to them by God, and that now his judges were playing the same part.' (P.P. Comm. p. 214)
Hence the conclusion of the speech is clear, the real blasphemers are Stephen's judges!
'What Stephen did was to pick out four major epochs of Israel's history, dominated by four major characters. First he highlighted Abraham and the patriarchal age (7:2-8); then Joseph and the Egyptian exile (7:9-19); thirdly Moses, the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings (7:20-44); and lastly David and Solomon, and the establishment of the monarchy (7:45-50).' (Stott p. 130)
III. COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER SEVEN:
THE LIFE OF ABRAHAM
Act_7:1 And the high priest said, Are these things so?
'THE HIGH PRIEST'-Since Caiaphas was not deposed until 36 A.D., it seems that he was the high priest presiding over this trial.
'ARE THESE THINGS SO?'-i.e. do you plead guilty or not guilty? 'Stephen could not give a yes or no answer to these..charges. There was an element of truth in each of them and a large amount of error all mixed together.' (Robertson p. 79)
Act_7:2 And he said, Brethren and fathers, hearken: The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran,
'BRETHREN'-'perhaps shows that a crowd of bystanders lined the walls of the judgement hall.' (Reese p. 271)
'FATHERS'-'out of respect to the elder and more dignified portion of the Sanhedrin.' (P.P. Comm. p. 214) Carefully note that God expects us to keep our cool, and to continue to speak respectfully, even when faced with false accusations and lies.
'THE GOD OF GLORY'-The God characterized by glory, whose visible glory was seen by their ancestors ( Exo_33:18-23 ). This statement quickly answers any charge of blasphemy against God.
'APPEARED UNTO OUR FATHER ABRAHAM'-Stephen starts with Abraham because for all practical purposes the Jewish nation, and Jewish history began with Abraham. Reese notes, 'A recitation of the history of the Jews as a favorite topic among the Jews, and would secure their rapt attention. They loved to hear their history recounted.' (p. 272)
'WHEN HE WAS IN MESOPOTAMIA'-The word "Mesopotamia" means the land between the rivers, i.e. between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
'BEFORE HE DWELT IN HARAN'- Gen_12:1 ff records God calling Abraham out of Haran, after the death of his father. But additional O.T. passages reveal that a previous revelation from God had called him out of Ur of the Chaldees ( Neh_9:7 ; Gen_15:7 ; Jos_24:3 ). Therefore those critics who charge Stephen or Luke with being historically inaccurate on this point, are in reality the poor students of the O.T.
Act_7:3 and said unto him, Get thee out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee.
'FROM THY KINDRED'-countrymen, relatives. The O.T. reveals that Abraham came from an idolatrous environment ( Jos_24:2 ; Jos_24:15 ). Note two important facts: (a) God is not restricted to a certain place or land, for God spoke to Abraham, in the idolatrous city of Ur. (b) When God is ready to move, the faithful respond, despite whatever personal hardship such a move places among them.
Act_7:4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Haran: and from thence, when his father was dead, God removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell:
'OUT OF THE LAND OF THE CHALDAEANS'-The specific city was Ur. The 'land of the Chaldaeans' is a synonym for Mesopotamia (7:2).
'DWELT IN HARAN'-This temporary settlement is recorded in Gen_11:31-32 . 'Archaeologists have shown that Haran was a flourishing city early in the second millennium B.C.' (Reese p. 273)
-(HAIR uhn)-'located on one of the main trade routes between Babylonia and the Mediterranean Sea.' (Nelsons p. 459) 'Haran has been continuously occupied and has retained its name (Harran) from its recorded beginnings until the present day..situated c. twenty miles S.E. of Urfa (Edessa).' (Zond. Ency. pp. 33,32)
'WHEN HIS FATHER WAS DEAD'- Gen_11:32
'GOD REMOVED HIM INTO THIS LAND'-i.e. God called him again ( Gen_12:1-3 ; Gen_12:7 ).
Act_7:5 and he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: and he promised that he would give it to him in possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
'NOT SO MUCH AS TO SET HIS FOOT ON'-'denoting in an emphatic manner that he owned no land.' (Reese p. 274) The only land he could really claim, was simply a family burial plot ( Gen_23:1 ff). 'The field and the cave were purchased for a special purpose, for use after this earthly life was over.' (Reese p. 273)
'AS YET HE HAD NO CHILD'- Gen_12:7 ; Gen_13:14-17 ; Gen_15:2-21 .
Act_7:6 And God spake on this wise, that his seed should sojourn in a strange land, and that they should bring them into bondage, and treat them ill, four hundred years.
'SOJOURN IN A STRANGE LAND..'- Gen_15:13 . Thus we have a prediction of a sojourn in Egypt, followed by bondage, around two hundred years before the fact.
