Acts 7:51
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(51) Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised . . .—The sudden change of tone from calm argument to vehement indignation cannot be thought of as spontaneous. The excitement of the Sanhedrin, perhaps of the listening crowd also, at this point, would seem to have become uncontrollable. The accused seemed to them to be repeating his offence with defiant boldness, and loud clamours took the place of whispered murmurs. Both the adjectives had been applied to the sins of the older Israel; “stiffnecked” in Exodus 33:3; Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; “uncircumcised” in Jeremiah 6:10. The actual phrase “uncircumcised in heart” had been used by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 44:7) of “strangers.” It was now applied to those who boasted of their exclusive privileges as Israelites, and it is scarcely possible for us to estimate the sharp incisiveness with which it, or its Aramaic equivalent, must have fallen on the ears of the Sanhedrin. It was to them all, and more than all, that “heretic” and “infidel” have been in the controversies of Christians. Here again, in St. Paul’s “circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:29), we have another echo from St. Stephen’s speech.

Acts 7:51-53. Ye stiff-necked, &c. — Stephen, finding by a confused murmur in the place that they understood whither his discourse tended, and perceiving by the eagerness of their countenances that they would soon interrupt him, applied himself more closely to his persecutors in these remarkable words, which he boldly addressed to them under the influence of the Holy Spirit, by whose direction he spoke; Ye stiff-necked — Inflexible and obstinate sinners, not bowing your necks to God’s yoke; and uncircumcised in heart and ears — So that you will not hearken to instruction, or be seriously affected with it. This they immediately showed. See Acts 7:54; Acts 7:57. So far were they from receiving the word of God with their hearts, that they would not hear it even with their ears. Ye — And your fathers; ye, as a people, in all ages; resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did — In former ages; so do ye now. This is the sum of what he had shown at large. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? — Some have inferred from this, that many writings, containing the history of these persecutions, have been destroyed by the Jews; but it seems more natural to understand the words in a limited sense, as only intimating that most of the prophets had suffered such unworthy usage. Attempts, however, were sometimes made to cut off all the prophets of the Lord at once. See 1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14; 2 Chronicles 36:16. They have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just or righteous One — That is, Christ; so called by way of eminence, as being alone perfectly righteous: of whom — When you ought to have heard of him with delight, and to have received him with the most humble reverence and joyful gratitude; you have been now the perfidious betrayers, and cruel murderers. Who have received the law — Delivered from Sinai with astonishing circumstances of solemnity, majesty, and terror, by the disposition, or administration of angels, and have not kept, but continually violated it — When the Son of God gave the law on mount Sinai, he was attended with thousands of angels, Galatians 3:19; Psalm 68:17. Dr. Doddridge renders the original expression, εις διαταγας αγγελων, through ranks of angels, “marshalled in solemn array upon that grand occasion:” and he thinks it is evident, from Hebrews 2:2, that God made use of the instrumentality of angels to form the voice heard at that awful time.

7:51-53 Stephen was going on, it seems, to show that the temple and the temple service must come to an end, and it would be the glory of both to give way to the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth; but he perceived they would not bear it. Therefore he broke off, and by the Spirit of wisdom, courage, and power, sharply rebuked his persecutors. When plain arguments and truths provoke the opposers of the gospel, they should be shown their guilt and danger. They, like their fathers, were stubborn and wilful. There is that in our sinful hearts, which always resists the Holy Ghost, a flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and wars against his motions; but in the hearts of God's elect, when the fulness of time comes, this resistance is overcome. The gospel was offered now, not by angels, but from the Holy Ghost; yet they did not embrace it, for they were resolved not to comply with God, either in his law or in his gospel. Their guilt stung them to the heart, and they sought relief in murdering their reprover, instead of sorrow and supplication for mercy.Ye stiff-necked - The discourse of Stephen has every appearance of having been interrupted by the clamors and opposition of the Sanhedrin. This verse has no immediate connection with what precedes, and appears to have been spoken in the midst of opposition and clamor. If we may conjecture in this case, it would seem that the Jews saw the drift of his argument; that they interrupted him; and that when the tumult had somewhat subsided, he addressed them in the language of this verse, showing them that they sustained a character precisely similar to their rebellious fathers. The word "stiff-necked" is often used in the Old Testament, Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3, Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, Deuteronomy 9:13; Deuteronomy 10:16, etc. It is a figurative expression taken from oxen that are refractory, and that will not submit to be yoked. Applied to people, it means that they are stubborn, contumacious, and unwilling to submit to the restraints of Law.

