Acts 7:44
Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking to Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
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(44) The tabernacle of witness.—The word was applied by the LXX. to the Tabernacle, as in Numbers 9:15; Numbers 17:7, as containing the Two Tables of Stone, which were emphatically the testimony of what was God’s will as the rule of man’s conduct (Exodus 25:16; Exodus 25:21; Exodus 31:18). It should be noted that the LXX. gives the same rendering for the words which the English version translates as the “tabernacle of the congregation,” e.g., in Exodus 29:10; Exodus 33:7; Numbers 16:18-19.

As he had appointed, speaking unto Moses.—The answer to the charge lay in these words. Stephen admitted and asserted the divine sanction that had been given to Tabernacle and Temple. What he denied was that that sanction involved perpetuity. It is not without interest to note in the thought thus implied the germ of Hooker’s great argument in the Third Book of his Ecclesiastical Polity (c. 11).

Acts 7:44-47. Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness — Greek, του μαρτυριου, of the testimony. The two tables of stone, on which the ten commandments were written, were most properly the testimony, as being a constant testimony of the relation between God and Israel: hence the ark, which contained them, is frequently called the ark of the testimony; and the whole tabernacle in this place, the tabernacle of the testimony. This, says Stephen, was with our fathers in the wilderness, a tabernacle made in all respects as God had appointed, who, speaking unto Moses, commanded him to make it according to the fashion, or model, that he had seen — Namely, in the mount, Exodus 25:40. “As Stephen had been accused of blaspheming the temple, he, with great propriety, takes occasion to speak of their sacred places with due reverence, as raised by special direction from God; and yet corrects that extravagant regard for them, and confidence in them, which the Jews entertained.” — Doddridge. Which our fathers, that came after — Or rather, as διαδεξαμενοι more properly signifies, having received; brought in with Jesus — That is, with Joshua, when he led them over Jordan; into the possession of the Gentiles — Into the land which the Gentiles possessed before. So that God’s favour is not a necessary consequence of inhabiting this land. All along Stephen intimates two things: 1st, That God always loved good men in every land. 2d, That he never loved bad men even in this. Unto the days of David — That is, the tabernacle continued for many ages, even unto David’s time, to be the resort of the pious worshippers in Israel; above four hundred years before there was any thought of building a temple. David indeed having found favour before God, desired — Greek, ητησατο, petitioned, this further blessing, on which his heart was set; even to have the honour to find a tabernacle — Or a dwelling more stable and splendid; for the God of Jacob — But he did not obtain his petition. For, as he had been a man of war, and had shed much blood, God would not permit him to build the temple. He laid a plan for it, however, and consecrated a considerable part of the spoils which he had taken from the enemy toward erecting it. But God remained without any temple till Solomon built him a house — Which, till the reign of that prince, he never had commanded or permitted to be done. Observe how wisely the word house is used here, rather than the word temple, with respect to what follows. 7:42-50 Stephen upbraids the Jews with the idolatry of their fathers, to which God gave them up as a punishment for their early forsaking him. It was no dishonour, but an honour to God, that the tabernacle gave way to the temple; so it is now, that the earthly temple gives way to the spiritual one; and so it will be when, at last, the spiritual shall give way to the eternal one. The whole world is God's temple, in which he is every where present, and fills it with his glory; what occasion has he then for a temple to manifest himself in? And these things show his eternal power and Godhead. But as heaven is his throne, and the earth his footstool, so none of our services can profit Him who made all things. Next to the human nature of Christ, the broken and spiritual heart is his most valued temple.The tabernacle of witness - The "tent" or "tabernacle" which Moses was commanded to make. It was called a tabernacle of "witness," or of "testimony," because it was the visible witness or proof of God's presence with them; the evidence that he to whom it was devoted was their protector and guide. The name is given either to the "tent," to the two tables of stone, or to the ark; all of which were "witnesses," or "evidences" of God's relation to them as their Lawgiver and guide, Exodus 16:34; Exodus 25:16, Exodus 25:21; Exodus 27:21; Exodus 30:6, Exodus 30:36; Exodus 31:18, etc.; Numbers 1:50, Numbers 1:53. The two charges against Stephen were, that he had spoken blasphemy against Moses or his Law, and against the temple, Acts 6:13-14. In the previous part of this defense he had shown his respect for Moses and his Law. He now proceeds to show that he did not design to speak with disrespect of the temple, or the holy places of their worship. He therefore expresses his belief in the divine appointment of both the tabernacle Acts 7:44-46 and of the temple Acts 7:47.

