Acts 7:6
And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.
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(6) And that they should bring them into bondage . . .—Here again there is another apparent discrepancy of detail. Taking the common computation, the interval between the covenant with Abraham and that with Moses was 430 years (Galatians 3:17), of which only 215 are reckoned as spent in Egypt. The Israelites were indeed sojourners in a strange land for the whole 430 years, but the history shows that they were not in bondage nor evil entreated till the Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph. The chronological difficulty, however, lies in reconciling St. Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:17 with the language of Genesis 15:13, which gives 400 years as the sojourning in Egypt, and Exodus 12:40, which gives 430, and with which St. Stephen is in substantial agreement. St. Paul appears to have followed the LXX. reading of Exodus 12:40, which inserts “in the land of Cannan,” and in some MSS. “they and their fathers,” and with this the Samaritan Pentateuch agrees. Josephus varies, in some passages (Ant. ii. 15, § 2), giving 215 years; in others (Ant. ii. 9, § 1; Wars, v. 9, § 4), 400. All that can be said is, as before, that chronological accuracy did not affect the argument in either case. It was enough for St. Stephen, as for St. Paul, to accept this or that system of dates, as they had been taught, without inquiring into the grounds on which it rested. Such inquiries were foreign to the Jewish character generally, and above all to that character when possessed by the sense of new and divine realities. Round numbers were enough for them to mark the successive stages of God’s dealings with His people.

Acts 7:6-8. And God spake, that his seed should sojourn in a strange land — When God had brought Abraham into this country, he did not keep him and his posterity here till the time when they were to enter upon the possession of it, in consequence of this divine grant; but, on the contrary, God informed him in a vision that his seed should be strangers in a foreign land, and that they among whom they sojourned should bring them into bondage — Should make them slaves; and entreat them evil — Use them with great cruelty; and that these events, with the circumstances preparatory to them, should extend themselves to the full period of four hundred years. See note on Genesis 15:13. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage — By which they shall be enslaved; will I judge, said God — I will assuredly punish with righteous and tremendous severity; and after that shall they come forth — Namely, out of that land; and serve me in this place — In this land, erecting a temple for the performance of my worship here. He gave him the covenant of circumcision — See notes on Genesis 17:10-14. And so Abraham begat Isaac — After the covenant was given, of which circumcision was the seal.

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.And God spake on this wise - In this manner, Genesis 15:13-14.

His seed - His posterity; his descendants.

Should sojourn - This means that they would have a "temporary residence there." The word is used in opposition to a fixed, permanent home, and is applied to travelers, or foreigners.

In a strange land - In the Hebrew Gen 15:13, "Shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs." The land of Canaan and the land of Egypt were strange lands to them, though the obvious reference here is to the latter.

Should bring them into bondage - Or, would make them slaves, Exodus 1:11.

And entreat them evil - Would oppress or afflict them.

Four hundred years - This is the precise time which is mentioned by Moses, Genesis 15:13. Great perplexity has been experienced in explaining this passage, or reconciling it with other statements. In Exodus 12:40, it is said that their sojourning in Egypt was 430 years. Josephus (Antiq., book 2, chapter 9, section 1) also says that the time in which they were in Egypt was 400 years; though in another place (Antiq., book 2, chapter 15, section 2) he says that they left Egypt f 430 years after their forefather, Abraham, came to Canaan, but 215 years after Jacob removed to Egypt. Paul also Galatians 3:17 says that it was 430 years from the time when the promise was given to Abraham to the time when the Law was given on Mount Sinai. The Samaritan Pentateuch also says Exodus 12:40 that the "dwelling of the sons of Israel, and of their fathers, which they dwelt "in the land of Canaan," and in the land of Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years."

