And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers the children of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)It came into his heart.—The distinct purpose in going out to look after his brethren is stated somewhat more emphatically than in Exodus 2:11.Acts 7:23-25. When he was forty years old — So long he continued in Pharaoh’s court; it came into his heart — Probably by an impulse from God; to visit his brethren — He having been instructed, it appears, in the knowledge of his real descent, and in the principles of the Jewish religion; and it is likely his spirit was so impressed with a concern for their welfare, that all the pleasure and grandeur at the court of Egypt could not make him easy, without going in person to take a view of their state. And seeing one of them suffer wrong — Probably by one of the task-masters; he defended him — And smiting the Egyptian with a mortal wound, he at once rescued and avenged him that was oppressed — See note on Exodus 2:11-12. For he supposed his brethren would have understood, &c. — The manner in which Stephen expresses himself, seems to imply, that he considered Moses as doing this action in consequence of a special impression from God on his mind, intimating to him the important work for which he was intended, that God by his hands would deliver them — Two things are here proper to be inquired into, namely, 1st, By what authority or right Moses slew the Egyptian. 2d, What reason he had to expect the people should understand that God designed him for their deliverer? “The Jewish historians,” says Whitby, “give us a very easy solution of these difficulties; for, according to Clemens Alexandrinus, their priests declare that Moses slew the Egyptian with a word, and so gave them a miracle to prove his mission: and Josephus assures us, that ‘God appeared to Amram, the father of Moses, as he was praying to him for the afflicted Jews, and said to him, Thy son, now in the womb of thy wife, shall escape the hand of the Egyptians, and shall deliver the Hebrews from the afflictions of Egypt; and that, to confirm this vision, his wife brought him forth without any pain.’ The Jerusalem Talmud likewise declares that Moses slew the Egyptian by the spirit of prophecy, or by an extraordinary impulse from God; and Maimonides makes this action one degree of prophecy. And thus, as Stephen here says: it came into his heart, namely, from God, to visit his brethren: and indeed otherwise he could not have justified this fact to God and his own conscience. Now Moses, knowing what had been declared of him to his father, and by this action working deliverance to one of them, might justly hope they would look upon him as one appointed by God to be their deliverer.” Dr. Benson, however, not crediting these stories, thinks “it does not appear that Moses had as yet any prophecy to assure him that he was the person who should deliver Israel; but, knowing there was a divine promise of deliverance made to, and retained in the house of Israel; that he himself had been extraordinarily preserved and educated, and that the time of their deliverance was approaching, he showed himself willing to run all hazards and dangers with the people of God, rather than continue in the splendour of the Egyptian court; and that when the time should be fully come, he would cheerfully join and head them, in order to rescue them from their bondage and cruel slavery.” But it seems there is more than this implied in the verse; and though we may have no certain information of any prophecy that Moses had yet received, it does not follow but he might have received some private revelation from God, that he was the person appointed by him to deliver the Israelites. But they understood not — Such was their stupidity and sloth, which made him afterward unwilling to go to them.
To visit ... - Probably with a view of delivering them from their oppressive bondage. Compare Acts 7:25.
it came into his heart to visit his brethren—his heart yearning with love to them as God's chosen people, and heaving with the consciousness of a divine vocation to set them free.Forty years old; this age of Moses is not set down in his history, but they might have it by tradition, which is here confirmed unto us by the holy penman: these forty years Moses spent in Pharaoh’s court.
It came into his heart; it speaks these thoughts and resolutions to have been from God, that such a great courtier should so far debase himself; therefore this is deservedly attributed unto his faith, Hebrews 11:24, which is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8. Exodus 2:11 but that he was at this time at such an age, is the general sense of the Jews. Upon the above mentioned passage they have this note (h).
"twenty years old was Moses at that time; and there are that say, that he was forty years old. And (i) elsewhere still more particularly; Moses was "forty" years in the palace of Pharaoh, forty years in Midian, (the Amsterdam edition reads, "in the wilderness", wrongly,) and he served Israel forty years.''
