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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
Acts 7



Verse 1

Are these things so? (ει ταυτα ουτως εχειei tauta houtōs echei). On this use of ειei in a direct question, see note 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 (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 αδελποι και πατερεςandres adelphoi kai pateres). The spectators (brethren) and members of the Sanhedrin (fathers) as Paul in Acts 22:1.

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

The God of glory (ο τεος της δοχηςHo theos tēs doxēs). 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 (ωπτηōphthē). First aorist passive indicative of οραωhoraō See Luke 23:43. Before there was temple or tabernacle and away over in Mesopotamia (Ur of the Chaldees, Genesis 11:31), even before (prin ē with the infinitive) he dwelt in Haran (Charran 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 σοι δειχωhēn an soi deixō). Indefinite relative clause with ανan 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 αποτανειν αυτονmeta to apothanein auton). ΜεταMeta with the accusative of the articular infinitive and the accusative of general reference (αυτονauton), 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 κατοικειτεeis hēn humeis nun katoikeite). Note ειςeis in the sense of ενen as often. Note also emphatic use of υμειςhumeis (ye) and now (νυνnun).

Verse 5

Not so much as to set his foot on (ουδε βημα ποδοςoude bēma podos). From Deuteronomy 2:5. Old word from βαινωbainō 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 (επηγγειλατοepēggeilato). First aorist middle indicative of επαγγελλωepaggellō 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 κατασχεσινeis kataschesin). Late word, in lxx, and in N.T. only here and Acts 7:45. From κατεχωkatechō 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 αυτωι τεκνουouk ontos autōi teknou). Genitive absolute with negative ουκouk rather than μηmē 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 (ουτωςhoutōs). A free quotation from Genesis 15:13.

Should sojourn (εσται παροικονestai paroikon). Shall be a sojourner, ΠαροικοςParoikos (παραpara beside, οικοςoikos 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 γηι αλλοτριαιen gēi allotriāi). In a land not one‘s own, that belongs to another, alien as in Matthew 17:25., which see.

Four hundred years (ετη τετρακοσιαetē tetrakosia). 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 εγωkrinō egō). Future (accent on ωō) active indicative of κρινωkrinō and εγωegō (I) expressed is emphatic.

In this place (εν τωι τοπωι τουτωιen tōi topōi toutōi). 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 (διατηκην περιτομηςdiathēkēn peritomēs). 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 διατηκηdiathēkē was usually will (Latin, testamentum) and συντηκηsunthēkē was used for covenant (συνsun together, rather than διαdia between). But the lxx and the N.T. use διατηκηdiathēkē for covenant (will in Hebrews 9:15.) as Lightfoot on Galatians 3:16 says: “The lxx translation and New Testament writers probably preferred διατηκηdiathēkē as better expressing the free grace of God than συντηκηsunthēkē

And so (και ουτωςkai houtōs). After the covenant was made and as a sign and seal of it.

Verse 9

Moved with jealousy (ζηλωσαντεςzēlōsantes). First aorist active participle of ζηλοωzēloō old verb from ζηλοςzēlos (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 (εχειλατο αυτον εκexeilato auton ek). First aorist middle indicative of εχαιρεωexaireō old verb to take out, snatch out. Note repetition of εκek

Pharaoh King of Egypt (Παραω βασιλεως ΑιγυπτουPharaō basileōs Aiguptou). Pharaoh is not a name, but a title, the Egyptian perāā meaning great house.

Verse 11

Found no sustenance (ουχ ηυρισκον χορτασματαouch hēuriskon chortasmata). Imperfect active, kept on not finding.

Chortasmata is from χορτοςchortazōoriginally to feed with grass (chortos) 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 σιτιαonta sitia). Participle (present active of ειμιeimi) in indirect discourse, after ακουσαςakousas “heard of corn being in Egypt.” ΣιτιαSitia is diminutive of σιτοςsitos 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 (πρωτονprōton). While Jacob himself remained in Canaan before he went down to Egypt and died there (Acts 7:15.).

Verse 13

At the second time (εν τωι δευτερωιen tōi deuterōi). This expression only here in the N.T. This second visit is recorded in Genesis 45:1.

Became manifest (πανερον εγενετοphaneron egeneto). 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 πσυχαις εβδομηκοντα πεντεen psuchais hebdomēkonta pente). 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 70 including Jacob and Joseph with his two sons. The use of ενen means “consisting in.”

