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Bible Commentaries
Acts 7

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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Acts 7:1-8 Stephen, called upon to answer the charge against him, relateth how God called Abraham, and gave him and his seed the land of Canaan by promise,

Acts 7:9-16 how Joseph was sold by his brethren, and Jacob with his family went down into Egypt,

Acts 7:17-36 how, when they were oppressed by the Egyptians, Moses was born, and sent to deliver Israel out of Egypt,

Acts 7:37-43 that this same Moses witnessed of Christ, received the law, and experienced the disobedience and idolatry of their forefathers,

Acts 7:44-50 who had the tabernacle of witness, till Solomon built the temple,

Acts 7:51-53 He reproacheth his hearers with imitating their fathers’ rebellion against God, and persecution of his prophets, by having themselves murdered Christ, and transgressed the law they had received,

Acts 7:54-60 Stung with reproach, they stone him, looking up with faith unto God, and calling upon Jesus to receive his soul, and forgive his persecutors,

Verse 1

Then said the high priest; who was resolved to condemn any, right or wrong, that should profess Christ, as appears John 9:22.

Are these things so? That he might seem just, he gives him a kind of liberty to answer for himself; not to defend his doctrine, but; to know out of his own mouth whether he preached it, or not.

Verse 2

Brethren; to take away any prejudice they might have conceived against him, and to recommend, not his person as much as his doctrine to them, he calls them brethren;

1. As hoping in the same promises with them;

2. Observing the same law;

3. Worshipping the same God.

Fathers; a word of respect; especially the elder amongst them, or his judges: thus the Roman senators were called fathers; and magistrates ought to be reverenced as the fathers of their country.

The God of glory; who is also called, Psalms 24:7, the King of glory; from whom all glory descends to angels or men. By this, and what follows, St. Stephen would show that he honoured the true God, and thought respectfully of the law, the temple, and the patriarchs, whom he was accused to contemn and disgrace. He names Abraham, because he was accounted the first father and patriarch of the Jews, and had the first clear promise that the Messiah should come of his seed.

Mesopotamia is sometimes taken strictly for that country which lies between the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, from whence it had its name; sometimes more largely, including Chaldea; and so it is taken here.

Charran; a city of the Parthians, in the borders of Mesopotamia, towards the land of Canaan.

Verse 3

This command given unto Abraham we read of, Genesis 12:1,Genesis 12:5,Genesis 12:6; and it is here the rather spoken of by St. Stephen, to prove that Abraham was in the favour of God, and did truly serve him, before he ever saw the land of Canaan, and before the ceremonial law was given by Moses, and, much more, before the temple was built; and therefore it could not be blasphemy in him to hold that God might be served without those ceremonies, and worshipped elsewhere than in Jerusalem.

The land which I shall show thee; this was the glory of Abraham’s faith, that it submitted absolutely to God, and enabled Abraham to go he knew not whither, Hebrews 11:8, for God did not so much as name the place he would have him go unto.

Verse 4

Abraham had as great a love to his kindred and native country as others have; but he had a greater faith, which made him yield to God’s call and command, and follow from place to place the will of God, who is said here to have removed Abraham, and does choose the inheritance and habitation for his people, Psalms 47:4.

Verse 5

He gave him none inheritance in it; it is true that Abraham had a field, and the cave of Mach-pelah, Genesis 23:9; but that was of no use to Abraham whilst alive, but to bury him in when dead; besides, it was not as an inheritance by God’s gift, but it was purchased with his money.

Not so much as to set his foot on; whereby the least parcel of ground is meant: hence St. Stephen would prove, that Abraham’s happiness, and theirs too, if they rightly understood it, did not depend upon the enjoyment of that place and country.

And to his seed after him; faith met with a double difficulty, not only Abraham must believe he should have all that country given him for an inheritance, in which he had not a foot of land, but he must also believe that it should be his seed’s after him, whenas he had no children; but thus faith is

the evidence of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1.

