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Bible Commentaries
Acts 7

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Act 7:1. We are still in the Sanhedrin where the false witnesses have just made the serious charge of blasphemy against Stephen. Are these things sot This was said by the high priest, because under a practice started by the Jews, he was the presiding judge of the Sanhedrin. The act of proposing this question was about the only just thing that was done for Stephen. It was the order in any fair court, religious or otherwise, to permit a prisoner to speak for himself concerning accusations being brought against him. (See Joh 7:51; Act 22:25.)

Verse 2

2 Act 7:2. From this verse through verse 50 is Stephen's answer to the question put to him by the high priest. A simple denial of the accusations would have been the whole truth, but Stephen's purpose was to give the entire historical background of the issue at stake; not only to show their charges to be false, but also to present a basis of truths and facts for the conclusion he intended to draw in their hearing. We shall see that when all this was done, it showed up these false accusers to be really the ones who could justly be charged with the things they maliciously said against him. The speech will consist of the history that began with Abraham and ended with Solomon. In addition to Stephen's principal reason for reciting these historical matters, I shall comment on the verses in their order because of their general interest. Fathers is used in the sense of respect for them as being among the older members of the Jewish nation, and hence those who should be respectfully interested in the history of their race. Before he dwelt in Charran (Haran). Gen 12:1 says that God had said for Abraham to make this move, even before the command stated in that verse, and that is the reason for Stephen's phrase underlined in this place.

Verse 3

3 Act 7:3. Which I shall show thee is significant, and denotes that the patriarch was not told even what country it was when the Lord first appeared to him. He was to obey the command purely upon his faith in the wisdom and goodness of God. That is why Paul says, "and he went out, not knowing whither he went" (Heb 11:8).

Verse 4

4 Act 7:4. Abraham moved immediately out of his home territory which was the land of the Chaldeans (called "Ur of the Chaldees" in Gen 11:31). This place was in the general territory of that later containing the city of Babylon. To reach the land of Canaan (where God intended him to go), it was necessary for Abraham to journey up and around the northern extremity of the country, due to the geographical character of the land. (See the historical note given with Isa 14:31, in volume 3 of the Old Testament Commentary.) When his father was dead. The necessary inference is that Abraham's father became more infirm on account of old age, so that the Lord suffered Abraham to pause in this land of Haran until his father was dead. We know this pause was not displeasing to God, for Stephen says that after the death of his father,;he (meaning God) removed him into this land, which indicates that Abraham was acting in God's favor.

Verse 5

5 Act 7:5. Gave him none inheritance. Let us not become confused over this phrase and the account in Gen 23:9-20. Abraham became a possessor of that real estate in the land of Canaan, but he bought it with money, and thus obtained it by his own business transaction; he even refused to accept it as a gift from the owners. But inheritance is from KLERONOMAI, and Thayer defines it, "an inheritance, property received by inheritance." Abraham did not receive a foot of that land in that way, but it was promised that he would indirectly receive it some day through his descendants. When he had no child is mentioned to show Abraham's faith in the promises of God.

Verse 6

6 Act 7:6. This prediction is recorded in Gen 15:13, and refers to the hardships of the Israelites in Egypt. Strange land means one outside their own promised land.

Verse 7

7 Act 7:7. Will I judge refers to the plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians (Exodus 7-12). Serve me in this place means their service at Mount Sinai.

Verse 8

8 Act 7:8. This verse includes the years from Abraham's 99th to the birth of Jacob's Sons in Mesopotamia and Canaan.

Verse 9

9 Act 7:9. The patriarchs means the brethren of Joseph who sold him to travelers going to Egypt God was with him denotes that assistance was given Joseph from the Lord because he was righteous and was being persecuted.

Verse 10

0 Act 7:10. This verse includes the events of Genesis 41.

Verse 11

1 Act 7:11. This verse includes the events of Gen 41:30-31.

Verse 12

2 Act 7:12. See Gen 42:1-3.

Verse 13

3 Act 7:13. This is recorded in Genesis 43, 44, , 45.

Verse 14

4 Act 7:14. Threescore and fifteen souls. For an explanation of this phrase, see the comments on Gen 46:26-27, in volume 1 of the Old Testament Commentary.