Verse 16

They were carried over unto Shechem (μετετετησαν εις Συχεμmetetethēsan eis Suchem). First aorist passive of μετατιτημιmetatithēmi 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 (ωι ωνησατο Αβρααμhōi ōnēsato Abraam). 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 Συχεμen Suchem). This is the reading of Aleph B C instead of the Textus Receptus του Συχεμtou Suchem which makes it “Hamar the father of Sichem.” “In Shechem” is the true reading.

Verse 17

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

Verse 18

Another king (βασιλευς ετεροςbasileus heteros). 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 ηιδει τον Ιωσηπhos ouk ēidei ton Iōsēph). Second past perfect of οιδαoida 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 (κατασοπισαμενοςkatasophisamenos). First aorist middle participle of κατασοπιζομαιkatasophizomai late compound (καταkata and σοπιζωsophizō old verb, to make wise, to become wise, then to play the sophist), perfective use of καταkata 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 βρεπη εκτεταtou poiein ta brephē ektheta). Του ποιεινTou poiein (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 εκτεταektheta (exposed, cast out) is a verbal adjective from εκτιτημιektithēmi 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 ζωογονεισταιeis to mē zōogoneisthai). Purpose with ειςeis and the articular infinitive (present middle). This compound verb is from ζωογονοςzōogonos (from ζωοςzōos alive, and γενωgenō 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 τωι τεωιasteios tōi theōi). Ethical dative, fair to God (as God looked at him). ΑστειοςAsteios is from αστυastu 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 (ανετραπηanetraphē). Second aorist passive indicative of ανατρεπωanatrephō He was brought up at home for three months in defiance of the new Pharaoh.

Verse 21

When he was cast out (εκτετεντος αυτουektethentos autou). Genitive absolute with first aorist passive participle of εκτιτημιektithēmi

Took up (ανειλατοaneilato). Second aorist middle indicative (with first aorist vowel αa instead of εe as often in the Koiné{[28928]}š) of αναιρεωanaireō common in the N.T. in the sense of take up and make away with, to kill as in 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 (ανειλετοaneileto) 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 (ανετρεπσατο αυτον εαυτηι εις υιονanethrepsato auton heautēi eis huion). Literally, “she nursed him up for herself (εαυτηιheautēi besides middle voice) as a son.” This use of ειςeis =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 (επαιδευτηepaideuthē). First aorist passive indicative of παιδευωpaideuō to train a child (παιςpais), 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 (πασηι σοπιαιpasēi sophiāi) 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 και εργοις αυτουdunatos en logois kai ergois autou). The same phrase used of Jesus in Luke 24:19. The adjective δυνατοςdunatos 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 (ως επληρουτο αυτωι τεσσαρακονταετης χρονοςHōs eplērouto autōi tessarakontaetēs chronos). 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 (επληρουτοeplērouto 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 επι την καρδιαν αυτουanebē epi tēn kardian autou). Second aorist active indicative of αναβαινωanabainō 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 (επισκεπσασταιepiskepsasthai). First aorist middle infinitive of επισκεπτομαιepiskeptomai 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 (αδικουμενονadikoumenon). Present passive participle of αδικηοadikēo By blows (Exodus 2:11).

Avenged (εποιησεν εκδικησινepoiēsen ekdikēsin). First aorist active indicative of ποιεωpoieō This idiom occurs in Luke 18:7 with εκδικησινekdikēsin (this from εκδικεωekdikeō and that from εκδικοςekdikos without right or law δικηdikē and then exacting law of right out of εκek one, exacting vengeance).

Him that was oppressed (τωι καταπονουμενωιtōi kataponoumenōi). Present passive articular participle in the dative case of καταπονεοkataponeo 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 (παταχαςpataxas). First aorist active participle of πατασσωpatassō in the old Greek the beat of the heart, only in the lxx and N.T. to smite a deadly blow as here like πλησσωplēssō f0).

Verse 25

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

That his brethren understood (συνιεναι τους αδελπουςsunienai tous adelphous). Present active infinitive of συνιημιsuniēmi 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 αυτοιςdia cheiros autou didōsin sotērian autois). Picturesque use of “hand” as in Acts 2:23, present active indicative of διδωμιdidōmi retained in indirect discourse after imperfect ενομιζενenomizen But they understood not (οι δε ου συνηκανhoi de ou sunēkan). Page notes “the rhetorical power of these words” from Stephen. ΣυνηκανSunēkan (first aorist indicative, κk aorist) refers to συνιεναιsunienai just before.

Verse 26

The day following (τηι επιουσηι ημεραιtēi epiousēi hēmerāi). Locative case, “on the following day” (from επειμιepeimi to come upon, to approach, present active participle επιων ουσα ονepiōn ̇ousaημερα̇on). Common phrase in old Greek both with ωπτηhēmera (day) as here and without as Acts 16:11. Only in Acts in the N.T.

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

As they strove (μαχομαιmachomenois). Present middle participle of συνηλλασσεν αυτους εις ειρηνενmachomai actually fighting.

Would have set them at one again (συναλλασσωsunēllassen autous eis eirēnen). Better, he tried to reconcile them (or change them into peace). It is the conative imperfect active as in Matthew 3:14 of καταλλασσωsunallassō 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 αδικειτε αλληλουςkatallassō

Do ye wrong one to another (adikeite allēlous). The same word used in 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 αυτονapōsato auton). First aorist middle indicative (Koiné{[28928]}š for Attic απεωσατοapeōsato) of απωτεωapōtheō to push away from oneself in middle voice as here, common in old Greek. Again in 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 τελειςmē anelein me su theleis). Expecting the answer no, but a thrust direct at Moses, Do you wish to kill me (note με συme su right together, me thou). See Exodus 2:14 quoted by Stephen.

Verse 29

Sojourner (παροικοςparoikos). Temporary dweller (cf. Abraham in 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 πλογι πυρος βατουen phlogi puros batou). 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, πυροςpuros and βατουbatou dependent on πλογιphlogi flame). Descriptive genitives as in Acts 9:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:8. ατοςBatos (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 οραμαto horama). Used of visions in the N.T. as in Matthew 17:9.

As he drew near (προσερχομενου αυτουproserchomenou autou). Genitive absolute with present middle participle of προσερχομαιproserchomai

A voice of the Lord (πωνη κυριουphōnē kuriou). Here the angel of Jehovah of 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 γενομενοςentromos genomenos). Literally, becoming tremulous or terrified. The adjective εντρομοςentromos (εν τρομοςenτρεμωtromos from ουκ ετολμαtremō to tremble, to quake) occurs in Plutarch and the lxx. In the N.T. only here and Acts 16:29.

Durst not (ouk etolma). Imperfect active, was not daring, negative conative imperfect.

Verse 33

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

Sandal (υποδημαhupodēma 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 ειδονidōn eidon). Imitation of the Hebrew infinitive absolute, (Exodus 3:7) “Seeing I saw” (cf. Hebrews 6:14).

The affliction (την κακωσινtēn kakōsin). From κακοωkakoō to treat evilly (from κακοςkakos evil). Old word, here only in the N.T. and from Exodus 3:7.

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

I am come down (κατεβηνkatebēn). Second aorist active indicative of καταβαινωkatabainō I came down.

To deliver (εχελεσταιexelesthai). Second aorist middle infinitive of εχαιρεωexaireō to take out for myself.

I will send (αποστειλωaposteilō). First aorist active subjunctive (hortatory of αποστελλωapostellō “Let me send”).

Verse 35

This Moses (Τουτον τον ΜωυσηνTouton ton Mōusēn). Rhetorical repetition follows this description of Moses (five times, anaphora, besides the use here, six cases of ουτοςhoutos here about Moses: 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 (ηρνησαντοērnēsanto) Moses as now you the Jews denied (ηρνησαστεērnēsasthe Acts 3:13) Jesus. Those in Egypt scouted Moses as “ruler and judge” (Acts 7:27, Acts 7:35, αρχοντα και δικαστηνarchonta kai dikastēn) and God “hath sent” (απεσταλκενapestalken perfect active indicative, state of completion) Moses “both a ruler and a deliverer” (αρχοντα και λυτρωτηνarchonta kai lutrōtēn) as Jesus was to be (Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38; Hebrews 9:12; Titus 2:14). “Ransomer” or “Redeemer” (λυτρωτηςlutrōtēs) is not found elsewhere, λυτρονlutron (ransom), λυτροωlutroō to ransom, and λυτρωσιςlutrōsis ransoming or redemption, are found often. In Acts 5:31 Christ is termed “Prince and Saviour.”

With the hand (συν χειριsun cheiri). 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 (συνsun) with the hand of the Angel of Jehovah.

Verse 37

Like unto me (ως εμεhōs eme). 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 τηι εκκλησιαι εν τηι ερημωιen tēi ekklēsiāi en tēi erēmōi). Better rendered “congregation” here as in Hebrews 2:12 (Psalm 22:22), the people of Israel gathered at Matthew. 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 (μεσιτηςmesitēs) 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 ζωνταlogia zōnta). A λογιονlogion is a little word (diminutive of λογοςlogos). 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 ζωνταzōnta living, is the same used by Peter (1 Peter 2:4.), stone (λιτοςlithos) 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 τεουlogia theou (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 (ωιhōi). That is Moses, this Moses.

Would not be (ουκ ητελησαν γενεσταιouk ēthelēsan genesthai). Aorist active, negative aorist, were unwilling to become (γενεσταιgenesthai) obedient.

Thrust him from them (απωσαντοapōsanto). Indirect middle of the very verb used of the man (Acts 7:27) who “thrust” Moses away from him.

Turned back (εστραπησανestraphēsan). Second aorist passive indicative of στρεπωstrephō 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 (τεους οι προπορευσονται ημωνtheous hoi proporeusontai hēmōn). 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 οιhoi (relative) expresses purpose.

Ye wot not (ουκ οιδαμενouk oidamen). 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 αυτωιegeneto autōi). Happened to him. “This” (ουτοςhoutos) here is a contemptuous allusion to Moses by the people.

Verse 41

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

The idol (τωι ειδωλωιtōi eidōlōi). 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. ΕιδωλονEidōlon (from ειδοςeidos form or figure) is the image or likeness of anything. The heathen worship the god through the image or idol.

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

Verse 42

Gave them up (παρεδωκενparedōken). First aorist active indicative of παραδιδωμιparadidōmi 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 τηι στρατιαι του ουρανουlatreuein tēi stratiāi tou ouranou). The verb λατρευωlatreuō is used of the worship of God (Matthew 4:10) as well as of idols as here (from λατρονlatron hire, λατριςlatris 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 (στρατιαstratia) 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 βιβλωι των προπητωνen biblōi tōn prophētōn). 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 (σπαγιαsphagia). Here only in the N.T. (from Amos 5:25) σπαγηsphagē slaughter, σπαζωsphazō to slay.

Verse 43

The tabernacle of Moloch (την σκηνην του Μολοχtēn skēnēn tou Moloch). 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 τεου ομπαto astron tou theou Rompha). 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” (τυπουςtupous) with both “tabernacle” and “star” which they carried in procession.

I will carry (μετοικιωmetoikiō). Attic future of μετοικισωmetoikisō from μετοικιζωmetoikizō

Beyond Babylon (επεκεινα αβυλωνοςepekeina Babulōnos). The Hebrew and the lxx have “beyond Damascus.” An adverbial preposition (επ εκειναep' ekeina with μερηmerē 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 μαρτυριουhē skēnē tou marturiou). Probably suggested by the mention of “the tabernacle of Moloch” (Acts 7:43). See note on Matthew 17:4 for discussion of skēnē (from skia shadow, root σκηνηska 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 (σκιαkata ton tupon). According to the type or pattern. σκαTupos is from κατα τον τυπονtuptō 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 (Τυποςhon heōrakei). Past perfect active of τυπτωhoraō to see (double reduplication).

Verse 45

Which (ηνhēn). Agreeing with σκηνηνskēnēn not with τυπονtupon

In their turn (διαδεχαμενοιdiadexamenoi). First aorist middle participle of διαδεχομαιdiadechomai 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 διαδοχοςdiadochos means rather deputy or court official than successor.

With Joshua (μετα Ιησουmeta Iēsou). 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 τηι κατασχεσει των ετνωνen tēi kataschesei tōn ethnōn). Literally “in (or at the time of) the possession of the nations.” See note on Hebrews 7:5 for the only other N.T. instance of κατασχεσιςkataschesis

Which (ωνhn). The nations, genitive by attraction to case of ετνωνethnōn

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

Verse 46

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

A habitation (σκηνωμαskēnōma). Like Psalm 132:5, but it was a house that David proposed to build (2 Samuel 7:2), not a tent (σκηνηskēnē) which already existed. ΣκηνωμαSkēnōma here means a more permanent abode (οικονoikon house, in Acts 7:47), though from the same root as σκηνηskēnē f0).

Verse 48

Howbeit (αλλall'). By contrast with what Solomon did and David planned. Note emphatic position of “not” (αλλ ουχall' ouch), “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 χειροποιητοιςen cheiropoiētois). No word here for “houses” or “temples” in correct text (ναοιςnaois temples in Textus Receptus). Literally, “In things made with hands” (χειρcheir hand, ποιητοςpoiētos verbal adjective of ποιεωpoieō). 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 προπητηςho prophētēs). Isaiah 66:1. Isaiah taught plainly that heaven is God‘s throne.

Verse 49

What manner of house (Ποιον οικονPoion oikon). 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 (σκληροτραχηλοιsklērotrachēloi). From σκληροςsklēros (hard) and τραχηλοςtrachēlos 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 (απεριτμητοι καρδιαιςaperitmētoi kardiais). Late adjective common in lxx and here only in the N.T. Verbal of περιτεμνωperitemnō to cut around and αa 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). ΚαρδιαιςKardiais is locative plural like ωσινōsin (ears), but some MSS. have genitive singular καρδιαςkardias (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 αειhumeis aei). Emphatic position of humeis and “always” looks backward over the history of their forefathers which Stephen had reviewed.

Resist (αντιπιπτετεantipiptete). 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 προπητωνtina tōn prophētōn). Jesus (Luke 11:47; Matthew 23:29-37) had charged them with this very thing. Cf. 2 Chronicles 36:16.

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

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

Betrayers (προδοταιprodotai). 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 (πονειςphoneis). The climax with this sharp word used of Barabbas (Acts 3:14).

Verse 53

Ye who (οιτινεςhoitines). 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 αγγελωνeis diatagas aggelōn). About angels, see note on Acts 7:38. ΔιαταγηDiatagē (from διατασσωdiatassō 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 ειςeis).

And kept it not (και ουκ επυλαχατεkai ouk ephulaxate). 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 (ακουοντεςakouontes). Present active participle of ακουωakouō while hearing.

They were cut to the heart (διεπριοντο ταις καρδιαιςdieprionto tais kardiais). See note on Acts 5:33 where the same word and form (imperfect passive of διαπριωdiapriō) 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 αυτονebruchon tous odontas ep' auton). Imperfect (inchoative) active of βρυχωbruchō (Attic βρυκωbrukō), to bite with loud noise, to grind or gnash the teeth. Literally, They began to gnash their teeth at (επep') him (just like a pack of hungry, snarling wolves). Stephen knew that it meant death for him.

Verse 55

And Jesus standing (και Ιησουν εστωταkai Iēsoun hestōta). 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 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 (διηνοιγμενουςdiēnoigmenous). Perfect passive predicate participle of διανοιγνυμιdianoignumi (cf. Matthew 3:16; Luke 3:21).

The son of man (τον υιον του αντρωπουton huion tou anthrōpou). 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 αυτωνsuneschon ta ōta autōn). Second aorist active of συνεχωsunechō 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 ομοτυμαδον επ αυτονhōrmēsan homothumadon ep' auton). Ingressive aorist active indicative of ορμαωhormaō 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 πολεωςek tēs poleōs). 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 (ελιτοβολουνelithoboloun). Imperfect active indicative of λιτοβολεωlithoboleō began to stone, from λιτοβολοςlithobolos (λιτοςlithos stone, βαλλωballō 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 (οι μαρτυρεςhoi martureōs). 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 Σαυλουpara tous podas neaniou kaloumenou Saulou). Beside (παραpara) 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 (ελιτοβολουνelithoboloun). 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 ΙησουKurie Iēsou).

Receive my spirit (δεχαι το πνευμα μουdexai to pneuma mou). 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 (τεις τα γοναταtheis ta gonata). Second aorist active participle of τιτημιtithēmi 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 20:36; 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 αμαρτιανmē stēsēis autois tautēn tēn hamartian). First aorist (ingressive) active subjunctive with μηmē regular Greek idiom, Place not to them or against them (dative αυτοιςautois) this sin. The very spirit of Jesus towards his enemies as he died upon the Cross (Luke 23:34).

He fell asleep (εκοιμητηekoimēthē). First aorist passive indicative of κοιμαωkoimaō 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 (κοιμητηριονkoimētērion) is the sleeping place of the dead. Knowling calls εκοιμητηekoimēthē here “a picture word of rest and calmness which stands in dramatic contrast to the rage and violence of the scene.”


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Acts 7:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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