The same is the version of the Septuagint. "A part" of this perplexity is removed by the fact that Stephen and Moses use, in accordance with a very common custom, "round numbers" in speaking of it, and thus speak of 400 years when the literal time was 430. The other perplexities are not so easily removed. From the account which Moses has given of the lives of certain persons, it would seem clear that the time which they spent in "Egypt" was not 400 years. From Genesis 46:8, Genesis 46:11, it appears that "Kohath" was born when Jacob went into Egypt. He lived 133 years, Exodus 6:18. Amram, his son, and the father of Moses lived 137 years, Exodus 6:20. Moses was 80 years old when he was sent to Pharaoh, Exodus 7:7. The whole time thus mentioned, including the time in which the father lived after his son was born, was only 350 years. Exclusive of that, it is reasonable to suppose that the actual time of their being in Egypt could not have been but about 200 years, according to one account of Josephus. The question then is, how can these accounts be reconciled? The only satisfactory way is by supposing that the 430 years includes the whole time from the calling of Abraham to the departure from Egypt. And that this was the fact is probable from the following circumstances:

(1) The purpose of all the narratives on this subject is to trace the period before they became finally settled in the land of Canaan. During all this period from the calling of Abraham, they were in a wandering, unfixed situation. This constituted substantially one period, including all their oppressions, hardships, and dangers; and it was natural to have reference to this "entire" period in any account which was given.

(2) all this period was properly the period of "promise," not of "possession." In this respect the wanderings of Abraham and the oppressions of Egypt came under the same general description.

(3) Abraham was himself occasionally in Egypt. He was unsettled; and since Egypt was so pre-eminent in all their troubles, it was natural to speak of all their oppressions as having occurred in that country. The phrase "residence in Egypt," or "in a strange land," would come to be synonymous, and would denote all their oppressions and trials. They would speak of their sufferings as having been endured in Egypt, because their afflictions there were so much more prominent than before.

(4) all this receives countenance from the version of the Septuagint, and from the Samaritan text, showing the manner in which the ancient Jews were accustomed to understand it.

(5) it should be added, that difficulties of chronology are more likely to occur than any others; and it should not be deemed strange if there are perplexities of this kind found in ancient writings which we cannot explain. It is so in all ancient records; and all that is usually expected in relation to such difficulties is that we should be able to present a "probable" explanation.

6-8. four hundred years—using round numbers, as in Ge 15:13, 16 (see on [1959]Ga 3:17). Should sojourn in a strange land, as men which dwell in houses that are not their own; which seem to contradict the promise mentioned in the foregoing verse; but it is only to make Abraham the more believe against hope in hope, as it is said, Romans 4:18: though there were never so many difficulties more, for what God hath promised faith would overcome them all. This very space of

four hundred years is also mentioned, Genesis 15:13; which is thus computed: from the birth of Isaac (the promised seed) to the birth of Jacob, sixty years; from Jacob’s birth to his going into Egypt, one hundred and thirty years; from thence to their deliverance out of Egypt, two hundred and ten years; this period is accounted, Exodus 12:40,41, to be four hundred and thirty years; which also St. Paul reckons by, Galatians 3:17; but then thirty years is added unto the account, being the space of time between the first promise made unto Abraham of this seed, and the birth of Isaac, in whom the promise was to be fulfilled; St. Stephen here reckoning only from the birth of Isaac.

And God spake on this wise,.... The Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions read, "and God spake to him", and so does one of Beza's copies; and the Ethiopic version reads it both ways, God "said thus to Abraham", as in Genesis 15:13.

That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; or "be a stranger in a land not theirs"; first in the land of Canaan, and then in Egypt, which were possessed by other persons, the natives of them:

and that they should bring them into bondage; that is, the inhabitants of the lands, and particularly Egypt, should bring the seed of Abraham into bondage, as they did; and very hard bondage it was, at least some part of it:

and entreat them evil four hundred years; which must be reckoned not from the time of their going down into Egypt, which to their coming up out of it were but two hundred and ten years, but from the birth of Isaac: which was as soon as Abraham had the promised seed, and may be reckoned after this manner; from the birth of Isaac to the birth of Jacob, sixty years, Genesis 25:26 and from thence to the coming of Jacob into Egypt, one hundred and thirty years, Genesis 47:9 and from thence to the coming of the children of Israel out of Egypt, two hundrd and ten years; which in all make up four hundred years; for the sojourning and evil entreating of Abraham's seed are not to be confined to the land of Egypt, but belong to other lands, where they were within this time, though that land is more especially intended; and so the Septuagint version renders the text in Exodus 12:40. "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, which they (and some copies add, and their fathers) sojourned in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, were four hundred and thirty years": and this text is differently read in the Talmuds, in one of them thus (f); "and the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt", , "and in all the lands, were four hundred and thirty years"; and in the other of them thus (g), "and the sojourning of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt", , "and in the rest of the lands, were four hundred years"; upon which latter the gloss has these words;

"from the time that the decree of the captivity was made between them to the birth of Isaac, were thirty years; and from the birth of Isaac, until the Israelites went out of Egypt, were four hundred years; take out of them the sixty of Isaac, and the one hundred and thirty that Jacob had lived when he went down into Egypt, and there remain two hundred and ten; and so is the decree, that "thy seed shall be a stranger in a land not theirs", Genesis 15:13 and it is not said in Egypt, but in a land not theirs; and when Isaac was born, Abraham was a sojourner in the land of the Philistines; and from thence, till they went out of Egypt, it will be found that Isaac and his seed who were the seed of Abraham, were strangers: and the thirty years before that are not numbered in the decree;''

See Gill on Galatians 3:17.

(f) T. Hieros, Megilla, fol. 71. 4. (g) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 9. 1. Vid. Aben Ezra, in Exodus 12.40.

And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil {e} four hundred years.

(e) Four hundred years are counted from the beginning of Abraham's progeny, which was at the birth of Isaac: and four hundred and thirty years which are spoken of by Paul in Ga 3:17, from the time that Abraham and his father departed together out of Ur of the Chaldeans.

Acts 7:6-7. By the continuative δέ there is now brought in the express declaration of God, which was given on occasion of this promise to Abraham concerning the future providential guidance destined for his posterity. But God (at that time) spoke thus: “that his seed will dwell as strangers in a foreign land,” etc. The ὅτι does not depend on ἐλάλ., nor is it the recitative, but (see the LXX.) it is a constituent part of the very saying adduced.[199] This is Genesis 15:13, but with the second person (thy seed) converted into the third, and also otherwise deviating from the LXX.; in fact, καὶ λατρ. μοι ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ is entirely wanting in the LXX. and Hebrew, and is an expansion suggested by Exodus 3:12.

ἔσται πάροικον] גֵּר יִהְיֶה. Comp. on Luke 24:18; Ephesians 2:19.

δουλώσουσιν αὐτό] namely, the ἀλλότριοι.

τετρακόσια] Here, as in an oracle, the duration is given, as also at Gen. l.c., in round numbers; but in Exodus 12:40 this period of Egyptian sojourning and bondage (ἜΤΗ ΤΕΤΡΑΚ. belongs to the whole ἜΣΤΑΙΚΑΚΏΣΟΥΣΙΝ) is historically specified exactly as 430 years. In Galatians 3:17 (see in loc.), Paul has inappropriately referred the chronological statement of Exodus 12:40 to the space of time from the promise made to Abraham down to the giving of the law.

Acts 7:7. As in the LXX. and in the original Heb. the whole passage Acts 7:6-7 is expressed in direct address (ΤῸ ΣΠΈΡΜΑ ΣΟΥ), while Stephen in Acts 7:6 has adduced it in the indirect form; so he now, passing over to the direct expression, inserts the εἶπεν ὁ Θεός, which is not in the LXX. nor in the Heb.

And (after this 400 years’ bondage) the peopleI shall judge; ΚΡΊΝΕΙΝ of judicial retribution, which, as frequently in the N. T., is seen from the context to be punitive.

ἘΓΏ] has the weight of the authority of divine absoluteness. Comp. Romans 12:19.

ἘΝ Τῷ ΤΌΠῼ ΤΟΎΤῼ] namely, where I now speak with thee (in Canaan). There is no reference to Horeb (Exodus 3:12 : ἘΝ Τῷ ὌΡΕΙ ΤΟΎΤῼ), as we have here only a freely altered echo of the promise made to Moses, which suggested itself to Stephen, in order to denote more definitely the promise made to Abraham. Arbitrary suggestions are made by Bengel and Baumgarten, who find an indication of the long distance of time and the intervening complications. Stephen, however, here makes no erroneous reference (de Wette), but only a free application, such as easily presented itself in an extempore speech.

[199] LXX.: γινώσκων γνώσῃ ὅτι πάροικον κ.τ.λ.

Acts 7:6. δέ: not in contrast to the fact just mentioned that Abraham had no child, but introducing a fuller account of God’s promise. The quotation is from LXX, Genesis 15:13, with a few alterations; in LXX and Heb., the second person, not the third, is used; instead of οὐκ ἰδίᾳ in LXX, ἀλλοτρίᾳ, cf. Hebrews 11:9; and instead of αὐτούς, αὐτό corresponding to σπέρμα. Wendt takes ὅτι as “recitantis,” and not with Meyer as a constituent part of the quotation itself, LXX: Γιγνώσκων γνώσῃ ὅτι κ.τ.λ.—πάροικον in LXX as a stranger or so journer in a country not one’s own, several times in combination with ἐν γῇ ἀλλοτρίᾳ, cf. Genesis 21:23; Genesis 21:34; Genesis 26:3, and in N.T. cf. this passage and Acts 7:29. In Ephesians 2:19, 1 Peter 2:11, the word is also used, but metaphorically, although the usage may be said to be based on that of the LXX; cf. Epist. ad Diognet. v., 5, and Polycarp, Phil., inscript. See Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, p. 102.—ἔτη τετρακόσια: so too Genesis 15:13. The period named belongs not only to κακώσουσιν but also to ἔσται, as Meyer rightly observes. But in Exodus 12:40 four hundred and thirty years are mentioned as the sojourning which Israel sojourned in Egypt, and in both passages the whole space of time is so occupied; or, at all events it may be fairly said that this is implied in the Hebrew text in both Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40 : cf. also for the same mode of reckoning Philo, Quis rer. div. her., 54, p. 511, Mang. But neither here nor in Galatians 3:17 is the argument in the least degree affected by the precise period, or by the adoption of one of the two chronological systems in preference to the other, and in a speech round numbers would be quite sufficient to mark the progressive stages in the history of the nation and of God’s dealings with them. For an explanation of the point see Lightfoot, Galatians 3:17, who regards the number in Genesis as given in round numbers, but in Exodus with historical exactness (to the same effect Wendt, Felten, Zöckler). But in the LXX version, Exodus 12:40, the four hundred and thirty years cover the sojourn both in Egypt and in Canaan, thus including the sojourn of the Patriarchs in Canaan before the migration, and reducing the actual residence in Egypt to about half this period, the Vatican MS. reading four hundred and thirty-five years after adding καὶ ἐν γῇ Χαναὰν (the word five, however, πέντε, being erased), and the Alexandrian MS. reading after ἐν Χαναὰν the words αὐτοὶ καὶ οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν, making the revision in the chronology more decisive. This is the chronology adopted in Galatians 3:17, and by Josephus, Ant., ii., 15, 2; but the latter writer in other passages, Ant., ii., 9, 1, and B.J., v., 9, 4, adopts the same reckoning as we find here in Acts. But see also Charles, Assumption of Moses, pp. 3, 4 (1897).

6. And God spake on this wise] The words are substantially those which we find in Genesis 15:13-14.

four hundred years] This number agrees with the number stated in Genesis; but in Exodus 12:40, and also by St Paul (Galatians 3:17), the time is said to have been four hundred and thirty years. The period is reckoned so as to include part of the lives of the patriarchs in Canaan, and the variation may be accounted for if one number dates back to the first call, and the second only to the departure from Haran; or the one may be reckoned from the time of the covenant of circumcision, and the other from the promise of the land. Or it may be that one is merely a round number and the other an attempt at greater exactness. We can come to no certain conclusion in the matter, but we can see that both numbers were current among the Jews, for Josephus (Ant. ii. 15. 2) makes the time 430 years, and elsewhere (Ant. ii. 9. 1, and Bell. Jud. v. 9. 4) 400 years.

Acts 7:6. Δὲ, but) The antithesis between the promise and the time of its fulfilment, which was to be waited for[46]—ὍΤΙ ἜΣΤΑΙ ΤῸ ΣΠΈΡΜΑ ΑὐΤΟῦ ΠΆΡΟΙΚΟΝ ἘΝ Γῇ ἈΛΛΟΤΡΊᾼ, ΚΑῚ ΔΟΥΛΏΣΟΥΣΙΝ ΑὐΤῸ ΚΑῚ ΚΑΚΏΣΟΥΣΙΝ, ἜΤΗ ΤΕΤΡΑΚΌΣΙΑ· ΚΑῚ ΤῸ ἜΘΝΟςἘΓῺ) Genesis 15:13-14, LXX., ὍΤΙ ΠΆΡΟΙΚΟΝ ἜΣΤΑΙ ΤῸ ΣΠΈΡΜΆ ΣΟΥ ἘΝ Γῇ ΟὐΚ ἸΔῖᾼ, ΚΑῚ ΔΟΥΛΏΣΟΥΣΙΝ ΑὐΤΟῪς ΚΑῚ ΚΑΚΏΣΟΥΣΙΝ ΑὐΤΟῪς ΚΑῚ ΤΑΠΕΙΝΏΣΟΥΣΙΝ ΑὐΤΟῪς, ΤΕΤΡΑΚΌΣΙΑ ἜΤΗ. ΤῸ ΔῈ ἜΘΝΟςἘΓΏ.—ἈΛΛΟΤΡΊᾼ, a strange) Egypt was not then named. Comp. the ᾧ ἐὰν, “to whomsoever they shall be in bondage,” in Acts 7:7.—κακώσουσιν) This clause, which has been omitted by some, is required by the fact itself (concerning which presently) and by the accent in Genesis 15:13.—ἜΤΗ ΤΕΤΡΑΚΌΣΙΑ, four hundred years) These years are to be referred not only to the Egyptian bondage (which began long after the death of Joseph and of his brethren, when the people multiplied, Acts 7:15, etc.), but to the whole sojourn in the strange land, [viz. from the birth of Isaac up to the departure out of Egypt.—V. g.] Four hundred years in the case of a people, and forty years in the case of a man, constitute a memorable period; even in the case of Israel and Moses. Moreover by this very number it was indicated that the joyful dwelling in the land of Canaan afterwards would be much longer in continuance.

[46] Thus δὲ here, not ἀλλὰ in ver. 5, forms the antithesis. So ABCEe and many MSS. of Vulg. read καὶ ἐπηγγείλατο, not ἀλλὰ ἐπ. Dd Vulg. Amiat. and Iren., however, read ἀλλʼ.—E. and T.

Verse 6. - In a strange land; a land belonging to some one else (Hebrews 11:9, γῆ ἀλλοτρία, as here); a land in which he had none inheritance, not yet become the possession of his seed; for as the writer to the Hebrews says, he dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob; not applicable, therefore, in the first instance to Egypt at all. And this sojourning as strangers and pilgrims lasted altogether four hundred and thirty years, vie. two hundred and fifteen years in Canaan, and two hundred and fifteen in Egypt; which agrees exactly with St. Paul's reckoning in round numbers of four hundred years from the giving of the promise to Abraham to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (Galatians 3:17). The "four hundred years" must not be taken in connection with the bondage" and the ill treatment which characterized the last half of the period, but as spoken of the whole period during which they had not possession of the promised land. Bring them into bondage. So the LXX.; but the Hebrew, as rendered in the A.V., has "and they shall serve them." But some (see Gesenius, 'Thes.') render the Hebrew as the LXX. Do. Four hundred years. This is a round number, as in Genesis 15:13. The exact time, as given in Exodus 12:40, 41, was four hundred and thirty years. Acts 7:6
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