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Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 7

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Are these things so? (ε ταυτα ουτως εχε). On this use of ε in a direct question see on Acts 1:6. Literally "Do these things hold thus?" A formal question by the high priest like our "Do you plead guilty, or not guilty?" (Furneaux). The abrupt question of the high priest would serve to break the evident spell of the angelic look on Stephen's face. Two charges had been made against Stephen (1) speaking against the holy temple, (2) changing the customs which Moses had delivered. Stephen could not give a yes or no answer to these two charges. There was an element of truth in each of them and a large amount of error all mixed together. So he undertakes to explain his real position by the historical method, that is to say, by a rapid survey of God's dealing with the people of Israel and the Gentiles. It is the same method adopted by Paul in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:16) after he had become the successor of Stephen in his interpretation of the universal mission of Christianity. If one is disposed to say that Luke made up this speech to suit Stephen's predicament, he has to explain how the style is less Lukan than the narrative portions of Acts with knowledge of Jewish traditions that a Greek would not be likely to know. Precisely how Luke obtained the data for the speech we do not know, but Saul heard it and Philip, one of the seven, almost certainly. Both could have given Luke help about it. It is even possible that some one took notes of this important address. We are to remember also that the speech was interrupted at the end and may not include all that Stephen meant to say. But enough is given to give us a good idea of how Stephen met the first charge "by showing that the worship of God is not confined to Jerusalem or the Jewish temple" (Page). Then he answers the second charge by proving that God had many dealings with their fathers before Moses came and that Moses foretold the coming of the Messiah who is now known to be Jesus. It is at this point (verse Acts 7:51) that Stephen becomes passionate and so powerful that the wolves in the Sanhedrin lose all self-control. It is a great and masterful exposition of the worldwide mission of the gospel of Christ in full harmony with the Great Commission of Christ. The apostles had been so busy answering the Sadducees concerning the Resurrection of Christ and maintaining their freedom to teach and preach that they had not pushed the world-wide propaganda of the gospel as Jesus had commanded after they had received the Promise of the Father. But Stephen had proclaimed the same message of Christ and was now facing the same fate. Peter's mind had been enlightened by the Holy Spirit so that he could rightly interpret Joel and David in the light of Pentecost. "So Stephen read the history of the Old Testament with new eyes in the light of the life and death of Jesus" (Furneaux).

Verse 2

Brethren and fathers (ανδρες αδελφο κα πατερες). The spectators (brethren) and members of the Sanhedrin (fathers) as Paul in Acts 22:1.

Hearken (ακουσατε). First aorist (ingressive) active imperative, Give me your attention now.

The God of glory (Hο θεος της δοξης). The God characterized by glory (genitive case, genus or kind) as seen in the Shekinah, the visible radiance of God. Jesus is also called "the Glory"=the Shekinah in James 2:1. Cf. Exodus 25:22; Exodus 40:34; Leviticus 9:6; Hebrews 9:5. By these words Stephen refutes the charge of blasphemy against God in Acts 6:11.

Appeared (ωφθη). First aorist passive indicative of οραω. See on Luke 23:43. Before there was temple or tabernacle and away over in Mesopotamia (Ur of the Chaldees, Genesis 11:31), even before (πριν η with the infinitive) he dwelt in Haran (Χαρραν, or Carrae not far from Edessa, where Crassus met death after his defeat by the Parthians B.C. 53).

Verse 3

Which I shall shew thee (ην αν σο δειξω). Indefinite relative clause with αν and the aorist active subjunctive (same form in first person singular as the future active indicative). Abraham followed on as God led him.

Verse 4

When his father was dead (μετα το αποθανειν αυτον). Μετα with the accusative of the articular infinitive and the accusative of general reference (αυτον), regular Greek idiom. In Genesis 11:32 it is stated that Terah died at Haran at the age of 205. There are various explanations of the discrepancy, but no one that seems certain. It is possible (Hackett, Felten) that Abraham is mentioned first in Genesis 11:26 because he became the most prominent and was really younger than Haran his brother who died before the first migration who was really sixty years older than Abraham. According to this view Terah was 130 years old at the birth of Abraham, leaving Abraham 75 at the death of Terah (205).

Wherein ye now dwell (εις ην υμεις νυν κατοικειτε). Note εις in the sense of εν as often. Note also emphatic use of υμεις (ye) and now (νυν).

Verse 5

Not so much as to set his foot on (ουδε βημα ποδος). From Deuteronomy 2:5. Old word from βαινω, to go, to step. "Stepping of a foot," only instance of this original meaning in the N.T. From this it comes to mean a platform reached by steps, official seat of a judge (Matthew 27:19). The field purchased by Abraham (Genesis 23:9-17) was not a gift from God.

Promised (επηγγειλατο). First aorist middle indicative of επαγγελλω, common verb. See Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 48:4 for this promise. So God appeared again to Abraham in a strange land.

In possession (εις κατασχεσιν). Late word, in LXX, and in N.T. only here and verse Acts 7:45. From κατεχω, to hold back, then to hold fast (or down), to possess. It was fulfilled in the descendants of Abraham.

When as yet he had no child (ουκ οντος αυτω τεκνου). Genitive absolute with negative ουκ rather than μη to emphasize actual absence of a child. He had only the promise of God about the land and the child.

Verse 6

On this wise (ουτως). A free quotation from Genesis 15:13.

Should sojourn (εστα παροικον). Shall be a sojourner, Παροικος (παρα, beside, οικος, home), one dwelling near one's home, but not of it, so a stranger, foreigner, old word, often in LXX, temporary residence without full rights of citizenship (Acts 7:29; Acts 13:17), and descriptive of Christians (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Peter 2:11).

In a strange land (εν γη αλλοτρια). In a land not one's own, that belongs to another, alien as in Matthew 17:25, which see.

Four hundred years (ετη τετρακοσια). Accusative of duration of time. As in Genesis 15:13, but a round number as in Exodus 12:40 the time is 430 years. But in Galatians 3:17 Paul, following the LXX in Exodus 12:40, takes the 430 years to cover the period in Canaan and the stay in Egypt, cutting the sojourn in Egypt to about half. Josephus gives it both ways. Hackett suggests two solutions, one that there were two ways of reckoning the period among the Jews with no way of settling it, the other that by the 430 years in Egypt the writers meant to include Canaan also as merely the preliminary to the period in Egypt.

Verse 7

Will I judge (κρινω εγω). Future (accent on ω) active indicative of κρινω and εγω (I) expressed is emphatic.

In this place (εν τω τοπω τουτω). Quoted from Exodus 3:12 and referring to Sinai or Horeb, but Stephen applies it to the Promised Land.

Verse 8

The covenant of circumcision (διαθηκην περιτομης). A covenant marked by (genitive) circumcision (no article) of which circumcision is the sign (Romans 4:11) as set forth in Genesis 17:9-14. In the ancient Greek διαθηκη was usually will (Latin, testamentum) and συνθηκη was used for covenant (συν, together, rather than δια, between). But the LXX and the N.T. use διαθηκη for covenant (will in Hebrews 9:15) as Lightfoot on Galatians 3:16 says: "The LXX translation and New Testament writers probably preferred διαθηκη as better expressing the

free grace of God than συνθηκη."

And so (κα ουτως). After the covenant was made and as a sign and seal of it.

Verse 9

Moved with jealousy (ζηλωσαντες). First aorist active participle of ζηλοω, old verb from ζηλος (Acts 5:17), to burn or boil with zeal, and then with envy as here (Acts 17:5, etc.) and Genesis 37:11.

Verse 10

Delivered him out (εξειλατο αυτον εκ). First aorist middle indicative of εξαιρεω, old verb to take out, snatch out. Note repetition of εκ.

Pharaoh King of Egypt (Φαραω βασιλεως Αιγυπτου). Pharaoh is not a name, but a title, the Egyptian perƒƒ meaning great house.

Verse 11

Found no sustenance (ουχ ηυρισκον χορτασματα). Imperfect active, kept on not finding.

Chortasmata is from

chortazo , originally to feed with grass (χορτος) or herbs. Old word, but only here in the N.T. and includes food for both men and animals. In Genesis 24:25; Genesis 24:32 it is fodder for the cattle, a first necessity for owners of herds of cattle.

Verse 12

That there was corn (οντα σιτια). Participle (present active of ειμ) in indirect discourse, after ακουσας, "heard of corn being in Egypt." Σιτια is diminutive of σιτος and means grain (wheat, barley, not our maize or Indian corn), old word also for provisions, victuals, here only in the N.T.

The first time (πρωτον). While Jacob himself remained in Canaan before he went down to Egypt and died there (verse Acts 7:15).

Verse 13

At the second time (εν τω δευτερω). This expression only here in the N.T. This second visit is recorded in Genesis 45:1.

Became manifest (φανερον εγενετο). In Genesis 41:12 the fact that Joseph was a Hebrew had been incidentally mentioned to Pharaoh, but now it was made clear to him.

Verse 14

Three-score and fifteen souls (εν ψυχαις εβδομηκοντα πεντε). Stephen follows the LXX which counts some grandchildren of Joseph and so makes it 75 whereas Genesis 46:26 has 66 and then the next verse makes it Acts 7:70 including Jacob and Joseph with his two sons. The use of εν means "consisting in."

Verse 16

They were carried over unto Shechem (μετετεθησαν εις Συχεμ). First aorist passive of μετατιθημ, only here in the N.T. in this sense of changing places. Jacob was buried in the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 50:13). The O.T. does not say where the sons of Jacob were buried save that Joseph was buried in Shechem (Joshua 24:32). Possibly only "our fathers" without Jacob is the subject of "were carried."

Which Abraham bought (ω ωνησατο Αβρααμ). Hackett is sure that our present text is wrong. Hort notes some sixty "primitive errors" in the critical text of the N.T. It is possible that this is also one. If "Jacob" is substituted for "Abraham," the matter is cleared up. "It is quite as likely, judging a priori, that the word producing the error escaped from some early copyist as that so glaring an error was committed by Stephen" (Hackett). At any rate Abraham bought a burying-place, the cave of Machpelah, from Ephron the Hittite at Hebron (Genesis 23:16), while Jacob bought a field from the sons of Hamor at Shechem (Genesis 33:19; Joshua 24:32). Abraham had built an altar at Shechem when he entered Canaan (Genesis 12:6). It is possible, of course, that Abraham also bought the ground on which the altar stood.