Uncircumcised in heart - Circumcision was a sign of being a Jew - of acknowledging the authority of the laws of Moses. It was also emblematic of purity, and of submission to the Law of God. The expression "uncircumcised in heart" denotes those who were not willing to acknowledge that Law, and submit to it. They had hearts filled with vicious and unsubdued affections and desires.

And ears - That is, who are unwilling to "hear" what God says. Compare Leviticus 26:41; Jeremiah 9:26. See the notes on Romans 2:28-29.

Resist the Holy Ghost - You oppose the message which is brought to you by the authority of God and the inspiration of his Spirit. The message brought by Moses; by the prophets; by the Saviour; and by the apostles - all by the infallible direction of the Holy Spirit - they and their fathers opposed.

As your fathers did ... - As he had specified in Acts 7:27, Acts 7:35, Acts 7:39-43.

51-53. Ye stiffnecked … ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, &c.—It has been thought that symptoms of impatience and irritation in the audience induced Stephen to cut short his historical sketch. But as little farther light could have been thrown upon Israel's obstinacy from subsequent periods of the national history on the testimony of their own Scriptures, we should view this as the summing up, the brief import of the whole Israelitish history—grossness of heart, spiritual deafness, continuous resistance of the Holy Ghost, down to the very council before whom Stephen was pleading. Stiff necked; a metaphor taken from heifers that are unaccustomed to the yoke.

Uncircumcised in heart; such as had still depraved affections, which they ought to have put away rather than the foreskin of their flesh; for they were commanded to circumcise their hearts, Deu 10:16, which also God promised to do for his people, Deu 30:6. And St. Paul was not the first who spake of a twofold circumcision, Romans 2:28,29 but God looked always to the inward and spiritual part of his own ordinances, and men’s observance of them.

And ears; such as were not so much as willing to hear and know their duty.

Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, speaking by his prophets and ministers, and exhorting to true and serious piety: by this St. Stephen would abate their glorying in circumcision, which they so much boasted of,

As your fathers did, so do ye: thus the prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 16:44, unto which may be here alluded, As is the mother, so is her daughter.

Ye stiffnecked,.... Or "hard necked", the same with , which is a character frequently given of this people, Exodus 32:9 and elsewhere, and is expressive of their obstinacy, stubbornness and refractoriness; who would not submit their necks to the yoke of God's law, and be obedient to his commands:

and uncircumcised in heart and ears; for though they had the mark of circumcision in their flesh, of which they boasted; yet they had not the true circumcision of the heart; their hearts were not circumcised to fear and love the Lord, nor their ears to hear the word of the Lord and the Gospel of Christ; so that notwithstanding their confidence in carnal privileges, they were uncircumcised persons:

ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; the resistance made by these persons was not to the Spirit of God in them, of which they were destitute, but to the Spirit of God in his ministers, in his apostles, and particularly in Stephen; nor to any internal operation of his grace, but to the external ministry of the word, and to all that objective light, knowledge, evidence, and conviction that it gave of Jesus's being the Messiah: and such who resist Christ's ministers, resist him, and such who resist him, may be said to resist his Holy Spirit; and the word here used signifies a rushing against, and falling upon, in a rude and hostile way, and fitly expresses their ill treatment of Christ and his ministers, by falling upon them and putting them to death: which is the resistance here designed, as appears by the following verse: so that this passage is no proof of the resistance of the Holy Spirit, and the operations of his grace in conversion, when he is in men, and acts with a purpose and will to convert them; since it does not appear that he was in these persons, and was acting in them, with a design to convert them; and if he was, it wilt be difficult to prove that they so resisted, and continued to resist, as that they were not hereafter converted; since it is certain that one of them, Saul, was really and truly converted, and how many more we know not. Though it will be allowed, that the Holy Ghost in the operations of his grace upon the heart in conversion may be resisted, that is, opposed; but not so as to be overcome or be hindered in, or be obliged to cease from, the work of conversion, insomuch that may come to nothing:

as your fathers did, so do ye; or as "your fathers were, so are ye"; as they were stiffnecked, self-willed, obstinate, and inflexible, so are ye; as they were uncircumcised in heart and ears, so are ye; and as they resisted the Spirit of God in his prophets, so do ye resist him in the apostles and ministers of the Gospel.

{7} Ye stiffnecked and {x} uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

(7) Steven, moved with the zeal of God, at length judges his own judges.

(x) They are of uncircumcised hearts who still lie drowned in the sins of nature, and are stuck fast in them: for otherwise all the Jews were circumcised with regard to the flesh, and therefore there are two kinds of circumcision; Ro 2:28-29.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 7:51. The long—restrained direct offensive now breaks out, as is quite in keeping with the position of matters brought to this point.[211] This against Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Olshausen, and others, who quite arbitrarily suppose that after Acts 7:50 an interruption took place, either by the shouts of the hearers, or at least by their threatening gestures; as well as against Schwanbeck, p. 252, who sees here “an omission of the reporter.” Stephen has in Acts 7:50 ended his calm and detailed historical narrative. And now it is time that the accused should become the bold accuser, and at length throw in the face of his judges the result, the thoughts forming which were already clearly enough to be inferred from the previous historical course of the speech. Therefore he breaks off his calm, measured discourse, and falls upon his judges with deep moral indignation, like a reproving prophet: Ye stiff-necked! etc.

ἀπεριτμ. τῇ καρδ. κ. τ. ὠσίν] an upbraiding of them with their unconverted carnal character, in severe contrast to the Jewish pride of circumcision. The meaning without figure is: Men whose management of their inner life, and whose spiritual perception, are heathenishly rude, without moral refinement, not open for the influence of the divine Spirit. Comp. Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 6:10; Jeremiah 9:25; Romans 2:25; Romans 2:29; Barnabas, Ep. 9; Philo, de migrat. Abr. I. p. 450; and from the Rabbins, Schoettgen in loc.

ὑμεῖς] with weighty emphasis.

ἈΕΊ] always; even yet at this day!

ὡς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν καὶ ὑμεῖς] sc. ἀεὶ τῷ πν. ἁγ. ἀντιπ.; for the fathers are thought of in their resistance to God and to the vehicles of His Spirit, and therefore not the bare ἘΣΤΈ is to be supplied (with Beza and Bornemann in the Sächs. Stud. 1842, p. 72).

The term ἀντιπίπτειν, not occurring elsewhere in the N. T., is here chosen as a strong designation. Comp. Polyb. iii. 19. 5 : ἀντέπεσαν ταῖς σπείραις καταπληκτικῶς. Numbers 27:14; Herodian. 6:3. 13. Bengel well puts it: “in adversum ruitis.”

[211] Comp. Baur, I. p. 58, ed. 2; Ewald, p. 213.

Acts 7:51. σκληροτράχηλοι καὶ ἀπερίτμητοι τῇ καρδίᾳ, cf. Exodus 33:3; Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9, Deuteronomy 9:6, Bar 2:30, etc., Sir 16:11 (cf. Cicero, Verr., iii., 95, “tantis cervicibus est”). Both adjectives had been used to describe the sins of Israel in former days. On this reading see above and Wendt, critical note, p. 190, cf. Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, p. 116. For the expression ἀπερ., cf. Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4, and ἀπερ. τὰ ὦτα, Jeremiah 6:10. In the N.T. cf. Romans 2:25; Romans 2:29 (which sounds like another echo of St. Stephen’s teaching), cf. also Epist. Baru., ix. (Jeremiah 4:4). Similar expressions occur in Philo and the Rabbis, and also 1Ma 1:48; 1Ma 2:46, and see further Deissmann, Bibelstudien, pp. 150, 151. Many writers have maintained that St. Stephen’s sharp and abrupt declaration marks the increasing impatience of his hearers at this point, as if the speaker felt that the murmurs of his audience would not allow him much more speech. But on the other hand St. Stephen’s whole speech led up to this point, and his words were not so much an interruption, but a continuance and a summary of what had gone before. No doubt the speech was left unfinished: “cujus cursus ad Iesum tendebat” (Blass); since in His rejection the obstinacy of the people which had marked and marred their history had reached its climax; and the indignant words of St. Stephen bring to mind the indignation of a greater than he against the hyprocrisy and wilfulness of the nation—“the wrath of the Lamb” against the Pharisees and the oppressors (Briggs, Messiah of the Apostles, p. 68).—ἀεὶ: “summa tractationis—semper quotiescumque vocamini” Bengel.—ἀντιπίπτετε, cf. Numbers 27:14, of Israel striving against God, and also in Polyb. and Plut.

51. Ye stiffnecked] A charge often brought against the Jews in the Old Testament, cp. Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3, &c., so that it is a very suitable expression when Stephen is declaring that the people of his time were “as their fathers.”

and uncircumcised in heart and ears] As the rite of circumcision was the sign of submission to the Jewish religion in its fullest requirements, so the word uncircumcised became a synonym for obstinate resistance to what God had revealed, and the phrase in the text consequently signifies “ye who shut your heart and ears against the truth.” For this metaphorical application cp. Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 6:10.

It seems very likely that at this part of his discourse Stephen saw that the language he had been using was distasteful to his audience, and therefore he applied to them words which implied how far they were from being God’s people though they called themselves Israelites. They were in his eyes as those whom they called “sinners of the Gentiles.” (Galatians 2:15.)

ye do always resist the Holy Ghost] From the days of Moses, whom their fathers would not obey, down to the days of Jesus, whom they had crucified.

Acts 7:51. Σκληροτράχηλοι, stiff-necked) The heart and tongue are required in confession: the heart, ears, and neck,[55] are required in receiving the truth. Stephen weightily censures the Jews: and yet not too soon; for they had been before affectionately (courteously) invited by the apostles.—ἀπερίτμητοι, uncircumcised) A just reproof: comp. Acts 7:8.—τῇ καρδίᾳ, in heart) Such they show themselves in Acts 7:54.—τοῖς ὠσὶν, the ears) Such they show themselves in Acts 7:57, “They stopped their ears.”—ὑμεῖς, ye) not we, the witnesses of Jesus. He includes the ancient Jews; comp. the end of the ver.—ἀεὶ, always) The sum of his discussion: always, as often soever as ye are called.—τῷ Πνεύματι τῷ Ἁγίῳ, the Holy Spirit) who testifies concerning Jesus, and concerning the whole truth, by the prophets.—ἀντιπίπτετε, set yourselves against) They were altogether differently minded from what is demanded in the second ver. of the same chapter of Isa. (66)—ὡς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν, καὶ ὑμεῖς, as your fathers, so ye) Both are explained (illustrated) in Acts 7:52.

[55] Eagerly stretched out to hear: comp. καραδοκία.—E. and T.

Verse 51. - Stiff-necked; hard of neck, inflexible. The word σκληροτράχηλος only occurs here in the New Testament. But it answers in the LXX. to the Hebrew קְשֵׁה־עֹרֶף (hard of neck); see Exodus 33:3, 5, and elsewhere. In applying this expression to his hearers, Stephen was using the identical language of Moses when he conveyed God's rebuke to them. Considering that they professed to be standing on Moses' side against Stephen, this must have made his words doubly cutting to them. Uncircumcised in heart; ἀπερίτμητος only occurs here in the New Testament, but it is found in 2 Macc. 1:51 2Macc. 2:46; and in the LXX. of Exodus 12:48; Judges 14:3; 1 Samuel 17:26, and elsewhere for the Hebrew עֹרֵל. The word, in its application to his Jewish audience, contains a whole volume of rebuke. They prided themselves on their circumcision, they trusted in it as a sure ground of favor in the sight of God; but all the while they were on a level with the heathen whom they despised, and were to be reckoned among the uncircumcised whom they loathed. For they were without the true circumcision, that of the heart. Here again Stephen was teaching in the exact spirit and even words of Moses and the prophets. See Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16 (where Stephen's two reproaches occur together); Jeremiah 9:26; Ezekiel 44:7; and many other passages. Compare the teaching of St. Paul (Romans 2:28, 29; Philippians 3:2, 3; Colossians 2:11; and elsewhere). Acts 7:51Stiff-necked and uncircumcised (σκληροτράχηλοι καὶ ἀπερίτμητοι)

Both only here in New Testament.

Resist (ἀντιπίπτετε)

It is a very strong expression, implying active resistance. Lit., to fall against or upon. Used of falling upon an enemy. Only here in New Testament.

Ye have been (γεγένησθε)

More correctly, as Rev., ye have become.

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