Verse 15

5 Act 7:15. Our fathers meant the sons of Jacob and other early ancestors.

Verse 16

6 Act 7:16. The last word in the preceding verse is "fathers," and they are the ones who were buried in Sychem. No explanation is offered by the historians or critical works of reference of the name of Abraham in the place of Jacob, concerning the purchase of this burying place. But all of them are agreed as to the particulars of the transaction. and hence we may be assured that some incidental fact or custom in use at the time of Stephen's speech would explain it if we had access to the literature of those days.

Verse 17

7 Act 7:17. God promised to Abraham that his posterity would become a great nation, and would be delivered from their bondage in a strange land. It was getting along near the time for' the fulfillment of that promise, hence the people were becoming numerous.

Verse 18

8 Act 7:18. Knew not Joseph. (See the comments on Exo 1:8.)

Verse 19

9 Act 7:19. Dealt subtilly means to use schemes or tricks to get advantage of them. One of such was to take the supply of straw from them, when they knew that the crop had been gathered and that nothing but stubble could be found. (See Exo 5:10-14.) Cast out their young children refers to the decree that all male infants should be drowned.

Verse 20

0 Act 7:20. Exceeding fair is explained by Thayer to mean he was fair "unto God," and the Greek text does have those words. The significance of this subject will be realized when we consider the history that will be cited at verse 25.

Verse 21

1 Act 7:21. Read this history in Exo 2:3-10.

Verse 22

2 Act 7:22. This information is not given in any other place in the Bible, but Stephen was speaking by the Spirit and his report is authentic.

Verse 23

3 Act 7:23. Full forty years is more definite than the account in Exo 2:11, which says he "was grown." Came into his heart. Moses acted on his own authority only, for there is no information that God told him to take on the work at that time.

Verse 24

4 Act 7:24. There is no question about the injustice of the Egyptian's attack upon the Hebrew. The point is that Moses acted before he was told to by the Lord. The details of this episode are given in Exo 2:11-14.

Verse 25

5 Act 7:25. He supposed his brethren would have understood, etc. This proves the point made in the two preceding paragraphs; Moses acted on his own supposition. The question will be raised as to why Moses formed this notion. The information is given in Josephus, Antiquities, Book 2, Chapter 9, Section a. That paragraph is too long to be quoted in full, but I shalt give the gist of it and the reader may verify it by consulting the history of Josephus. The father of Moses had gone to God in prayer concerning the danger his people were in and had received assurances that deliverance would be provided. That, as Abraham had been blessed with a son who meant so much to him, so, through the child soon to be born to him and his wife, great deliverance would be experienced by their people. It is reasonable to conclude that Moses' father had told him about that prayer and the promise, and hence Moses "supposed" all of his brethren had heard about it also.

Verse 26

6 Act 7:26. Them means his brethren mentioned in the preceding verse. Exo 2:13 states that it was two Hebrews who were striving. Moses thought he would interfere with the wrangle, and no doubt he was acting on the supposition just explained above.

Verse 27

7 Act 7:27. The one who objected to the attempt of Moses was the one who was in the wrong. That is frequently the case today, for when a man is doing what is wrong he will resent any interference with what he says is "his business." However, Moses could not have given a satisfactory answer to the question asked by this Hebrew.

Verse 28

8 Act 7:28. When Moses "looked this way and that way" (Exo 2:12), he either did not see everybody who was near, or the avenged Hebrew reported the event.

Verse 29

9 Act 7:29. Exo 2:15 tells us that Pharoah heard about the deed of Moses and tried to have him slain. That caused him to flee the country in fear, and go into the land of Midian, a country lying between the two arms of the Red Sea. Where he begat two sons condenses the history in Exo 2:15-22.

Verse 30

0 Act 7:30. Forty years were expired from the time Moses came into the land of Midian. In the course of this period Moses cared for the flocks of his father-in-law. He was with them when he came into the region of Sinai, where the angel appeared to him.

Verse 31

1 Act 7:31. He wondered because the bush was burning but was not being consumed, and decided to investigate the situation. (See Exo 3:1-3.)