Verse 6

Should sojourn in a strange land, as men which dwell in houses that are not their own; which seem to contradict the promise mentioned in the foregoing verse; but it is only to make Abraham the more believe against hope in hope, as it is said, Romans 4:18; though there were never so many difficulties more, for what God hath promised faith would overcome them all. This very space of

four hundred years is also mentioned, Genesis 15:13; which is thus computed: from the birth of Isaac (the promised seed) to the birth of Jacob, sixty years; from Jacob’s birth to his going into Egypt, one hundred and thirty years; from thence to their deliverance out of Egypt, two hundred and ten years; this period is accounted, Exodus 12:40,Exodus 12:41, to be four hundred and thirty years; which also St. Paul reckons by, Galatians 3:17; but then thirty years is added unto the account, being the space of time between the first promise made unto Abraham of this seed, and the birth of Isaac, in whom the promise was to be fulfilled; St. Stephen here reckoning only from the birth of Isaac.

Verse 7

Will I judge, or punish; and so the Egyptians were punished, not by human means, but by Divine power, and with God’s own immediate hand, and that in the fulness of time, the very night in which God’s promise was to take effect: and therefore it is a night to be much observed, Exodus 12:42, as showing, that the sabbath of his people, and the destruction of his enemies, slumber not, 2 Peter 2:3.

Serve me in this place; in Mount Horeb. The reason why God delivers his people is, that they may serve him, as Luke 1:74,Luke 1:75; and so long as God hath any work for them to do in this world, he will preserve and deliver them.

Verse 8

He gave him, Abraham, of whom he was speaking, the convenant of circumcision; of which covenant, circumcision was the sign and seal by which, on the part of Abraham and his seed it was stipulated, that they should put off all carnal affections.

Begat Isaac, after the promise: so that the promises were not given for Isaac’s sake, but Isaac was given for the promise’ sake; which made these things more fit to represent gospel grace, of which St. Stephen was preaching.

The twelve patriarchs; the heads of the tribes, from whom they were denominated. Of this genealogy, see Matthew 1:1,Matthew 1:2, &c., and the history of it in Genesis.

Verse 9

Moved with envy; enraged: the holy martyr accommodates his apology so, as that they may yet have occasion to reflect on themselves; for as they had sold our Saviour unto strangers, so had their fathers

sold Joseph. But God was with him, to favour and bless him; for God’s presence brings all good along with it: with this he comforts himself and others, that it was not without example or precedent that God should be with such whom their persecutors could not endure.

Verse 10

And delivered him out of all his afflictions; the effect of God’s presence with him, which to his people is always in an especial manner, not only as he is with all other creatures, but as the soul is with the body, most effectually, so is God with them.

And gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh: thus God brought Daniel into favour, Daniel 1:9, and hath all hearts in his hands.

Verse 11

A dearth; this is mentioned, Genesis 41:54, &c.

And great affliction; as seldom any mischief comes alone, rapine and many diseases follow famine.

Found no sustenance; any coarse diet, grass or herbs.

Verse 12

The history is known, Genesis 42:1-38. Our fathers; our progenitors, Jacob’s sons, from whom we are descended.

Verse 13

Upon their second coming into Egypt, Genesis 45:3,Genesis 45:4,Genesis 45:16, Joseph made himself known unto them.

Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh; for the continuance of their sustenance, and fulfilling of what was foretold.

Verse 14

All his kindred; his affinity, and not consanguinity only, which may be the reason why, though in Genesis 46:26 it is said, that all

the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt were threescore and six, ( it being then added, they were all such as came out of his loins), yet it is said they were seventy persons, Genesis 46:27, Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph’s two sons (who were also of the promised seed) being added unto the number. In this account of St. Stephen, his sons’ wives might be added, which make up seventy-five. There are other accounts of this difference; but it is not of any consequence as to faith and holy living, which are only necessary unto salvation: the wonderful increase to so many hundred thousands of men, besides children, spoken of, Exodus 12:37, notwithstanding the barbarous cruelty of the Egyptians, is to be admired.

Souls; the nobler and better part, by which they are numbered, and according unto which they are esteemed by God.

Verse 15

Which St. Stephen puts them in mind of the rather, that he might insinuate, no country, nor place, nor temple, were so necessary, but that (notwithstanding they had none of them) their forefathers did live and die in the fear and favour of God, although in Egypt, out of the Promised Land, &c.