'FOUR HUNDRED YEARS'-Stephen quoted the O.T. just as it read ( Gen_15:13 ). From other passages we learn that the affliction didn't last for 400 years, rather, it was a round number for the total time that Israel spent in Egypt ( Exo_12:40-41 ; Gal_3:17 ).
Act_7:7 And the nation to which they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
'WILL I JUDGE'-i.e. the Ten plagues recorded in Exodus. ( Gen_15:14 ; Exo_6:6 ; Exo_7:4 )
'IN THIS PLACE'-in the land of Canaan.
Act_7:8 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 the twelve patriarchs.
'COVENANT OF CIRCUMCISION'- Gen_17:9-13 . Carefully note that Stephen speaks very respectfully of the "customs". He declares that circumcision had been given by God. This covenant was given to Abraham the year before Isaac was born. Stott notes, 'So, long before there was a holy place, there was a holy people..' (p. 132)
'THE EIGHTH DAY'-Exactly as God had prescribed ( Gen_17:12 ).
'ISAAC..JACOB..THE TWELVE PATRIARCHS'-i.e. the 12 sons of Jacob. The word "Patriarch" denotes the father and ruler of a family. These 12 sons became the ancestors of the 12 tribes. Now Stephen will quickly but logically move from Abraham to Joseph.
Point to Note:
Thus in the life of the founder of the Jewish race we find: (a) The acceptance of new divinely given customs. (b) A relationship with God without the temple or the law of Moses. (c) A willingness (faith) to immediately embrace any moves or changes that God decrees.
THE LIFE OF JOSEPH
Act_7:9 And the patriarchs, moved with jealousy against Joseph, sold him into Egypt: and God was with him,
'MOVED WITH JEALOUSY AGAINST JOSEPH'-'Here breaks out that part (or thread-MD) of Stephen's argument which went to show how the Israelites had always ill-used their greatest benefactors, and resisted the leaders sent to them by God.' (P.P. Comm. p. 216) (See Genesis chapter 37).
'INTO EGYPT: AND GOD WAS WITH HIM'-Hence Israelites could be wrong and find themselves opposing the purposes of God. And God wasn't confined to the land of Palestine. 'Six times in seven verses Stephen repeats the word "Egypt", as if to make sure that his hearers have grasped its significance.' (Stott p. 133)
Act_7:10 and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
'DELIVERED HIM OUT OF ALL HIS AFFLICTIONS'-From all the troubles afflicted by his brothers and Potiphar's wife. The evil plans of men cannot frustrate God's purpose.
'AND WISDOM'-Particularly the ability to interpret dreams. But also such wisdom was manifested in his administration policies in view of the coming famine. (Genesis Chapter 41)
'MADE HIM GOVERNOR OVER EGYPT'-Notice how a "pagan" saw value in Joseph that his brothers were blind to. In much the same way many Gentiles would see the value of Jesus Christ, even though He had been rejected by the religious leaders of the nation.
Act_7:11 Now there came a famine over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
'NOW THERE CAME'-Just as Joseph had predicted.
'OUR FATHERS'-Jacob and the remaining 11 sons who were still living in Canaan.
Act_7:12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our fathers the first time.
'THE FIRST TIME'-'Stephen outlines the three visits to Egypt paid by Joseph's brothers, the first to get grain (12), the second when Joseph made himself known to them (13), and the third when they brought their father Jacob with them..(14).' (Stott p. 133) (See Gen_42:1-38 )
Act_7:13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's race became manifest unto Pharaoh.
This information is found in Gen_43:1-34 ; Gen_44:1-34 ; Gen_45:1-28 ; Gen_46:1-34 ; Gen_47:1-31 .
Act_7:14 And Joseph sent, and called to him Jacob his father, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
'threescore and fifteen souls'-'seventy-five persons in all' (NASV).
Point to Note:
Critics have charged Stephen (Luke) with a historical inaccuracy at this point. For the Hebrew text puts the total at 70 persons ( Gen_46:27 ). (a) But the version of the O.T. (The Septuagint) that Stephen was quoting from, has 75 in the text. (b) Even the Hebrew text infers that the total number of people who came into Egypt can be counted in a number of ways (depending upon whether you count the people already in Egypt, or how much of Joseph's own immediate family you count) the number 66 is given before the number 70 (see Gen_46:26-27 ). (c) Bruce notes, 'The LXX (Greek translation of the O.T.) omits Jacob and Joseph, but includes nine sons of Joseph. While the Hebrew text includes Jacob, Joseph and his two sons.' (p. 148) (d) McGarvey notes, 'It (the LXX) reads: "All the souls of the house of Jacob who went with Jacob into Egypt, were seventy-five souls;" and it makes the additional five, by giving, at verse 20, the names of two sons of Manasseh, two of Ephraim, and one grandson of the latter.' (p. 120) (e) You can't charge Stephen with a mistake, seeing that he quoted from an accepted translation of the day.