Verse 32

2 Act 7:32. Fathers is often used as a general reference to the early ancestors of the race, but here it applied to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses was overawed by the voice and the scene before him.

Verse 33

3 Act 7:33. Put off thy shoes. It was customary in that country to remove one's shoes in the presence of a dignitary as an act of courtesy, very much as a man will lift his hat under like circumstances. Holy ground did not refer to the essential quality of the earth, for it was the same place where Moses had been taking the sheep for pasture. But in the present instance it was holy because of the person who was present, and the purpose for the appearance of the angel. A place is holy where and when holy proceeding takes place.

Verse 34

4 Act 7:34. I have seen, I have seen. Both phrases are in the original, and the inflection of the terms is somewhat different in each case, showing the purpose of the statement is for emphasis. God was speaking to Moses by the angel in the bush. Having seen the afflictions of his people in Egypt, God proposed sending Moses to deliver them.

Verse 35

5 Act 7:35. Stephen does not include the conversations between God and Moses about his (Moses') fitness for the commission: that record is in Exodus 3, 4. But he remind his hearers that the very man who the Hebrew resented was the one God sent to rule over them. He is getting his speech shaped up for application to his hearers.

Verse 36

6 Act 7:36. This brief verse covers the history from Exodus 7 to Joshua 5.

Verse 37

7 Act 7:37. This prophecy is in Deu 18:18-20.

Verse 38

8 Act 7:38. Church is from EKKLESIA, and Thayer gives its primary meaning to be, "A gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly." In the present passage he defines it, "The assembly of the Israelites." With the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai. God gave the law at Sinai through the services of angels (Gal 3:19).

Verse 39

9 Act 7:39. In their hearts turned back. The Israelites could not return to Egypt literally, but their desire to do so made them as guilty as if they had done so.

Verse 40

0 Act 7:40. Moses had gone up into the mountain to receive the law, and the people became restless because of his absence; they demanded of Aaron that he make the idol.

Verse 41

1 Act 7:41. In response to the cry of the people, Aaron made the calf out of the gold they had brought from Egypt.

Verse 42

2 Act 7:42. Gave them up denotes that if a man is determined to do wrong God will not use force to prevent it. Host of heaven means the sun and other heavenly bodies. As it is written refers to Amo 5:25. The statement is in question form, but the thought is an admission from God that his people went through that form for forty years.

Verse 43

3 Act 7:43. The preceding verse seems to speak well of ancient Israel but the present one shows the other side of the story. It begins with the word yea, while the corresponding verse in Amo 5:26 starts with "but." The point is that Israel was not satisfied to sacrifice to the true God but also took up idolatrous worship. Moloch and Remphan were heathen gods that the Israelites worshipped by making figures (images) of them for that purpose. The last sentence is a prediction of the Babylonian captivity.

Verse 44

4 Act 7:44. Tabernacle of witness. The tabernacle was a visible and constant symbol of the wisdom and goodness of God, so that Israel could always have His presence.

Verse 45

5 Act 7:45. Fathers that came after. Most of the older men died in the wilderness for the sin at Kadesh-barnea (Exo 32:8-11), and it was their descendants who brought in the tabernacle to Canaan. Jesus is from IESOUS, and Smith's Bible Dictionary says it is "the Greek form of the name Joshua," and Thayer's lexicon agrees with it. Joshua was the leader of the Israelites when they crossed the Jordan. Possession of the Gentiles. These were heathen nations living in Canaan when the Israelites came, and they were attacked by Joshua and driven out (Joshua 12). Unto the days of David. Joshua did his duty in fighting the heathen, but on account of the unfaithfulness of Israel, God suffered some of the nations to remain in the land to harass them for many years.

Verse 46

6 Act 7:46. The preceding verse does not mean that no heathen existed in the land after David's time. The pause in the narrative at him is because of his outstanding importance in the affairs of Israel, the ancestors of these rebellious Jews to whom Stephen was speaking. David was in the favor of God and desired to find a tabernacle, referring to his desire to build the temple (2Sa 7:1-3).

