Acts 7:4
Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
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(4) From thence, when his father was dead.—In Genesis 11:26; Genesis 11:32, Terah, the father of Abraham, is said to have died at the age of 205 years, and after he had reached the age of seventy to have begotten Abram, Nahor, and Haran; while Abraham in Genesis 12:4 is said to have been seventy-five years old when he departed out of Haran. This, primâ facie, suggests the conclusion that he lived for sixty years after his son’s departure. The explanations sometimes given—(1) that Abraham may have been the youngest, not the eldest son of Terah, placed first in order of honour, not of time, as Shem is among the sons of Noah (Genesis 5:32; Genesis 6:10), though Japheth was the elder (Genesis 10:21); and (2) that the marriage of Abraham’s son with the granddaughter of Nahor by the youngest of his eight sons, Bethuel (Genesis 22:22), suggests some such difference of age, and that he may therefore have been born when Terah was 130, and so have remained in Haran till his father’s death—though probable as an hypothesis, would hardly appear so natural an explanation as that the memory of St. Stephen or of his reporter dwelt upon the broad outlines of the history, and was indifferent to chronological details. It is remarkable that like difficulties present themselves in St. Paul’s own survey of the history of Israel. (See Notes on Acts 13:20; Galatians 3:17.) A man speaking for his life, and pleading for the truth with a passionate eagerness, does not commonly carry with him a memoria technica of chronological minutiœ. This seems, on the whole, a more satisfactory explanation than the assumption that the Apostle, having a clear recollection of the facts as we find them, brought them before his hearers in a form which presented at least the appearance of inaccuracy.

He removed him.—The change of subject may be noted as more natural in a speaker than a writer, and as so far confirming the inference that we have probably a verbatim report.

Acts 7:4-5. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans — Strange as the command which was given him might seem, he, with all submission, readily obeyed it; and dwelt in Charran — Namely, for several years, having been led thither by the divine conduct, and not immediately receiving a signal to proceed any further. And from thence — After his father died, by another call; he (God) removed him into this land — The land of Canaan. And yet, upon his coming into it, he gave him none inheritance — But he was a stranger and sojourner in it; no, not so much as to set his foot on — Or a piece of land which he might cover with the sole of his foot: for the field mentioned, Acts 7:16, he did not receive by a divine donation, but bought it; yet he promised — At sundry times; that he would give it to him for a possession — Which promise Abraham firmly believed that God would fulfil; and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child — And, humanly speaking, it was not likely he ever should have one: but his faith triumphed over all these seeming difficulties, and he confidently trusted in the power, and love, and faithfulness of God to make his word good.

7:1-16 Stephen was charged as a blasphemer of God, and an apostate from the church; therefore he shows that he is a son of Abraham, and values himself on it. The slow steps by which the promise made to Abraham advanced toward performance, plainly show that it had a spiritual meaning, and that the land intended was the heavenly. God owned Joseph in his troubles, and was with him by the power of his Spirit, both on his own mind by giving him comfort, and on those he was concerned with, by giving him favour in their eyes. Stephen reminds the Jews of their mean beginning as a check to priding themselves in the glories of that nation. Likewise of the wickedness of the patriarchs of their tribes, in envying their brother Joseph; and the same spirit was still working in them toward Christ and his ministers. The faith of the patriarchs, in desiring to be buried in the land of Canaan, plainly showed they had regard to the heavenly country. It is well to recur to the first rise of usages, or sentiments, which have been perverted. Would we know the nature and effects of justifying faith, we should study the character of the father of the faithful. His calling shows the power and freeness of Divine grace, and the nature of conversion. Here also we see that outward forms and distinctions are as nothing, compared with separation from the world, and devotedness to God.Land of the Chaldeans - From Ur of the Chaldees, Genesis 11:31.

When his father was dead - This passage has given rise to no small difficulty in the interpretation. The difficulty is this: From Genesis 11:26, it would seem that Abraham was born when Terah was 70 years of age. "And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran." From Genesis 12:4, it seems that Abraham was 75 years of age when he departed from Haran to Canaan. The age of Terah was therefore but 145 years. Yet in Genesis 11:32, it is said that Terah was 205 old when he died, thus leaving 60 years of Terah's life beyond the time when Abraham left Haran. Various modes have been proposed of explaining this difficulty:

(1) Errors in "numbers" are more likely to occur than any other. In the "Samaritan" copy of the Pentateuch, it is said that Terah died in Haran at the age of 105 years, which would suppose that his death occurred 40 years before Abraham left Haran. But the Hebrew, Latin, Vulgate, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic read it as 205 years.

(2) it is not affirmed that Abraham was born just at the time when Terah was 70 years of age. All that the passage in Genesis 11:26 proves, according to the usual meaning of similar expressions, is, that Terah was 70 years old before he had any sons, and that the three were born subsequently to that. But which was born first or what intervals intervened between their birth does not appear. Assuredly, it does not mean that all were born precisely at the time when Terah was 70 years of age. Neither does it appear that Abraham was the oldest of the three. The sons of Noah are said to have been Shem, Ham, and Japheth Genesis 5:32; yet Japheth, though mentioned last, was the oldest, Genesis 10:21. As Abraham afterward became much the most distinguished, and as he was the father of the Jewish people, of whom Moses was writing, it was natural that he should be mentioned first if it cannot be proveD that Abraham was the oldest, as assuredly it cannot be, then there is no improbability in supposing that his birth might have occurred many years after Terah was 70 years of age.

(3) the Jews unanimously affirm that Terah relapsed into idolatry before Abraham left Haran; and this they denominate "death," or a moral death (Kuinoel). It is certain, therefore, that, from some cause, they were accustomed to speak of Terah as "dead" before Abraham left him. Stephen only used language which was customary among the Jews, and would employ it, doubtless, correctly, though we may not be able to see precisely how it can be reconciled with the account in Genesis.

4. when his father was dead, he removed into this land—Though Abraham was in Canaan before Terah's death, his settlement in it as the land of promise is here said to be after it, as being in no way dependent on the family movement, but a transaction purely between Jehovah and Abraham himself. Abraham had as great a love to his kindred and native country as others have; but he had a greater faith, which made him yield to God’s call and command, and follow from place to place the will of God, who is said here to have removed Abraham, and does choose the inheritance and habitation for his people, Psalm 47:4.

Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans,.... The same with Mesopotamia; so Pliny says (b), that

"because of Babylon the head of the Chaldean nation---the other part of Mesopotamia and Assyria is called Babylonia.''

And he places Babylon in Mesopotamia; it was out of Ur, in the land of the Chaldeans particularly, that Abraham came, upon his first call:

and dwelt in Charan: according to the Jewish writers (c), he dwelt here five years:

and from thence, when his father was dead; who died in Haran, as is said in Genesis 11:32 and that it was after the death of Terah his father, that Abraham went from thence, is manifest from Genesis 11:31 and yet a Jew (d) has the impudence to charge Stephen with a mistake, and to affirm, that Abraham went from Haran, whilst his father was yet living; proceeding upon a false hypothesis, that Terah begat Abraham when he was seventy years of age: but Philo the Jew is expressly with Stephen in this circumstance; he says (e),

"I think no man versed in the laws can be ignorant, that Abraham, when he first went out of the land of Chaldea, dwelt in Charan; "but his father dying there", he removed from thence:''

and so says Stephen:

he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell; the land of Canaan; see Genesis 12:5 or "he removed himself", as the Ethiopic version renders it; or rather "God removed him", as the Syriac version reads, and so one copy in the Bodleian library; for it was by the order and assistance, and under the direction and protection of God, that he came into that land: after the words

wherein ye now dwell, Beza's ancient copy adds, "and our fathers that were before us".

(b) De Urbibus, l. 6. c. 26. (c) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 1. p. 2. Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 5. 2.((d) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 61. p. 448. (e) De Migratione Abrahami, p. 415.

Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
Acts 7:4. Τότε] after he had received this command.

μετὰ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ] Abraham was born to his father Terah when he was 70 years of age (Genesis 11:26); and the whole life of Terah amounted to 205 years (Genesis 11:32). Now, as Abraham was 75 years old when he went from Haran (Genesis 12:4; Joseph. Antt. i. 7. 1), it follows that Terah, after this departure of his son, lived 60 years. Once more, therefore, we encounter a deviation from the biblical narrative, which is found also in Philo, de migr. Abr. p. 415, and hence probably rests on a tradition, which arose for the credit of the filial piety of Abraham, who had not migrated before his father’s death. The circumstance that the death of Terah is narrated at Genesis 11:32 (proleptically, comp. Acts 12:4) before the migration, does not alter the state of matters historically, and cannot, with an inviolable belief in inspiration, at all justify the expedient of Baumgarten, p. 134.[197] The various attempts at reconciliation are to be rejected as arbitrarily forced: e.g. the proposal (Knatchbull, Cappellus, Bochart, Whiston) to insert at Genesis 11:32, instead of 205, according to the Samaritan text 145 (but even the latter is corrupted, as Genesis 11:32 was not understood proleptically, and therefore it was thought necessary to correct it);[198] or the ingenious refinement which, after Augustine, particularly Chladenius (de conciliat. Mosis et Steph. circa annos Abr., Viteb. 1710), Loescher, Wolf, Bengel, and several older interpreters have defended, that μετῴκισεν is to be understood, not of the transferring generally, but of the giving quiet and abiding possession, to which Abraham only attained after the death of his father. More recently (Michaelis, Krause, Kuinoel, Luger, Olshausen) it has been assumed that Stephen here follows the tradition (Lightf. in loc.; Michael. de chronol. Mos. post diluv. sec. 15) that Abraham left Canaan after the spiritual death of his father, i.e. after his falling away into idolatry (this, at least, was intended to protect the patriarch from the suspicion of having violated his filial duty!); which opinion Michaelis incorrectly ascribes also to Philo. According to this view, ἀποθανεῖν would have to be understood spiritually, which the context does not in the least degree warrant, and which no one would hit upon, if it were not considered a necessity that no deviation from Genesis l.c. should be admitted.

μετῴκισεν] namely, God. Rapid change of the subject; comp. on Acts 6:6.

εἰς ἣν ὑμεῖς νῦν κατοικ.] i.e. into which ye having moved now dwell in it. A well-known brachylogy by combining the conception of motion with that of rest, Winer, p. 386 f. [E. T. 516 f.]; Dissen, ad Pind. Ol. xi. 38, p. 132. The εἰς ἥν calls to mind the immigration of the nation (which is represented by ὑμεῖς) from Egypt.

[197] That the narrative of the death of Terah, Gen. l.c., would indicate that for the commencement of the new relation of God to men Abraham alone, and not in connection with his father, comes into account. Thus certainly all tallies.

[198] Naively enough, Knatchbull, p. 47, was of opinion that, if this alteration of the Hebrew text could not be admitted, it was better “cum Scaligero nodum hunc solvendum relinquere, dum Elias venerit.” According to Beelen in loc., Abraham need not have been the first-born of Terah, in spite of Genesis 11:26-27.

Acts 7:4. μετὰ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν: St. Stephen apparently falls into the same chronological mistake as is made in the Pentateuch and by Philo (De Migr. Abrah., i., 463, Mang.). According to Genesis 11:26 Terah lived seventy years and begat Abraham, Nahor, Haran; in Genesis 11:32 it is said that Terah’s age was 205 years when he died in Haran; in Genesis 12:4 it is said that Abraham was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. But since 70 + 75 = 145, it would seem that Terah must have lived some sixty years after Abraham’s departure. Perhaps the circumstance that Terah’s death was mentioned, in Genesis 11:32, before the command to Abraham to leave Haran, Acts 12:1, may be the cause of the mistake, as it was not observed that the mention of Terah’s death was anticipatory (so Alford). Blass seems to adopt a somewhat similar view, as he commends the reading in Gigas: “priusquam mortuus est pater ejus,” for the obedience of the patriarch, who did not hesitate to leave even his father, is opposed to the obstinacy of the Jewish people (see Blass, in loco). Other attempts at explanation are that reference is made to spiritual death of Terah, who is supposed to have relapsed into idolatry at Haran, a view which appears to have originated with the Rabbis, probably to get rid of the chronological difficulty (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb.; Meyer-Wendt, in loco), but for which there is absolutely no justification in the context; or that Abraham need not have been the eldest son of Terah, but that he was mentioned first because he was the most famous, a view adopted with more or less variation by Wordsworth, Hackett, and recently by Felten (see too B.D.2, p. 16, note), but apparently in opposition to the authority of Hamburger, who states that Terah was seventy years old when Abraham was born, that he was alive when Abraham departed at the age of seventy-five, being released from the duty of caring for his father by the more imperative command to obey the call of God. Lumby quotes from Midrash Rabbah, on Genesis, cap. 39, that God absolved Abraham from the care of his father, and yet, lest Abraham’s departure from Terah should lead others to claim the same relaxation of a commandment for themselves, Terah’s death is mentioned in holy Holy Scripture before Abraham’s departure, cf. Genesis 11:32; Genesis 12:1. One other solution has been attempted by maintaining that μετῴκισεν does not refer to the removal, but only to the quiet and abiding settlement which Abraham gained after his father’s death, but this view, although supported by Augustine and Bengel, amongst others, is justly condemned by Alford and Wendt. The Samaritan Pentateuch reads in Genesis 11:32, 145 instead of 205, probably an alteration to meet the apparent contradiction. But it is quite possible that here, as elsewhere in the speech, Stephen followed some special tradition (so Zöckler).—μετά with infinitive as a temporal proposition frequent in Luke (analogous construction in Hebrew), cf. Luke 12:5; Luke 22:20, etc., cf. LXX, Bar 1:9; Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 165 (1893).—μετῴκισεν, subject ὁ Θεός: cf. for a similar quick change of subject Acts 6:6. Weiss sees in this the hand of a reviser, but the fact that Stephen was speaking under such circumstances would easily account for a rapid change of subject, which would easily be supplied by his hearers; verb only in Acts 7:43 elsewhere, in a quotation—found several times in LXX, and also in use in classical Greek.

4. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran] The Chaldæans were the people of that country which had Babylon for its capital. The extent of the country signified by “the land of the Chaldæans” must have varied at different periods.

when his father was dead] According to the order of the narrative in Genesis, this seems to be so, but when the ages of Terah and Abraham are noticed, it appears that Abraham left Haran before his father’s death. For Terah was 70 years old when Abraham was born (Genesis 11:26), and Abraham was 75 years old when he departed out of Haran (Genesis 12:4), so that of Terah’s 205 years there were yet (205–145) = 60 years unexpired when his son went away. On this Jewish literature has the explanation (Midrash Rabbah on Genesis, cap. 39) that God absolved Abraham from the care of his father, and yet, that Abraham’s departure from Terah should not lead others to claim the same relaxation of a commandment for themselves, Terah’s death is noticed in Holy Writ before Abraham’s departure, and it is also added, to explain the mention of death, that “the wicked (and among them Terah is reckoned, see Joshua 24:2) are called dead while they are alive.”

he removed him] i.e. God caused him to migrate. There is a slight vagueness in the English, but none in the Greek.

Acts 7:4. Χαλδαίων, of the Chaldees) whose land belonged to Mesopotamia.—μετὰ, after that) Abraham, whilst Terah lived in Haran, had in some measure his paternal home in Haran, only acting the part of a stranger or foreign sojourner in the land of Canaan: but when his father was dead, he began altogether to have his home solely in the land of Canaan. It is not without mystery (symbolical meaning), that the father of Abraham did not enter the land of Canaan: for so it was evident, that it was not by the right of worldly inheritance that this land fell to himself and his posterity.—νῦν, now) at this present day.

Verse 4. - Haran for Charran, A.V.; God removed for he removed, A.V. The land of the Chaldaeans. In Genesis 11:28 Ur is called "Ur of the Chaldees." When his father was dead (see note to ver. 2). God removed. That God is the subject appears from the following verbs, "he gave," "he promised." The verb μετώκισεν, he removed, is the technical word for planting a colony. Wherein, etc. (εἰς η}ν); into which ye came and dwelt. Acts 7:4
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