Act_7:15 And Jacob went down into Egypt; and he died, himself and our fathers;
See Genesis Chapter 50.
Act_7:16 and they were carried over unto Shechem, and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver of the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
'THEY'-In view of the fact that Jacob was buried in the cave of Machpelah (Hebron) ( Gen_50:13 ). The "they" of this verse refers to the burial of the patriarchs previously mentioned, i.e. the sons of Jacob. This makes perfect sense in view of the fact that the body of Joseph was eventually returned to Shechem also ( Jos_24:32 ).
'SHECHEM'-(SHEK uhm). Located about 30 miles north of Jerusalem.
'THAT ABRAHAM BOUGHT'-Here people charge Stephen (Luke) with another historical inaccuracy. For the O.T. records Jacob as buying this piece of property ( Joshua 24:32; 33:16 ). (a) Stott notes, 'It is better to conclude either that Jacob bought the Shechem burial ground in Abraham's name, since he was still alive at the time..' (p. 134). (b) Others suggest, that in view of the fact that Abraham lived for some time in Shechem ( Gen_12:6 ); Jacob may of had to repurchase or reclaim a burial plot that Abraham had purchased years previous.
Point to Note:
Right here we need to stop and note, that if the critics are right---that Stephen made various historical mistakes in his speech, why didn't anyone in the audience stop him??? Why was he allowed to continue? Why did none of the Jewish experts in the Law challenge his overview of O.T. history? Various charges were leveled against Stephen, but he was never charged with perverting or corrupting the text of the O.T. Scriptures. From the fact that his accusers couldn't OUT ARGUE HIM (6:10); and no one offered a rebuttal on this day (7:54), stands as proof that no one could find fault with his recital of Hebrew history. Therefore, those who criticize this speech, actually label themselves as poor students of the O.T.
In Joseph we also find: (a) God was a universal God, who could act independently of any physical dwelling. (b) The Israelites rejected their God-appointed deliverer. (c) The deliverer they rejected, ended up being their only hope for life.
THE LIFE OF MOSES
Act_7:17 But as the time of the promise drew nigh which God vouchsafed unto Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
'TIME OF THE PROMISE..THE PEOPLE GREW AND MULTIPLIED IN EGYPT'-Several promises had been given to Abraham, and one was already being fulfilled, i.e. his descendants would become a great nation ( Gen_12:2 ). The promise which was drawing nigh, was the promise of deliverance (15:14), which was linked with the promise of inheriting the land of Canaan (15:18-21).
'VOUCHSAFED'-'assured' (NASV). 3660. omnuo om-noo'-o; a prolonged form of a primary but obsolete omo, for which another prolonged form (omoo om-o'-o) is used in certain tenses; to swear, i.e. take (or declare on) oath: -swear.
Point to Note:
Those groups which claim that God never completely fulfilled the land promise to the nation of Israel, don't have the support of the O.T. ( Jos_21:43-45 ; Neh_9:8 ) or the New Testament. For Stephen says that the promise was drawing nigh.
Act_7:18 till there arose another king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.
'ANOTHER KING'-'"Another" is heteros, "different" rather than allos, "another of the same kind"' (Reese p. 280). This appears to be not only a change in Pharaoh's, but a change in dynasty's.
'WHO KNEW NOT JOSEPH'-Not in the sense of "knew nothing of", but a drastic change of power took place in the Egypt, and this new Pharaoh felt no obligations to the old ties and political commitments. 'Joseph's history and services meant nothing to the new king.' (Robertson p. 84) These events are recorded in Exo_1:6-8 .
Act_7:19 The same dealt craftily with our race, and ill-treated our fathers, that they should cast out their babes to the end they might not live.
'CRAFTILY'-'Lit., to employ cunning against' (Vincent p. 478) 'To use fraud, craft, deceit.' (Robertson p. 85)
'ILL-TREATED OUR FATHERS'- Exo_1:8-14
'THEY SHOULD CAST OUT THEIR BABES..'- Exo_1:15-22
Points to Note:
Bruce observes, 'But for this policy they might have found Egypt so comfortable that they would never thought of leaving it!' (p. 149) Thus, we see God's plans and purposes working even with the unwitting cooperation of evil men.
Notice all the historical "detail" that Stephen cites. The way that the O.T. records it is the way that it happened. Nothing has been embellished.
Act_7:20 At which season Moses was born, and was exceeding fair; and he was nourished three months in his father's house.
'AT WHICH SEASON'-'Right when the mistreatment was harshest is when Moses was born.' (Reese p. 281)
'EXCEEDING FAIR'-791. asteios as-ti'-os; from astu (a city); urbane, i.e. (by implication) handsome: -fair.
-'Lit., fair unto God: a Hebrew superlative.' (Vincent p. 479). 'Fair to God (as God looked at him).' (Robertson p. 85) See Exo_2:2 and Heb_11:23 . 'Wonderfully beautiful child' (TCNT); 'a child or remarkable beauty' (Phi). 'So "cute" was this baby that he captured the hearts of his parents and they determined to preserve him alive.' (Reese p. 281)
'NOURISHED THREE MONTHS'-'They kept him for three months before exposing him, and when at last they did expose him, they did so in such a way that he was quickly rescued.' (Bruce p. 149)
Act_7:21 and when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
This event is described in Exo_2:3-10 .
'FOR HER OWN SON'-'She would never become ruler of Egypt, but her oldest son..would be in line for the throne.' (Reese p. 282)
Act_7:22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; and he was mighty in his words and works.
'MOSES'-4872. Mosheh mo-sheh'; from 4871; drawing out (of the water), i.e. rescued; Mosheh, the Israelite lawgiver: -Moses.
'IN THE WISDOM OF THE EGYPTIANS'-'Thus Moses received the best education that the Egyptian court could provide.' (Bruce p. 150) 'The Egyptians had advanced markedly in the study of astrology...medicine, mathematics, and music..' (Reese p. 282)
'Swimming, horse-back riding, hunting, playing with household pets would all be part of the experiences of a young boy in Egypt..As Moses grew older, however, he would become more and more involved in formal education which in Egypt included reading and writing of the hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts, the copying of text, instruction in writing letters and other formal documents. He would have learned such sports as archery and horseback riding..he probably had opportunity to learn something of the languages of Canaan.'
'MIGHTY IN HIS WORDS AND WORKS'-The whole chapter is a chronological presentation. Indicating that Moses 'was distinguished in Egypt before he ever fled to Midian..' (Reese p. 282) This means that the excuse that Moses offered in Exo_4:10 , was just that, an excuse.
Point to Note:
Observe the restraint of Stephen. An accurate overview, including some of the highlights of the O.T., yet without any exaggeration. 'Stephen expresses himself with more moderation than other Hellenistic Jews, who represent Moses was the father of all science and culture and as the founder of Egyptian civilization.' (Bruce p. 150)
Act_7:23 But when he was well-nigh forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
'WELL-NIGH FORTY YEARS OLD'- Exo_2:11 ; Heb_11:24 . We find the life of Moses divided up into three periods of 40 years each ( Exo_7:7 ; Deu_34:7 ). '
'IT CAME INTO HIS HEART'-Moses knew his true ancestry ( Heb_11:24-26 ).
McGarvey notes, 'The most striking thing about his education was the power and influence of his mother (or parents-MD). Amidst all the wealth, sin, and culture of the court life and the learned of the day. Moses was held in the mighty power of religious training and love of devout parents...If parents were worried about the danger of public education--as well they may be--perhaps they should look to their own home teaching of their child first...' (p. 85)
'TO VISIT'-'in the sense of investigating their plight and seeking to remedy it.' (Stott p. 136).
Act_7:24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, smiting the Egyptian:
'SEEING'-He decided to take things into his own hands (see Exo_2:11-12 ).
Act_7:25 and he supposed that his brethren understood that God by his hand was giving them deliverance; but they understood not.
'SUPPOSED'-'Moses looked upon the slaying of the Egyptian as being a signal for his countrymen to rise up and strike for liberty under his leadership.' (Reese pp. 283-284)
'BUT THEY UNDERSTOOD NOT'-Just as Stephen's judges didn't understand the mission of Jesus Christ (7:52; 3:17; 2:23).
Act_7:26 And the day following he appeared 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?
'WHY DO YE WRONG ONE TO ANOTHER'-Especially, when a common enemy is exploiting both of them-i.e. the Egyptians. The choice of this statement, could be God's way of trying to convict the Jewish leaders that they were on the verge of wronging one of their own, i.e. Stephen.
Act_7:27 But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
'WHO MADE THEE A RULER AND A JUDGE OVER US?-'Who gave you the right to boss us around...What makes you think you should settle differences and arbitrate cases that are really none of your business?' (Reese pp. 284-285) Carefully note how the "oppressed" are not always innocent, and that oppression doesn't give you the right to oppress others. Notice how the supposed "victim" (the oppressed Hebrew), is victimizing his neighbor! The same thing is found in Mat_18:23-35 .
Act_7:28 Wouldest thou kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian yesterday?
Point to Note:
Here we see that same recurring theme that the Israelites had rejected the deliverers sent from God. 'he had presented himself to them as their champion, but his intervention on their behalf was not appreciated.' (Bruce p. 150)
Act_7:29 And Moses fled at this saying, and became a sojourner in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons.