Verse 47

7 Act 7:47. The reason that Solomon and not David was permitted to build the temple is shown in 1Ch 22:6-10.

Verse 48

8 Act 7:48. God permitted Solomon to build the temple to replace the tabernacle. That was not because He wanted a better building in which to dwell for he does not dwell ("settle down") in man-made temples. Saith the prophet is reference to Isa 66:1. He uses earthly structures only as a place for people to meet with him spiritually.

Verse 49

9 Act 7:49. God is a personal (though spiritual) Being, and his dwelling place is in Heaven. What house will ye build me was quoted by Stephen because these Jews had boasted so often of their temple, and pretended to be offended at anyone who even intimated that it would ever be destroyed. (See chapter 6:14.)

Verse 50

0 Act 7:50. God was already the Maker of all things in the universe, hence it was foolish for the Jews to think they could build a temple as a permanent dwelling for Him.

Verse 51

1 Act 7:51. Stephen made his long speech to portray the history of the Jews, showing a record of continual rebellion against the law of God and persecution of His true servants. His application was by showing these Jews before him that their conduct was running "true to form." Stiffnecked means stubborn, and uncircumcised in heart and ears denotes their unconsecrated minds as manifested by resistance against the Holy Ghost.

Verse 52

2 Act 7:52. A man is not to be blamed for the sins of his forefathers, unless he imitates those sins and boasts of his relation to the ancestors. These rebellious Jews had done that very thing, and were following in the steps of their immediate fathers who had slain Jesus as predicted by the holy prophets of God.

Verse 53

3 Act 7:53. The law which the disobedient Jews were resisting had been given through the agency of angels (Gal 3:19).

Verse 54

4 Act 7:54. To be cut to the heart means to be rent asunder in mind, and caused to gnash or grind their teeth in an insane fit of anger.

Verse 55

5 Act 7:55. Full of the Holy Ghost is explained at Act 4:31. Saw the glory of God. No man in normal condition can see God and live (Exo 33:20). When He wanted Saul to see Jesus in the glorified state, he performed a miracle for the purpose; he did the same thing for Stephen.

Verse 56

6 Act 7:56. In defiance of their threatening gesture, Stephen declared his vision of the very One whom they had murdered, standing in glory at the right hand of God.

Verse 57

7 Act 7:57. Stopped their ears was an admission that the truth being spoken by Stephen was unwelcome to them, but they had no honorable means of meeting it.

Verse 58

8 Act 7:58. The Jews told Pilate it was not lawful for them to put any man to death. That was true, but it was not the real motive for their plea that Pilate have Jesus slain. It did not prevent them from carrying out their murderous rage upon Stephen, who had not even been sentenced by any court, religious or secular. Witnesses. The law (Deu 17:7) required that the witnesses to a crime must be first in an execution. That is why Jesus said what he did to the men who had witnessed the sin of the woman (Joh 8:7). Laid down their clothes. When any manual action was to be done, it was the usual practice for the men to lay aside their loose outer garments. As a guard to protect them, they were placed in charge of someone standing by, and this was done by placing the garments at the feet of Saul, of wbcm we will hear much in later chapters.

Verse 59

9 Act 7:59. Stephen was calling upon God while the Jews were hurling stones at him. Receive my spirit shows Stephen had an inner being that was not within reach of these murderers. (See Mat 10:28.)

Verse 60

0 Act 7:60. Before his body collapsed, Stephen kneeled in prayer to God. Cried with a loud voice. The first word is from KRAZO which Thayer defines at this place, "to call out aloud, speak with a loud voice." It was not the involuntary outburst of a body because of pain, but an intelligent utterance so expressed that all in the crowd could hear. Charge is from HISTEMI and Thayer defines it, "to cause to stand." It does not mean that these men were to be declared innocent, for that would be endorsing sin. The prayer meant for God not to hold it against them. Jesus prayed for his Father to forgive his murderers, but that did not mean it should be done before they repented, which they did on Pentecost. Likewise, the prayer of Stephen means for God to forgive these murderers whenever they repented. Fell asleep is a figurative way of saying that Stephen died. (See notes on literal and figurative language at Mat 9:24.) Stephen's death is the first one on record that was imposed in persecution for faith in Jesus. There will be others committed to which reference will be made later.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Acts 7". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/acts-7.html. 1952.
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