In Shechem (εν Συχεμ). This is the reading of Aleph B C instead of the Textus Receptus του Συχεμ which makes it "Hamar the father of Sichem." "In Shechem" is the true reading.

Verse 17

Drew nigh (ηγγιζεν). Imperfect active, was drawing nigh.

Verse 18

Another king (βασιλευς ετερος). A different kind of king also, probably a king of the new dynasty after the shepherd kings had been expelled from Egypt.

Who knew not Joseph (ος ουκ ηιδε τον Ιωσηφ). Second past perfect of οιδα used like an imperfect. Joseph's history and services meant nothing to the new king. "The previous dynasty had been that of the Hyksos: the new king was Ahmes who drove out the Hyksos" (Knobel).

Verse 19

Dealt subtilly (κατασοφισαμενος). First aorist middle participle of κατασοφιζομα, late compound (κατα and σοφιζω, old verb, to make wise, to become wise, then to play the sophist), perfective use of κατα. In the LXX, but here only in the N.T. To use fraud, craft, deceit.

That they should cast out their babes (του ποιειν τα βρεφη εκθετα). Του ποιειν (genitive of the articular present infinitive) can be either design or result. The Revised Version here takes it as purpose while the Authorized as result. In either case Pharaoh required the Israelites to expose their children to death, a possible practice done voluntarily in heathen China and by heathen in so-called Christian lands. But the Israelites fought against such an iniquity. The word εκθετα (exposed, cast out) is a verbal adjective from εκτιθημ. It is an old word, but here only in the N.T. and not in the LXX.

To the end they might not live (εις το μη ζωογονεισθα). Purpose with εις and the articular infinitive (present middle). This compound verb is from ζωογονος (from ζωος, alive, and γενω, to bear) and is used by late writers and the LXX. It is three times in the N.T. (here, Luke 17:33; 1 Timothy 6:13) in the sense to preserve alive.

Verse 20

Exceeding fair (αστειος τω θεω). Ethical dative, fair to God (as God looked at him). Αστειος is from αστυ, city, and so means "of the city," with city manners and polish. Old word, only twice in the N.T. (here and Hebrews 11:23) and both times about Moses and taken from Exodus 2:2.

He was nourished (ανετραφη). Second aorist passive indicative of ανατρεφω. He was brought up at home for three months in defiance of the new Pharaoh.

Verse 21

When he was cast out (εκτεθεντος αυτου). Genitive absolute with first aorist passive participle of εκτιθημ.

Took up (ανειλατο). Second aorist middle indicative (with first aorist vowel α instead of ε as often in the Koine) of αναιρεω, common in the N.T. in the sense of take up and make away with, to kill as in verse Acts 7:28, but here only in the N.T. in the original sense of taking up from the ground and with the middle voice (for oneself). Quoted here from Exodus 2:5. The word was used of old for picking up exposed children as here. Vincent quotes Aristophanes (Clouds, 531): "I exposed (the child), and some other women, having taken it, adopted (ανειλετο) it." Vulgate has sustulit. "Adopted" is the idea here. "After the birth of a child the father took it up to his bosom, if he meant to rear it; otherwise it was doomed to perish" (Hackett).

Nourished him for her own son (ανεθρεψατο αυτον εαυτη εις υιον). Literally, "she nursed him up for herself (εαυτη besides middle voice) as a son." This use of εις=as occurs in the old Greek, but is very common in the LXX as a translation of the Hebrew le. The tradition is that she designed Moses for the throne as the Pharaoh had no son (Josephus, Ant. ii. 9, 7).

Verse 22

Was instructed (επαιδευθη). First aorist passive indicative of παιδευω, to train a child (παις), the usual idea in ancient Greek as here. The notion of chastisement (Hebrews 12:6) is also in the old Greek and especially in the LXX and the N.T. Here with instrumental case (παση σοφια) or the locative. The accusative would usually be retained after this verb. The priestly caste in Egypt was noted for their knowledge of science, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics. This reputation was proverbial (1 Kings 4:30). Modern discoveries have thrown much light on the ancient civilization of Egypt. Moses, like Paul, was a man of the schools.

Mighty in his words and works (δυνατος εν λογοις κα εργοις αυτου). The same phrase used of Jesus in Luke 24:19. The adjective δυνατος is employed of Apollos as an interpreter of the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). Moses did not have the rhetorical skill or eloquence of Aaron (Exodus 4:10), but his words like his deeds carried weight and power.

Verse 23

When he was well-nigh forty years old (Hως επληρουτο αυτω τεσσαρακονταετης χρονος). A rather awkward Greek idiom for the English: "When a forty year old time (same idiom in Acts 13:18 and only twice in the N.T.) was being fulfilled (επληρουτο, imperfect passive) for him (dative case)." The life of Moses is divided into three periods of forty years each (in Egypt 40 years, in Midian 40, governed Israel 40, 120 when he died, Deuteronomy 34:7).

It came into his heart (ανεβη επ την καρδιαν αυτου). Second aorist active indicative of αναβαινω, common verb. Came up as if from the lower deeps of his nature. This Hebrew image occurs in Jeremiah 3:16; Isaiah 65:17; 1 Corinthians 2:9.

To visit (επισκεψασθα). First aorist middle infinitive of επισκεπτομα, old verb to go to see for oneself, with his own eyes, to help if possible. Used of God visiting his people (Luke 7:16). Our "visit" is from Latin video, to see, visito, to go to see. During the Welsh mining troubles the Prince of Wales made a sympathetic visit to see for himself the actual condition of the coal miners. Moses desired to know first hand how his kinsmen were faring.

Verse 24

Suffer wrong (αδικουμενον). Present passive participle of αδικηο. By blows (Exodus 2:11).

Avenged (εποιησεν εκδικησιν). First aorist active indicative of ποιεω. This idiom occurs in Luke 18:7 with εκδικησιν (this from εκδικεω and that from εκδικος without right or law δικη and then exacting law of right out of εκ one, exacting vengeance).

Him that was oppressed (τω καταπονουμενω). Present passive articular participle in the dative case of καταπονεο, to tire down with toil, to treat roughly, common in late Greek, in the N.T. only here and 2 Peter 2:7 (sore distressed). The man was on the point of being overcome.

Smiting (παταξας). First aorist active participle of πατασσω, in the old Greek the beat of the heart, only in the LXX and N.T. to smite a deadly blow as here like πλησσω.

Verse 25

He supposed (ενομιζεν). Imperfect active of νομιζω. He was supposing, Stephen explains, when he smote the Egyptian.

That his brethren understood (συνιενα τους αδελφους). Present active infinitive of συνιημ, to send (put) together, to grasp, to comprehend, in indirect discourse with the accusative of general reference.

By his hand was giving them deliverance (δια χειρος αυτου διδωσιν σοτηριαν αυτοις). Picturesque use of "hand" as in Acts 2:23, present active indicative of διδωμ retained in indirect discourse after imperfect ενομιζεν. But they understood not (ο δε ου συνηκαν). Page notes "the rhetorical power of these words" from Stephen. Συνηκαν (first aorist indicative, κ aorist) refers to συνιενα just before.

Verse 26

The day following (τη επιουση ημερα). Locative case, "on the following day" (from επειμ, to come upon, to approach, present active participle επιων -ουσα, -ον). Common phrase in old Greek both with ημερα (day) as here and without as Acts 16:11. Only in Acts in the N.T.

Appeared (ωφθη). First aorist passive indicative of οραω not with idea that only a vision but rather that it was sudden or unexpected.

As they strove (μαχομενοις). Present middle participle of μαχομα, actually fighting.

Would have set them at one again (συνηλλασσεν αυτους εις ειρηνεν). Better, he tried to reconcile them (or change them into peace). It is the conative imperfect active as in Matthew 3:14 of συναλλασσω, only here in the N.T. though common in the old Greek. Vulgate has reconciliabat. The usual word in the N.T. for reconcile is καταλλασσω.

Do ye wrong one to another (αδικειτε αλληλους). The same word used in verse Acts 7:24 of the wrong done one of the Hebrews by the Egyptian, but here both are "brethren."

Verse 27

Thrust him away (απωσατο αυτον). First aorist middle indicative (Koine for Attic απεωσατο) of απωθεω, to push away from oneself in middle voice as here, common in old Greek. Again in verse Acts 7:39; Acts 13:46; Romans 11:1; 1 Timothy 1:19. It is always the man who is doing the wrong who is hard to reconcile.

Verse 28

Wouldest thou kill me? (μη ανελειν με συ θελεις). Expecting the answer no, but a thrust direct at Moses, Do you wish to kill me (note με συ right together,

me thou ). See Exodus 2:14 quoted by Stephen.

Verse 29

Sojourner (παροικος). Temporary dweller (cf. Abraham in verse Acts 7:6) in Midian though for forty years.

Verse 30

Sentence begins with genitive absolute again.

In a flame of fire in a bush (εν φλογ πυρος βατου). Horeb in Exodus 3:1; but Sinai and Horeb were "probably peaks of one mountain range" (Page), Horeb "the mountain of the dried-up ground," Sinai "the mountain of the thorns." Literally, "in the flame of fire of a bush" (two genitives, πυρος and βατου dependent on φλογ, flame). Descriptive genitives as in Acts 9:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:8. Βατος (bush) is the wild acacia (mimosa nilotica). In Exodus 3:20 it is Jehovah who speaks. Hence "angel" here with Stephen is understood to be the Angel of the Presence, the Eternal Logos of the Father, the Angel of Jehovah.

Verse 31

The sight (το οραμα). Used of visions in the N.T. as in Matthew 17:9.

As he drew near (προσερχομενου αυτου). Genitive absolute with present middle participle of προσερχομα.

A voice of the Lord (φωνη κυριου). Here the angel of Jehovah of verse Acts 7:30 is termed Jehovah himself. Jesus makes powerful use of these words in his reply to the Sadducees in defence of the doctrine of the resurrection and the future life (Mark 12:26; Matthew 22:32; Luke 20:37) that God here describes himself as the God of the living.

Trembled (εντρομος γενομενος). Literally, becoming tremulous or terrified. The adjective εντρομος (εν, τρομος from τρεμω, to tremble, to quake) occurs in Plutarch and the LXX. In the N.T. only here and Acts 16:29.

Durst not (ουκ ετολμα). Imperfect active, was not daring, negative conative imperfect.

Verse 33

Holy ground (γη αγια). The priests were barefooted when they ministered in the temple. Moslems enter their mosques barefooted today. Cf. Joshua 5:15.

Sandal (υποδημα, bound under) is here "a distributive singular" (Hackett). Even the ground near the bush was "holy," a fine example for Stephen's argument.

Verse 34

I have surely seen (ιδων ειδον). Imitation of the Hebrew infinitive absolute, (Exodus 3:7) "Seeing I saw" (cf. Hebrews 6:14).

The affliction (την κακωσιν). From κακοω, to treat evilly (from κακος, evil). Old word, here only in the N.T. and from Exodus 3:7.

Groaning (στεναγμου). Old word from στεναζω, to sigh, to groan. In the N.T. only here and Romans 8:26. Root στεν in our word stentorian.

I am come down (κατεβην). Second aorist active indicative of καταβαινω, I came down.

To deliver (εξελεσθα). Second aorist middle infinitive of εξαιρεω, to take out for myself.

I will send (αποστειλω). First aorist active subjunctive (hortatory of αποστελλω, "Let me send").

Verse 35

This Moses (Τουτον τον Μωυσην). Rhetorical repetition follows this description of Moses (five times, anaphora, besides the use here, six cases of ουτος here about Moses: verse Acts 7:35 twice, Acts 7:36; Acts 7:37; Acts 7:38; Acts 7:40). Clearly Stephen means to draw a parallel between Moses and Jesus. They in Egypt

denied (ηρνησαντο) Moses as now you the Jews denied (ηρνησασθε, Acts 3:13) Jesus. Those in Egypt scouted Moses as "ruler and judge" (verses Acts 7:27; Acts 7:35, αρχοντα κα δικαστην) and God "hath sent" (απεσταλκεν, perfect active indicative, state of completion) Moses "both a ruler and a deliverer" (αρχοντα κα λυτρωτην) as Jesus was to be (Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38; Hebrews 9:12; Titus 2:14). "Ransomer" or "Redeemer" (λυτρωτης) is not found elsewhere, λυτρον (ransom), λυτροω, to ransom, and λυτρωσις, ransoming or redemption, are found often. In Acts 5:31 Christ is termed "Prince and Saviour."

With the hand (συν χειρ). So the correct text. The Pharisees had accused Stephen of blaspheming "against Moses and God" (Acts 6:11). Stephen here answers that slander by showing how Moses led the people out of Egypt in co-operation (συν) with the hand of the Angel of Jehovah.

Verse 37

Like unto me (ως εμε). This same passage Peter quoted to the crowd in Solomon's Porch (Acts 3:22). Stephen undoubtedly means to argue that Moses was predicting the Messiah as a prophet like himself who is no other than Jesus so that these Pharisees are in reality opposing Moses. It was a neat turn.

Verse 38

In the church in the wilderness (εν τη εκκλησια εν τη ερημω). Better rendered "congregation" here as in Hebrews 2:12 (Psalms 22:22), the people of Israel gathered at Mt. Sinai, the whole nation. Moses is here represented as receiving the law from an angel as in Hebrews 2:2; Galatians 3:19 (Deuteronomy 33:2, LXX) and so was a mediator (μεσιτης) or middle man between the angel and the people whereas Jesus is the Mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6). But Exodus does not speak of an angel.

Living oracles (λογια ζωντα). A λογιον is a little word (diminutive of λογος). Common in the old Greek, LXX, Philo, in ecclesiastical writers for sayings of Christ, Papias (for instance) saying that Matthew wrote in Hebrew (Aramaic) "Logia of Jesus." Oxyrhynchus papyri fragments called "Logia of Jesus" are of much interest though only fragments. The Greeks used it of the "oracles" or brief sayings from Delphi. In the N.T. the word occurs only four times (Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11). Here the participle ζωντα, living, is the same used by Peter (1 Peter 2:4.), stone (λιθος) of Christ and Christians. The words from God to Moses are still "living" today. In 1 Peter 4:11 the word is applied to one who speaks λογια θεου (oracles of God). In Romans 3:2 Paul refers to the substance of the law and of prophecy. In Hebrews 5:12 the writer means the substance of the Christian religious teaching.

Verse 39

To whom (ω). That is Moses, this Moses.

Would not be (ουκ ηθελησαν γενεσθα). Aorist active, negative aorist, were unwilling to become (γενεσθα) obedient.

Thrust him from them (απωσαντο). Indirect middle of the very verb used of the man (verse Acts 7:27) who "thrust" Moses away from him.

Turned back (εστραφησαν). Second aorist passive indicative of στρεφω, to turn. They yearned after the fleshpots of Egypt and even the gods of Egypt. It is easy now to see why Stephen has patiently led his hearers through this story. He is getting ready for the home-thrust.

Verse 40

Gods which shall go before us (θεους ο προπορευσοντα ημων). Exodus 32:1. As guides and protectors, perhaps with some allusion to the pillar of fire and of cloud that had gone before them (Exodus 13:21). The future indicative here with ο (relative) expresses purpose.

Ye wot not (ουκ οιδαμεν). We do not know. How quickly they had forgotten both God and Moses while Moses was absent in the mount with God.

Become of him (εγενετο αυτω). Happened to him. "This" (ουτος) here is a contemptuous allusion to Moses by the people.

Verse 41

They made a calf (εμοσχοποιησαν). First aorist active indicative of μοσχοποιεω, here only in the N.T. and unknown elsewhere. The LXX (Exodus 32:3) has εποιησε μοσχον from which phrase the word is evidently made. Aaron made the calf, but so did the people (Exodus 32:35).

The idol (τω ειδωλω). Stephen calls it by the right name. The people said it was their way of worshipping Jehovah! So the Egyptians worshipped the bull Apis at Memphis as the symbol of Osiris (the sun). They had another sacred bull Mnevis at Leontopolis. Ειδωλον (from ειδος, form or figure) is the image or likeness of anything. The heathen worship the god through the image or idol.

Rejoiced (ευφραινοντο). Imperfect, middle, kept on rejoicing (Exodus 32:6; Exodus 32:18) or making merry.

Verse 42

Gave them up (παρεδωκεν). First aorist active indicative of παραδιδωμ. This same form occurs three times like clods on a coffin in a grave in Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28 where Paul speaks of God giving the heathen up to their lusts.

To serve the host of heaven (λατρευειν τη στρατια του ουρανου). The verb λατρευω is used of the worship of God (Matthew 4:10) as well as of idols as here (from λατρον, hire, λατρις, hireling, then to serve). But the worship of the host of heaven (Deuteronomy 17:3; 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Chronicles 33:3; 2 Chronicles 33:5; Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 19:13) is Sabaism or worship of the host (στρατια) of heaven (sun, moon, and stars) instead of the Lord of hosts. This star-worship greatly injured the Jews.

In the book of the prophets (εν βιβλω των προφητων). That is the twelve minor prophets which the Jews counted as one book (cf. Acts 13:40). This quotation is from Amos 5:25-27. The greater prophets were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel.

Slain beasts (σφαγια). Here only in the N.T. (from Amos 5:25) σφαγη, slaughter, σφαζω, to slay.

Verse 43

The tabernacle of Moloch (την σκηνην του Μολοχ). Or tent of Moloch which they took up after each halt instead of the tabernacle of Jehovah. 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.

The star of the god Rephan (το αστρον του θεου Ρομφα). Spelled also Romphan and Remphan. Supposed to be Coptic for the star Saturn to which the Egyptians, Arabs, and Phoenicians gave worship. But some scholars take the Hebrew Kiyyoon to mean statues and not a proper name at all, "statues of your gods" carried in procession, making "figures" (τυπους) with both "tabernacle" and "star" which they carried in procession.

I will carry (μετοικιω). Attic future of μετοικισω from μετοικιζω.

Beyond Babylon (επεκεινα Βαβυλωνος). The Hebrew and the LXX have "beyond Damascus." An adverbial preposition (επ' εκεινα with μερη understood) used in the old Greek and the LXX with the ablative case and meaning "beyond." Here only in the N.T. in quotation from Amos 5:27.

Verse 44

The tabernacle of the testimony (η σκηνη του μαρτυριου). Probably suggested by the mention of "the tabernacle of Moloch" (verse Acts 7:43). See on Matthew 17:4 for discussion of σκηνη (from σκια, shadow, root σκα, to cover). This first sanctuary was not the temple, but the tent in the wilderness. "Stephen passes on from the conduct of the Israelites to his other argument that God is not necessarily worshipped in a particular spot" (Page).

According to the figure (κατα τον τυπον). According to the type or pattern. Τυπος is from τυπτω, to strike, to smite, and is the print of the blow (John 20:25), then the figure formed by a blow or impression like our type, a model or example. Quoted from Exodus 25:40. Common word in the old Greek.

That he had seen (ον εωρακε). Past perfect active of οραω, to see (double reduplication).

Verse 45

Which (ην). Agreeing with σκηνην, not with τυπον.

In their turn (διαδεξαμενο). First aorist middle participle of διαδεχομα, to receive through another, to receive in sucession or in turn. Late Greek, only here in N.T. Deissmann (Bible Studies, p. 115) argues from a second century B.C. papyrus that διαδοχος means rather deputy or court official than successor.

With Joshua (μετα Ιησου). With Jesus, the Greek form of Joshua (contracted from Jehoshua, Matthew 1:21), as in Hebrews 4:8.

When they entered on the possession of the nations (εν τη κατασχεσε των εθνων). Literally "in (or at the time of) the possession of the nations." See on Acts 7:5 for the only other N.T. instance of κατασχεσις.

Which (ων). The nations, genitive by attraction to case of εθνων.

Thrust out (εξωσεν). First aorist active indicative of εξωθεω, to push out, common verb, here, only in N.T. save some MSS. in Acts 27:39.

Verse 46

Asked (ηιτησατο). Aorist middle (indirect) indicative, asked for himself (as a favour to himself). Cf. 2 Samuel 7:2.

A habitation (σκηνωμα). Like Psalms 132:5, but it was a house that David proposed to build (2 Samuel 7:2), not a tent (σκηνη) which already existed. Σκηνωμα here means a more permanent abode (οικον, house, in verse Acts 7:47), though from the same root as σκηνη.

Verse 48

Howbeit (αλλ'). By contrast with what Solomon did and David planned. Note emphatic position of "not" (αλλ' ουχ), "But not does the Most High dwell." The presence of the Most High is not confined in any building, even one so splendid as Solomon's Temple as Solomon himself foresaw and acknowledged in his prayer (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18).

In houses made with hands (εν χειροποιητοις). No word here for "houses" or "temples" in correct text (ναοις temples in Textus Receptus). Literally, "In things made with hands" (χειρ, hand, ποιητος, verbal adjective of ποιεω). It occurs in Mark 14:58 of the temple and of the sanctuary of Moab (Isaiah 16:12). It occurs also in Acts 7:24; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:24; Ephesians 2:11. Common in the old Greek.

The prophet (ο προφητης). Isaiah 66:1. Isaiah taught plainly that heaven is God's throne.

Verse 49

What manner of house (Ποιον οικον). What sort of a house? This interrogative is sometimes scornful as in Acts 4:7; Luke 6:32 (Page). So Stephen shows by Isaiah that Solomon was right that the temple was not meant to "confine" God's presence and that Jesus had rightly shown that God is a spirit and can be worshipped anywhere by any individual of any race or land. It is a tremendous argument for the universality and spirituality of Christianity free from the shackles of Jewish racial and national limitations, but its very strength only angered the Sanhedrin to desperation.

Verse 51

Stiffnecked (σκληροτραχηλο). From σκληρος (hard) and τραχηλος, neck, both old words, but this compound only in the LXX and here alone in the N.T. Critics assume that Stephen was interrupted at this point because of the sharp tone of the speech. That may be true, but the natural climax is sufficient explanation.

Uncircumcised in heart (απεριτμητο καρδιαις). Late adjective common in LXX and here only in the N.T. Verbal of περιτεμνω, to cut around and α privative. Both of these epithets are applied to the Jews in the O.T. (Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3; Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 9:6; Jeremiah 6:10). Καρδιαις is locative plural like ωσιν (ears), but some MSS. have genitive singular καρδιας (objective genitive). No epithet could have been more galling to these Pharisees than to be turned "uncircumcised in heart" (Romans 2:29). They had only the physical circumcision which was useless.

Ye always (υμεις αε). Emphatic position of humeis and "always" looks backward over the history of their forefathers which Stephen had reviewed.

Resist (αντιπιπτετε). Old word to fall against, to rush against. Only here in the N.T., but used in the O.T. which is here quoted (Numbers 27:14). Their fathers had made "external worship a substitute for spiritual obedience" (Furneaux). Stephen has shown how God had revealed himself gradually, the revelation sloping upward to Christ Jesus. "And as he saw his countrymen repeating the old mistake--clinging to the present and the material, while God was calling them to higher spiritual levels--and still, as ever, resisting the Holy Spirit, treating the Messiah as the patriarchs had treated Joseph, and the Hebrews Moses--the pity of it overwhelmed him, and his mingled grief and indignation broke out in words of fire, such as burned of old on the lips of the prophets" (Furneaux). Stephen, the accused, is now the accuser, and the situation becomes intolerable to the Sanhedrin.

Verse 52

Which of the prophets (τινα των προφητων). Jesus (Luke 11:47; Matthew 23:29-37) had charged them with this very thing. Cf. 2 Chronicles 36:16.

Which shewed before (προκαταγγειλαντας). The very prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah their fathers killed.

The coming (της ελευσεως). Not in ancient Greek or LXX and only here in the N.T. (in a few late writers).

Betrayers (προδοτα). Just like Judas Iscariot. He hurled this old biting word at them. In the N.T. only here and Luke 6:16; 2 Timothy 3:4. It cut like a knife. It is blunter than Peter in Acts 3:13.

Murderers (φονεις). The climax with this sharp word used of Barabbas (Acts 3:14).

Verse 53

Ye who (οιτινες). The very ones who, quippe qui, often in Acts when the persons are enlarged upon (Acts 8:15; Acts 9:35; Acts 10:41; Acts 10:47).

As it was ordained by angels (εις διαταγας αγγελων). About angels see on Acts 7:38. Διαταγη (from διατασσω, to arrange, appoint) occurs in late Greek, LXX, inscriptions, papyri, Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 89ff., and in N.T. only here and Romans 13:2. At (or as) the appointment of angels (cf. Matthew 10:41; Matthew 12:41 for this use of εις).

And kept it not (κα ουκ εφυλαξατε). Like a whipcracker these words cut to the quick. They gloried in possessing the law and openly violated it (Romans 2:23).

Verse 54

When they heard (ακουοντες). Present active participle of ακουω, while hearing.