'MOSES FLED'-'Moses had exposed himself to grave peril by his attempt to champion his oppressed people's cause; his action in killing an Egyptian bully was more widely known that he wished..'(Bruce p. 150) He also fled because Pharaoh sought his life ( Exo_2:15 )
'MIDIAN'-(MID ee un). 'Situated east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, and land stretched southward through the Arabian desert as far as the southern and eastern parts of the peninsula of Sinai.' (Nelsons p. 706) 'The descendants of Midian, the fourth son of Abraham and Keturah ( Gen_25:2 ), occupied a considerable territory, some 300 miles along the Eastern shore of the Red Sea, and stretching deep into the interior. They were a nomadic people, and had very few towns.' (Reese p. 285)
'WHERE HE BEGAT TWO SONS'-See Exo_2:15-22 ; Exo_18:3-4 . This was the beginning of his second forty-year period ( Exo_7:7 ).
Act_7:30 And when forty years were fulfilled, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush.
'WHEN FORTY YEARS WERE FULFILLED'-His time in Midian was part of a Divine plan.
Act_7:31 And when Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold, there came a voice of the Lord,
'VOICE OF THE LORD'-The visible manifestation was an angel (7:30), the voice came from God.
Act_7:32 I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. And Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
'TREMBLED'-1790. entromos en'-trom-os; from 1722 and 5156; terrified: -X quake, X trembled.
-'Literally, become tremulous or terrified.' (Robertson p. 89) 'Quaking with fear' (Wey). Which means that Moses was human--having the same reaction, you and I would have.
'DURST NOT BEHOLD'-Refused to look in the direction of the bush.
Act_7:33 And the Lord said unto him, Loose the shoes from thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
'LOOSE THE SHOES FROM THY FEET'-An act of reverence. The same custom prevails in Eastern countries to this day..Moslem mosques, even today, are not entered till the worshipper have removed his shoes.' (Reese p. 288)
'FOR THE PLACE..IS HOLY GROUND'-Again we are impressed that God has revealed himself outside of the boundaries of the Temple or the land of Palestine. 'There was holy ground outside of the holy land...' (Stott p. 137) 'That spot of Gentile territory was "holy ground" for the simple reason that God revealed Himself to Moses there.' (Bruce p. 151)
Act_7:34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people that is in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I am come down to deliver them: and now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
'I HAVE SURELY SEEN'-An intensive expression, inferring that nothing has escaped the eyes of God. He sees all. Even though centuries had passed, God had not forgotten His covenant with Israel. He wasn't insensitive to their condition, and now He was about to deliver them through Moses. (See Exodus chapter 3).
Act_7:35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? him hath God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush.
'THIS MOSES WHOM THEY REFUSED...HATH GOD SENT..'-'The very man whom they had refused was the man chosen by God as their ruler and redeemer..The parallel with their refusal of Christ is too plain to require elaboration.' (Bruce p. 151)
'The council must have seen the parallel suggested in Stephen's words. Their fathers had rejected Moses even though he had been sent by God; so they rejected Jesus even though he had been sent by God to deliver them..'(Reese p. 289)
'WITH THE HAND OF THE ANGEL'-'with the help of' (TCNT).
Act_7:36 This man led them forth, having wrought wonders and signs in Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
'THIS MAN'-The same man they had rejected.
'HAVING WROUGHT WONDERS AND SIGNS..'-Including the 10 plagues.
'IN THE RED SEA'-The New Testament endorses the parting of the Red Sea. 'The student should be aware of the modern negative critic's attempts to deny the miracle by emphasizing that the place where the crossing was made was a shallow, marshy place...This denies the clear statement of Stephen ("wonders and signs")..' (Reese p. 289)
'IN THE WILDERNESS FORTY YEARS'-Including such things as providing them with manna each day; quail for meat; drinking water from rock; deliverance from poisonous serpents..etc..
Point to Note:
Like Moses, Jesus had performed signs that none could deny ( Act_2:22 ); and so had the man who was on trial before them ( Act_6:8 )
Act_7:37 This is that Moses, who said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me.
'A PROPHET...LIKE UNTO ME'- Deu_18:15 ; Deu_18:18-19 . Also quoted by Peter in Act_3:22-23 .
Point to Note:
Instead of blaspheming Moses, Stephen has been paying the utmost respect for the teaching of Moses, for Stephen had submitted to the Prophet of which Moses had spoken. 'It is the Sanhedrin (in their rejection of Jesus as the Prophet) which is opposing Moses, not Stephen!" (Reese p. 290)
Act_7:38 This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel that spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received living oracles to give unto us:
'CHURCH'-Not in the sense of the N.T. 'Church'. Which was still future when Christ spoke ( Mat_16:18 ). But rather those who had been 'called out' of Egypt, i.e. the nation of Israel.
