Acts 7:53
Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(53) Who have received . . .—More accurately, who received.

By the disposition of angels.—Better, as ordained of angels; or, more literally, as ordinances of angels. The Greek preposition cannot possibly have the meaning of “by.” The phrase expressed the current Jewish belief that angels were the intermediate agents through whom Israel received the Law; that it was their voice that was heard on Sinai. Here also St. Paul, in speaking of the Law as “ordained by angels” (Galatians 3:19), reproduced St. Stephen. Comp. also Hebrews 2:2 and Jos. Ant. xv. 4, § 3, for like statements. The idea rested mainly on the LXX. version of Deuteronomy 33:2, “on His right hand were angels with Him” and “the thousands of angels” as connected with Sinai in Psalm 68:17.

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.Who have received the law - The Law of Moses, given on Mount Sinai.

By the disposition of angels - There has been much diversity of opinion in regard to this phrase, εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων eis diatagas angelōn. The word translated "disposition" does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly means the "constituting" or "arranging" of an army; disposing it into ranks and proper divisions. Hence, it has been supposed to mean that the Law was given "amidst" the various ranks of angels, being present to witness its promulgation. Others suppose that the angels were employed as agents or instruments to communicate the Law. All that the expression fairly implies is the former; that the Law was given amidst the attending ranks of angels, as if they were summoned to witness the pomp and ceremony of giving "law" to an entire people, and through them to an entire world. It should be added, moreover, that the Jews applied the word "angels" to any messengers of God; to fire, and tempest, and wind, etc. And all that Stephen means here may be to express the common Jewish opinion that God was attended on this occasion by the heavenly hosts, and by the symbols of his presence, fire, and smoke, and tempest. Compare Psalm 104:4; Psalm 68:17. Other places declare that the Law was spoken by an angel, one eminent above all attending angels, the special messenger of God. See the notes on Acts 7:38. It is plain that Stephen spoke only the common sentiment of the Jews. Thus, Herod is introduced by Josephus (Antiq., book 15, chapter 5, section 3) as saying, "We have learned in God the most excellent of our doctrines, and the most holy part of our Law by angels," etc. In the eyes of the Jews, it justly gave increased majesty and solemnity to the Law, that it had been given in so grand and imposing circumstances. It greatly aggravated their guilt that, notwithstanding this, they had not kept it.

53. Who have received the law by the disposition—"at the appointment" or "ordination," that is, by the ministry.

of angels, and have not kept it—This closing word is designed to shut up those idolizers of the law under the guilt of high disobedience to it, aggravated by the august manner in which they had received it.

The disposition of angels: or ministry of angels; the commandments were published from them ministerially; or the Son of God, (called an Angel, Acts 7:35), accompanied with the militia of heaven, (for it is a military metaphor), did in the midst of that glorious retinue give the law, Deu 33:2 Psalm 68:8 Galatians 3:13,19.

And have not kept it; they transgressed the law, though so gloriously delivered by angels; and therefore it was no wonder if they despised the gospel, that was published by so mean and contemptible ministers. Who have received the law, by the disposition of angels,.... Who attended the angel that spake to Moses on Mount Sinai, Acts 7:38 who is the head of all principality and power, and whom he might make use of in giving the law to Moses: hence the law is said to be ordained by angels, in the hand of a Mediator, and is called the word spoken by angels, Galatians 3:19 and certain it is, that there were great numbers of angels on Mount Sinai, when the law was given, Deuteronomy 33:2 And so the Jews say (m), that

"when the holy blessed God descended on Mount Sinai, there came down with him many companies of angels, Michael and his company, and Gabriel and his company''

Indeed they often say (n),

"the law was not given to the ministering angels:''

their meaning is, it was not given to them to observe and keep, because there are some things in it, which do not concern angels; but then it might be given to them to deliver to Moses, who gave it to the Israelites, and so may be said to receive it by the ministration of angels, through the hands of Moses. And now the law being given and received in so grand a manner, was an aggravation of the sin of the Jews in violating it, as it follows:

and have not kept it; but broke it in innumerable instances, and scarce kept it in any; for no man can keep it perfectly.

(m) Debarim Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 237. 3.((n) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 25. 2. Yoma. fol. 30. 1. Kiddushin, fol. 54. 1.

Who have received the law by the {y} disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

(y) By the ministry of angels.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 7:53. Οἵτινες] quippe qui. Stephen desires, namely, now to give the character, through which the foregoing οὗ νῦν ὑμεῖς προδόται κ.τ.λ., as founded on their actually manifested conduct, receives its explanation.

ἐλάβετε] ye have received, placed first with emphasis.

εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων] upon arrangements of angels, i.e. so that the arrangements made by angels (the direct servants of God), which accompanied the promulgation of the law,[212] made you perceive the obligation to recognise and observe the received law (comp. the contrast, κ. οὐκ ἐφυλάξ.) as the ethical aspect of your ἐλάβετε. Briefly, therefore: Ye received the law with reference to arrangements of angels, which could not leave you doubtful that you ought to submit obediently to the divine institution.

εἰς denotes, as often in Greek writers and in the N. T. (Winer, p. 371 [E. T. 496]), the direction of the mind, in view of. Comp. here especially, Matthew 12:41; Romans 4:20.

διαταγή is arrangement, regulation, as in Romans 13:2, with Greek writers διάταξις. Comp. also Ezra 4:11; and see Suicer, Thes. I. p. 886. On the subject-matter, comp. Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2; Delitzsch on Heb. p. 49. At variance with linguistic usage, Beza, Calvin, Piscator, Elsner, Hammond, Wolf, Krause, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, and others, taking διαταγή in the above signification, render: accepistis legem ab angelis promulgatam, as if εἰς stood for ἐν. Others (Grotius, Calovius, Er. Schmid, Valckenaer, and others) explain διαταγή as agmen dispositum, because διατάσσειν is often (also in the classics) used of the drawing up of armies (2Ma 12:20), and διάταξις of the divisions of an army (Jdt 1:4; Jdt 8:36), and translate praesentibus angelorum ordinibus, so that εἰς is likewise taken for ἐν. But against this view (with which, moreover, εἰς would have to be taken as respectu) there is the decisive fact, that there is no evidence of the use of διαταγή in the sense assumed; and therefore the supposition that διαταγή = διάταξις in this signification is arbitrary, as well as at variance with the manifest similarity of the thought with Galatians 3:19. Bengel (comp. Hackett, F. Nitzsch, also Winer doubtfully, and Buttmann) renders: Ye received the law for commands of angels, i.e. as commands of angels, so that εἰς is to be understood as in Acts 7:21; comp. Hebrews 11:8. But the Israelites did not receive the law as the commands of angels, but as the commands of God, in which character it was made known to them διʼ ἀγγέλων. Comp. Joseph. Antt. xv. 5. 3 : ἡμῶν τὰ κάλλιστα τῶν δογμάτων καὶ τὰ ὁσιώτατα τῶν ἐν τοῖς νόμοις διʼ ἀγγέλων παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ μαθόντων; and see Krebs in loc.

Moreover, the mediating action of the angels not admitting of more precise definition, which is here adverted to, is not contained in Exodus 19, but rests on tradition, which is imported already by the LXX. into Deuteronomy 33:2. Comp. on Galatians 3:19. For Rabbinical passages (Jalkut Rubeni f. 107, 3, al.), see Schoettgen and Wetstein, ad Galatians 3:19. It was a mistaken attempt at harmonizing, when earlier expositors sought to understand by the angels either Moses and the prophets (Heinrichs, Lightfoot) or the seniores populi (Surenhusius, καταλλ. p. 419); indeed, Chrysostom even discovers here again the angel in the bush.

[212] Angels were the arrangers of the act of divine majesty, as arrangers of a festival (διατάσσοντες), dispositores.Acts 7:53. οἴτινες, quippe qui (“ye who,” R.V.), as often in Acts and Epistles not simply for identification, but when as here the conduct of the persons already mentioned is further enlarged upon (Alford), cf. Acts 8:15, Acts 9:35, Acts 10:41; Acts 10:47, and Winer-Schmiedel, p. 235, but see also Blass, Grammatik, p. 169.—εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων: “as it was ordained by angels,” R.V. εἰς: at the appointment of, cf. its use in Matthew 12:41, or better εἰς as in Acts 7:21 = received the law as ordinances of angels (νόμον being regarded as an aggregate of single acts and so with plural “ordinances”), so Rendall, who takes εἰς = ὡς, and Page, cf. Hebrews 11:8, i.e., it was no human ordinance. But see on the other hand Wendt’s note, p. 192, where he points out that the law was not received as commands given by angels but by God. This was undoubtedly the case, but St. Stephen was here probably referring to the current tradition in Philo and Josephus, and LXX, Deuteronomy 33:2. ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι μετʼ αὐτοῦ, cf. Ps. 67:17; Philo, De Somn., p. 642 Mang., so Jos., Ant., xv., 5, 3, and also Book of Jubilees, chap. i. (see Wetstein and Lightfoot (J. B.) on Galatians 3:19). Others again take εἰς = ἐν, “accepistis legem ab angelis promulgatam” = διατασσόντων ἀγγέλων, so Blass. Certainly it does not seem possible to take διαταγή = διάταξις = agmen dispositium (cf. Jdt 1:4; Jdt 8:36), and to render “præsentibus angelorum ordinibus,” so that here also εἰς = ἐν (Meyer and others). Lightfoot (J.) takes the “angels” as = Moses and the Prophets; Surenhusius as = the elders of the people, whilst St. Chrysostom sees a reference to the angel of the burning bush. It must not be thought that St. Stephen is here depreciating the Law. From a Christian standpoint it might of course be urged that as Christ was superior to the angels, so the introduction of angels showed the inferiority of the Law to the Gospel (cf. Hebrews 2:2, Galatians 3:19), but St. Stephen’s point is that although the Law had been given with such notable sanctions, yet his hearers had not kept it, and that therefore they, not he, were the real law-breakers.—οὐκ ἐφύλαξατε: “cum omnibus phylacteriis vestris,” Bengel. Note the rhetorical power of the words cf. Acts 7:25 (Page).53. who have received] Better, ye who received the Law from Sinai.

by the disposition of angels] Better, at the ministration of angels. St Paul (Galatians 3:19) has the same expression concerning the Law, that it was “ministered by angels.” The LXX. have in Deuteronomy 33:2, speaking of the giving of the Law, “On his right hand were angels,” and Josephus (Antiq. xv. 5. 3) represents the same tradition, “We have learned from God the most excellent of our doctrines and the most holy part of our Law by angels.” So Pesikta Rabbathi, par. 21, “There came down with the Holy One to Sinai twenty-two thousand ministering angels like the camp of the Levites.”

and have not kept it] Read, and kept it not. Stephen here points back along the whole history of the Jews, and shews how the Law, which was intended to lead men to Christ, had not been guarded in its best sense, the spirit having been sacrificed to the letter, and so the result had been that they rejected and slew Him of whom the whole Law was speaking. The Law, given by angels, was the glory of Israel, the perverse use of it had turned to their shame and destruction.Acts 7:53. Οἵτινες, who) He proves, from the deed which they had perpetrated upon the Christ, that they had not kept the law. Comp. John 7:19.—ἐλάβετε, have received) with subjection, in the first instance.—εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, into, as to [by] the dispositions of angels) [as being the ordinances established by angels]. This indicates the majesty of the law: Galatians 4:14, “Ye received me as an angel of God.” The angels on Sinai appeared under the appearance of a flame. Comp. Galatians 3:19 (διαταγεὶς δἰ ἀγγέλων), Hebrews 2:2. Εἰς, at, in respect to, or by reason of, as in Romans 4:20 (εἰς τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν: he staggered not at it in unbelief, as being the promise of God). The Jews received the law as that which was to be regarded in the light that angelical ordinances would deserve to be regarded; namely, with the highest reverence. God has the angels for His ministers. Hence, what is angelic, is certainly also divine.—οὐκ ἐφυλάξατε, have not kept it) with all your phylacteries [alluding to the verb ἐφύλαξατε]. He who believes on Christ, establishes the law: he who sets aside Christ, sets aside the law. Reason would think that these last words of Stephen ought to have been suppressed by him, because he had by this time completed his defence. But in the state of one making confession of the truth, all things ought to be said, which the glory of GOD and the salvation of the hearers demand.Verse 53. - Ye who received for who have received, A.V. ; as it was ordained by angels for by the disposition of angels, A.V.; kept it not for hove not kept it, A.V. Ordained by angels. This phrase, thus differently rendered (εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων), is one of extreme difficulty: διαταγή means properly appointment," or "ordinance," as in Romans 13:2; and εἰς, which has a great variety of uses in the Greek of the New Testament, means "at," or "upon," or "on the occasion of," as Matthew 12:41, "At the preaching of Jonah." So here they received the Law "at" or "on the occasion of," the "ordering" or "appointing" of angels. When the angels, who were commissioned by God and spoke in his Name, gave the Law, the Israelites so received it. The A.V., "by the disposition of angels" very nearly ex- presses the true sense. Another sense of εἰς - "in view of" - comes to nearly the same thing. St. Paul speaks of the part taken by the angels in the giving of the Law, and in language strikingly resembling the text. He says of it, that it was "ordained through ['by,' A V] angels" God ordained or appointed the Law, but the angels were the instruments or ministers of its promulgation. And it is also distinctly referred to in Deuteronomy 33:2, where the LXX. read, "On his right hand the angels were with him." In the foregoing verses the application which Stephen had all through been contemplating is hurled with accumulated force at the consciences of his hearers, and cuts them to the heart, but does not bring them to repentance. Who (οἵτινες)

Stronger than the simple relative who, and emphasizing their sin by contrast with their privileges: inasmuch as ye were those who received, etc.

By the disposition of angels (εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων)

Lit., unto ordinances of angels. Εἰς means with reference to. Disposition (διαταγή) is used by A. V. in the sense of arrangement, as we say a general disposed his trooPsalms The word occurs only here and Romans 13:2, where it is rendered ordinance. The kindred verb διατάσσω occurs often, and mostly in the sense of command or appoint. See Matthew 11:1; Luke 3:13. In 1 Corinthians 11:34, it is translated set in order. The reference is most probably to the Jewish tradition that the law was given through the agency of angels. See Deuteronomy 33:2. Compare Psalm 68:17. Paul expressly says that the law was administered by the medium of angels (Galatians 3:19). Compare the word spoken by angels (Hebrews 2:2). Render, therefore, as Rev., as it was ordained by angels.

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