Verse 16

That they carried Joseph to bury him in Canaan, according to the oath he made them take, Genesis 1:25, is certain; and that this was desired to be done for him out of faith, Hebrews 11:22; but is not so certain (unless this place be so understood) that the rest of the patriarchs were so translated after their death: yet it is very likely; for, first: They had as much reason to desire it as Joseph had; they believed the same promises, and had an interest in that land as well as he. Secondly: Their posterity bore the same respect unto them that Joseph’s family did to him. Thirdly: It seems alike reasonable, that none of those twelve heirs to the land of Canaan should be left in the land of bondage. This place is acknowledged to be most difficult, and the difficulties are better not to be mentioned than ill solved, which the nature of these notes (not to mention other reasons) might occasion: whosoever will consider the intended shortness of the story, with the usual idioms of the Hebrew language, from which it was deduced, may take this as a paraphrase upon the whole verse: And Jacob and our fathers died, and were removed to Sychem, and were laid in sepulchres, in that which Abraham bought for money, and in that which was bought of the sons of Emmor, the father of Sychem. Dr. Lightfoot, in locum.

Verse 17

Of the promise; of the fulfilling of the promise, either of the increase of his seed, or of their deliverance out of bondage, for both were promised, Genesis 22:17; though at that very time there were the greatest endeavours to hinder either when God accomplished both.

Verse 18

These words are taken from the Septuagint, Exodus 1:8.

Verse 19

Pharaoh resolves to deal (as he thought) wisely, Exodus 1:10, and it is acknowledged that the Egyptians dealt subtilly with them, Psalms 105:25. For they do not at once destroy them, which might have been hazardous, the Israelites being so numerous; neither could Egypt well spare at once so many inhabitants; (too great and sudden evacuations cause swoonings); but they endeavour their ruin by degrees:

1. Wasting them by hard labours.

2. Commanding the midwives privately to kill their males.

3. Casting out, or exposing, any whom they found spared.

Yet this people, attempted upon by so many secret and open means to bring them to destruction, God did preserve; and so he will his church, (which they did typify), maugre all the endeavours the most potent malice can use against it.

Verse 20

Exceeding fair, or, fair to God; which though some understand of the inward beauty of the mind, (which is indeed the most admirable), yet in this place there is no more to be understood by it, than the wonderful beauty of his body, which God bestowed in an extraordinary measure upon him, that it might be a means to attract the care and pity of Pharaoh’s danghter, as it afterwards came to pass: besides, that which is eminent in any kind, is, by a Hebraism, said to be of God: upon this account Nineveh is called a city of God, Jonah 3:3; and we read of Rachel’s great wrestlings, or wrestlings of God, Genesis 30:8. Josephus says, that Moses was so beautiful, that all who passed by left the business they were about to gaze at him, Antiq. ii. 5.

Verse 21

Was cast out; exposed and left, Exodus 2:2, &c.; now was the time for God to take him up, as in Psalms 27:10.

Pharaoh’s daughter, an enemy to God’s Israel; yet God did make use of her to bring tip and educate Moses, who was their deliverer, adopting him for her son, Exodus 2:10, and giving him education accordingly.

Verse 22

Learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; the Egyptians were anciently famous for learning, especially in astronomy, and some other parts of philosophy.

Mighty in words; he was eloquent.

And in deeds; his deeds were equal to his words; he could do, as well as say, what became him.

Verse 23

Forty years old; this age of Moses is not set down in his history, but they might have it by tradition, which is here confirmed unto us by the holy penman: these forty years Moses spent in Pharaoh’s court.

It came into his heart; it speaks these thoughts and resolutions to have been from God, that such a great courtier should so far debase himself; therefore this is deservedly attributed unto his faith, Hebrews 11:24, which is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8.

Verse 24

This fact of Moses some defend by the law of nature, which allows us to protect the innocent; but many things we know were done by an extraordinary warrant, which we are not to imitate; nor by our own authority to avenge ourselves or others.

Verse 25

This they might have inferred,

1. From his extraordinary deliverance out of the Egyptians’ hands, and out of the river, when young.

2. From his readiness to defend them: it was wonderful, that such a one as he was, and might have been, should mind them.

3. From the drawing near of the time of their deliverance, which they could not, without negligence, be wholly ignorant of.

By his hand; by his means and ministry.

But they understood not: stupidity is frequently charged upon this people: they then did not receive Moses, as these now would not receive Christ.

Verse 26

He showed himself; as one appointed by God to deliver them, which he had evidenced before.

Would have set them at one again; with great earnestness, and as far as words could do, he compelled them.

Saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; these words are not mentioned, Exodus 2:13, but something otherwise than here; but the sense is here and there the same.

Brethren, not so much being all descended from Abraham and the patriarchs; but in that they all worshipped one and the same God, which is the greatest obligation to concord and agreement that can be; and if any offence to be given, or trespass committed, it obliges us as much to pass it by and pardon it: Forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father, Genesis 1:17.

Verse 27

The injurious are most averse from peace, and one sin makes way for another. This was a causeless cavil, especially from such a one as had known what Moses had done, as an essay of his being the deliverer of God’s Israel.

Verse 28

He charges this great crime upon Moses, to hinder him from further reproving of him: though recrimination do not make him, or any other, more innocent; yet men ordinarily use it, as if it were some satisfaction to them that they are not wicked alone, but that others are as bad or worse: this better befits an Egyptian than an Israelite.

Verse 29

Then fled Moses; knowing that what he had done to the Egyptian would be discovered to Pharaoh, and his life in danger.

The land of Madian; inhabitant by the posterity of Midian, Abraham’s son by Keturah, Genesis 25:1,Genesis 25:2. Moses was forty years in Egypt, forty years in Midian, with Jethro or Jether, who was called also Reuel, Exodus 2:18, and Hobab, Numbers 10:29, and the other forty years in the wilderness, which make up the hundred and twenty years of his life, Deuteronomy 34:7. This makes to St. Stephen’s purpose, to prove that God is always with them that fear him, in what country or place soever; as he was with Abraham in Mesopotamia, and with his people in Egypt, so with Moses in Midian.

Verse 30

Forty years; so long it pleased God to try Moses’s faith, and his people’s patience.

Mount Sinai, in the desert of Arabia, where the law was afterwards delivered, Exodus 18:5; Exodus 19:3.

An angel; not a created, but the uncreated Angel; the Angel of the new covenant, as may be seen Acts 7:32, and by Moses putting off his shoes because the place was holy, Exodus 3:2,Exodus 3:5; he is also in Exodus 3:4 called the Lord. God still appeared in such a manner as was most instructive to them he appeared to, and to us; as here in a flame of fire in a bush to show that he was with his people in all their sufferings, and would so provide, that they should not be consumed by them; they might be purified, but should not be destroyed.

Verse 31

He wondered at the sight; seeing the bush on a flame, and not consumed, contrary to the nature of devouring flames; that he might be convinced of God’s presence, and made the more attentive to what God should say, and prepared to yield obedience unto it.

Verse 32

I am the God of thy fathers; that he might know from whom he had his commission, and by whom he was to be sent.

The God of Abraham, &c.; mention is made of these, because God had made unto them the promise of delivering their posterity, which he was now about to do, the time being fully come.

Moses trembled: all great admiration hath some fear joined with it: God’s appearing, though in mercy, was ever full of terror and amazement; what will his appearing be, when he shall come in judgment to render vengeance! Who then shall be able to abide?

Verse 33

Put off thy shoes; either out of reverence to the Divine presence, as Joshua 5:15, or that thereby he might show that he resigned himself wholly to God’s will and disposal; as in Ruth 4:7, the kinsman, by pulling off his shoe and giving it to Boaz, did resign all his right he might have had to Ruth and the inheritance.

Holy ground, whilst God manifested his presence there.

Verse 34

I have seen, I have seen; seeing I have seen, I have attentively seen and considered; it is doubled to show the certainty of it: if earthly parents, especially, look after their children when weak, much more our heavenly Father.

I have heard their groaning; though but sighs, and scarce framed into words.

Am come down; spoken after the manner of inch, according unto which God is said to come down unto any when he delivers them from their troubles, and to go from them when he leaves them in them: see Exodus 3:7,Exodus 3:8, from which place, according to the reading of the Septuagint, these words are taken.

Verse 35

A deliverer; or, a redeemer; but only as a type of Christ, in whom alone we have redemption through his blood, Ephesians 1:7; as Moses by the blood of the paschal lamb brought forth and saved the people of Israel.

The hands of the angel; the power of the angel; it was not Moses, but God, that wrought so great salvation.

Verse 36

After that he had showed wonders and signs: God could with the least word or motion of his will save his people; but he chooseth so to do his wonderful works, that they may be had in remembrance.

In the Red sea; it is not agreed why it is so called; but this name of that sea is mentioned in profane authors. This whole verse, as divers others, refer to the history of it in Exodus, from Exodus 1:1-31.

Verse 37

St. Stephen would show, that he was so far from speaking against Moses, as they falsely imagined, that he recommended none but him, whom Moses had so long before spoken of.

A prophet; Christ the Messiah, and Head of the prophets: see Acts 3:22.

Him shall ye hear; or obey.

Verse 38

In the church in the wilderness; or congregation; with the rest of the people in all their difficult journey.

The angel; see Acts 7:30.

The lively oracles; God’s law and word is so called, as the only rule to walk by unto life, Deuteronomy 32:47; it is there said to be our life; and it is the only ordinary means of a spiritual and holy life, which it begets and preserves.

Verse 39

Their glory being in their fathers, St. Stephen reminds them that many of them rebelled against God and his servant Moses; as they (their posterity) now were rebellions against Christ, who came to save them, as Moses before had done; but from a greater bondage, and by more valuable means.

In their hearts turned back again into Egypt; not so much towards that country, or food they had there, (garlick and onions), as towards their idolatry and superstition; as in the following verse appears.

Verse 40

Make us gods; according to the Egyptians, who held that there were many gods, and divers degrees of gods; they therefore speak in the plural number.

This Moses: though they confess the great deliverance wrought by Moses’s means, yet how contemptibly do they speak of him!

We wot not what is become of him: they could not but know that Moses was gone up into the mount unto God, at his command, and had not forgotten them, but had left Aaron and Hur to govern them; yet they soon forgot both God and Moses, notwithstanding the large and late experience they had of his wonders: this is left upon record against them, Psalms 106:13,Psalms 106:21.

Verse 41

They made a calf; in imitation of the Egyptians, who worshipped their god Apis in that, or the like form of an ox.

The idol; the calf which they had made, which they could not be so sottish as to terminate their worship in, knowing that they themselves had made it, and it had not made them; yet they are for this charged to have committed idolatry, 1 Corinthians 10:6,1 Corinthians 10:7.

Rejoiced; which joy they express by feasting, singing, and dancing, Exodus 32:6.

The works of their own hands; so this idol, and idols generally, are called, Psalms 115:4; Psalms 135:15 which is enough to speak their emptiness and vanity; vain man can make but vain gods.

Verse 42

Then God turned, from being as a Father to them, to be a Judge over them, to punish them; whereas formerly he had blessed them.

And gave them up; this was indeed to deliver them to Satan; God withholding his grace which they had abused, Romans 1:21,Romans 1:25, and giving them up, (to fall from one sin unto another), though not positively, yet permissively.

The host of heaven; the angels are so called, Luke 2:13; but it is rather here to be understood of the sun, moon, and stars, which are called so, Deuteronomy 17:3; Isaiah 40:26.

In the book of the prophets: the words here referred to are in Amos 5:25. It is said to be

in the book, in the singular number, because the twelve small prophets are by the Jews mentioned but as one book.

Have ye offered to me slain beasts, &c.: this positive question does vemently deny that they had offered any sacrifices unto God whilst they were in the wilderness; but at the same time they had offered sacrifices unto idols; for when they had corrupted God’s worship, their sacrifices were as no sacrifices unto him, Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 43:23.

Verse 43

Took up the tabernacle, on their shoulders, as they did the ark.

Of Moloch; the idol of the children of Ammon, which the Israelites were especially forbidden to worship, Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2 yet they did ordinarily worship him, 2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:31 and there was a high place built by Solomon for him, 1 Kings 11:7.

The tabernacle of Moloch was either a chest or press in which that idol was put, or the chapels into which the worshippers of Moloch were admitted, according to the quality of the offering which they brought. Which of the planets they intended to honour hereby, whether the sun, or Mars, or Saturn, it matters not so much; any of these, or any other of their gods, might be called Moloch, taking the word appellatively.

Remphan, in the place here cited, is called by the prophet, Chiun; which is one and the same idol in both places, the prophet calling it by its name then in use; and St. Stephen, like unto the name the Septuagint had called it by: whether Saturn was intended by this, as some think, or Hercules, as others, it is not our present business to inquire.

Figures; images and representatives of the hosts of heaven, or of the planets.

Beyond Babylon; the prophet Amos saith, beyond Damascus, Amos 5:27; here St. Stephen does not contradict the prophet, for they who were carried away beyond Babylon must needs be carried away beyond Damascus, as the ten captive tribes were, unto whom this was threatened.

Verse 44

The tabernacle of witness; called also the tabernacle of the congregation, Exodus 33:7, because about it on all solemn occasions the people assembled. Here it is called the tabernacle of witness, because God here testified or witnessed his glorious presence; and especially because in it the ark of the covenant, the law, and the testimony were kept.

According to the fashion that he had seen, Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5. Moses was charged not to vary from the prescript; God being jealous of his own appointments. Now this is the rather spoken of by St. Stephen, that he might prove that the place where God was worshipped in had varied, and therefore night also now be changed.

Verse 45

Jesus, or Joshua, it being the same name, as appears also, Hebrews 4:8, only Jesus is more according to the Greek use: Joshua was a type of Jesus, and agreed with him in his name, and in the reason of his name; he having also saved the people, and brought them into the promised rest; yet the difference is as great between them as betwixt the heavenly Canaan and the earthly.

Before the face of our fathers; they were not able to look upon an Israelite, whilst God was for them.

Verse 46

Found favour before God; as Luke 1:30.

Desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob; it was David’s earnest request, that he might any ways glorify God, especially in his worship, and that he might know where the ark should rest, and where the temple was to be built, its Psalms 132:1-18 declares throughout.

Verse 47

1 Kings 6:9; 2 Chronicles 3:1,2 Chronicles 3:2. An house; a fixed and stable structure, not movable, as the tabernacle was.

Verse 48

This is also St. Paul’s doctrine, Acts 17:21, which divers amongst the wiser heathens were persuaded of; for God cannot be comprehended in any place, no, not where he is worshipped; and therefore they did foolishly conceive that the worship of God was so tied to the temple, as if he himself had been included in it.

In temples; the primitive Christians abstained from calling the places of their assembling by the name of temples; and were charged by their pagan enemies for having no altars, or temples, or images.

Verse 49

The place referred unto, is Isaiah 66:1. What house will ye build me, that shall be big enough for one so great as God is? 1 Kings 8:27.

Verse 50

As appears in the history of the creation, Genesis 1:1. It is spoken unto our capacity after the manner of men, and implies that God is too great to stand in need of temples or offerings; and that what worship he requires, is not for his own sake, for our righteousness cannot profit him; but for man’s sake, that he might be exercised in the duties of religion and devotion.

Verse 51

Stiff necked; a metaphor taken from heifers that are unaccustomed to the yoke.

Uncircumcised in heart; such as had still depraved affections, which they ought to have put away rather than the foreskin of their flesh; for they were commanded to circumcise their hearts, Deuteronomy 10:16, which also God promised to do for his people, Deuteronomy 30:6. And St. Paul was not the first who spake of a twofold circumcision, Romans 2:28,Romans 2:29 but God looked always to the inward and spiritual part of his own ordinances, and men’s observance of them.

And ears; such as were not so much as willing to hear and know their duty.

Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, speaking by his prophets and ministers, and exhorting to true and serious piety: by this St. Stephen would abate their glorying in circumcision, which they so much boasted of,

As your fathers did, so do ye: thus the prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 16:44, unto which may be here alluded, As is the mother, so is her daughter.

Verse 52

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? This is the rather said to stain all their glory from succession, and their ancestors, Matthew 5:12; Matthew 23:31,Matthew 23:37.

The Just One; our Saviour deservedly, and by way of eminence, is so called; as not only being himself just, and fulfilling all righteousness, but being The Lord our Righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6, and is of God made unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30. This word is used in a forensic sense, and is the same with innocent, and opposite to guilty; whereby St. Stephen vindicates our Saviour, notwithstanding the unjust sentence passed here upon him.