'WITH THE ANGEL'-See 7:53. The Law of Moses was given through the agency of angels ( Heb_2:2 ; Gal_3:19 ).
'LIVING ORACLES'-Utterances which were given by God and the doing of them meant "Life". These utterances didn't lose their relevance when Moses died, but were to be passed on to other generations. Clearly, Stephen is demonstrating no disrespect for the Law of Moses. ( Rom_3:2 )
Act_7:39 to whom our fathers would not be obedient, but thrust him from them, and turned back in their hearts unto Egypt,
'TO WHOM'-i.e. to Moses.
'BUT THRUST HIM FROM THEM'-'spurned his authority' (Wey); 'pushed him aside' (Mof)
'TURNED BACK IN THEIR HEARTS'-While not wanting to be slaves again, they did inwardly yearn for various aspects of the Egyptian lifestyle.
Bruce notes, 'What more could the people of God want?--and it was all theirs in the wilderness, far from the promised land and the holy city. But even so, they were not content; they disobeyed Moses...Was Stephen charged with speaking "blasphemous words against Moses"--with propagating doctrines which threatened the abiding validity of "the customs which Moses delivered unto us?" Such a charge came well from the descendants of those who had refused Moses' authority in his very lifetime, from people whose attitude to the greater Prophet than Moses had shown them to be such worthy children of their fathers!' (pp. 152-153)
Act_7:40 saying unto Aaron, Make us gods that shall go before us: for as for this Moses, who led us forth out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.
'GO BEFORE US'-'seems to reflect the pagan practice of carrying their idols in the forefront of their army's marching columns.' (Reese p. 291)
Act_7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and brought a sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands.
Points to Note:
'The greater flagrance of this sin appears from the fact that it was committed immediately after those splendid manifestations of God's presence with Moses which the people had witnessed in Egypt, at the Red Sea, in the march to Mount Sinai...They rejected Moses after he had accomplished the main part of their deliverance.' (McGarvey p. 126)
For details on this section of history see Exodus chapter 32.
Notice how people will worship something in life. If a person doesn't worship and serve God, then they are bound to worship and serve something inferior to themselves ( Rom_1:23 ).
Also note that if we are not content to abide by God's religious forms or pattern, then we will fall into the trap of human tradition. They made a golden calf, probably because they had been accustomed to seeing the Egyptians worship in this manner. Notice how they adopted the religious forms of their former persecutors!
Act_7:42 But God turned, and gave them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, Did ye offer unto me slain beasts and sacrifices Forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
'GOD TURNED, AND GAVE THEM UP'-( Rom_1:24 ; Rom_1:26 ; Rom_1:28 ). God didn't stop them. He allowed them to go deep into idolatry. But many religious people today assume that God will prevent them from going into error. 'God gives men up to the due consequences of their settled choice..' (Bruce p. 153)
'TO SERVE THE HOST OF HEAVEN'-The worship of the heavenly bodies, including the Sun, moon and the stars. ( Deu_4:19 )
'AS IT IS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE PROPHETS'-Note, 'book', singular. 'The twelve minor prophets were commonly included in one book (one scroll).' (Reese p. 293) The following quotation is from Amo_5:25-27 .
'In a single sentence he passes over all the apostasies of Israel, from the time of the calf worship at the foot of Mount Sinai, till the final announcement of the Babylonian captivity by the mouth of the prophet Amos, who he quotes.' (McGarvey p. 126)
'DID YE OFFER UNTO ME...FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS..?'-'Stephen backs up his accusation (of their idolatry) with a quotation from Amo_5:1-27 which dates from several centuries later, it nevertheless refers to the corrupt worship of Israel during their forty years in the desert. Their sacrifices and offerings were not in reality brought to Yahweh, whatever their claim may have been, but rather to pagan idols.' (Stott p. 137)
This verse reveals, that even during the years of the wilderness wandering (with Moses as their leader), they had a frame of mind which wanted to go after other gods.
Act_7:43 And ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, And the star of the god Rephan, The figures which ye made to worship them: And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
'TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH'-The idolatry which started in the wilderness finally resulted in such things as human sacrifice (which was involved in worshipping Moloch). The 'tabernacle of Moloch' may refer to a portable tent-temple for the god. 'Moloch was the god of the Amorites to whom children were offered as live sacrifices, an ox-headed image with arms outstretched in which children were placed and hollow underneath so that fire could burn underneath.' (Robertson p. 93)
'STAR OF THE GOD REPHAN'-the planet Saturn?
'I WILL CARRY YOU AWAY BEYOND BABYLON'-Which was the punishment for their idolatry. The text of Amo_5:27 says 'beyond Damascus', but Stephen is giving inspired commentary. The exile beyond Damascus was Babylon and such places even far east-i.e. Persia.