Indeed, the fabulous history of his life makes him to be but fifteen years of age at this time (k); but Stephen's account is undoubtedly right, and which is confirmed by the above testimonies.
It came into his heart; by the Spirit of God, under a more than ordinary impulse of which he now was:
to visit his brethren, the children of Israel; whom he knew to be his brethren, partly from the common report in Pharaoh's court concerning him, and partly from the mark of circumcision in his flesh, and chiefly from divine revelation: for some years he had lived a courtly and military life, and had took no notice of the Israelites in their oppressions; but now the Lord laid it upon his heart to visit them, and observe how things were with them; and though he could not use any public and open authority, yet Philo the Jew says (l), that he exhorted the officers to use mildness and moderation with them, and comforted and encouraged the Israelites to bear their burdens with patience and constancy, and not sink under them; suggesting, that things would take another turn, and would change for the better in time.And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 7:23. But when a period of forty years became full to him,—i.e. when he was precisely 40 years old. This exact specification of age is not found in the O. T. (Exodus 2:11), but is traditional (Beresh. f. 115. 3; Schemoth Rabb. f. 118. 3). See Lightfoot in loc. Bengel says: “Mosis vita ter 40 anni, Acts 7:30; Acts 7:36.”
ἀνέβη ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ] it arose into his heart, i.e. came into his mind, to visit (to see how it went with them), etc. The expression (comp. 1 Corinthians 2:9) is adopted from the LXX., where it is an imitation of the Hebrew עָלָה עַל לֵב, Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 32:35; Isaiah 65:17. Neither is Ὁ ΔΙΑΛΟΓΙΣΜΌς (for which Luke 24:38 is erroneously appealed to) nor Ἡ ΒΟΥΛΉ to be supplied.
ἘΠΙΣΚΈΨ.] invisere (Matthew 25:36, often also in Greek writers). He had hitherto been aloof from them, in the higher circles of Egyptian society and culture.
τοὺς ἀδελφούς] “motivum amoris,” Bengel. Comp. Acts 7:26.
 “Potest aliquid esse in profundo animae, quod postea emergit, et in cor … ascendit,” Bengel.Acts 7:23. ὡς, cf. Acts 1:10, Lucan. The exact age is not mentioned in O.T., but it was traditional (Weiss refers its mention to the reviser, perhaps introduced as a parallel to Acts 7:30). According to the tradition, which Stephen apparently followed, Moses lived forty years in Pharaoh’s palace, but some accounts give twenty years; his dwelling in Midian occupied forty years, and he governed Israel for the same period, Acts 13:18. See Midrash Tanchuma on Exodus 2:6 (Wetstein, with other references, so too Lumby).—ἐπληροῦτο, “but when he was well-nigh,” etc., R.V., lit “when the age of forty years was being fulfilled to him” (imperf. tense), cf. Luke 21:24, Acts 2:1; Acts 9:23; Acts 24:27, and Acts 7:30 below; so repeatedly in LXX.—ἀνέβη ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ, cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9 for the expression, probably taken from LXX, Isaiah 65:17, cf. Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 32:35, Ezekiel 38:10, and 2 Kings 12:4. The phrase is an imitation of the Hebrew. Gesenius compares the phrase before us with Heb., Ezekiel 14:3-4; see also Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 66 (1896).—ἐπισκέψασθαι, cf. Luke 1:68; Luke 1:78; Luke 7:16, cf. Exodus 4:31, of God visiting His people by Moses and Aaron (Acts 15:14). In each of these passages the verb is used of a divine visitation, and it is so used by St. Luke only amongst N.T. writers, except Hebrews 2:6 = Psalm 8:5, LXX. It is used elsewhere in Matthew 25:36; Matthew 25:43, Jam 1:27, Acts 6:3; Acts 15:36 (cf. Jdg 15:1). The word is used of visits paid to the sick, cf. Sir 7:35, and so in classical Greek (see Mayor on Jam 1:27), often in medical writings and in Plutarch (Grimm, sub v., and Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, p. 105); mostly in the LXX, as always in the N.T., in good sense (Genesis 21:1, Ps. 8:4, 79:14, Sir 46:14, Jdt 8:33, but also with reference to divine punishment, Ps. 88:31, 32, Jeremiah 9:9; Jeremiah 9:25; Jeremiah 11:22; Jeremiah 34:8, etc.), cf. its use in Psalms of Solomon, where it is generally employed with reference to divine visitation, either for purposes of punishment or deliverance. In modern Greek = to visit, same sense as in LXX and N.T.; Kennedy, u. s., p. 155. For its old English sense of visit, as looking upon with kindness, Lumby compares Shaks., Rich. II., i., 3, 275: “All places that the eye of heaven visits”.—τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ: though in a king’s palace, and far removed in one sense from his people, Moses remembers that he is an Israelite, and that he has brethren; while others forgot their brotherhood he reminded them of it: “motivum amoris quod Moses etiam aliis adhibuit Acts 7:26,” Bengel, cf. Exodus 2:10, and Hebrews 11:24-25.
 literal, literally.23. And when he was full forty years old] Better, But when he was well-nigh forty years old. The verb in the original intimates that the forty years were just being completed. For the fixing of this time we have no authority in the Old Testament. We learn thence that Moses was eighty years old when he was sent to speak before Pharaoh for the deliverance of the Israelites (Exodus 7:7), and that he was a hundred and twenty years old when he died (Deuteronomy 34:7). In Midrash Tanchuma on Exodus 2:6, we are told “Moses was in the palace of Pharaoh twenty years, but some say forty years, and forty years in Midian, and forty years in the wilderness.” Stephen’s words agree with this tradition.
it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel] The verb in the original, which is here rendered visit, is the same as in Luke 7:16, “God hath visited his people,” and means to look upon (generally with kindness, James 1:27), and this was the old sense of the English visit. Cf. Shaks. Rich. II. 1. 3. 275:
“All places that the eye of heaven visits.”Acts 7:23. Ἐπληροῦτο, was fulfilled) There is a ripe time in all things. Before that time we ought to undertake nothing.—τεσσαρακονταετὴς χρόνος, the age of forty years) Moses’ life was thrice forty years: Acts 7:30; Acts 7:36.—ἀνέβη ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ, it came up into his heart) A very appropriate phrase. There may be something in the depth of the soul, which afterwards emerges and ascends (comes up) from that sea into the heart, as into an island. It might seem to have come into the mind of Moses at random: and yet Moses was acted on by Divine impulse.—ἐπισκέψασθαι, to visit) although he himself was happy and they wretched. He was not able to have exact knowledge in the palace of the sorrows of his brethren; therefore he went forth to them.—τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς, his brethren) A motive of love which Moses also employed to others: Acts 7:26.Verse 23. - Well-nigh for full, A.V. When he was precisely forty years old (Meyer) The exact meaning seems to be "when he was in the act of completing forty years." The account in Exodus 2:11 only says, "When Moses was grown" (μέγας γενόμενος, LXX.); the age of forty years, and the number of years, forty, that he sojourned in Midian, as given below, ver. 30, are traditional. "There are that say that Moses was forty years in Pharaoh's palace, forty years in Midian, and forty years in the wilderness" (Tauchum, in Exodus it.). "Moses was forty years in Pharaoh's court, and forty years in Midian, and forty years he served Israel" (Beresh. Rabb.), both quoted by Lightfoot ('Comment. and Exercitations upon the Acts'). The sum total of the three periods of forty years is given as the length of Moses' life, viz. a hundred and twenty years (Deuteronomy 34:7). Ver. 24. - Smiting for and smote, A.V.
Lit., "it arose into his heart." "There may be something in the depth of the soul which afterward emerges and ascends from that sea into the heart as into an island" (Bengel). The expression is imitated from the Hebrew, and occurs in the Septuagint: "The ark shall not come to mind;" lit., go up into the heart (Jeremiah 3:16). See, also, Jeremiah 32:35; Isaiah 65:17.
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