The betrayers, in hiring Judas, and murderers, in that they excited Pilate to condemn him, and abetted the soldiers and others in executing of him.

Verse 53

The disposition of angels: or ministry of angels; the commandments were published from them ministerially; or the Son of God, (called an Angel, Acts 7:35), accompanied with the militia of heaven, (for it is a military metaphor), did in the midst of that glorious retinue give the law, Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:8; Galatians 3:13,Galatians 3:19.

And have not kept it; they transgressed the law, though so gloriously delivered by angels; and therefore it was no wonder if they despised the gospel, that was published by so mean and contemptible ministers.

Verse 54

See Acts 5:33.

They were cut to the heart; they were angry to madness.

They gnashed on him with their teeth: gnashing of teeth is the curse of the damned, Matthew 8:12, which men by their sins do prepare for. This corrosive was applied by a skilful hand, would they have endured the cure.

Verse 55

Full of the Holy Ghost; filled with grace suitable to his present trial and suffering.

The glory of God; the glorious God, or so much of the throne and glory of God as mortal eyes are capable for to see.

Jesus standing on the right hand of God; being justified by God, though condemned by Pilate; and

standing ready to assist and comfort all that should suffer for his sake.

Verse 56

I see the heavens opened; God not suffering any distance to hinder this refreshing sight.

The Son of man; so Christ is frequently called; and St. Stephen would by this inform them, how vain they were in striving against Christ or his truth.

Standing on the right hand of God, as an Advocate, Soldier, or Captain for Stephen; or as one showing the prize unto him, which he was now running for, and had need to be encouraged with the sight of. But it seems strange that St. Stephen should tell the Jews of this heavenly vision, being they did not see it, although in the same place with him; but this he might do.

1. Out of his ardent love to Christ, desiring to magnify him.

2. To invite his enemies to repentance, now heaven was opened, and Christ’s arms were stretched out to receive them.

3. To hinder any from being afraid to own Christ and his truths.

4. To terrify the most obdurate amongst them, by showing them their Judge, and minding them of his avenger.

5. That he might assert himself to be an eye witness of Christ’s being risen again from the dead, which they made such difficulty to believe.

Verse 57

They cried out; the rabble, or multitude.

Stopped their ears; that they might show their great detestation of what was said, and might not contract any guilt from it.

And ran upon him with one accord: this violence and fury was both against the law of God and the law of the land; and the number of zealots (there were some amongst that people eminently so called) provoked the Romans to destroy both city and temple.

Verse 58

Cast him out of the city; that the city might not be polluted with his blasphemy.

Stoned him; this punishment was appointed for such as seduced them to the worship of false gods, Deuteronomy 13:6,Deuteronomy 13:10; and though all power of capital punishment was taken from them, as they themselves confess, John 18:31, yet what will not popular rage attempt?

The witnesses; who were by the law to cast the first stones, Deuteronomy 17:7, whereby the witnesses, if they had not testified true, did take upon themselves the guilt of the blood that was spilt, and freed the people, who only followed them in the execution.

Laid down their clothes; their upper garments, that they might carry and cast down the heavier stones.

Verse 59

Stephen called upon him whom he saw standing, and that was our Saviour.

My spirit; or, my soul: thus our Saviour commended his spirit into his Father’s hands, Luke 23:46 and this disciple imitates his Master, and comforts himself with this, that to be sure his soul should be safe, whatever became of his body.

Verse 60

He kneeled down; a posture used in most earnest prayers; and if so, he prayed at least as earnestly for his enemies as for himself, he praying for them kneeling, and for himself standing.

Lay not this sin to their charge; do not weigh it, reckon or impute it, that it may not remain against them, to hinder their conversion. This our Saviour commanded, Matthew 5:44, this he practised, Luke 23:34 and whosoever can thus pray for his enemies, and do good for evil, hath a great evidence that the Spirit of Christ is in him.

He fell asleep; he died; his death being thus expressed, in that,

1. He died quietly, as one fallen into a sleep.

2. Because of his certain hope of the resurrection.

3. As easily to be raised again by Christ, as one that sleeps is to be awaked by us.

4. It is an ordinary Hebraism to express death by sleep; which made St. Luke use it amongst them, with whom it was frequently thus expressed.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Acts 7". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/acts-7.html. 1685.
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