'In referring to the tabernacle and the temple, Stephen is derogatory to neither. On the contrary, they were associated with some of the greatest names of Israelite history--Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon..' (Stott p. 138)
Act_7:44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, even as he appointed who spake unto Moses, that he should make it according to the figure that he had seen.
'OF THE TESTIMONY'-3142. marturion mar-too'-ree-on; neuter of a presumed derivative of 3144; something evidential, i.e. (genitive case) evidence given or (specifically) the Decalogue (in the sacred Tabernacle): -to be testified, testimony, witness.
-Here a visible manifestation of God's glory resided. And in this tent God's testimony, i.e. the Ten Commandments and the book of the Law were kept.
'FIGURE'-5179. tupos too'-pos; from 5180; a die (as struck), i.e. (by implication) a stamp or scar; by analogy, a shape, i.e. a statue, (figuratively) style or resemblance; specifically, a sampler ("type"), i.e. a model (for imitation) or instance (for warning): -en-(ex-)ample, fashion, figure, form, manner, pattern, print.
-The tabernacle was to be constructed exactly according to a Divine pattern ( Exo_25:9 ). Note that the first place of worship for the Hebrews wasn't the temple. Stephen counters the charge of blasphemy against the temple by saying..'This tabernacle of testimony was no ordinary shrine; it was made by the direct command of God, and constructed in every detail according to the pattern..' (Bruce p. 156)
Act_7:45 Which also our fathers, in their turn, brought in with Joshua when they entered on the possession of the nations, that God thrust out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
'BROUGHT IN WITH...'-The tabernacle remained with them all through the early period of the settlement of Canaan--right up to the time of David.
Act_7:46 who found favor in the sight of God, and asked to find a habitation for the God of Jacob.
Act_7:47 But Solomon built him a house.
Points to Note:
As great as the tabernacle was (built according to a divine blueprint), it was replaced by the Temple. Thus there is nothing blasphemous about saying that another House (the Church) has superseded the Temple ( 1Ti_3:15 ; Eph_2:19-22 ; 1Pe_2:5 )
For David's desire to built the Temple see 2Sa_7:1-29 . David was allowed to collect the materials for the Temple, but it would be constructed during Solomon's reign ( 1Ch_22:1-19 ; 1Ki_6:1-38 ).
Act_7:48 Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in houses made with hands; as saith the prophet,
'AS SAITH THE PROPHET'-( Isa_66:1-2 )
Act_7:49 The heaven is my throne, And the earth the footstool of my feet: What manner of house will ye build Me? saith the Lord: Or what is the place of My rest?
Act_7:50 Did not my hand make all these things?
Points to Note:
Even Solomon, at the dedication of the Temple, confessed that such a House could not contain God ( 1Ki_8:27 ).
Bruce notes, 'But to those who imagine that they can localize the Presence of God, His scornful question comes, "What is the place of my rest?" Do they think they can make God "stay put"-imprison Him in a golden cage? The point is that the Temple was not intended, any more than the Tabernacle, to become a permanent institution..' (p. 160)
'The tabernacle served as a place of worship, but was supplanted by the temple. And as even the builder and worshippers in the temple recognized that, grand as it was, it was not at all the real place where God dwelt, so Stephen shows that the temple wasn't the final revelation of God's will about how men should worship.' (Reese p. 298)
'inasmuch as the temple, grand and ancient as it was, was infinitely too small to contain the living God, and was declared by one of their own prophets not to be God's real dwelling place, it could be no blasphemy to say that it was yet to be set aside and destroyed.' (McGarvey p. 129)
Having defended himself or his position, Stephen now brings home the application of his speech to those judging him.
Act_7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye.
'STIFFNECKED'-4644. sklerotrachelos sklay-rot-rakh'-ay-los; from 4642 and 5137; hardnaped, i.e. (figuratively) obstinate: -stiffnecked.
-An accusation against the nation of Israel, as old as Moses ( Exo_33:5 ) 'is a figure taken from an animal that is refractory, and that will not submit to being yoked or bridled...Stephen was using the identical language of Moses when he conveyed God's rebuke to Israel.' (Reese pp. 298-299)
'UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART AND EARS'-They prided themselves on being circumcised, but their stubbornness and defiance in the face of the will of God, made them act like the uncircumcised heathen, who did not possess the utterances of God ( Rom_2:25-29 ). Again, this is the same language that Moses and the prophets had used against Israel ( Lev_26:41 ; Deu_10:16 ; Jer_4:4 ; Jer_6:10 ) 'heathen still at heart and deaf to the truth' (NEB)
'YE DO ALWAYS RESIST THE HOLY SPIRIT'-i.e. the revelations given by the Spirit through inspired men ( 2Pe_1:20-21 ).
'AS YOUR FATHERS DID, SO DO YE'-Now all the historical applications of the sermon start to hit home--resisting the Holy Spirit as your ancestors rejected Joseph, Moses and all the warnings from the prophets.