According to the fashion ... - According to the pattern that was shown to him, by which it was to be made, Exodus 25:9, Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30. As God showed him "a pattern," it proved that the tabernacle had his sanction. Against that Stephen did not intend to speak.

44. Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness—which aggravated the guilt of that idolatry in which they indulged, with the tokens of the divine presence constantly in the midst of them. The tabernacle of witness; called also the tabernacle of the congregation, Exodus 33:7, because about it on all solemn occasions the people assembled. Here it is called the tabernacle of witness, because God here testified or witnessed his glorious presence; and especially because in it the ark of the covenant, the law, and the testimony were kept.

According to the fashion that he had seen, Exodus 25:40 Hebrews 8:5. Moses was charged not to vary from the prescript; God being jealous of his own appointments. Now this is the rather spoken of by St. Stephen, that he might prove that the place where God was worshipped in had varied, and therefore night also now be changed. Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness,.... The Ethiopic version adds, "of Sinai"; there it was that the tabernacle was first ordered to be built, and there it was built, and set up; which was a sort of a portable temple, in which Jehovah took up his residence, and which was carried from place to place: of it, and its several parts and furniture, there is a large account in Exodus 25:1. It is sometimes called Ohel Moed, or "the tabernacle of the congregation", because there the people of Israel gathered together, and God met with them; and sometimes "the tabernacle of the testimony", or "witness", as here; Exodus 38:21 Numbers 1:50 because the law, called the tables of the testimony, and the testimony, it being a testification or declaration of the will of God, was put into an ark; which for that reason is called the ark of the testimony; and which ark was placed in the tabernacle; and hence that took the same name too. The Jewish writers say (k), it is so called,

"because it was a testimony that the Shekinah dwelt in Israel'';

or as another (l) expresses it,

"it was a testimony to Israel that God had pardoned them concerning the affair of the calf, for, lo, his Shekinah dwelt among them.''

This tabernacle, in which was the testimony of the will of God, what he would have done, and how he would be worshipped, and which was a token of his presence, was among the Jewish fathers whilst they were in the wilderness; and is mentioned as an aggravation of their sin, that they should now, or afterwards, take up and carry the tabernacle of Mo. The Alexandrian copy reads, "your fathers"; the sense is the same.

As he had appointed; that is, as God appointed, ordered, and commanded:

speaking unto Moses, Exodus 25:40

that he should make it according to the fashion he had seen; when in the Mount with God; Hebrews 8:5 for it was not a bare account of the tabernacle, and its vessels, which he hearing, might form an idea of in his mind; but there was a visible form represented to his eye, a pattern, exemplar, or archetype of the whole, according to which everything was to be made; which teaches us, that everything in matters of worship ought to be according to the rule which God has given, from which we should never swerve in the least.

(k) Baal Hatturim in Exodus 33.21. (l) Jarchi in ib.

{5} Our fathers had the tabernacle of {r} witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.

(5) Moses indeed erected a tabernacle, but that was to call them back to the one whom he had seen on the mountain.

(r) That is, of the covenant.

Acts 7:44. Ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτ.] not a contrast to Acts 7:43, for the bringing out of the culpability (“hic ostendit Steph., non posse ascribi culpam Deo,” Calvin, comp. Olshausen and de Wette) which there is nothing to indicate; but after the giving of the law (Acts 7:38) and after the described backsliding and its punishment (Acts 7:39-43), Stephen now commences the new section of his historical development,—that of the tabernacle and of the temple,—as he necessarily required this for the subsequent disclosure of the guilt of his opponents precisely in respect to this important point of charge.

The Hebrew אֹחֶל מוֹעֵד means tent of meeting (of God with His people), i.e. tent of revelation (not tent of the congregation, see Ewald, Alterth. p. 167), but is in the LXX., which the Greek form of this speech follows, incorrectly rendered by ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτυρίου (the tent in which God bears witness of Himself), as if derived from עֵד, a witness. For the description of this tabernacle, see Exodus 25-27 :

κατὰ τὸν τύπον ὃν ἑωρ.] see Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40. Comp. Hebrews 8:5, and thereon Lünemann and Delitzsch, p. 337 f.Acts 7:44. Here again we notice that the first sanctuary of the fathers was not the temple, nor was it erected on holy ground, but ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ according to God’s direct command.—ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτ.: it is possible that there was in the speaker’s mind a contrast to the σκηνή in Acts 7:43, but the connection is not clearly drawn out, ἀσυνδέτως, “ut in oratione concitatiore” (Blass).—ἡ σ. τοῦ μαρτυρίου, “the tabernacle of the testimony”. The same phrase in LXX is used (incorrectly as Meyer noted) to translate the Hebrew tabernacle of the congregation or tabernacle of meeting, i.e., of God with His people, cf. Exodus 27:21. But the tabernacle was justly called μαρτυρίου, because it contained “the ark of the testimony,” LXX, Exodus 25:9 (Exodus 25:10), κιβωτὸς μαρτυρίου and so frequently in the rest of the book, and Exodus 31:18, τὰς δύο πλάκας τοῦ μαρτυρίου. The tabernacle might properly be so called as a witness of God’s presence, and a testimony to the covenant between God and His people. See also Westcott on Hebrews 8:5, additional note.—διετάξατο, cf. Acts 20:13, Acts 24:23; only in St. Luke and St. Paul in N.T., except once in Matthew 11:1; in Gospel four times, in Acts four or five times, and frequent in LXX. Grimm compares disponere (verordnen).—καθὼς δ. ὁ λαλῶν: “even as he appointed who spake,” R.V.; “per reverentiam appellatio siletur” Blass; cf. Exodus 25:40, Hebrews 8:5.—κατὰ τὸν τύπον, cf. Wis 9:8, where the command is given to Solomon.—μίμημα σκηνῆς ἁγίας ἢν προητοίμασας: “according to the figure,” L.V., i.e., pattern, likeness, cf. Acts 7:43 and Romans 5:14. Again we see how far Stephen was from denying the divine sanction given to Moses for the tabernacle. In the thought thus implied lies the germ of Hooker’s great argument, Eccles. Pol., iii., 11 (Plumptre).44. Our fathers had the tabernacle of Witness [of the testimony] in the wilderness] The name is found first Exodus 38:21. The ark is also called the ark of the testimony, as Exodus 25:22, &c., and the name was no doubt given because all the contents of the ark, which was the most sacred part of the Tabernacle fittings, were testimonies to God’s rule or to His power exerted for His people. Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, and the tables of the Law were all stored up therein. And this ark above which God made His presence seen was in the wilderness and moving from place to place.

as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, &c.] Better, even as he had appointed who spake, &c. For the command see Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30; Exodus 27:8.Acts 7:44. Ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτυρίου, the tabernacle of witness) So the LXX. for the Hebrew אהל מועד, Exodus 27:21, etc.—κατὰ τὸν τύπον, according to the fashion) Hebrews 8:5, note. This ‘type’ was better than those ‘types’ (‘figures’), of which Acts 7:43 speaks.Verse 44. - The testimony for witness, A.V.; even as he appointed who spake for as he had appointed, speaking, A.V.; figure for fashion, A.V. Chrysostom calls attention to the mention of the wilderness, as showing that God's presence and service were not confined to Jerusalem.
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