They were cut to the heart (διεπριοντο ταις καρδιαις). See Acts 5:33 where the same word and form (imperfect passive of διαπριω) is used of the effect of Peter's speech on the Sadducees. Here Stephen had sent a saw through the hearts of the Pharisees that rasped them to the bone.

They gnashed on him with their teeth (εβρυχον τους οδοντας επ' αυτον). Imperfect (inchoative) active of βρυχω (Attic βρυκω), to bite with loud noise, to grind or gnash the teeth. Literally, They began to gnash their teeth at (επ') him (just like a pack of hungry, snarling wolves). Stephen knew that it meant death for him.

Verse 55

And Jesus standing (κα Ιησουν εστωτα). Full of the Holy Spirit, gazing steadfastly into heaven, he saw God's glory and Jesus "standing" as if he had risen to cheer the brave Stephen. Elsewhere (save verse Acts 7:56 also) he is pictured as sitting at the right hand of God (the Session of Christ) as in Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Acts 2:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3.

Verse 56

Opened (διηνοιγμενους). Perfect passive predicate participle of διανοιγνυμ (cf. Matthew 3:16; Luke 3:21).

The son of man (τον υιον του ανθρωπου). Elsewhere in the N.T. in Christ's own words. Here Stephen may refer to the words of Jesus as preserved in Matthew 26:64.

Verse 57

Stopped their ears (συνεσχον τα ωτα αυτων). Second aorist active of συνεχω, to hold together. They held their ears together with their hands and affected to believe Stephen guilty of blasphemy (cf. Matthew 26:65).

Rushed upon him with one accord (ωρμησαν ομοθυμαδον επ' αυτον). Ingressive aorist active indicative of ορμαω, to rush impetuously as the hogs did down the cliff when the demons entered them (Luke 8:33). No vote was taken by the Sanhedrin. No scruple was raised about not having the right to put him to death (John 8:31). It may have taken place after Pilate's recall and before his successor came or Pilate, if there, just connived at such an incident that did not concern Rome. At any rate it was mob violence like modern lynching that took the law into the hands of the Sanhedrin without further formalities.

Out of the city (εκ της πολεως). To keep from defiling the place with blood. But they sought to kill Paul as soon as they got him out of the temple area (Acts 21:30).

Stoned (ελιθοβολουν). Imperfect active indicative of λιθοβολεω, began to stone, from λιθοβολος (λιθος, stone, βαλλω, to throw), late Greek verb, several times in the N.T. as Luke 13:34. Stoning was the Jewish punishment for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:14-16).

The witnesses (ο μαρτυρες). The false testifiers against Stephen suborned by the Pharisees (Acts 6:11; Acts 6:13). These witnesses had the privilege of casting the first stones (Deuteronomy 13:10; Deuteronomy 17:7) against the first witness for Christ with death (martyr in our modern sense of the word).

At the feet of a young man named Saul (παρα τους ποδας νεανιου καλουμενου Σαυλου). Beside (παρα) the feet. Our first introduction to the man who became the greatest of all followers of Jesus Christ. Evidently he was not one of the "witnesses" against Stephen, for he was throwing no stones at him. But evidently he was already a leader in the group of Pharisees. We know from later hints from Saul (Paul) himself that he had been a pupil of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Gamaliel, as the Pharisaic leader in the Sanhedrin, was probably on hand to hear the accusations against Stephen by the Pharisees. But, if so, he does not raise his voice against this mob violence. Saul does not seem to be aware that he is going contrary to the views of his master, though pupils often go further than their teachers.

Verse 59

They stoned (ελιθοβολουν). Same verb and tense repeated, they kept on stoning, they kept it up as he was calling upon the Lord Jesus and making direct prayer to him as "Lord Jesus" (Κυριε Ιησου).

Receive my spirit (δεξα το πνευμα μου). Aorist middle imperative, urgency, receive it now. Many have followed Stephen into death with these words upon their dying lips. See, Acts 9:14; Acts 9:21; Acts 22:16.

Verse 60

Kneeled down (θεις τα γονατα). Second aorist active participle of τιθημ, placing the knees (on the ground). This idiom is not in the old Greek for kneeling, but Luke has it five times (Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 22:36; Acts 21:5) and Mark once (Acts 15:19). Jesus was standing at the right hand of God and Stephen knelt before him in worship and called on him in prayer.

Lay not this sin to their charge (μη στησηις αυτοις ταυτην την αμαρτιαν). First aorist (ingressive) active subjunctive with μη, regular Greek idiom, Place not to them or against them (dative αυτοις) this sin. The very spirit of Jesus towards his enemies as he died upon the Cross (Luke 23:34).

He fell asleep (εκοιμηθη). First aorist passive indicative of κοιμαω, to put to sleep. Old verb and the metaphor of sleep for death is common in all languages, but it is peculiarly appropriate here as Jesus used it of Lazarus. See also Acts 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:18, etc. Our word cemetery (κοιμητηριον) is the sleeping place of the dead. Knowling calls εκοιμηθη here "a picture word of rest and calmness which stands in dramatic contrast to the rage and violence of the scene."

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Acts 7". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/acts-7.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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