Act_7:52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? and they killed them that showed before of the coming of the Righteous One; of whom ye have now become betrayers and murderers;
'DID NOT YOUR FATHERS PERSECUTE?'-Jesus had taught the same thing ( Mat_21:33 ; Mat_5:12 ; Luk_13:34 . Even though the present generation repudiated the actions of their ancestors, they still were acting in the same manner towards the messengers sent from God ( Mat_23:29-37 ).
'OF WHOM YE HAVE NOW BECOME BETRAYERS AND MURDERERS'-This was said to the very Sanhedrin and the same High Priest that had handed Jesus over to the Roman authorities and had pressed for His execution.
Act_7:53 ye who received the law as it was ordained by angels, and kept it not.
'ORDAINED BY ANGELS'-(7:38; Heb_2:2 ; Gal_3:19 )
'KEPT IT NOT'-Hence they were the ones who were guilty of treating the law of God with disrespect ( Rom_2:23 ). 'Instead of tying Stephen, Stephen had put the Sanhedrin on trial. It has been suggested that a good title for Stephen's defense would have been "History Repeats Itself".' (Reese p. 301)
THE REACTION FROM THE CROWD
Act_7:54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
'CUT TO THE HEART'-(5:33)
'GNASHED ON HIM WITH THEIR TEETH'-'to gnash or grind the teeth' (Vincent p. 485) 'They began to gnash their teeth at (ep') him (just like a pack of hungry, snarling wolves).' (Robertson p. 97) A sign of rage ( Psa_35:14 ). 'When men get exceedingly angry, they double up their fists and grit their teeth..' (Reese p. 301)
Act_7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
'FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT'-'While his audience gave unchecked vent to their passion, Stephen remained calm, fully controlled as before by the Spirit of God..' (Bruce p. 164)
'LOOKED UP STEDFASTLY INTO HEAVEN'-'gazing intently up to heaven' (NEB). 'Much more real to him in that moment than the angry gestures and cries of his enemies was the presence of Jesus at God's right hand.' (Bruce p. 165)
'SAW THE GLORY OF GOD'-'Whenever mortal men have been given a glimpse into the heavenly throne room, and then try to tell us what they saw, the One who sits on the throne of the universe is seldom described, save that what is seen is a splendor..( Rev_4:2-3 ; 1Ti_6:16 ).' (Reese p. 302)
'JESUS'-In His glorified body.
'STANDING'-The only place in the Scriptures which mentions Him "Standing", instead of sitting at the right hand of God. 'it seems likely that Christ's standing related more directly to Stephen, and that he had stood up either as his heavenly advocate or to welcome his first martyr.' (Stott p. 141)
Act_7:56 and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.
'BEHOLD, I SEE'-'Not many years before, another prisoner had stood at the bar before the same court, charged with almost the same offences..'and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of the Almighty..( Mar_14:62 )..Unless the judges were prepared to admit that their former decision was tragically mistaken, they had no logical option but to find Stephen guilty of blasphemy as well.' (Bruce p. 165)
'It was vouchsafed both for his own encouragement in the hour of death, and for the good of friends and foes alike in subsequent days.' (McGarvey p. 133)
Act_7:57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord;
'RUSHED UPON HIM WITH ONE ACCORD'-'rushed at him like one man' (Mof).
Act_7:58 and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
'CAST HIM OUT OF THE CITY'-i.e. out of Jerusalem ( Lev_24:14 ).
'STONED HIM'-The witnesses were required to cast the first stones ( Deu_13:10 ; Deu_17:7 ). In doing so they laid aside their outer garments.
'AT THE FEET OF A YOUNG MAN NAMED SAUL'-It seems reasonable to assume that Gamaliel, Saul's teacher ( Act_22:3 ) was present at this trial. 'But, if so, he does not raise his voice against this mob violence.' (Robertson p. 99)
'YOUNG MAN'-'By Jewish modes of reckoning, a young man was anyone between the ages 24 and 40. Some 30 years later he will described himself as aged ( Phm_1:9 ).
'NAMED SAUL'-'Who that stood there and saw him keeping the clothes of the witnesses would have imagined that he would become the foremost apostle of the faith which he sought to destroy from off the face of the earth?' (P.P. Comm. p. 221)
Act_7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
'STONED STEPHEN'-According to Jewish sources in the Second Century A.D., the person to be stoned was placed on a platform, twice the height of a man, with hands tied. He was to be pushed off that platform, face first. If he was still alive, then a second witness was to drop a large stone upon his chest. If still alive, then he was stoned by all those present.
'RECEIVE MY SPIRIT'-Man is more than just a body. A similar statement was made by Jesus as He died ( Luk_23:46 )
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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 7". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent