|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:54-60 Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there. Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. Our Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die. Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was very great, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would not lay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as ever any man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fell asleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as much composure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake again in the morning of the resurrection, to be received into the presence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share the pleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.
Verse 58. - They cast for cast, A.V. ; garments for clothes, A.V.; the feet of a young man for a young man's feet, A.V.; named Saul for whose name was Saul, A.V. They cast. We have here the identical phrase of Luke 4:29. The witness. According to Deuteronomy 17:7, "the hands of the witnesses were to be first upon" the idolater "to put him to death." They took off their clothes, their outer garments, so as to be free to hurl the stones at their victim with greater force. The feet of a young man. The word νεανίας is found only here and in Acts 20:9; Acts 23:17, 18, 22; and frequently in the LXX. for the Hebrew נַעִר. A man might be called a νεανίας probably to the age of thirty. This appearance of Saul upon the stage of St. Luke's narrative is an element which will soon change the whole current of the narrative, and divert it from Jerusalem to the whole earth. Nothing can be more striking than this introduction of the young man Saul to our view as an accomplice (albeit "ignorantly in unbelief") in the martyrdom of Stephen. Who that stood there and saw him keeping the clothes of the witnesses would have imagined that he would become the foremost apostle of the faith which he sought to destroy from off the face of the earth?
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And cast him out of the city,.... Of Jerusalem; for the place of stoning was without the city. The process, when regular, according to the sentence of the court, was after this manner (p);
"judgment being finished, (or the trial over,) they brought him out (the person condemned) to stone him; the place of stoning was without the sanhedrim, as it is said, Leviticus 24:14 "bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp", when he was ten cubits distant from the place of stoning, they order him to confess and when four cubits from it, they take off his garments--the place of stoning was twice a man's height.''
And elsewhere (q) it is said, that the place of stoning was without three camps (the camp of the Shekinah, the camp of the Levites, and the camp of the Israelites): upon which the gloss has these words;
"the court is the camp of the Shekinah, and the mountain of the house the camp of the Levites, and every city the camp of the Israelites; and in the sanhedrim in every city, the place of stoning was without the city like to Jerusalem.''
And these men, though transported with rage and fury, yet were so far mindful of rule, as to have him out of the city before they stoned him:
and they stoned him; which was done after this manner, when in form (r):
"the wise men say, a man was stoned naked, but not a woman; and there was a place four cubits from the house of stoning, where they plucked off his clothes, only they covered his nakedness before. The place of stoning was two men's heights, and there he went up with his hands bound, and one of the witnesses thrust him on his loins, that he might fall upon the earth; and if he died not at that push, the witnesses lifted up a stone, which lay there, the weight of two men, and one cast it with all his strength upon him; and if he died not, he was stoned by all Israel.''
And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul; for the witnesses, according to the above account, were first concerned in the stoning; and this was agreeably to the rule in Deuteronomy 17:7 and which they seem to have observed amidst all their hurry and fury: and that they might perform their work with more ease and expedition, they plucked off their upper garments, and committed them to the care of Saul of Tarsus; who was now at Jerusalem, and belonged to the synagogue of the Cilicians, that disputed with Stephen, and suborned false witnesses against him. He is called a young man; not that he was properly a youth, for he must be thirty years of age, or more; since about thirty years after this he calls himself Paul the aged, Plm 1:9 when he must be at least sixty years of age, if not more; besides, Ananias calls him a "man", Acts 9:13 nor would the high priests have given letters to a mere youth, investing him with so much power and authority as they did; but he is so called, because he was in the prime of his days, hale, strong, and active. The learned Alting has taken a great deal of pains to show, that this Saul, who was afterwards Paul the apostle, is the same with Samuel the little, who is frequently mentioned in the Talmud; he living at this time, and being a disciple of Rabban Gamaliel, and a bitter enemy of the heretics, or Christians; and who, at the instigation of his master, composed a prayer against them; and his name and character agreeing with him: but it is not likely that the Jews would have retained so high an opinion of him to the last, had he been the same person: for they say (s),
"that as the elders were sitting in Jabneh, Bath Kol came forth, and said, there is one among you fit to have the Holy Ghost, or the Shekinah, dwell upon him; and they set their eyes on Samuel the little; and when he died, they said, ah the holy, ah the meek disciple of Hillell!''
(p) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4. (q) T. Bab Sanhedrin, fol. 42. 2.((r) Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. Affirm. 99. Vid. Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 4. & Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 15. sect. 1.((s) Shilo, l. 4. c. 26, 27, 28.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
58. cast him out of the city—according to Le 24:14; Nu 15:35; 1Ki 21:13; and see Heb 13:12.
and stoned—"proceeded to stone" him. The actual stoning is recorded in Ac 7:59.
and the witnesses—whose hands were to be first upon the criminal (De 17:7).
laid down their clothes—their loose outer garments, to have them taken charge of.
at a young man's feet whose name was Saul—How thrilling is this our first introduction to one to whom Christianity—whether as developed in the New Testament or as established in the world—owes more perhaps than to all the other apostles together! Here he is, having perhaps already a seat in the Sanhedrim, some thirty years of age, in the thick of this tumultuous murder of a distinguished witness for Christ, not only "consenting unto his death" (Ac 8:1), but doing his own part of the dark deed.
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