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Is this really so? That is, “What do you have to say in your own defence?”
Stephen answered. His answer is to give an outline of Jewish history, from Abraham to Christ. This is to show that the “spiritual temple” which is the church of Christ [the messianic community] is the fulfillment of the Jewish Age. A true child of Abraham will listen to the prophecies of Moses and the others, and will accept Christ as the Messiah. (1) Abraham was uncircumcised when God called him and gave him the promise. (2) Joseph [a symbol of Christ] was rejected by his brothers, but later saved them (3) Moses was rejected by his people, but God used him to save Israel. (4) Israel went chasing after false gods, and the Lord sent them into captivity. (5) God had the Tent and the Temple built, but told them he does not live in houses built by men. (6) Moses predicted a prophet like himself, God’s Servant. (7) In rejecting Christ and murdering him, they showed themselves true sons of their ancestors. The whole speech is logical, bringing these people face to face with their own sins. The God of glory. Abraham’s home was in Ur, in the land of Chaldea in Mesopotamia. Abraham stopped five years at Haran, until his father died (Genesis 11:31-32). God gave a second call to him there (Genesis 12:1).
God did not then give. Abraham had only the promise by faith.
Will live in a foreign country. Egypt. See Genesis 15:13-16. Four hundred years. From the birth of Isaac to the Exodus. It was four hundred and thirty years from the calling of Abraham (Galatians 3:16-17; Exodus 12:40).
As a sign of the covenant. Genesis 17:0. All Jewish male babies received this sign. See notes on Colossians 2:11-12 for a contrast between this and spiritual circumcision.
The patriarchs were jealous. Joseph’s brothers. As they rejected Joseph, their descendants rejected Christ. But God was with him. God raised him to an honored position in Egypt.
Then there was a famine. Genesis chapters 39–50 tell about Joseph.
So Joseph sent a message. Joseph, the rejected brother, becomes the savior of his kinfolk! There were seventy-five people in all. Stephen quotes from the Septuagint [Greek translation of the Old Testament], as did Christ and the apostles who used this version almost exclusively. Genesis 46:27 in that version says Joseph had nine sons, which would make the seventy-five.
Their bodies were moved to Shechem. The bodies of Joseph and his brothers (Joshua 24:32). Jewish tradition says the brothers were buried there also, Jerome, in the fourth century, said their graves could still be seen. Which Abraham had bought. Abraham built an altar to God at Shechem (Genesis 12:6-7), Yet Jacob is the one who bought the grave-site (Genesis 33:18-20). McGarvey thought this was a copyist’s error, but the very oldest manuscripts have Abraham. Stephen evidently had some information which we do not have.
When the time drew near. For the people of Israel to come out of Egypt. (Acts 7:7).
18–21. It was at this time that Moses was born. Exodus chapters 1–2 tells about this.
He was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Hebrews 11:24).
When Moses was forty years old. Exodus 2:11-15. The point Stephen brings out, is that Israel rejected Moses, just as they did Joseph and Jesus. Yet they knew how God had chosen both Joseph and Moses to be their leaders and saviors. This implies God had chosen Jesus also.
After forty years had passed. God’s choosing and sending Moses is told in Exodus 3:1-10.
Moses is the one who was rejected. He comes down hard on this fact! He does this to reach the climax of Acts 7:37.
God will send you a prophet. This prophecy destroys the charge against Philip, which accused him of blaspheming Moses. Since Moses spoke about a prophet who would supersede himself, the one who truly gives honor to Moses honors the One whom Moses spoke about.
He is the one. That is, Moses. Stephen still shows them their ancestors did not honor Moses. The angel who spoke to him. Compare Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19. God’s living message. The Law. Compare Romans 7:12-14.
But our ancestors refused to obey him. These verses sum up the disobedience of Israel. Stephen shows that the rejection of Jesus has roots deep in their own past. Compare Exodus 16:3; Exodus 17:4; Exodus 32:1-14. But God turned away from them. Stephen condenses many centuries into this record of rejection which led to their captivity in Babylon. The stars of heaven. Compare Deuteronomy 17:3. People of Israel! The quotation in Acts 7:42-43 is from Amos 5:25-27. The animal sacrifices were offered to God, yet the people really intended them for their “star gods.” Moloch. Sakkuth. Babies were burned as human sacrifices to this god (Leviticus 18:21). Rephan. Kaiwan [= Saturn?]. Perhaps the Ashtoreth of the O.T., who would be worshiped in immoral ways. [The quotation follows the Septuagint.] And so I will send you away. Stephen shows that Israel has always been rebellious, and God has punished them for it. [Probably two million Jews came out of Egypt (compare Numbers 1:45-46), yet during the forty years in the desert, all perished except Joshua and Caleb.]
Our ancestors had the tent of God’s presence. [Tabernacle is an old word for tent.] This tent was a “portable temple,” and served to focus the worship of God and act as a witness to the Covenant. Compare Hebrews 9:1-10. Stephen contrasts God’s tent with the “tent of Moloch” (Acts 7:43) which must have been a small “model” which they carried with them. When they went in with Joshua. [Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Hebrew.] They took God’s tent with them into Canaan. To provide a house for the God of Jacob. David wanted to build a temple to replace the tent, but God would not allow him to do it See 2 Samuel 7:1-17; 1 Chronicles 22:7-8; 2 Chronicles 6:1-11. But the Most high God. The tent was superseded by the temple, as God commanded. But God does not confine himself to any human construction (2 Chronicles 6:18); therefore the temple itself would be superseded. [This would make them insane with anger!] But Jesus had predicted this (John 4:21-24; Matthew 23:38-39); and the Christians preached it (compare Acts 17:24-25). Acts 7:49-50 quote Isaiah 66:1-2 from the Septuagint.
How stubborn you are! Stephen now makes the application of all he has said. [Remember: the Holy Spirit is directing him.] They are stubborn like the ox that has to be driven to pull his load. Their hearts are heathen [alien and cut off from God]. They are deaf to God’s message. They are just like their ancestors, whom Stephen has just described as rebels. They resist the Holy Spirit. Compare Romans 2:25-29.
Was there any prophet? Compare Matthew 23:29-36. That was handed down by angels. Compare Hebrews 2:1-5. The Jews had an unhealthy interest in angels. [Compare note on Colossians 2:18-19.]
They became furious. Satan uses their own sense of guilt to drive them insane with anger! Compare notes on Revelation 9:0.
Looked up to heaven. “Happy are the dead who from now on die in the service of the Lord!” (Revelation 14:13). For the Christian, death is graduation from the school of life.
The Son of Man standing. Compare notes on Matthew 26:64-65.
With a loud cry. Some seventy-two solemn councilmen, who are official guardians of the Law, become a “howling mob.” McGarvey says: “But the maddest pranks ever played upon this mad earth are witnessed when wicked men set themselves in uncompromising opposition to God and his holy truth.”
Threw him out of the city. Even though they are committing murder, they are very careful to do it outside the “holy city” (Leviticus 24:14). And stoned him. The Romans crucified; the Jews stoned. The witnesses. They had to throw the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:7). A young man named Saul. This is the first mention of this militant Jewish missionary, who will later become The Apostle to the Gentiles. See note on Acts 9:1.
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! This shows his confident faith! He knelt down. The point is, that like Jesus, he prayed for his enemies. And died. Stephen’s death was murder because: (1) no vote was taken in the Council; (2) The Roman governor’s consent was not obtained (see note on John 18:31).
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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Acts 7". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany