Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Then said the high priest, Are these things so?B.—STEPHEN VINDICATES HIMSELF IN A POWERFUL DISCOURSE
§ I. The first part of the discourse, embracing the age of the Patriarchs
1Then said the high priest, Are these things so?1 2And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when hewas in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran [Haran, (Gen. 11:31)], 3And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the2 land which I shall show thee. 4Then came [went] he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran [Haran]: and [. And] from thence, when his father wasdead [had died], he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. 5And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on [in it, not even a foot-breadth]: yet [and] he promised that he would give it to him3 for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. 6And [But] God spake on this wise, That [that] his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should [would] bring them [it, (ἆυτὸ, the seed)] into bondage, and entreat them [it] evil four hundred years. 7And [years; and] the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge,said God; and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. 8And he gave him the covenant of circumcision; and [circumcision. And] so Abraham [he] begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacobbegat the twelve patriarchs. 9And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph [enviedJoseph, and sold him] into Egypt: but God was with him, 10And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and [over] all his house.11Now there came a dearth [famine] over all the land of Egypt4 and Chanaan [Canaan],and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. 12But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he [But J. heard that there was grain in store, and] sentout our fathers first [our fathers the first time to Egypt]5. 13And at the second time Joseph was made known to [was recognized by] his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred [race] was made [became] known to Pharaoh. 14Then sent Joseph [But J. sent], and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen [seventy-five]souls. 15So [And] Jacob went down unto Egypt,6 and died, he, and ourfathers, 16And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that7 Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor, the father of Sychem.8
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 7:1. Then said the high priest.—The high priest, as the presiding officer of the Sanhedrin, gives Stephen an opportunity to speak in defence of himself; while he thus recognizes the rights of the accused, the term ἄρα, connected with the interrogative particle εἰ, expresses even favorable sentiments, or is at least intended to exhibit the equity of the speaker.
ACTS 7:2, 3. a. And he said.—It is highly probable that Stephen, whom we have every reason to regard as a Hellenist, employed the Greek language, when he delivered the present discourse (the design and genuineness of which are considered below). [See GENERAL REMARKS appended to EXEG. note on Acts 7:53.—TR.]. This opinion, which is suggested by his birth and education, is confirmed by the general complexion of the discourse; the latter corresponds throughout to the Alexandrian Version. We possess, besides, conclusive historical testimony that the Greek language was, at that time, so generally understood and spoken in Palestine, that the delivery of a Greek discourse in the Sanhedrin could not be regarded as an extraordinary circumstance.—The terms of the address, ἀδελφοὶ καὶ πατέρες, were conciliatory; they both indicated that the speaker regarded the members of the council with reverence as fathers, and also involved an appeal to their common nationality (brethren).
b. The God of glory.—Stephen commences his discourse with this descriptive name of God for wise reasons. It was one of his objects to counteract the slanderous report which had been circulated, that he had blasphemed God (Acts 6:11); and to repel any possible charge that the Christians did not properly revere Him. Hence he expresses his own devout and reverential sentiments, and gives to God the honor which belongs to him. But he has also another, and a more direct object, when he refers specially to the glory (δόξα) of God; even at this early stage in his discourse, as well as afterwards, his mind is engaged in the contemplation of the inconceivable grandeur, the boundless power, and the absolute sovereignty of God. In his view, God is independent of every object, animate or inanimate, and may reveal himself to any creature, in any mode, and in any place, according to his own pleasure. The present expression, especially when viewed in its connection with ὤφθη, reminds us of that exalted and wonderful celestial splendor which usually attended earlier theophanies or manifestations of God. [See Exod. 24:16; 33:18 ff.; 40:34; Lev. 9:23, and comp. HERZOG: Real-Encyk. art. Schechina, XIII. 476, and Theophanie, XVI. TR.]
c. Before he dwelt in Charran.—Abraham accompanied his father Terah, when the latter journeyed to Charran (the Carræ of the Romans), a very ancient city of Mesopotamia, situated on a frequented route, and probably in a south-westerly direction from Ur of the Chaldees, in which region they had previously resided (see WINER: Realw. art. Haran [and HERZOG: Real-Encyk. V. 539]). It was, according to the Mosaic narrative [Gen. 11:31], the original intention of Terah, who took with him his son Abram, together with Sarai and Lot, to proceed as far as Canaan; but he advanced no further than Charran [Haran], where he remained until his death. It is only afterwards (Gen. 12:1 ff.) that mention is made of the divine command which Abram received, to forsake his country and his kindred, and journey into a land which God would show; the divine blessing was promised at the same time. It undoubtedly seems to follow from this statement that Abraham did not receive the revelation which included a command to go to the land that should be shown to him, at a period anterior to his residence in Charran. Nevertheless, Stephen represents this revelation as having occurred in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2), or in the land of the Chaldeans (Acts 7:4), i.e. in Ur in Chaldea; and he assigns it to a period which preceded the first migration of the family, when it was their more immediate object to reach the city of Charran. And, indeed, the very terms which God employs in Gen. 12:1, are here repeated in Acts 7:3, only with the difference that they appear in an abbreviated form. Hence, various interpreters (e. g. Grotius; de Wette; Meyer), have maintained that Stephen had involuntarily committed a mistake, in the excitement of the moment, and had assigned to an earlier period and to another region, (that of Ur,) the divine command which Abraham really received afterward, when he had already reached Charran. Although we do not believe that it would be perilous to concede this point, there is another circumstance, conflicting with the opinion of these interpreters, which claims consideration. It is well known from statements in Philo (De Abrahamo. § 15.) and Josephus, (Antiq. i. 7, 1.), that the Jews, in that age, and particularly those of Alexandria, held the opinion that Abraham had already received a divine command while he dwelt in Ur. It is this tradition which Stephen adopts, applying the words in Gen. 12:1 to that supposed earlier call of God. And, indeed, there are traces even in the book of Genesis itself, of such a command of God which Abraham received in Ur. In Gen. 15:7, God says to Abraham: “I am Jehovah, who led thee forth from Ur in Chaldea (הוֹצֵאתִיךָ), to give thee this land.” These words seem to imply plainly that God had distinctly communicated his will to Abraham, that he should depart from Ur; and there is a special reference to these words in Nehem. 9:7. It is true that no mention is made in Gen. 11:31 of any direct command of God, and the departure from Ur appears to be a voluntary act of Terah, rather than one of obedience to the divine will on the part of Abraham. But the peculiar construction of the book of Genesis ought not to be overlooked; it is evidently founded on several documents and accounts, which had, to some extent, been originally composed from different points of view, and this observation is specially applicable to Acts 11. and Acts 12. Accordingly, the method adopted by the later Jews, (which was followed by Stephen also,) of viewing the event in connection with its causes and its consequences, cannot, with propriety, be rejected unconditionally as erroneous and unhistorical; we perceive, on the contrary, that Stephen’s statement is not entirely unsupported by the scriptural records themselves.
ACTS 7:4. When his father was dead.—Here again Stephen assents to the current opinion of his age, which is recorded by Philo [“who falls into the same mistake, de Migr. Abrah., § 32” (Alf.)], and which could scarcely have been suggested simply by the consideration that filial duty would not have allowed Abraham to abandon his father in his old age. The passage, Gen. 11:31, 32; 12:1 ff., when read as a continuous and progressive narrative, does, at first, convey the impression that Abraham did not receive the command to migrate to Canaan, before his father’s death [while, in truth, the mention of that event in Acts 11:32 is proleptical or anticipatory (Alford).—TR.]. There can be no doubt, when the chronological data are considered, that Terah was still living when Abraham departed from Charran. For, according to Gen. 11:27, he was seventy years old when he begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; the statement doubtless refers to the particular year in which Abraham was born. According to 11:32, Terah died at the age of two hundred and five years. But Abraham was only seventy-five years old when he departed from Charran, 12:4. Therefore, Terah must have lived sixty years in Charran, after Abraham’s departure [70+75=205–60]. Besides, the expression; “from thy father’s house” (מִבֵּית אָבִיךָ) seems to imply that Terah was still alive, when Abraham received that command. Hence, Stephen here follows a chronological tradition which seems, indeed, at first view, to be supported by Gen. 11:32 compared with 12:1 ff., but which, on a closer inspection, is found to be erroneous. This fact ought to be admitted without hesitation, for all the attempts that have been made to reconcile these conflicting statements, have been failures, and are, moreover, unnecessary. Nothing could be more truly a product of the imagination, than the theory (of Bengel and others) that Abraham had indeed proceeded to Canaan during the life of his father, but still retained his home in Charran, and had, only after the decease of Terah, sundered all his early ties, and established himself “essentially” in Canaan. [This interpretation is inconsistent with the meaning and construction of μετῴκ. αὐτ. εἰς in Acts 7:4. (de Wette, and Alford.)—TR.]. There is as little foundation for the interpretation of others (LUGER: Zweck d. Rede d. St., 1838; Ols.; Stier) that Stephen intended to say that Abraham had left Charran after the spiritual death of Terah, i.e., after the latter had become an idolater. For how can ἀποθανεῖν admit of such an interpretation, when unattended by a single term that would indicate it, and when, besides, nothing whatever is found in the context, which suggests such a meaning of the verb? Nor can it be proved that this was the usual interpretation in the age of the apostles; it is, at least, an error that Philo countenances it. It was, first of all, proposed in the Talmud, and even there occurs merely as an expedient for evading the chronological difficulty.—Baumgarten thinks (I. 131 ff.) that the language used in Acts 7:4, simply means that now, when Jehovah is entering into new relations with mankind, Abraham should be viewed, at such an important epoch, not as in any manner related to Terah, but as one who was connected with him by no ties whatever. But if Stephen had intended to convey such a thought, he would have necessarily employed an entirely different form of expression. [Other solutions of this exegetical problem are not noticed by the author, probably because they carry their own refutation with them, e. g., that Abraham was Terah’s youngest son, sixty years younger than Haran, or, that the chronology of the Samaritan text should be adopted, etc.—TR.].—Is it necessary to have recourse to so many devices? Why should we not concede that Stephen, like his contemporaries, adopted an opinion which the text of the sacred narrative seems, at first view, to suggest, but which a closer investigation has shown to be erroneous? Even if he made an inaccurate statement with regard to a question in chronology, such an incident derogates neither from the wisdom nor from the fulness of the Spirit by which he spake (Acts 6:10).
ACTS 7:5. And he gave him none inheritance in it; κληρονομία is property obtained by inheritance, and capable of being transmitted to heirs.—This statement is by no means contradicted by the fact that Abraham purchased of Ephron a field with a cave (Gen. Acts 23); it is precisely the circumstance that he was compelled to purchase the field, which establishes the fact that he owned no land as yet bestowed on him by God. (Bengel). The explanation that Stephen refers to the earliest period of Abraham’s residence in Palestine, and that the purchase occurred at a later time, namely, after the institution of circumcision, Acts 7:8 (Meyer), is not satisfactory; these two periods, an early and a later, are obtruded on the text, which not only lays no stress on such a distinction, but does not even allude to it.—Stephen speaks emphatically of the fact that the divine promise in reference to the land, was given to Abraham before a child was born unto him, for the purpose of reminding his hearers that both the possession of the inheritance, and also the birth of an heir, depended entirely on God,—the inheritance and the son were both the free gifts of his grace.
ACTS 7:6, 7. And God spake on this wise.—Stephen quotes the prophecy in Gen. 15:13, in the language of the Alexandrian version in general, although certain variations from it are discoverable. He repeats, for instance, the original words in the indirect form of speech, and it is only in Acts 7:7, that he passes from the narrative to the direct form, which he indicates by the words: εἶπεν ὁ Θεός. And, at the close of Acts 7:7, he combines Exod. 3:12 with Gen. 15:13; the former passage contains a promise given to Moses in Horeb, and refers to the worship which would soon be offered in the vicinity of that mountain. This promise is interwoven with the one given to Abraham, which referred to the worship of Israel at a future period in Canaan, the land of their inheritance. We may undoubtedly find an “inaccurate” (de Wette) reference here, if we adhere very scrupulously to the literal meaning. But can we take it amiss, if Stephen, instead of anxiously dwelling on the mere letter, or on minute details, rather surveys with profound judgment the whole wide extent of the divine economy—and if he then combines a promise given to Abraham with one addressed to Moses, and, in the case of the latter, even looks beyond to a still later day? He does not intend to quote the identical words to which he refers, but, rather, to connect and apply them.—We may form the same judgment respecting the period of four hundred years which Stephen assigns (Acts 7:6) to the bondage in Egypt. The whole duration of that bondage, four hundred and thirty years, is, without doubt, stated with chronological exactness in Exod. 12:40, while Stephen avails himself of a privilege which cannot be reasonably denied to him, and merely mentions a round number. [For an explanation of the apparent discrepancy between this passage and Gal. 3:17, see O. Schmoller, ad loc., in a succeeding volume of this commentary.—TR.].—The connection shows that κρινῶ in Acts 7:7 refers to the well-deserved penal judgment which God would subsequently execute in the case of the tyrants who oppressed his people.
ACTS 7:8. And he gave him the covenant of circumcision.—The covenant which God made with Abraham is termed a διαθήκη τ̀ῆς περιτομῆς, as circumcision was not only the “token” [sign] of this covenant (אוֹת בְּרִית, Gen. 17:11), but was also itself an essential constituent part of this covenant: (הִמּוֹל לָכֶםי כָּל־זָכָר זאֹת בְּריתִי ־ ־ ־, Gen. 17:10).—The phraseology in this verse: ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ διαθ. περιτ., gave instead of made the covenant with Abraham, seems to be designedly chosen, in order to indicate that the establishment of the covenant was a voluntary act of God, and, indeed, a gracious gift, and that, when He reveals himself, he is by no means subject to limitations or conditions imposed by men:—[καὶ οὕτως, and thus, i. e., in accordance with the terms of the covenant, God gave a son to Abraham, and Abraham, on his part, circumcised that son.—TR.]
ACTS 7:9–13. And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph.—This is the first occasion on which, in this general view of sacred history, sin is mentioned, the reference being to the envy with which Jacob’s sons regarded their brother Joseph. Jealousy and envy influenced them to give him away (ἀπέδοντο), i.e., they did all that lay in their power, to remove him for ever from themselves and the whole family, and to degrade him. But although they cast him off, God was with him. He delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharoah. The sense here is: he was very favorably received by Pharoah, whose confidence he acquired by his wise interpretation of certain dreams, and by the counsels which he imparted to that king. It accords better with the context to refer χάριν to the favor of the king than to the grace of God; the latter is already indicated in the words: ἦν ὁ Θεὸς μετʼ αὐτοῦ, and is illustrated in all the facts that are stated, including the royal favor which Joseph enjoyed. [Pharaoh was the common title of the ancient kings of Egypt, as Ptolemy (Greek, warrior) was applied to those of the Græco-Macedonian period. The latest authorities confirm the statement of Josephus (Antiq. viii. 6, 2), that the word is not a proper name but an appellative, signifying, in the ancient Egyptian, the king. (HERZOG: Real-Encyk. Vol. XI. p. 490).—TR.]
ACTS 7:14, 15. Threescore and fifteen souls.—Stephen here follows the Septuagint version, in which seventy-five souls are reckoned, whereas the original Hebrew text mentions only the round number seventy; see Gen. 46:27, and Exod. 1:5; the latter includes Joseph and his two sons. The Sept. counts, in the former passage, not less than nine sons of Joseph. [Commentators generally admit that the Septuagint text has been interpolated and is somewhat confused, but no one has furnished a perfectly satisfactory explanation of the principles adopted in the modes of computation, which would clearly furnish, as results, the respective numbers of seventy and seventy-five. “Stephen, who adheres to the Septuagint, quoted the most current and familiar version, without alteration” (J. A. Alexander). Whether the number was seventy or seventy-five, “it was a mere handful compared with the (subsequent) increase.” (Hackett).—TR.]
ACTS 7:16. And were carried over into Sychem.—The words αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, in Acts 7:15, constitute the nominative to the verb μετετέθησαν. Stephen says that the remains of Jacob, and also of his sons, were carried to Sychem; his language has occasioned here, too, perplexity with respect to several particulars. 1. We are told in Gen. 50:13, that Joseph and his brethren buried the body of Jacob in the cave of the field near Hebron [“Mamre; the same is Hebron,” Gen. 23:19], whereas Stephen says that Jacob was buried in Sychem. 2. According to Josh. 24:32, the Israelites, when they took possession of Canaan, buried the bones of Joseph, which they brought from Egypt, in Shechem [Sychem]; but it is not stated either in this passage or elsewhere in the Old Testament, that the bones of Joseph’s brethren, whom the terms employed by Stephen include, were buried at the same place. 3. Stephen says that Abraham bought the piece of ground in Sychem, of the sons of Emmor [Greek form of the Hebrew Hamor]; πατρός, and not υἱοῦ, [as in the Vulg. filii] is to be supplied before τοῦ Συχέμ. [So J. A. Alexander also holds, appealing to Gen. 33:19; 34:2, 4, 6, 8, 13, 18, 20, 24, 26.—TR.]. Yet it was not Abraham, but Jacob, who bought this piece of ground of the former owners. Gen. 33:18, 19. Consequently, Stephen confounded the latter with the spot near Hebron, which Abraham had bought. Every possible attempt has been made to explain these variations, from the period in which the oldest manuscripts were written (one of which [E.] substitutes ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν for Ἀβραάμ, in order to evade the third variation mentioned above), down to the age of the Reformers, and thence, to the present day. [Kuinoel, in an extended note ad loc. discusses several of the solutions that have been attempted, without being attended with entire success. Hackett, who appears to adopt Calvin’s very positive opinion (Com. Tholuck’s ed. IV. 118) that, in the third discrepancy, the error lies in the name Abraham, proposes to omit it, or substitute Jacob; “ὠνήσατο without a subject,” he adds, “could be taken as impersonal: one purchased=was purchased”; he refers to WINER: Gram. N. T. § 58, 9, where the grammatical principle is illustrated.—TR.]. Interpreters have, without success, availed themselves of every resource which the laws of Criticism, or of Grammar, or the principles of Lexicology or of Hermeneutics seemed to offer. The theory has been proposed that two burials are described in terms which were intentionally abbreviated, or that the passage before us speaks of two purchases. It is, however, the most judicious course to admit frankly, that, with reference to the purchase of the ground and the burial of Jacob, it might easily occur that Stephen, whose discourse treated an entirely different and a loftier theme, should, in his rapid course, confound two analogous transactions. [Olsh. and Alford concur.] As to the burial of Joseph’s brethren in Canaan, the Old Testament presents no conflicting statements, but merely observes silence; it is very probable that such a tradition, the existence of which at a later period can be proved, was already current in Stephen’s age, and adopted by him. [J. A. Alexander, who briefly refers to several modes of explaining the apparent contradictions, without deciding whether “unusual constructions or textual corruptions” should be admitted, closes with the following remark: “It is easy to cut the knot by assuming a mistake on Stephen’s part, but not so easy to account for its being made by such a man, addressing such an audience, and then perpetuated in such a history, without correction or exposure, for a course of ages.”—The reading in Cod. Sin., Acts 7:16, does not differ from that found in text. rec.—TR.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. God is ὁ Θεὸς τῆς δόξης, Acts 7:2. These words contain a doctrinal statement which is of wide application, and which distinctly defines the position assumed by the speaker. All that God is, in himself—all his acts—and all the modes in which he manifests himself, bear the impress of his glory, that is, of absolute greatness, power and majesty. His ways are perfectly free, and entirely beyond the control of any creature. He can reveal himself wheresoever he will, and is not restricted to any spot in creation, to any country, city, or building (such as the temple). This view, when speculatively considered, seems to be very naturally suggested by our conception of God as the Infinite Spirit. But man is easily carried away from this truth by a certain centrifugal force, and begins to conceive of God as if he were, in a certain manner, bound to some finite object. It is, therefore, perpetually necessary, to lay stress on the conception of the absolute glory of God, in order to counteract those delusive limitations of Him who is infinite.
2. Great prominence is given to Joseph’s life in that view of Sacred History which Stephen presents. The thought had doubtless occurred to him, with more or less distinctness, that Joseph was a type of Jesus himself. And, indeed, the number of the points of resemblance between Joseph and Jesus Christ, will be found to be surprisingly great, when we closely examine their personal history, their experience, and their works. Stephen directs attention specially to the fact, that, although Joseph’s brethren were hostile to him, and exposed him to ignominy, God was, nevertheless, with him, and exalted him.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 7:2. And he said.—“Be ready always to give an answer, etc.,” 1 Pet. 3:15, 16.—Brethren, and fathers.—He addresses them in kind and respectful terms, without either carnal zeal or spiritual pride, although they by no means demonstrated that they regarded him either with fraternal or parental affection.—The God of glory, etc.—A servant of God should accustom himself to justify the ways of God, rather than his own. (Quesn.).—God, revealed of old as a God of glory, in the government of his own chosen people: He manifests, I. His unlimited power; II. His free grace; III. His unerring wisdom.
ACTS 7:3. Get thee out from thy country, and from thy kindred.—Self-denial is one of the primary constituents of faith in God. (Starke).—Every Christian must go forth with Abraham, renounce the friendship of the world, and all comfort derived from creatures, put all his trust in God, and love him alone. (id.)
ACTS 7:4. Then came he out … and from thence, etc.—The life of the believer is a continued pilgrimage; each short sojourn is succeeded by another departure, until he enters the true Canaan.
ACTS 7:5. And he gave him none inheritance in it.—This world is not the inheritance of the children of God; they have not their portion in it, but are mere sojourners. (Quesn.).—He, to whom God is all in all, is rich, even if he does not own so much as a foot-breadth. (Starke).—Yet he promised that he would give, etc.—The inheritance of faith is in the unseen world; yea, the believer is already put in possession of it by the promise of God; Hebr. 11:1.
ACTS 7:6. That his seed should sojourn, etc.—The divine promise was so expressed, as to prove a severe trial of Abraham’s faith; we must suffer with Christ, as well as be glorified together with him; Rom. 8:17. (Starke).
ACTS 7:7. And the nation … I judge.—God chooses his own time for humbling his people, but also his own time for judging the agents by whom they are humbled. When his rods are no longer serviceable, he casts them into the fire. In each case the decree proceeds from his justice; the whole history, alike of the world in general, and of the church in particular, furnishes illustrations.—And serve me in this place.—The redeeming work of Christ imposes solemn obligations on the redeemed to serve him; Lu. 1:74, 75. (Starke).
ON ACTS 7:2–8. Abraham, the father of all them that believe, a bright example for all believing pilgrims of God. His history illustrates, I. The sacrifices and trials of faith; II. The patience and obedience of faith; III. The reward and blessing of faith.—Abraham’s pilgrimage: I. The difficulties encountered by that pilgrim in his path; II. The good staff which supported him; III. The happy close of his pilgrimage.
ACTS 7:9. And the patriarchs, moved with envy.—Godliness is always followed by the hatred and envy of the world, 2 Tim. 3:12. “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Matt. 10:32. Brothers are of one blood, but seldom of one mind. (Starke).
ACTS 7:10. Gave him favor and wisdom.—It is only after grace, [χάριν, see the EXEGET. note on Acts 7:9–13, above], and through grace, that true wisdom is given. (Apost. Past.).
ACTS 7:11. Now there came a dearth.—Where Jesus, the true Joseph, does not dwell, a famine of the true bread [Amos 8:11] must necessarily prevail, since he alone is the bread of life, John 6:48–51. (Quesn.).—And our fathers found no sustenance.—The famine was also felt by Abraham’s family. Godliness does not exempt men from feeling the effects of national afflictions and other temporal calamities; but the issue of the trials of the godly is different from that of the plagues of the ungodly; Rom. 8:28. (Apost. Past.).
ACTS 7:13. And at the second time Joseph was made known.—Joseph did not at once make himself known to his brethren, at the very first visit. We must learn to wait, if we desire to experience the grace of God, Ps. 130:5, 6. God often permits our distress to reach the highest point, in order that he may reveal himself the more gloriously, when he grants relief. (Starke). O that the Jews, of whom so many did not know Jesus, their brother after the flesh, when he first appeared, would now, in these last times, learn to know him! (ib.).
ACTS 7:16. Laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought.—It is not a slight exhibition of divine grace, when the remains of an individual are deposited near those of the fathers, and at a place where the name of God is honored, and the visible church exists. (Starke).
ON ACTS 7:9–16. Joseph, a type of Jesus: I. In his state of humiliation; each, beloved of his father, but mocked and hated by his brethren; each, conscious, in the earliest years, of his future eminence, but conducted through sufferings to honor; each, hated by his kindred, sold into the hands of sinners, falsely accused, unjustly condemned. II. In his state of exaltation; Jesus, like Joseph, crowned with honor, after shame and sufferings; appointed as the ruler and deliverer of a famishing people; recognized with terror by those who had formerly rejected and persecuted him; showing grace and mercy to those who had done evil unto him.
Acts 7:1. ἄρα [of text. rec.] after εἰ is wanting in A. B. C. [Cod. Sin.] and some minuscule mss., and has on this account been cancelled by Lach.; but it is found in D. E. H., and the fathers; it could more easily have been dropped as superfluous, than have been inserted as a correction. [Retained by Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 7:3. The article τήν before γῆν, which is wanting in the text. rec., is so well attested, that its genuineness cannot be doubted. [Found in A. B. C. D. E. Cod. Sin.; omitted in H., but retained by later editors generally.—TR.]
Acts 7:5. δοῦναι αὐτῷ is better attested [by A. B. C. D. E. H.] than αὐτῷ δοῦναι [of the text. rec. which reading is supported only by a few minuscule manuscripts. Lach., Tisch., and Alf. read δοῦναι αὐ.—Cod. Sin. exhibits the following: επηγ. δουναι αυτην εις κατασχ. αυτω.—TR.]
Acts 7:11. Griesbach and Lachmann, following the authority of A. B. C. [Cod. Sin.] and some ancient versions [Syr. Vulg. etc.] read τὴν Αἴγυπτον; other MSS. [E. H.], and some versions, have τὴν γῆν Αἰγύπτου; γῆν could have more easily been dropped by copyists, than have been inserted. [γῆν retained by Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 7:12. The reading εἰς Αἴγυπτον is far better attested than ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ, which is a correction to suit ὄντα. [ἐν A. of text. rec. in D. H.; είς A. in A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin. and adopted by Lach. Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 7:15. καὶ κατέβη is a better reading than κατέβη δέ; D., and some versions, exhibit no conjunction at all, and Bornemann and Meyer regard this as the original form of the text; this construction, however, would connect κατέβη with ἐν ψυχ. ἑβδ. πέντε of Acts 7:14. [καὶ κατ. in A. C. E. Cod. Sin. and adopted by Lach. Tisch. Alf.—TR.] In the same verse, Tischendorf cancels εὶς Αἵγυπτον, without sufficient reason, and in opposition to all the authorities. [Lach. retains this reading as genuine; Alford inserts it in the text, but in brackets. Cod. Sin. reads εἰς Αἴγ.—TR.]
Acts 7:16. a. ὅ [in H. before ὠνήσ. and adopted in the text. rec. “not recognizing the attraction” (Meyer). TR.], is plainly a correction; the reading ῷ̓ [in A. B. C. D. E. Cod. Sin., and adopted by the recent editors] is sufficiently attested, both critically and grammatically.
Acts 7:16. b. τοῦ Συχέμ [of text. rec.] is, doubtless, the original reading; for both ἐν Σ. in B. C. and some versions, and τοῦ ἐν Σ. in A. E. and other authorities, are evidently corrections, suggested by the opinion that this name here [as well as in the beginning of the same verse (Meyer)], indicated a place and not a person. [Lachm. reads τοῦ ἐν; Tisch. and Alf. with D. H. τοῦ Σ. as text. rec.—Cod. Sin. reads ἐν Συχ., before which a later band (C) inserted τοῦ.—TR.]
But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,§ II. The second part of the discourse, embracing the age of Moses
A.—ISRAEL IN EGYPT; EARLY HISTORY OF MOSES
17But when [as] the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn9 [declared]to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18Till another king10 arose, which [who] knew not [anything of] Joseph. 19The same [This (one)] dealt subtilely with our kindred [race], and evil entreated our fathers; so that they cast outtheir young children, to the end [that] they might not live [remain alive]. 20In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair11 [a fair child before God;], and [he, ὃς,was] nourished up in his father’s house three months: 21And [But] when he was [had been] cast out12, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him [brought himup] for her own son. 22And Moses was learned [instructed] in all13 the wisdom of theEgyptians, and was mighty in [his] words and in deeds [and deeds]14. 23And when he was full forty years old [But when a period of forty years was completed for him], it came into his heart to visit [look after] his brethren the children [sons] of Israel.24And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote [by smiting] the Egyptian: 25For15 [But] he supposed his brethren would have understood [would perceive] how that God by his hand would deliverthem [was giving them deliverance]; but they understood [it] not. 26And the next day he shewed himself [appeared] unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again16 [and urged them unto peace], saying, Sirs, [Men], ye are brethren; whydo ye wrong one to another? 27But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away,saying, Who [hath] made thee a ruler and a judge over us?17 28Wilt thou kill me, asthou didst [kill, ἀνεῖλες] the Egyptian yesterday? 29Then fled Moses at this saying, and was [became] a stranger in the land of Madian [Midian], where he begat two sons.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 7:17. But when the time … drew nigh … the people grew.—The word καθώς is to be taken in its literal sense, not as equivalent to quum, but to even as; the rapid increase of the people corresponded to the rapid approach of the time. The ἐπαγγελία of God is the one recorded in Gen. 15:13, 14, and to it Stephen refers in Acts 7:6, 7.
ACTS 7:18. Till another king arose; these words are quoted from Exod. 1:18; חָדָשׁ is here rendered ἕτερος, which, as contradistinguished from ἄλλος, designates that which is of another kind, and refers to a new dynasty. The words οὐκ ᾕδει τὸν Ἰωσήφ, like the original Hebrew, mean, not that the king did not wish to know Joseph, or, that he showed no regard for Joseph and for the great services rendered to Egypt by him, but, literally, that he was totally unacquainted with his history. When we consider that a period of four centuries had since passed by, and that a new dynasty, which probably came from another part of the country, had been introduced, this actual want of information may be easily comprehended.
ACTS 7:19. The same dealt subtilely.—Κατασοφίσασθαι is the version in the Sept. Exod. 1. 10, of הִתְחַכֵּם.—Meyer considers the phrase: τοῦ ποιεῖν ἔκθετα τὰ βρέφη, as distinctly involving the construction of the infinitive of the purpose, so that the sense would be: he oppressed them, in order that by such a course he might compel them to expose their children. This is an erroneous interpretation; it is not absolutely demanded by the laws of grammar, and does not accord with the context. For this κακοῦν, that is, the imposition of heavy burdens, or the harsh treatment, was not, and could not be intended, to result in the exposure of the children. The infinitive with τοῦ, which, originally, expressed a purpose, was employed, (when the Greek language began to decline), by the Hellenists especially, as well as in the Septuagint and the New Testament (Paul and Luke), with increasing frequency, and then the indication of the purpose was often changed into that of the mere result (see Winer’s Grammar) [N. T. § 44. 4, p. 292 of the 6th Germ, ed., where the same interpretation of this passage is found.—“Ἔκθετον ποιεῖν, i. q., ἐκτιθέναι, to expose infants, Acts 7:19.” ROBINSON: Lex. ποιέω1 f.—TR.]. Hence the language before us simply means: he ill-treated them, so that, among other things, he caused their new-born children to be exposed. The fact to which allusion is here made, is stated in Exod. 1:22: Pharaoh gave a general command to the Egyptians to cast the new-born sons of the Israelites, into the Nile. The Septuagint employs in Exod. 1:17 the verb ζωογονεῖν, as the version of חִיָּה [Piel], to preserve alive, to let live [Robinson’s Gesenius: Hebr. Lex. ad verb. 2, 2], and it occurs in that sense here.
ACTS 7:20. Exceeding fair [see version above.]—It is simply said of the mother of Moses in Exod. 2:2: וַתֵּרֶא אֹתוֹ כִּי־טוֹב הוּא. Stephen’s description is: ἀστεῖος τῷ Θεῷ, that is, fair before God, or, according to God’s judgment, so that God himself deemed him to be such; the expression is, by no means, intended to be a mere substitute for the superlative. [So, too, WINER: Gram. N. T., § 36. 3. “The phrase is intensive, rather than an equivalent for the superlative: comp. Jon. 3:3.” See also ib. § 31. 4.—“Fair unto God, God being judge, i.e., intens. exceedingly fair.” ROBINS. Lex. ad verb.—TR.]. It may be added that this expression is very moderate, when compared with the traditionary accounts of the beauty of Moses in his childhood: Philo speaks of it [ὄψιν ἐνέφῃνεν ἀστειοτέραν ἣ κατʼ ἰδιώτην, de vit. Mos. I.ִ:604. (de Wette).—TR.], and Josephus (Antiq. ii. 9, 6) furnishes still fuller details. He relates that Moses was [as his protectress, Thermuthis said] in form like the gods (παῖδα μορφῇ θεῶν), and adds that when he was carried out into the street, the spectators neglected their own affairs, and gazed on the child with wonder and admiration, etc.
ACTS 7:21. Pharaoh’s daughter took him up.—Ἀνείλατο is equivalent, not to tollere infantem (de Wette), in which sense it never occurs, but simply to וַתִּקָּחֶהָ in Exod. 2:5, that is, took him up. The conception that she adopted him as a son, is suggested only by the succeeding words: ἑαυτῇ εἰς υἱόν, although even these, in the literal import, simply inform us that she brought him up for herself (not for his own parents), i.e., that he should be her son.’ [The Sept. reads, Exod. 2:5: ἀνείλατο αὐτήν. “Ανειρέω.—לָקַח, capio, accipio. Exod. 2:5.—tollebat illam, sc. arcam (τὴν θιβην).” Schleusner: Lex. in LXX.—TR.]
ACTS 7:22. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.—No mention is made of this circumstance either in the Pentateuch, or elsewhere in the Old Testament. It is not, however, in any degree, improbable that Moses, who had gained a maternal patroness in the king’s daughter, should have readily found an avenue to all that intellectual culture which was known and valued in Egypt, and which, as other historical records testify, was connected chiefly with mathematics, natural philosophy, and medicine. Philo’s statement (De vita Mos.) is of quite a different character; he relates that Moses was educated not only by Egyptian, but also by Greek, Assyrian, and Chaldean teachers.—The terms: δυνατὸς ἐν λόγοις καὶ ἔργοις αὖτοῦ, forcibly remind us of the language in Luke 24:19, where it is remarked of Jesus that he was δυνατὸς ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ. These ἔργα of Moses can, in no case, have been miracles, (none of which are said in the Scriptures to have been wrought by him during this earlier period of his life), but only designate the vigor and the energy of character which his general deportment revealed. The expression δυνατὸς ἐν λόγοις, by no means contradicts, on the other hand, the language which Moses employs, in Exod. 4:10, in reference to himself, as some writers have supposed. He there remarks that he was not אִישׁ דְּבָרִים, but rather בְבַד־ פֶּה וּכְבַד לָשׁוֹן. These words do not mean, as the Septuagint and the Targum of Jonathan interpret them, that Moses was a stammerer, but only that he was not skilful and fluent in discourse. And, indeed, it often occurs that men who possess great strength of character and much intellectual vigor, are deficient in facility of expression, and, nevertheless, exercise vast influence (δυνατὸς ἐν λόγοις).
ACTS 7:23, 24. And when he was full forty years old.—Stephen directs the attention of his hearers, in this verse and in Acts 7:30 and 36, to the circumstance that the whole lifetime of Moses embraced three periods, each consisting of forty years. Although this symmetrical computation may he generally adopted, it is by no means positively established by any statements found in the Pentateuch. The records there mention only two numbers: one hundred and twenty, as the whole age of Moses, Deut. 34:7, and forty years, as the period during which he accompanied the people of Israel in the wilderness; the latter number is stated both incidentally, that is, refers more to the people, Exod. 16:35; Numb. 14:33, 34; and 33:38, and also occurs with a direct reference to Moses; he was, namely, eighty years old when he presented himself before Pharaoh, Exod. 7:7. But no precise statement is elsewhere found, either of the length of the time spent by him in his native country before his flight, or of that of the period of his residence in the wilderness, before he was called at Horeb, Exod. 3:1. The exact determination of these periods, and the equable distribution of the years of Moses (“Mosis vita ter XL. anni.” Bengel), are derived solely from tradition; it is in this instance that the earliest appearance of such a tradition, in a fully developed form, is noticed, although subsequently quite current among the Rabbins.—The phrase: ἀνέβη εὶς τὴν καρδίαν, used impersonally, is unequivocally Hebraistic; עָלָה ַעל־לֵב; it proceeds from the conception of a higher and a lower region in the psychical life of man. A thought may repose in the depths of the soul—it is latent; it ascends, manifests itself, and enters into the region of distinct and conscious life, uniting with man’s sentiments and impulses; it is then fully adopted by his consciousness, and impels him to independent, personal action.—The fact is stated in quite a plain and objective manner, in Exod. 2:11, that Moses went out to his brethren, and looked on their burdens. Stephen, on the other hand, describes the incident subjectively, that is, in such a manner as to give prominence to the sympathy and love from which his resolution proceeded: “It came into his heart to visit his brethren.”
ACTS 7:25. For he supposed his brethren would have understood.—This is an observation made by the speaker on the causes and connection of the incidents, and is not found in the original Hebrew narrative. Stephen views the acts of Moses, Who defended a single Israelite, and slew a single Egyptian, as involving in itself an intimation and a promise respecting the deliverance of the whole people from Egyptian bondage, which God designed to effect through Moses. This design the people should have perceived; but they did not understand it. Stephen, however, seems to imply (when he says οὐ συνῆκαν), not so much that the people were deficient in intelligence or understanding, as that they, rather, had not the will—that their faith in God was weak (ὁ Θεος—διδ. σωτ.)—and that they were not inspired by confidence and hope. [“Stephen makes the remark evidently for the purpose of reminding the Jews of their own similar blindness in regard to the mission of Christ; comp. Acts 7:35.” (Hackett.)—TR.]
ACTS 7:26–29. And the next day he shewed himself unto them.—Here, too, Stephen describes historical events with the life and vigor which are peculiar to him. The very term ὤφθη is striking; it almost seems to imply that a theophany had occurred. It is, no doubt, intended to convey the thought that Moses had appeared to his own people as a messenger of God, not merely as Bengel supposes, ultro, ex improviso, but actually as one who came from a higher world with a divine commission.—The terms: συνήλασεν αὐτοὺς εἰς εἰρήνην, describe the energetic importunity, the vis lenitatis, as Bengel says, of Moses in his efforts to maintain harmony and peace among his countrymen. [Literally, “he drove them together into peace” (J. A. Alex.).—TR.]. The propriety of substituting συνήλλασσεν, cannot be established, nor is συνήλασεν itself correctly interpreted, when taken in the sense: he attempted to restore peace. Moses, on his part, drove the contending parties together, unto peace; the fact is stated only afterwards, in Acts 7:27, 28, that one of them resisted, and thrust the mediator from himself.—The terms in which Moses addresses them, are also rendered with considerable freedom. He says, in brief and direct words, in Exod. 2:13: לָמָּה תַכֶּה רֵעֶךָ; but in Stephen’s narrative, Moses appeals alike to both parties, reminding them, above all, that they are brethren, and should deal with each other in a fraternal spirit.
ACTS 7:29. And was a stranger.—The Arabian geographers of the middle ages mention a city of the name of Madian, which lay east of the Elanitic Gulf; the land of Madian appears to have been a tract of country which extended from the northern shore of the Arabian Gulf and Arabia Felix to the region of Moab. But the Midianites with whom Jethro was connected, were, perhaps, a nomad detachment of the people, which wandered in the Arabian Desert. See WINER: Realm, [art. Midianiter.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. It is not expressly stated in this apologetic address, but it is implied by its whole tenor, as well as by its special design, that Moses is to be viewed as a type of Jesus Christ. The slanderers and accusers of Stephen had charged him with the twofold crime of having blasphemed Moses, and of having spoken contemptuously of the Mosaic law. In his reply, he speaks with copiousness of Moses, but, nevertheless, describes I him, not as a legislator, but as the divinely appointed pointed deliverer and head of the people, to whose confidence and obedience he was entitled. His glance now lingers on the wonderful guidance of Moses, and on the mode in which he was fitted for his calling, wherein so much occurs that no human wisdom could have anticipated; he dwells, too, on the treatment which Moses received from men, especially from his own people. They did not understand that God designed to grant them deliverance through Moses, for they would not understand it: they did not, in a moral point of view, submit to God, neither did they devoutly watch the course of his Providence.—Even the perfect adaptation of Jesus to be a Redeemer, does not produce faith in him and obedience, when the heart is unwilling to submit to the ways of God, and to give heed to his sovereign appointment of a way of salvation.
2. Even as the Israelite to whom Moses appealed, retorted: “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?”, so, too, the Sanhedrists asked Jesus: “Who gave thee this authority?” Mt. 21:23, comp. Lu. 20:2. The divine authorization is doubted, when visible and tangible human credentials are not presented. The truth is, that men unconsciously conceive of God as if he were controlled in his acts by human forms and limitations, and they deny his absolute authority and sovereign power (ὁ Θεὸς τῆς δόξης, Acts 7:2).
Acts 7:17. The manuscripts A. B. C. [and Cod Sin.] read ὡμολόγησεν, and also the Vulgate: confessus erat, which Lachmann and Tischendorf [and Alford] adopt; the reading ἐπηγγείλατο is supported by only a single one of the more important MSS.; and ὤμοσεν [of text. rec.] in D. E. is, without doubt, a later correction. [Tisch. says that ἐπηγγ. is found in D. E., and ὤμοσεν in H., and Alf. repeats this statement; Lechler appears to have transposed these two readings in the present note.—TR.]
Acts 7:18. The reading ἐπ ̓ Αἴγυπτον after ἕτερος, is found, it is true, in A. B. C., and some minuscule mss. [and in Cod. Sin. Syr. Vulg., etc.]; it is however more probable that it was inserted as an explanation, than that it should, by an oversight, have been omitted in D. E. H. [Inserted by Lach., but omitted in text. rec. and by Tisch. and Alt., as an addition from the Sept. Exod. 1:8; with the latter, Meyer and de Wette concur.—TR.]
Acts 7:20. [The marg. of the Engl. ver. furnishes fair to God as a more literal translation than exceeding fair. See the note below.—TR.]
Acts 7:21. The reading adopted by Lachm. ἐκτεθέντον δὲ αὐτοῦ from A. B. C. D. [and Cod. Sin.] was probably introduced by a later hand, [as also Meyer and de Wette think], for the reason that αὐτόν after ἀνείλατο did not seem to suit the preceding accusative ἐκτεθ. δ. αὐτόν. [The acc. of text. rec., as in E. H., is adopted by Alf.; Tisch., as in note 8 below, varies in different editions from himself.—TR.]
Acts 7:22. a.—The reading best supported by the authorities is: ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ, A. C. E. [Cod. Sin.], whereas the omission of the preposition [as in text. rec.] is supported only by D. and H.; [Lach. follows the latter]; the genitive πάσης σοφίας in B, is totally inadmissible, on grammatical grounds, and the accusative π. τ. σοφίαν is found only in a single MSS. [D.—Tisch. and Alf. read ἐν π. σοφιᾴ.—TR.]
Acts 7:22. b.—The reading λόγοις καὶ ἔργοις αὐτοῦ, i.e., without ἐν ἔργ., and with αὐτοῦ added, is fully sustained. [The text. rec. inserts ἐν before ἔργ. from E. and some versions; the prep. is omitted in A. B. C. D. H. The text. rec. also omits αὐτοῦ with H., while the pronoun is found in A. B. C. D. E. The later editors unite in the reading ἐν λ. κ. ἔρ. αὐ., which is also that of Cod. Sin.—TR.]
Acts 7:25.—[The margin offers Now in place of For; the original is the common δὲ. Hackett and Owen prefer For.—TR.]
Acts 7:26.—συνήλασεν [of text. rec. (συνελαύνω)] is obviously a more difficult reading than συνήλλασσεν; it is true that the latter is sustained by B. C. D. [and Cod. Sin.]; but the former is undoubtedly the original reading, and is testified to be such by A. E. H. [The latter in Vulg. reconciliabat, and adopted by Lachm.] Tischendorf [who had previously preferred the latter] has recently adopted συνήλασεν [and in this decision Alford, Meyer, and de Wette concur with him.—TR.]
Acts 7:27.—The genitive ἐφ̓ ἡμῶν is sustained by a greater number of authorities [A. B. C., etc.] than the acc. ἐφ ̓ ἡμᾶς [D. E., etc. Alford regards the gen. as a correction from the Sept. Exod. 2:14, and adopts the acc. of text. rec., while Lach. and Tisch. prefer the gen.—The reading of Cod. Sin. is ἐφ ̓ ἡμας.—TR.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
See on (Acts 7:35–43.)
And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.B.—THE CALLING OF MOSES
30And when forty years were expired [fulfilled], there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina [Sinai] an angel18 of the Lord [om. of the L.] in a flame of fire19 in [of] a bush. 31[But] When Moses saw it, he wondered20 at the sight: and as [but as] he drew near to behold it, the [a] voice of the Lord came unto him21 [om. unto him], 32Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham22, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob [of Abr., and of Is. and of Jacob]. Then [But] Mosestrembled, and durst [ventured] not [to] behold. 33Then said the Lord [But the Lord said] to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where23 thou standest isholy ground. 34I have seen, I have seen [34. I have indeed seen] the affliction [ill treatment] of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning [sighing], and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will [om. will] send24 thee into [to] Egypt.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 7:30. a. And when forty years were expired.—See the EXEG. note on Acts 7:24 above.—The wilderness of Mount Sina [Sinai], that is, the Desert of Arabia, or the Sinaitic peninsula, is designated by Stephen as the region in which the call was given to Moses. It is not here expressly stated, but rather assumed as a well-known fact, that the angel appeared in the immediate vicinity of mount Horeb [Ex.3:1]; it was, at least, that event which gave the name of the mount, Sinai, to the wilderness itself. That name alone occurs in the New Testament, while, in the Old Testament it is used interchangeably with that of Horeb, with the following qualification:—when the narrative refers to the circumstances connected with the giving of the law, and to the sojourning of the Israelites near that mount, the latter receives, with a, single exception [Ex. 33:6], the name of Sinai alone; but previously to the arrival of the people at that spot, and after their departure from it, the mountain receives the name of Horeb exclusively. This circumstance has led Robinson (Bibl. Res. I. 120. ed. 1856) to infer very justly that Horeb was the general name of the whole group of mountains, and that Sinai was the name applied to that particular mount on which the law was given.
b. An angel.—If the correct reading be ἄγγελος without κυρίου, (and such appears to be the case), the specific conception connected with מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה is, unquestionably, no longer suggested by it. Besides, that conception would not be unmistakably expressed even in the reading: ἄγγελος κυρίου, since, as in the Sept., the word angel is not preceded by the article in Exod. 3:2. [The question to which the author alludes, is the following: ‘Was this “angel of Jehovah,” (also called the angel of the covenant) a visible manifestation of God himself, and, specially, of the Logos, as a foreshadowing of his future incarnation, or was this angel a created being, one of the heavenly hosts?’ The former view is that of many church fathers, and the earlier Protestant theologians. It has, in recent times, been adopted by Hengstenberg, Delitzsch (formerly), Nitzsch, Keil, Hævernick, Ebrard, J. P. Lange, Stier, Auberlen, Thomasius, and Kurtz, (formerly). Alford, in a note on this passage, unequivocally adheres to it. The latter view was held by Augustine, Jerome, and, at a later period, by the Socinians, Arminians and Rationalists. But it has also been advocated by Hofmann (Weiss. u. Erf.), Baumgarten, Tholuck (Com. on John, 5th ed.), Delitzsch (more recently), Kurtz (in the second ed. of Hist. of the Old Cov. § 50) and, apparently, by the author, as the tone of the remarks just made here, and also below (DOCTR. and ETH. No. 1.) seems to indicate.—TR.].—The reading: πυοὶ φλ. β. represents the flaming fire of the bush as the most striking feature of the scene, while the other reading, φλογὶ πυρ. β. directs attention rather to the fiery flame; they do not, however, essentially differ in sense. The bush which flames without being consumed by the fire, and in which the angel of Jehovah is present, is the place in which God is revealed. The flaming fire, which did not consume the bush, was not natural fire, but a supernatural light, corresponding to the δόξα of God when He manifests Himself.
ACTS 7:31–33. a. Moses .… wondered.—Stephen does not, in a slavish manner, merely recite the terms employed in the Mosaic narrative, but repeats the substance of the latter with freedom and animation. Thus when he introduces the word ἐθαύμαζεν, the imperfect tense (which is the better reading), conveys the following thought, [WINER: Gram. § 40. 3]:—When Moses first beheld that appearance, he gazed with wonder for a time, before he determined to approach nearer, in order to observe (κατανοῆσαι) the whole more accurately.
b. The voice of the Lord came unto him.—The word spoken by the angel, as the messenger of God, not in his own name, but in that of God, was, in truth, the word of God, and his voice was the voice of God. Here, again, Stephen departs from the text of the Old Testament: according to the latter, the command that Moses should put off his sandals because the place was holy, Exod. 3:5, preceded God’s manifestation of himself as the God of the patriarchs, Acts 7:6. Moses was directed to unloose and put away his sandals, that is, the soles which were fastened with thongs above the feet. The reason may be found in the oriental custom, according to which no visitor was permitted to enter a temple or other holy place, without having previously removed the covering of the feet. The act was both a mark of profound reverence, and also obviated the danger of introducing dust or any other impurity into the sanctuary by means of the sandals. According to rabbinic traditions, the priests performed their duties in the temple of Jerusalem only after having removed the covering of the feet.
ACTS 7:34. I have seen, I have seen.—The words ἰδὼν εἶδον, both here and in the Septuagint, furnish an illustration of the mode of Grecizing the Hebrew verb with the infinitive absolute; and it may be added, that an analogous form of expression can be found in classic Greek writers [comp. WINER: Gram. N. T. §45. 8]. The emphasis which is expressed by the participial repetition of the verb, here denotes a seeing or a looking on, which is both long continued, and also produces sympathy and causes grief.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The theological, mooted point, involved in the proposition: “The Angel of Jehovah, who repeatedly appears in the Old Test., and, at times, speaks in the name of God himself, is identical with the eternal Son of God, who appeared, previously to his incarnation, in the form of an angel,” is not sustained by the language of Stephen; he speaks merely of an angel, whereas “the angel of Jehovah” is mentioned in Exod. 3:2. [See note 1, appended to the text.—TR.]
2. The fear and trembling of Moses (Acts 7:32), as soon as he became conscious that God himself was present and was distinctly manifested, were perfectly natural results in the case of a man whose heart was not perverted and callous. It is, besides, a significant fact that this revelation of God occurred in the immediate vicinity of the same mountain which was, soon afterwards, chosen as the scene of the giving of the law. We are not authorized by the narrative, it is true, to infer that it was the divine purpose to convey to Moses, at this early period, a conception of the solemn and impressive scenes which would attend the giving of the law. Still, his first impressions of the exalted majesty, holiness, and δόξα of God, must have been combined with alarm and fear. His fears were succeeded by a feeling of encouragement. The divine words, Acts 7:34, were reviving and cheering, for they expressed love (τοῦ λαοῦ μου), pity, and saving grace.
3. The place where Moses stood was holy ground, simply for the reason that God was there present and revealed himself. The spot itself possessed no sanctity of its own as distinguished from any other; it became holy ground solely for the reason that it was the sovereign will of God to reveal himself there rather than elsewhere. The whole purpose of the discourse of Stephen required him to insist on this point. This principle is, indeed, in strict accordance with the entire Mosaic legislation, according to the tenor of which, as far as the locality of a divine revelation is concerned, all is made by God himself to depend on his own choice of the place where he will “record his name,” Exod 21:24.
Acts 7:30. a. External evidence of a decisive character cannot be produced either for the reading ἄγγελος, or for ἄγγελος κυρίου; the former is supported by A. B. C., the latter by D. E. H.; the ancient versions [Vulg. angelus] also vary considerably. The point must, consequently, be decided by internal evidence. Now, if κυρίου were the original reading, it would scarcely have been omitted; it could far more easily have been subsequently added, particularly as the original Hebrew in Exod. 3:2 is מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה, and the Sept. also reads ἄγγ. κυρίου. Hence Lach. and Tisch. [and Alf.] have very properly cancelled [Cod. Sin. omits κυρ. after ἅγγ.—TR.]
Acts 7:30. b. Tischendorf reads πυρὶ φλογός [with A. C. E.] instead of φλογὶ πυρός [of text. rec., which is adopted by Lach. and Alf. with B (e sil). D. H. and also Cod. Sin.]; both readings are likewise furnished by the MSS. of the Sept. in Exod. 3:2, with nearly the same weight of authority for each reading. [The current printed text of the Sept., in accordance with B. reads πυρὶ φλ.; but A. and ed. Ald. (1518), and Complut. Pol. (1517 ff.) exhibit φλ. πυρ. (Landschreiber’s Add. to Stier and Th.’s Pol. Bib.)—TR.]. φλ. π. is the easier reading, and, therefore, liable to suspicion.
Acts 7:31. a. Ἐθαύμαζεν in D. E. H. [and Cod. Sin.] and many small mss. is preferable to the aorist ἐθαύμασεν [of text. rec.] which is found in A. B. (e sil). C. The imperfect is quite appropriate in this connection [and is adopted by Tisch. and Alf. while Lach. prefers the aorist.—TR.]
Acts 7:31. b. It is true that in a number of MSS. [C. Vulg., etc.] κυρίου is followed by πρὸς αὐτόν; but as these two words are wanting in A. B. [Syr.] and several Oriental manuscripts, they must be regarded as a gloss. [The words πρὸς αὐτόν are omitted in Cod. Sin.—TR.]
Acts 7:32. The fuller reading: ὁ Θεὸς Ἀβρ. καὶ ὁ Θεὸς Ἰσ. κ. ὁ Θ. Ἰακ. in D. E. H. [and Vulg.] is more elaborate than ὁ Θεὸς Ἀβρ. καὶ Ἰσ. κ. Ἰακ., found in A. B. C. [and Cod. Sin.] and preferred by Lach. and Tisch. [and Alf.; but Meyer considers it a later adaptation to Acts 3:13 above.—TR.]
Acts 7:33. Ἐφ ̓ ᾦ is far more strongly supported [by A. B. C. Cod. Sin.] than ἐν ᾦ, which is found only in E. H., and appears to have been borrowed from the text of the Sept.: the former has, accordingly, been preferred by Lach., Tisch., and Meyer [and Alf.].
Acts 7:34. The future, ἀποστελῶ, of the text. rec. is supported by only one important MSS., namely, H., while A. B. C. D. have the present, ἀποστέλλω, and E. also, which reads ἀποστίλλω (where the ε was omitted only by a lapsus pennæ), advocates the present tense, which the latest critics have unanimously adopted. [Alf. retains the apparently undisputed reading of the Sept. in Exod. 3:10, i.e. ἀποστείλω, the subjunctive aorist (de Wette; see WINER: Gr. N. T. § 41. 4). Both Tisch. (ed. 1849) and Lach. adopt the same reading, (aor. subj. and not pres. or fut. indic.), referring to A. B. C. D. E., as the authorities.—Cod. Sin. exhibits the form ἀποστίλω, which also represents ἀποστείλω.—TR.]
For HOM. and PRACT. see on (Acts 7:35–43)
This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.C.—THE DEALINGS OF THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL WITH MOSES, AND WITH GOD
35This Moses whom they refused [denied], saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same [this (one)] did God send25 to be [send as] a ruler and a deliverer [redeemer] by26 [with] the hand of the angel which [who] appeared to him in the bush. 36He [This (one)] brought them out, after that he had shewed [wrought] wonders and signs in the land of Egypt27, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness [during] forty years. 37This is that Moses, which [who] said unto the children of Israel, A Prophet shall the Lord your God28 [will God] raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me29; him shall ye hear [om. him … hear].5 38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which [who] spake to him in [on] the mount Sina [Sinai], and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles [receivedliving words] to give unto us. 39To whom our fathers would not [were not willing to] obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts30 [with their heart] turned backagain into [turned to] Egypt, 40Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for [of] this Moses, which [who] brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot [know] not what is become of [has happened to] him. 41And they made a calf in those days, and offered [brought] sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42Then [But] God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye [Ye] house of Israel, have ye offered to me [.ME] slain beasts and sacrifices [victims and offerings] by the space of [during] forty years in the wilderness? 43Yea, [And] ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your31 [of the] god Remphan32 [Rephan], [the, τοὺς] figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away [remove you] beyond Babylon.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 7:35, 36. a. This Moses whom they refused.—The reader of the four verses, 35–38, at once notices that each begins with the demonstrative pronoun, and that, moreover, the second part of Acts 7:35 is also introduced by it, while the relative is employed in a similar manner in Acts 7:38, 39. The repetition of this direct reference to the person of Moses, undeniably involves a rhetorical emphasis. It is primarily designed to exhibit the contrast between the divine call which Moses received, and the work assigned to him by God, on the one hand, and the treatment, on the other hand, which he received from his own people, who disowned and rejected him. Of this striking difference in the experience of Moses, with respect, first, to God, and, then, to the people, a twofold illustration is given: (a) Acts 7:35, 36, the original rejection of Moses by his countrymen, as compared with the subsequent divine mission which he received to be the saviour and deliverer of the people amid wonders and signs; (b) Acts 7:37–39, the dignity conferred by God on Moses (consisting in his appointment to act, through the intercourse which he was permitted to have with the angel, as the mediator of God’s revelations to the people, and to become the predecessor of the promised Prophet), as compared with the disobedience of the Israelites, who turned away from him, and disowned him as a man whose absence was not satisfactorily explained, or who had passed away.
b. There is thus, a contrast between the sentiments originally entertained by the Israelites in reference to Moses, and his subsequent actual mission to them, or his miraculous work, when he led Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. But this contrast can be seen in the proper light only when, (in accordance with the example of Stephen), we apply the principle expressed by the term solidarity [joint responsibility] to the language of the Israelite mentioned in Exod. 2:13, 14. For the plural ἠρνήσαντο εἰπόντες, is here intended to imply that the language of one man expressed the real sentiments of many, or was even the index of the views which all entertained; unius hominis dicta et facta adscribuntur etiam illis, qui eodem sunt animo. (Bengel).
c. The contrast is, specially, formed by the following two propositions: (1) τίς σε κατέστησεν ἄρχοντα καὶ δικαστήν; (2) ὁ Θεὸς ἀπέσταλκεν αὐτὸν ἄρχοντα καὶ λυτρωτῄν. The former contains the human question (of unbelief and denial); the latter, the divine answer, as given by the divine act. But while God undoubtedly sent him as a ruler and leader, whose call as an ἄρχων had been denied, he did not send him merely as a δικαστής, which fact was not recognized, but in the still higher capacity of a λυτρωτής. Here a climax is presented. In the first instance, the authority of Moses to judge, or decide a dispute between two individuals, was questioned; but God afterwards sent him as the saviour of his whole nation, and the umpire and administrator, as it were, in the case of two nations.—Σὺν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου; literally, united with the hand, the helping power, of the angel; the phrase implies that the intercourse of Moses with the angel, and the power and operations of the latter, furnished the former with his credentials as the ambassador of God.
ACTS 7:37–39. a. This is that Moses.—The second contrast, which is analogous to the first, is presented in these verses; in this case, however, the divine procedure is first described, and the course adopted by the Israelites afterwards considered, while, in the former case, this order is reversed. God conferred the high dignity on Moses of being a prophet, a mediator of divine revelations; the Israelites would not [οὐκ ἠθέλησαν] obey, but turned away from him, and “turned again with the heart” to Egypt. The language in Acts 7:37 is intended to give prominence to the rank of Moses and to the divine favor which he enjoyed, by introducing the circumstance that the Prophet promised by God, the Messiah, was to be a prophet as Moses (ὡς ἐμέ). [Deut. 18:18, already quoted above in Acts 3:22]. The position of Moses as a prophet is explained by a description of his mediatory agency at the time when the law was given. He was in the church (ἐκκλησία, the assembly of the people) with the angel, and with our fathers, that is to say, his call, his official duties, and his position, connected him, on the one hand, with the angel, but, on the other, with the people: from the former he received; to the latter he gave (ἐδέξατο—δοῦναι). Thus he stood between them, and was the mediator between God and the people.—The angel spake to him on mount Sinai. That which the book of Exodus ascribes directly to Jehovah, is conceived by Stephen (who concurs with the Alexandrian Jews, e. g., Philo) as having been accomplished through the mediation of angels.—Stephen describes the law itself as consisting of λόγια ζῶντα, that is, divine sayings, or oracles; they are not like a dead letter, but possess vital power and efficacy. (See below: DOCTR. AND ETH., No. 3). Stephen had been accused of speaking against the law, and of blaspheming Moses (Acts 6:11, 13); here, he commends its high character, speaks of it with reverence, and exalts it.
b. But thrust him from them.—Although God had so highly honored Moses, and assigned such a lofty position to him, his own people had not the will to obey him, and to submit to his guidance (ὑπήκοοι γενέσθαι); on the contrary, they thrust him from them (ἀπώσαντο, like ἀπώσατο, in Acts 7:27), and turned again to Egypt, with their heart, their wishes and longings. What was the object of their desires? It was usual among earlier interpreters, whom all those of more recent times imitate, to assume that this object could only have been the image-worship of Egypt. It is, however, remarkable that not a single word occurs in the present passage, when the golden calf is mentioned, which would imply that it was made as an imitation of an Egyptian idol; nor is there any distinct intimation found in the Old Testament, whether we consult the Pentateuch or the succeeding boots (not even excepting Ezek. 20:7, 8), that this image of a calf in the desert of Arabia, was an Egyptian reminiscence. It was, doubtless, such essentially; still, a statement that such was the case, is not found either in the passage before us, or in any passage of the Old Testament. We have, consequently, little reason to maintain that the sentiments with which the Israelites looked back to Egypt referred mainly, and still less, that they referred exclusively, to the Egyptian worship of idols. We have much more reason to believe that this turning back of the Israelites unto Egypt refers to a feeling which was now aroused, and which afterwards repeatedly manifested itself, namely, a longing after Egypt and the enjoyments and whole mode of life to which they had there become accustomed; comp. Numb. 11:5.
ACTS 7:40. Make us gods to go before us.—If the former verse be so understood as to ascribe to the Israelites a longing to return to Egypt, proceeding from home-sickness, Meyer holds that, then, their present demand must necessarily refer to “gods” who should conduct them on their return. But such is not by any means the sense of Acts 7:40. Stephen had, in the former verse, mentioned their longing desire after Egypt simply as an evidence that they were now alienated in feeling from Moses, and unwilling to be guided by him. But in Acts 7:40, he simply repeats the terms occurring in the original narrative, Exod. 32:1, which presents an additional and a striking proof that the sentiments of the people had become unfriendly to Moses. The Hebrew text does not furnish the slightest indication of a desire on the part of the people actually to return to Egypt, preceded by the idol which was to be made. Bengel has, in our judgment, inaccurately understood the word προπορεύσονται in such a sense.—The nominative absolute, ὁ γὰρ Μωϋσῆς οὖτος, etc., stands first in the order of the words, for the purpose of giving special prominence to the person named; we have not, however, any reason to suppose that οὖτος is intended to express a feeling of contempt [de Wette; the word is repeatedly used by Stephen with reverence; see note on Acts 7:35 f. a. above.] The logical connection indicated by γάρ, is not, as Meyer supposes, the following: ‘We may unhesitatingly introduce an idolatrous worship, for Moses, that inflexible opponent of it, has now disappeared!’ (Meyer).—The connection is, rather, the following; ‘We do not know what has occurred to Moses, who brought us out, and was hitherto our leader; his place at the head of our host, must be occupied by a divine leader, and that shall be the God whom Aaron is to make.’ Here, too, Moses is evidently mentioned in a disparaging tone, and the people faithlessly disown their obligations to him.
ACTS 7:41. And they made a calf.—The actual making of the image of a calf, or, rather, a bull (which is here described by a verb, μοσχοποιεῖν, not found elsewhere, in the whole range of Greek literature), is mentioned by Stephen as the act of the people, whereas in Exod. 32:4, Aaron is represented as exclusively the maker. But he very justly charges the former with the act, for Aaron was governed by their directions, and was, in a certain sense, only the obedient servant who executed the will of the sovereign people.—The image of the bull was, doubtless, a symbol borrowed from Egypt, and intended to represent either Apis, a living bull at Memphis in Upper Egypt, or Mnevis at Heliopolis in Lower Egypt; divine honor was paid to both animals. Earlier writers, e. g., Spencer and Selden, as well as others of a later period, e. g., Lengerke, refer the image to Apis; Ewald believes that it rather represents Mnevis. [See the art. Kalb in WIN. Realw., and especially, in HERZOG: Real-Encyk.].—Stephen terms the object εἴδωλον, an idol, although strictly speaking, it did not bear this character: it was, rather, in the view both of the people and of Aaron (Exod. 32:4, 5), merely a visible image of the true and living God, or of Jehovah, and was not intended to represent a false or imaginary god. Nevertheless, as from the nature of the case, the worship of God under any image made by man, imperceptibly conducts to a deification of the creature as the natural result, this image of Jehovah is pronounced to be an idol. Stephen designedly appends the words τῷ εἰδώλῳ to ἀνήγαγον θυσίαν, although the original text in Exod. 32:6 merely says: וַיַעֲלוּ עֹלֹת. For he intends to convey the idea that the Israelites in reality brought sacrifices, not to God, but to the image. They rejoiced in the works of their own hands, i.e., they sinned against the Creator, by joyfully deifying the works of their own hands, namely, created objects.
ACTS 7:42, 43. a. Then God turned, and gave them up.—Stephen now refers to the divine punishment, which followed the disobedience of the people, who apostatized from the worship of the living God.—God turned away from them; ἔστρεψε is here used in a middle and reflexive sense, like ἀναστρέφω in Acts 15:16, and does not refer, in a transitive sense, to αὐτούς, as if it were equivalent to: convertit animos eorum (Heinrichs); neither is it used adverbially, like שׁוּב when followed by a second verb, as if it were equivalent to rursus tradidit (Morus). This latter interpretation, indeed, does not accord with the facts, at least in so far as the narrative does not exhibit any traces of an earlier idolatrous worship on the part of the Israelites, of which the present was only a repetition; the former (of Heinrichs), on the other hand, would give a tautological sense to παρέδωκεν αὐτούς. The word ἔστρεψε only denotes that God henceforth looked on his sinful people with merited displeasure.—The language: παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς λατρ. does not simply express a divine permission, as Chrysostom [εἴασε] and recent interpreters understand it, but describes an act of God, which proceeded from his penal justice. That worship to which God gave up, or abandoned the Israelites was Star-worship [Sabæism], or the worship (λατρεύειν) of the sidereal world—a form of idolatry which prevailed as well in Egypt, as in Chaldea and Phœnicia.
b. Have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices?—To prove that the Israelites had really been guilty of idolatry during their journey in the wilderness, Stephen appeals to Amos 5:25–27, which passage, while he in general adheres to the Alexandrian version, he nevertheless quotes with a certain degree of freedom. The question: Μὴ … Ἰσραήλ in Acts 7:42 [the form of which requires a negative answer (WINER: Gram. § 61. 3. b.)—TR.], means: “Ye certainly have offered me no sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness!” It conveys, without doubt, a reproach, in a rhetorical manner, and implies that even the sacrifices which were offered to Jehovah in the wilderness, had not been accepted, in consequence of the prevailing idolatry. There is, hence, no reason for supposing, as some have done, that the pronoun μοι is equivalent to the [more emphatic] phrase ἐμοὶ μόνῳ. The positive charge is made in Acts 7:43: Ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch.—The Greek here strictly follows the text of the Septuagint; the latter, without doubt, guided merely by conjecture, exhibits the words τοῦ Μολόχ, in place of the Hebrew מַלְכְּכֶם, which signifies “your king,” i.e., idol. The סִכּוּת was the portable tent of the idol, which was carried along by the Israelites during the march, constituting the opposite, or the rival, of the “tabernacle of witness” [Acts 7:44]. The precise nature and character of Moloch are far from having been fully established by documentary accounts; there can be no doubt, however, that this name was given to a sidereal deity. With respect to the name Ῥεμφάν, the Septuagint, which Stephen here follows, departs still further from the original Hebrew. The word ἄστρον probably denotes an image of a star, the symbol of the star-god Remphan. This latter name, which the Septuagint substitutes for Chiun (כִּיּוּן), seems to have had an Egyptian origin, and to refer to Saturn. [For the results of the most recent investigations, see J. G. Müller’s two articles, MOLOCH, and REPHAN, in HERZOG: Real-Encyk.—TR.].—When God threatens, and declares that he will expel the idolatrous people from the land, and cause them to be conducted to a distant country, the original Hebrew, which the Septuagint follows, simply specifies Damascus as the point beyond which they shall be carried. In view, however, of the well-known historical fulfilment of the divine words, Stephen substitutes the name of Babylon for that of the Syrian capital.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Moses, a type of Jesus.—This thought is obviously involved in Stephen’s reference, in Acts 7:37, to the prediction concerning “a prophet like unto me.” Moses, a man through whom God spoke to the fathers; Jesus, He in whom God has spoken at the last. Moses, a mediator between God and the people; Jesus Christ, the mediator between men and God. Moses, disowned and rejected by his people, who disobey, and refuse to yield to his guidance and authority; Jesus, denied, cast out, and crucified by his people, because they would not have such a Messiah to reign over them [Lu. 19:14]. On the other hand, Moses, highly favoured by God (“mighty in words and in deeds,” Acts 7:22; comp. Lu. 24:19), attested by miracles; and sent as the ruler and deliverer of his people; Jesus, sent by God, and anointed, as the Redeemer, Messiah, and Saviour. It is also true that “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” [John 1:17].
2. Stephen is strictly consistent with himself when he represents the revelations of God as having been made to Moses through the mediation of an angel; this is true with respect to the call of Moses at Horeb, Acts 7:30, 35, to the divine act of the giving of the law, Acts 7:38 (and comp. Acts 7:53), and to the whole intercourse of Moses with God. It is as undoubtedly true that God himself spoke with Moses through the angel, Acts 7:31, and that He himself sent Moses, Acts 7:35; it is, indeed, in consequence of these facts, that such a lofty position and such an exalted mission are claimed for Moses, as contradistinguished from the people. Still, the peculiar circumstance that God did not speak to Moses directly, but only through the intervention of an angel, assigns to this prophet a subordinate position, as compared with Jesus Christ. Stephen does not expressly state this point, it is true, but he intimates it, to the honor of the Messiah.
3. The commandments given by God to Moses, and delivered by the latter to the people, are λόγια ζῶντα. This term is not, as some interpreters allege, equivalent to ζωοποιοῦντα. For, that the law as a whole, or that any particular commandments of the Mosaic law, were capable of imparting or infusing life, where no life had previously been known, Stephen, certainly could not have intended to say, in opposition to all his convictions concerning Jesus. But he does ascribe life and efficient power to the law itself. He has not here explained his meaning, but we may conjecture that it was the following:—The law is a living power, in so far as it takes hold of the conscience, and gives it additional vitality, when it exclaims: “Thou shalt,” “Thou shalt not;” further, in so far as it does not permit the will to repose inactively, but either guides it in the path of duty, or else provokes it to resistance; and, lastly, in so far as all the promises and threatenings connected with it, are actually fulfilled.
4. An image of God, which is intended to receive worship in any form or degree, is at once converted into an idol. This result, whatever visible representation of God is contrived, follows so naturally and logically, that no preventives can be of any avail. The wisdom of God is revealed in the Decalogue, in which the making of any images of God whatsoever, out of any materials, or after the form of any created object, is strictly prohibited under all circumstances, Exod. 20:4, 5. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Son of man, is alone the true image of God, in whom we see the Father. The Catholic church professedly distinguishes in theory between reverence (“debitum honorem et venerationem”) and adoration, but, in practice, the former always conducts to the latter, at least in the great mass of the congregations. It avoids the use of the term adoration, but tolerates and retains all that the term implies. And thus men are inevitably, even if unconsciously, brought to the point at which the deification of the creature, or idolatry begins; the worship of images terminates in idolatry.
5. God revealed his justice when he turned away from the Israelites, and gave them up to idolatry. As they had turned from him with their heart (ἐστράφησαν, Acts 7:39), He himself justly turned away from them (ἔστρεψε, Acts 7:42). As they had, in opposition to his commandment, converted a created object into an image of Him, he abandoned them to absolute idolatry or the adoration of the creature. Their sin was followed by an analogous retribution and punishment. “If thou departest from God, he will depart from thee!” It was in this manner that he punished the apostasy of the Gentiles, Rom. 1:23–25. So, too, as an impartial judge, he punished the same sin, when Israel was guilty of it; and he adopts the same course in the case of apostasy within the pale of Christendom.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 7:17. But when the time of the promise drew nigh.—What a faithful God we have! He always remembers his promise, and fulfils it, even though he who received it, may have died long ago. Remember this, thou desponding pastor! Thou mayest fall asleep with Abraham, without seeing the fruits of thy labor, but God will, nevertheless, fulfil his promise after thy death. (Starke).
ACTS 7:18. Which knew not Joseph.—Nothing is sooner forgotten than a benefit that has been received. (Starke).
ACTS 7:19. That they cast out their young children.—Such is the conduct of the persecutors of the church. They deal deceitfully with the devout, and seek the ruin of spiritual youths and children. (Starke).—These young children of the Israelites in Egypt—the little martyrs—belong to the company of the children afterwards murdered by Herod in Bethlehem. (Besser).
ACTS 7:21. Nourished him for her own son.—Pharaoh, who had issued the cruel command that Moses should be put to death, nevertheless educates him at his own court. God so protects his people, that even enemies become their servants.
ACTS 7:22. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.—By the appointment of God, to whom all the endowments and resources of the nations belong, the art and science of Egypt aided in accomplishing his design. (Starke).—It is a gracious act of God, when he enables an individual to acquire the treasures of human knowledge; they may be made available in his service. Human science, however, must be associated with divine grace, and human learning derive its life and power from the Spirit, through whom alone truly useful results can be produced. (Apost. Past.).
ACTS 7:22. To visit his brethren.—He is not a faithful Moses, whom the afflictions of the church of God do not move.
ACTS 7:24. And smote the Egyptian.—It does not seem probable, it is true, that a man-slayer should be a true believer. In this case, however, as in those of Phinehas (Numb. Acts 25) and of Elijah (1 Kings, Acts 18), the act was of an extraordinary character, and is not intended to serve as an example.—Besides, Moses did not intend to shed blood; he simply designed to defend an injured man, and was governed, not by personal considerations, but by love to his people.—But this act was, in accordance with the counsel of God, the prelude of all that he designed to accomplish through Moses, namely, the destruction of the Egyptians, and the deliverance of Israel. (From Starke and Apost. Past.).
ACTS 7:25. But they understood not.—Jesus, too, came unto his own, and his own received him not. [John 1:11]. (Quesnel).
ACTS 7:28. Wilt thou kill me?—It is sad, when the sick man disowns his physician, the subject his prince, the slave his deliverer; or, when man turns from his Saviour, and rejects his aid. So we deal with Christ; Matt. 23:37. (Quesn.).
ACTS 7:29. Then fled Moses … and was a stranger.—This ingratitude of the Jews added forty years to the period of their bondage; for God could have delivered them even at this time through Moses. (Starke).—But, on the other hand, God devoted these forty years to the work of preparing Moses for his future calling. It is in solitude, or in tranquil scenes, that God trains his agents. Moses was already learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. He was, besides, aware, Acts 7:25, that God had appointed him to be the deliverer of Israel, and he doubtless supposed at this early day that he was already qualified to perform the work. But he is, on the contrary, compelled to be a fugitive, and to pass forty additional years in another country, where, doubtless, many a sad tale of the afflictions of his people reached his ears. The call is at length made on him; at an apparently late day. It is an unfavorable indication of character, when an individual obtrudes himself, as it were, on the sacred office, and cannot wait till God has opened the way. (Apost. Past.).—Periods of delay in the kingdom of God, viewed as seasons of ripening: I. When the ungodly ripen for judgment [Gen. 15:16]; II. When believers are exercised in implicit submission to the divine will; III. When the agents of God are trained for his service.
ACTS 7:30. The burning bush, [סְנֶה a thorn-bush, bramble. ROBINSON: Lex.—TR.] viewed as an emblem and type: I. Of the Israelites, who, when they were in Egypt, resembled a degenerate, wild thorn-bush—burning, but not consumed in the furnace of affliction, amid fiery trials: II. Of the Messiah, whose human lowliness (thorn-bush) was united with divine glory (the flame in the bush) in one undivided Person (the bush was not consumed); III. Of the Christian Church, which bears the shame of the cross, but amid all its trials, exhibits an indestructible vital power. “This bush has been burning nearly 2000 years, and still no one has seen its ashes.” (From Starke and other earlier writers.)
ACTS 7:32. Moses trembled, not from servile fear, but in devout humility. How well it is, when a pastor experiences this holy trembling on entering the pulpit, not only at the commencement of his ministry, but ever afterwards! Does not this child-like awe—this reverence in the presence of God—present a barrier to many idle words, to many vain gestures, to many a sinful act? Is it not a stimulus, always urging him to speak and to act as in the divine presence, by the direction of the Spirit, after the mind of God? (Ap. Past.).
ACTS 7:33. The words.: Put off thy shoes, etc., an admonition to put away all the pollutions of the world, and all pride, in the presence of the Lord: addressed, I. To pastors, whether in the study, or in the pulpit; II. To the hearers, whether they are approaching the house of God, or are engaged in the services.
ACTS 7:34. I have seen, etc. The deeper our distress is, the nearer is God: I. He sees the afflictions of his people; II. He hears the sighing of the believer; III. He comes with his aid at the proper moment; IV. He sends forth his servants.
ACTS 7:35 ff. This Moses. (See above, DOCTR. AND ETH., No. 1.).
ACTS 7:38. Who received the lively oracles.—The law of God, too, is a living word: it has a life of its own,—emanating from the living God; I. To man, in the state of innocence, it was a life-giving power, not weighing down nor destroying, but developing and guiding, his natural life. II. In the state of sin, man does find that the law is “the letter that killeth” (2 Cor. 3:6), for it exposes his spiritual death, and threatens him with death eternal. Yet, even here it manifests its own life, else would it not burn like fire in the sinner’s heart, and pierce like a two-edged sword; yea, it imparts life, by awakening the conscience, and pointing to Him whose word gives life, John 6:63. III. (Lastly,) in the state of grace, the law is neither dead nor set aside; for, with respect to its own nature, it now receives additional vital power in Christ, who unfolds and fulfils it; and, with respect to the believer himself, it enters fully into his heart, acts in unison with his spiritual nature, inspires him with love, and enables him, through the Holy Spirit, to follow after holiness.
ACTS 7:39. Whom our fathers would not obey.—We are here furnished with a useful guide, when we encounter persons who attempt to justify their disobedience to evangelical truth, by appealing to the fathers, to the ancients. We are taught to reply, that we will cheerfully render all that is due to the memory of the fathers, but that in so far as they were disobedient to the Gospel, their conduct cannot serve as an example for us, since the infallible word of God alone, is, and always must continue to be, our rule of faith and practice. (Apost. Past.).—In their hearts turned, etc.—Behold this image of those ungrateful Christians who turn away from the Redeemer by whom they were delivered from sin, and, with their hearts, return to Egypt, the corrupt world. (Starke).—This is one of Satan’s snares. When a soul is touched and awakened, he seeks to regain control over it, by reminding it of the sensual enjoyments which it had formerly found in the service of sin.
ACTS 7:40. Saying unto Aaron.—How circumspectly this case should teach the servants of God to walk. No intellectual strength, nor any official rank or dignity, can protect us against the snares of the enemy, unless we perseveringly walk, by faith, with God. When we forsake his presence, we cannot successfully resist either specious promises or violent threats. (Apost. Past.).
ACTS 7:42. Then God turned, and gave them up.—God inflicts the most severe punishment, when he abandons men, and gives them up to their own perverted mind, so that one sin impels them to the commission of another. (Starke).—Have ye offered to me, etc.—God does not regard the sacrifices which the hand, but those which the heart and mind, offer to him. Ps. 51:19; Isai. 66:2. (Starke).
ACTS 7:43. I will carry you away.—There is a certain analogy between the guilt which man contracts, and the punishment which God inflicts. Idolatrous nations are his agents in punishing the idolatry of the Jews. (Starke).—God removes men to new habitations, sometimes in wrath (Acts 7:43), sometimes in mercy, Acts 7:4. (Starke).
ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 7:17–43.
Moses, viewed as the deliverer of his people, and Christ, as the Redeemer of the world: I. The resemblance between Moses and Christ; (a) both received the attestation of God: the miraculous deliverance in infancy (Pharaoh and Herod); the training for the great work, in retirement (Moses at the court of Pharaoh, and in the wilderness; Jesus in the abode of the carpenter, and in the wilderness near Jordan); the solemn call to assume office (Moses at Horeb; Jesus at his baptism); abundant gifts of the Spirit, and power (Moses, “mighty in words and in deeds,” Acts 7:22; Jesus, “mighty in deed and word,” Luke 24:19); the deliverance wrought by each, and the judgment which, in each case, visited an ungrateful and disobedient people.
(b) both are disowned and rejected by the people: their divine mission was not recognized, Acts 7:27, their holy sentiments were blasphemed, Acts 7:28, the liberty which they offered, was scorned, Acts 7:39, their memory was blotted out by an ungrateful generation, Acts 7:40. II. Christ’s superiority to Moses. The latter delivers from temporal, Christ, from spiritual bondage; Moses delivers Israel, Christ, mankind; Moses was the agent of a temporal, Christ, the author of an eternal redemption [Heb. 9:12]; Moses was a servant [Heb. 3:5], Christ, is the Lord.
The early training of Hoses an illustration of God’s mode of preparing his chosen instruments: by means of, I. Great dangers, and divine protection, Acts 7:21; II. Human learning, Acts 7:22, and divine illumination, Acts 7:30; III. Varied experience of the world, Acts 7:22–24, and retired self-communion, Acts 7:29; IV. Painful humiliations, Acts 7:27, 28, and rich exhibitions of divine grace, Acts 7:32–34. (A similar view may be taken of the early history, and later experience of Joseph, David, Elijah, Paul, Luther, etc.).
God’s chosen instruments: I. The materials which he selects; II. The mode in which they are prepared; III. The tests to which they are subjected; IV. The work which he performs through them.
Moses, a model, as a true reformer: possessing, as he does, the indispensable qualifications of, I. Treasures of knowledge, and of religious experience; II. Clear views of the age in which he lived, and an ardent love for the people; III. An heroic spirit, in the presence of the world, and childlike humility in the presence of God and his word.
Moses, both a man of God, and also a man of the people: I. By birth, he belonged to the people; II. In spirit and character, he stood above the people; III. He labored in word and in deed for the people; IV. He acted against the people and their evil desires, in conformity to the law of God.
Moses among his people, or, The grace of God, and the ingratitude of men; I. The grace of God, Acts 7:35–38; II. The ingratitude of men, Acts 7:39–43. —[The flight of Moses from Egypt, Acts 7:29: I. The circumstances which occasioned it; II. The divine purpose in permitting it.; III. The results. —Or, viewed as illustrative, I. Of human character; II. Of the ways of Providence. —TR.]
Acts 7:35. a. The perfect tense ἀπέσταλκεν is supported by a far greater number of MSS. [A. B. D. E. and Cod. Sin.] than the aorist ἀπέστειλεν [of the text. rec. which follows C. H. The perf. is adopted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 7:35. b. σὺν χειρί is most fully sustained by the authorities [A. B. C. D. E.; Syr., Vulg.], while ἐν χ., which is obviously an easier reading, is found only in one MS. [H. but also in Cod. Sin.—Meyer and de Wette think that σὺν was substituted for the original ἐν.—σὺν in Lach., Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 7:36. γῇ Αἰγύπτῳ in A. E. H. [Cod. Sin.] and minuscule mss., as well as in the Greek church fathers, is, without doubt, the genuine reading, while τῇ Αἰγύπτῳ [adopted by Lach. from B. C.] and γῇ Αἰγύπτου may be traced to it as their original source. [Tisch. and Alf. read γῇ Αἰγύπτῳ.—TR.]
Acts 7:37. a. Lachmann and Tischendorf [and Alf.], follow A. B. D., and prefer the shortest reading, i.e., ἀναστήσει ὁ Θεὸς ἐκ τ. ἀδ., so that both κύριος before ὸ Θεὸς [of text. rec. with C. E. H.], and ὑμῶν after the latter, are cancelled as interpolations. [Cod. Sin. omits both κύριος and ὑμῶν].——So, too, αὐτοῦ ἀκούσεσθε [in the same verse], although not without authorities of weight, [C. D (corrected). E. Vulg., etc.], is, nevertheless, to be regarded as a spurious reading, since it could have been more easily interpolated from the original Hebrew and the Septuagint, than have been omitted, if it had originally constituted a part of the text. [The two words are omitted by Cod. Sin.—TR.]
Acts 7:37. b. [The margin of the Engl. Bible substitutes for: like unto me (Tynd.; Cranmer; Geneva) the more literal translation (Rheims): as myself.—TR.]
Acts 7:39. The reading τῇ καρδίᾳ is found only in one MS. [H.] of the first class, but occurs in others of the second class, and also in various ancient oriental versions and Greek church fathers; internal evidence, however, decides in favor of it, rather than in that of ταῖς καρδίαις [of text. rec. with D. E.], or of ἐν ταῖς κ. [of A. B. C. and Cod. Sin., and adopted by Lach.]. It has, accordingly, been preferred by Tischendorf [and Alf.]
Acts 7:43. a. The correct reading is, doubtless, θε͂οῦ without ὑμῶν; the latter word [of text. rec.] is wanting, it is true, only in two MSS., B. and D., and some oriental versions, but was probably inserted from the Septuagint, Amos 5:26. [ὑμῶν, found in A. C. E. Cod. Sin., is omitted by Lach., Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 7:43. b. The orthography of Rephan varies in a surprising manner; nearly every one of the principal MSS. has a form of the word peculiar to itself. Lachmann and Tischendorf [and Alf.] have adopted Ῥεφάν [in accordance with C. E., etc.; other forms are: ῤαιφάν, A. and Sept.; ῥεμφάν of text. rec. in a few MSS.; ῥεμφάμ, D. and Vulg.; ῥομφᾶ, B. and Complut.; ῥεφᾶ or ῥεφφᾶ, H., etc.; ἁαφάν, ῥεφφάν, Syr., etc.—Cod. Sin. exhibits ρομφαν; a later hand (C) corrected thus: ραιφαν.—TR.]
Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.§ III. The third part of the discourse, embracing the period extending from the post-Mosaic age, to that of Stephen
Our fathers had33 the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking34 [who spake] unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion [pattern]that he had seen. 45Which also our fathers that came after35 [fathers, baring received it] brought in with Jesus into the possession [with Joshua, when they took possession] of the Gentiles, whom God drave [thrust] out before the face of our fathers,unto the days of David;46Who found favour before God, and desired to [asked that hemight] find a tabernacle [dwelling-place] for the God36 of Jacob. 47But Solomon builthim a house. 48Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples37 [in that which is]made with hands;’ as saith the prophet, 49Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what [kind of, ποῖον] house will ye build [for] me? saith the Lord: or what [which] is the place of my rest? 50Hath not my hand made all these things?51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart38 and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52Which [one] of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of [who foretold] the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have39 been [become] now the betrayers andmurderers: 52[Ye] Who have received the law by the disposition [law as regulations] of angels, and have not kept it.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 7:44. a. Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness.—The original term, אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, [e. g. Numb. 16:18, 19], is translated by the Septuagint, and here also, σκηνή τοῦ μαρτυρίου. As the precise meaning of מוֹעֵד is not by any means positively established, the assertion (de Wette, Meyer) that the derivation of the word [by the Sept.] from עֵד ,עוּד, is erroneous, possesses no decisive authority. It is still a matter of doubt whether the term should be taken in the sense of “tent of assembly,” or “tent of revelation (witness, testimony).” [According to the current interpretation, the word is derived from the root יָעַד, and the term is regarded as equivalent to “tabernacle of the congregation,” or “tent of assembly.” ROBINSON: Lex. Old Test.].—A σκηνή is mentioned both in the foregoing, and in the present verse; in the former, it is that of an idol, in the present, that of the true God. Such appears to be the relation of the two verses to each other, although it is not the speaker’s intention to give special prominence to the contrast presented by an idolatrous worship, on the one hand, and a worship acceptable to God, oh the other. It is rather the sanctuary itself, to which he refers in this portion of the discourse, Acts 7:44–50. The sanctuary was, at first, the sacred tabernacle, in the wilderness, and; subsequently, in Canaan; from the time of Solomon, it was the temple, the holy house, ver 47.
b. As he had appointed who spake [marg.] unto Moses.—The sanctity of the tabernacle is here demonstrated by the fact that God gave explicit directions to Moses respecting the manner in which it should be made, namely, “after the pattern which was shewed” to Moses on Mount Sinai, Exod. 25:9, 40. Thus, the sacred tabernacle, together with its “instruments,” was made with hands, or, was a human work, it is true; but at the same time, it was a sanctuary prepared by God’s express command, and made in accordance with a divine ideal and primordial type. On this point Philo (Life of Moses, III. Op. ed. Mangey, II. 146) expresses himself as follows: As to the construction Moses had been thus instructed: τῶν μελλόντων ἀποτελεῖσθαι σωμάτων ἀσωμάτους ἰδέας τῇ ψυχῇ θεωρῶν, πρὸς ἃς ἔδει, καθάπερ ἀπʼ ἀρχετύπου γραφῆς καὶ νοητῶν παραδειγμάτων αἰσθητὰ μιμήματα ἀπεικονισθῆναι. [The following translation is given in the edition of 1613, Lib. III. 515: Placuit igitur tabernaculum erigi, cujus apparatum ex oraculis in monte Moses didicerat, futuri ædificii contemplatus ideas incorporeas, ad quarum exemplar intelligibile oportebat designari sensibiles imagines.”—TR.]
ACTS 7:45. Which also our fathers, having received it [marginal rendering], brought in, etc.—The sacred tent continued to be the sanctuary, not merely in the wilderness, but also in the land of Canaan, until the age of David and Solomon. The words οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, refer, as the connection shows, to another generation of the fathers, namely, the contemporaries of Joshua, who came with him into the country and occupied it. [Jesus, here, as in Heb. 4:8, is the Septuagint form of Joshua, and retained in the Engl. version.—TR.]. Still, the words μετὰ Ἰησοῦ do not so belong to οἱ πατ. ἡμῶν, as if they were intended to define the age of the latter with precision, as, in that case they would necessarily be preceded by the article [i.e. οἱ μετὰ]; they belong, strictly speaking, to the verb εἰςήγαγον. Διαδεξάμενοι is not equivalent to successores, neither is it substituted for the adverb afterwards [postea, deinceps (Wolf.)], but conveys the thought that this generation had obtained possession of the tabernacle, as a sacred and precious inheritance received from the fathers. The words ἐν κατασχέσει τῶν ἐθν., in so far lack precision as they term, when literally understood, the act of taking possession of the territory which belonged to the conquered and expelled nations [ἐθνῶν], the act of taking possession of the nations themselves. The specification of the time: ἕως τῶν ἡμερῶν Δαυΐδ, does not belong to, ἔξωσεν, as Kuinoel and Baumgarten assert, but to ἐιςήγαγον. According to the former construction, the sense would be, that the work of expelling the Canaanitish nations had continued until the days of David: But the expulsion of those nations is treated as a subordinate point in the present passage, which refers mainly to the sanctuary and its history. If the words are, on the other hand, connected with εἰςήγαγον, they imply that the tabernacle had been brought with Joshua into the country, and had continued to be the sole sanctuary of Israel from that period to the age of David.
ACTS 7:46, 47. Who—desired … of Jacob.—It is an arbitrary procedure, as far as the principles of lexicography are concerned, and also unnecessary, to assert (Kuinoel) that ᾐτήσατο is to be taken in the sense of desiderabat [instead of the more accurate version: asked for himself (J. A. Alex.; Hack.).—TR.]. For, even if a petition of such a nature, addressed by David in prayer to God, is not found in the sacred narrative, analogous sentiments do occur in Ps 132 (or Ps. 131, according to the Septuagint). The first five verses doubtless occurred to the mind of Stephen at the moment, e. g. Acts 7:5: ἕως οὖ εὔρω τόπον τῷ ιουρίῳ, σκήνωμα τῷ θεῷ Ἰακώβ. The word σκήνωμα, as contradistinguished from σκηνή, designates a fixed and permanent dwelling-place, and here refers, as the connection shows, to a dwelling-place that is worthy of the God of Jacob, i.e. to an appropriate sanctuary. This urgent petition of David, which, in Ps. 132 is expressed in the form of a vow, Was not granted by God to the king. [Comp. 2 Sam. Acts 7]. Stephen does not here distinctly state this fact, but assumes that it is well-known to his hearers. It is also worthy of observation that the thought or wish respecting the building of a temple, and the subsequent completion of the building, are alike represented, in Acts 7:46 and Acts 7:47, as a thought of man and a work of man, and that neither was the result of a divine appointment and command, or of divine directions concerning the details, as in the case of the tabernacle, Acts 7:44.
Acts 7:48–50. Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not, etc.—The train of thought is the following:—Although Solomon was successful in substituting for the portable tent a well-built house, a magnificent temple, as the sanctuary, still the temple can never be regarded as the truly appropriate and exclusive dwelling-place of God, to which his presence and the manifestation of himself are restricted. The particle of negation οὐκ after ἀλλά, is placed emphatically at the head of the sentence, as a protest against the delusive and superstitious opinions of the Jews respecting the dignity of the temple. The terms ̔ο ὕψιστος and χειροποίητα present a contrast. The former, corresponding to the conception expressed by ὁ θεὸς τῆς δόξης, sets forth the infinite glory and grandeur of God; the latter (which the Septuagint has even employed in the place of the word sanctuary, i.e. that of Moab, in Isai. 16:12, and elsewhere applies to idols), is purposely used here without the word ναοῖς. It thus contrasts the general conception of a human work with that of the Creator himself, and classes the Jewish delusion respecting the temple with the superstition that is connected with idols. The prophetic words to which Stephen appeals, Isai. 66:1, 2, are quoted by him from the Septuagint with unimportant verbal variations. They express the following thought:—The whole creation, vast as it is, is the dwelling-place of God, and therefore no house built by men can be his exclusive abode, or contain him. As He is himself the Creator of all things, he cannot need the aid of man in preparing the place of his rest. When Stephen repeats this prophetic passage, he indirectly furnishes a divine declaration which sanctions any change of the temple-worship that might be effected through Jesus and the Gospel. He contends against the delusion that the temple was, in an absolute sense, the necessary and only place in which God could be acceptably worshipped. [Comp. also Solomon’s words, 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron. 6:1, 2, 18, and Paul’s, Acts 17:24.]. But he does not, as Baur and Zeller conjecture, intend to speak disparagingly of the temple itself, or of the worship offered in it. Not a trace of such a purpose can be found in his words, neither does the tenor or general plan of his discourse authorize the supposition that he was influenced by such a motive.
ACTS 7:51. Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised, etc.—The speaker very suddenly changed the tone in which he had hitherto addressed his hearers. He had sketched the ancient history of the people, but now speaks of his contemporaries. He had spoken of earlier manifestations and interpositions of God, but now directs attention to the Person of Christ. He had referred to former generations of Israel, but now dwells with a searching glance on his own times. He had hitherto spoken in an unimpassioned style, but now addresses his hearers with irrepressible indignation and a flaming zeal. His historical statements had mainly served as means, for vindicating himself, in view of the charges advanced by his enemies, and had only indirectly referred to the errors of his contemporaries. But his language now assumes an aggressive character, and, with all the fervor of a prophet, he accuses his hearers of grievous sins which they had committed. The transition is sudden, but by no means unnatural, for even while the speaker repeated the history of former generations, his glance was fixed on his own age. There is, consequently, no reason for imagining that any external cause, any interruption on the part of the audience, such as angry outcries or threatening gestures, induced Stephen to adopt this severe style of address (Kuinoel; Olshausen).—The humiliating accusation is frequently repeated in the Old Testament, that the Israelites were stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears [e. g., Exod. 32: 9; 33:3; Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; Ezek. 44:7, that is, “rebellious, like a stubborn ox.” (J. A. Alex.).—“Circumcision, viewed as a purificatory rite (Sept. περικαθαριεῖ=מָל, Deut. 30:6), and as a consecration, is figuratively ascribed to the heart and the ear.” (de Wette). “The sense is: They are men whose mind and understanding are as rude as those of pagans”. (Meyer).—TR.].—It is here Stephen’s main purpose to rebuke the deep-rooted unwillingness of the Jews to be governed by the Spirit of God, and to submit to his will. Hence he produces the positive charge (which is designedly expressed with great emphasis in the phrase: ἀντιπίπτειν τῷ πν.τ. ἁ.) that they violently resisted the guidance of the Spirit of God. The reproach is, at the same time, so expressed, as to apply to the entire people of Israel, in all their successive generations: ὡς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν καί ὑμεῖς, and, ὑμεῖς ἀεὶ—ἀντιπίπτετε.
ACTS 7:52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?—The proof of the charge: ἀεὶ τ. πν. τ. ἁ. αντιπίπτετε, is given. Their fathers persecuted and slew the prophets who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, yea, persecuted them all without exception (τίνα—οὐκ ἐδ.). Their ancestors had persecuted and slain those men who foretold that the Messiah would come, ὁ διίκαιος, He who would be the only and the perfectly Righteous One, and who would “justify many.” Isai. 53:11. All that the fathers had done to the prophets—Stephen continues—the men of this generation have done to Him who was promised by the prophets. Of Him ye have become the betrayers and murderers.—They became προδόται (corresponding to ἐδίωξαν), by accusing Him, and delivering Him into the power of Pilate—and φονεῖς (corresponding to ἀπέκτειναν) by crucifying Him.
ACTS 7:53. [Ye] who have received the law, εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, i.e., that it might be revered and obeyed, as consisting of regulations made by angels (legem eo habendam loco, quo habendæ essent constitutiones angelorum; Bengel). Meyer’s objection to this interpretation (namely, that it cannot be correct, since Israel received the law as containing commandments, not of angels, but of God) confounds Stephen’s words with those that are employed in Exod. Acts 2. [Acts 7:1, 19, 22, where the angels are not mentioned]. The interpretation: legem ab angelis promulgatam, arbitrarily disowns the proper signification of εἰς, and confounds it with ἐν [See WINER: Gram. N. T., § 32. 4, ult.; § 49. a. ult.; § 50. 4. b.—TR.]. It is certainly true that the original Hebrew does not speak of the coöperation of the angels at the giving of the law; but their presence and operations on that occasion are mentioned in rabbinic traditions, of which a trace may already be discovered in the Septuagint, Deut. 33:2 [the words: “from his right hand went a fiery law for them”, being there rendered: ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι μετ̓ αὐτοῦ.—In Jos. Ant. xv. 5. 3, Herod says: “We have learned our—doctrines and—laws from God δἰ ἀγγέλων.” “The key to the right rendering seems to be the similar expression in Gal. 3:19—διαταγεὶς—announced by angels; εἰς διατ.ἀγ., at the injunction of angels.” (Alford). Robinson, in Lex. ad verb. translates: “according to (by) the arrangements of angels.” See also Heb. 2:2.—TR.].—The relative οἵτινες always generalizes, by extending that which applies to one subject to many others of the same kind, or by evolving a general conception from a particular subject. Thus, in the case before us, the present generation of the people of God is combined by Stephen with all that preceded it, and all are placed in the same category by him—all are found to be alike disobedient to the law which they had received from God. This prominent feature in the character of the nation, is both the original cause, and also furnishes an explanation, of the conduct observed by the Israelites towards Jesus and his followers.
GENERAL REMARKS [referred to in EXEG. note on Acts 7:2, 3. a.—TR.].—a. The main design of the discourse.—Interpreters have, at all times, differed widely in their statements of the general tenor of this discourse, as well as of its relation to the offences with which Stephen was charged, and to the course of history in general. Erasmus has, no doubt, expressed the real sentiments of many interpreters, when he says: Multa inesse, quæ non ita multum pertinere videantur ad id, quod instituit. But Bengel is fully justified when he replies: Quamquam non ponit enuntiationes enuntiationibus adversariorum directe contradicentes, tamen ad omnia nervose respondet. There is, at all events, no reason to suppose, as Kuinoel does, that Stephen had not yet reached his main argument when he was interrupted by the tumultuous cries of his hearers, and that he was hastily executed before he had completed his discourse. Dr. Baur suggested subsequently (De orat. hab. a Steph. cons., 1829) that the following was the theme of the discourse:—The more gloriously God manifested his grace to Israel, even from the beginning, the more perverse and ungrateful was the conduct of the people. This proposition is strictly true, but it applies only to the Mosaic age, Acts 7:17 ff.; whereas not one word occurs in the part which refers to the patriarchial period, Acts 7:2–16, with the sole exception of Acts 7:9, which could suggest such a thought. Hence Luger (Zweck, etc., d. Rede. d. Steph., 1838), and Baumgarten (I. 131 ff.; 142), have endeavored to find the leading thought of the discourse elsewhere. The former supposes it to be the subordination of the law to the promise; the latter finds it in the progressive character of divine revelation under the old covenant. However, Stephen does not assign such a prominent position to either of these thoughts, as to authorize us to suppose that he had chosen it as the theme of his discourse. But there is a view presented by him which reveals his main design in speaking. In striking contrast with the dark shadow of man’s unbelief and disobedience to the Spirit of God, and to the men whom he sent,—a deep shadow that falls on Israel,—Stephen presents to our view the brightness of the δόξα of God, Acts 7:2. He dwells on the unlimited glory and the absolute independence of God, by virtue of which he revealed himself from the beginning, at any time or place, in any form or order, according to his own pleasure, not being restricted either to the temple as the exclusive place of his presence, or to the land of Canaan, as the only region suited for his revelations. It surely cannot be regarded as a merely accidental circumstance, that Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2), Egypt (Acts 7:9, 10, 22, 34, 36), the desert of Arabia (Acts 7:30 ff., 36, 38), together with the promised land itself (ver 4 ff., 45), are mentioned as the regions in which God had spoken with the fathers, and revealed himself in his miracles. It is, accordingly, the main design of Stephen’s discourse to combine both a vindication of himself, and also a sharp rebuke of his hearers with explanatory statements of the history of the people of Israel. The past is the mirror in which he views the present; it exhibits distinctly as well the glory and absolute sovereignty and liberty of God in revealing himself, as also the insensibility and perverseness of Israel, both in earlier ages and also at the present time. The latter thought is expressed at the close, Acts 7:51 ff., in the form of a direct and emphatic reproach.
b. The historical genuineness of the discourse. It is only very recently that the entire discourse has been represented as supposititious, and written, irrespectively of historical facts, at a later period, (Baur, Zeller, and B. Bauer). The argument which has been adduced in support of this opinion, (namely, that the skill with which the materials are selected and arranged, betrays that it is an elaborate production of the pen), is by no means adapted to sustain it. The peculiar character of the discourse, on the contrary, (which has given rise to a very great diversity of opinions respecting its leading theme and real purpose,) is precisely an argument in favor of its genuineness. For, if it were spurious, and had been composed with only a general reference to the circumstances, it would, without doubt, have replied with far more fulness and directness to the charges brought against Stephen, than it does in its present form. It has also been represented as altogether inconceivable that such a discourse should have been preserved, and handed down to a succeeding age with entire accuracy and precision. To this objection it may be replied: (1) Such a discourse could be the more easily retained in the memory, precisely on account of the historical matter which it presents, and the chronological order which it observes.—(2) No circumstance could have operated more powerfully than the martyrdom of Stephen, which immediately followed the delivery of the discourse, in inducing the Christians of his day to remember his last words with deep feeling, to repeat them with devout and grateful sentiments, and, indeed, to commit them to writing at an early period, for the sake of preserving his dying testimony. It was in this spirit that, at a later period, the narratives concerning other martyrs were carefully written. It cannot be a source of embarrassment to us, that we do not know the name of the writer who first of all recorded the discourse. It is obvious that he was a Christian, and not an enemy; it is not, in itself, an improbable circumstance, that some Christians may have been present as hearers at the meeting of the Sanhedrin, when the discourse was delivered. Still, even if Saul was also present at the time, as we have every reason to believe, the conjecture that he, rather than any other person, should have committed the discourse to writing (Baumgarten, I. 129), is not supported by a single consideration that is of weight.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. If the image of God himself could become an idol [Acts 7:41, note], the temple, the house of God, may also, by a gross perversion, become the medium through which man is conducted to superstitious and idolatrous practices. The tendency of fallen man to occupy himself with created objects, is here plainly seen. When he finds an object that reminds him of God, that guides him to God, and that aids him in his devotions, he is apt to regard it as possessing an independent existence of its own, as invested with a holy and sanctifying power, and as a pledge of communion with God, and of eternal life. He now reveres it above its just claims, and thus it ultimately takes precedence even of the living and personal God himself. At this point superstition and idolatry appear in a fully developed form. Such an object was the temple, when the Israelites placed all their trust and confidence in it, and exclaimed: “The temple of the Lord is here [are these].” Jer. 7:4. Such an object even the Church may become, that is, not merely the sacred edifice, but the Church of Christ itself, whenever ecclesiasticism is more highly exalted, even if unconsciously, than Christianity, and whenever the living Christ and a living communion with him are reduced to a subordinate rank. It is always appropriate, in such cases, to warn and admonish men, and to remind them in the most impressive manner, of their duty to worship God in spirit and in truth, to offer him the worship of the heart, and seek a living communion with him. It was in this manner that the ancient prophets bore witness, and rebuked the people; Stephen, who quotes the prophets, adopts the same course, in the present case. So, too, the Reformation was a return to the only acceptable mode of worshipping God, i.e., in spirit and in truth. And it is even now needful to repeat the warning, to guard men against superstitious practices and the deification of χειροποίητα, and teach them to beware of the cry: “Lo, here is Christ, or there.” Matth. 24:23.
2. The unity which is observable in the history of revelation, is admirably illustrated in the discourse of Stephen, with respect both to God and to man. God had formerly given promises; he now fulfils them. He had formerly sent his servants, the prophets, whose principal duty was no other than that of announcing the Messiah who was to come (Acts 7:52, comp. with Acts 7:37). The Just One, who was promised, has now come. But men resist the Spirit of God, and the counsel of his grace; the fathers persecuted, and even slew those men of God, the prophets; and, finally, their children and descendants betrayed and murdered that Just One. They received, but did not obey the law and the word of God (λόγια ζῶντα). To them the offer of grace in Jesus is made; but they reject alike that offer and the kingdom of God. If the fathers did not keep the law in its spirit, their descendants imitate their example with respect to the Gospel and the grace that came by Jesus Christ.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 7:44. According to the fashion that ha had seen.—God has made religion on earth and man’s worship of him, conformable to the religion of heaven, which is the true pattern; Mt. 6:10, “Thy will … in heaven.” (Quesn.)
ACTS 7:45. Whom God drave out.—All uncleanness must be removed from the heart which is to become the abode of God, even as the Canaanites were expelled when Israel entered in; 2 Tim. 2:21. (Starke).—Be of good cheer, ye evangelical heralds! Carry forth the witness of the word of Jesus into heathen lands with confidence. God will there drive out heathenism before your face, and raise up Christians! (id.).
ACTS 7:46, 47. David desired … Solomon built.—David was a type of Christ, who, in his humiliation, “prepared abundantly,” by the store of his merits, for the building of his church; (1 Chron. 22:5.). Solomon was a type of Christ in his state of exaltation, building up his church with materials that were purchased with his blood; Eph. 2:21. (Quesn.).—The temple of Christ is built in the heart of him alone who loves peace [Solomon, i.e. pacific.]. (Starke).
ACTS 7:48. The Most High dwelleth not in temples.—What materials does the Lord employ in building his church? I. Not gold and silver (earthly power and splendor); II. Not wood and stone (the religion of mere decorum, an external, mechanical service); III. Not paper and parchment (external creeds and modes of church government); but, IV. Hearts that are endowed with life (established on Christ in faith, united together in love, and ripening in hope for heaven.).—Idolatry, not only without the pale of the church, but also in it, and by means of it. [See DOCTR. No. 1, above.].—The divine right, and the human imperfections of the visible church.—The mode in which God builds his temple: I. In the church; II. In the hearts of men; III. In heaven.—The manner in which the Holy Spirit builds the temple of God: I. In the church; II. In the closet; III., In the communion of saints; IV. At the consummation of the kingdom of God. (Kapff, at the Eccl. Convention, 1857).—The true temple of God: I. The visible temple ought not to be undervalued, Acts 7:46, 47; II. The invisible temple ought not to be forgotten, Acts 7:48–50.
ACTS 7:51. Ye … uncircumcised in heart and ears.—When the heart is uncircumcised, the ears are in the same condition. When our penitent hearers experience the power of the word of God in their hearts, they are willing to lend an ear to our words. But when they repel the word from their hearts, they also stop their ears, like the hearers of Stephen, Acts 7:57. (Ap. Past.).
ACTS 7:52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?—The striking uniformity observable in the kingdom of God [see DOCTR. No. 2, above]: I. On the part of God (unchanging grace and truth); II. On the part of man (continued blindness and hardness of heart).—We often extol the excellence and holiness of the founders of useful institutions, without, however, manifesting their spirit. (Quesn.).
ACTS 7:53. Who have received the law … not kept it.—The pagans, who have received the law taught by nature, are punished when they transgress it [Rom. 1:20 ff; 2:14, 15]. Of how much sorer punishment are they worthy, who have received the law by the revelation of God, and, nevertheless, trample it under their feet! (Starke).
ON THE WHOLE DISCOURSE OF STEPHEN.—The holy men of God of former ages, exhibited to posterity: I. As heralds, who proclaim aloud the grace and truth of God; II. As preachers of repentance, who address a degenerate race.—[Stephen’s discussions with the Jews (6:9, 10; 7:2–53): I. The causes which led to them: (a) His evangelical labors; (b) their ignorance and prejudices. II. The manner in which they were conducted: (a) On the part of Stephen; (b) on the part of the Jews. III. The virtual triumph of the truth: (a) Revealed in “the wisdom and the spirit by which Stephen spake” (6:10); (b) and in the inability of the Jews to resist by argument (6:10; 7:54, 57). IV. The results: (a) Revengeful feelings in the adversaries of the truth; (b) conviction produced in the minds of the candid. (The whole suggesting the following: (1) The repetition of such scenes in the subsequent history of religion; (2) the weapons which religion employs; (3) The guilt of those who reject religious truth; (4) The final decision of all disputes by the Judge of the living and the dead.—TR.]
Acts 7:44. a.—ἐν after ἧν in the textus receptus, is but feebly supported [by D. Ε. Syr., etc.], and may unhesitatingly be regarded as spurious. [Omitted in A. B. C. Cod. Sin., and by Lach., Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 7:44. b.—[For speaking, (Tynd.; Cranm.; Geneva; Rheims), the margin proposes the preferable version: who spake.—TR.]
Acts 7:45.—[διαδεξάμενοι; for that came after (Cranmer), the margin offers the version (Tynd.; Geneva; Rheims): having received (i. e., it). “Διαδέχομαι—to receive through a series of persons, to receive by succession, to succeed to.” ROBINSON: Lex. N. T.—Alford translates: “having inherited it,” and regards that came after as “ungrammatical;” Hackett: “having received;” J. A. Alexander: “receiving.”—TR.]
Acts 7:46.—The reading τῷ Θεῷ [of text. rec. after σκήνωυα] is genuine, according to the testimony of A. C. E., of all the ancient versions, and of the fathers; Lachmann, on the other hand, prefers τῷ οῖκῳ, which is found, it is true, in B. D. H., but does not equally well suit the context. [οἴκῳ occurs also in Cod. Sin. (original); a later hand substituted Θεῷ.—TR.]
Acts 7:48.—The textus receptus, following the authority of H, and several fathers, inserts after χειροποιήτοις the word ναοῖς, which is wanting in all the other MSS. of the first rank [A. B. C. D. and also Cod. Sin. Syr. Vulg., etc.], and is evidently an explanatory addition of a copyist. Bengel had already assigned this character to it. [Rejected by the recent editors; “a gloss from Acts 17:24.” (de Wette).—TR.]
Acts 7:51.—The plural, καρδίαις, is attested by A. C. D., [and also Cod. Sin.] it is true, and adopted by Lachmann, whereas the singular, τῇ καρδίᾳ, occurs only in E. H.; but the latter is, on the other hand, sustained by the ancient oriental versions [but not the Vulg.: cordibus], and by the majority of the fathers. The plural seems to be an alteration to suit, partly ἀπερίτμητοι which precedes, and partly the parallel term ὠσίν, which follows; the singular would scarcely have been substituted by later copyists for the plural, if the latter had been the original reading. [The sing. adopted by Tisch. and Alf.—TR.]
Acts 7:52. ἐγένεσθε is, without doubt, the genuine reading [found in A. B. C. D. E., and adopted by Lach. Tisch., and Alf.], while γεγένησθε [of text. rec.] is supported by only a few of the oldest MSS. [H., etc.—Cod. Sin. exhibits εγενεσθαι.—TR.]
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.C.—stephen is stoned, but dies with blessed hopes, a conqueror through the name of jesus
54[But] When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashedon him with their teeth. 55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into [to] heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right handof God, 56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened,40 and the Son of man standingon the right hand of God. 57Then they cried out41 with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran [rushed] upon him with one accord, 58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whosename was Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God42, and [invoking, and]saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60And [But] he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 7:54. When they heard these things.—The terms of reproach which the speaker employed, when he reminded his hearers of their ungodly sentiments, their violations of the law, and the guilt which they had contracted by crucifying Jesus, deeply wounded their pride. Their wrath, which they could scarcely control, found a vent, when he uttered the next words. [For διεπρίοντο, see above, note No. 3, on Acts 5:33, appended to the text.—TR.]
ACTS 7:55, 56. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost.—While his hearers yielded more and more to their violent passions, and were filled with a carnal fire, and, indeed, with a spirit from the bottomless pit, the soul of this faithful witness, on the contrary, was filled, by the grace of God, with a heavenly fire—he was full of the Holy Ghost from above. Instead of looking at the men who surrounded him, and whose increasing fury might have inspired him with fear, or awakened a carnal zeal in his own soul, he looked up, and, full of faith and hope, directed his longing glance towards heaven. And he gazes in the spirit, in an ecstasy, on an object which the eye of the body cannot behold, and which no other person in that place saw at that moment, namely, the δόξα Θεοῦ (comp. ὁ Θεὸςτ. δόξης, Acts 7:2), the celestial splendor in which God himself appears; he saw, too, Jesus standing on the right hand of God. As a fearless confessor, he declares aloud all that he beholds. He mentions, in Acts 7:56, two particulars which characterize this internal vision:—first, the heavens are opened even unto the innermost sanctuary, unto the highest heaven (and here the plural number claims attention) [“the third heaven,” 2 Cor. 12:2; see the note on the passage in a subsequent volume.—TR.].; secondly, he sees the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. It is remarkable that he here applies the name to Jesus, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, which the Saviour himself so frequently employs, while the four Gospels do not mention a single case in which it was pronounced by another; and neither the evangelists nor the apostles employ it themselves in the Gospels, the Acts, or the Epistles. [The phrase: “like unto the Son of man”, Rev. 1:13; 14:14, is peculiar.—TR.]. But here Stephen, to whom, perhaps, the language in Dan. 7:13, 14, [or, possibly, that in Matt. 26:64 (Alford)] occurred at the moment, applies this name to the Messiah, Jesus. The employment of it in the present passage is, unquestionably, an evidence of the historical fidelity of the narrative before us.—Another peculiarity in the language of Stephen is the circumstance that he sees Jesus standing (ἑστῶτα) on the right hand of God. The Lord is always described, both in his own statements (Matt. 26:64), and in those of the apostles and evangelists (e. g., Eph. 1:20; Mark 16:19), as sitting at the right hand of God. Here, too, the language before us strikingly differs from the usual form of expression, and thus furnishes another illustration of the genuineness and fidelity of the whole narrative. What is implied by the fact that Jesus is standing at the right hand of God? Doubtless, that he has arisen, and stands ready to receive and welcome this faithful witness (comp. Acts 7:59), quasi obvium Stephano. (Bengel). [Chrysostom had already replied to the question just proposed: ἵνα δείξῃ τὴν ἀντίληψιν τὴν εἰς τὸν μάρτυρα. (Alf. ad loc.).—TR.]. The credibility of this statement respecting the vision, is attested by the circumstance that it was seen by him alone, and by no other, inasmuch as the account in Acts 7:55 could have been derived only from his own words as reported in Acts 7:56. It is needless to resort either to the attenuating interpretation that Stephen merely intended to express his unshaken faith in the glorification of Jesus, and in his own early entrance into heaven (Michaelis), or to the neutralizing conjecture that the historian himself had simply wished to give distinctness and force to his individual view, by expressing himself as if an ecstatic vision had actually been granted to Stephen.
ACTS 7:57. Then they cried out.—The exasperation of the hearers reached its height, and could no longer be controlled, when Stephen bore witness, in accordance with the vision, to the exaltation and glorification of Jesus. They began to utter loud cries, in order that he might not be understood, and stopped their ears, so that they might not hear his supposed blasphemies. Then they rushed upon him in a body, drove him with violence from the city and stoned him. The session of the council was suddenly brought to a close by the fanatical tumult which commenced; and the lapidation which followed, was, professedly, a religious act, an example of popular justice. It is apparent that a judicial decision had not yet been formally announced (Ewald), and, further, that no sentence pronounced by the Sanhedrin had yet been submitted to the Roman procurator, without whose sanction the Jews could not inflict capital punishments [John 18:31]. In these respects the proceedings were unjustifiable and illegal. But we are by no means authorized by the facts before us, to assert that such a tumultuary termination of a session of the Sanhedrin (which obviously began amid much excitement), could not possibly have occurred in reality. There is no reason whatever for denying the historical accuracy of the narrative, and assuming, as Baur and Zeller are inclined to do, first, that the whole occurrence was nothing more, even from the beginning, than a popular tumult, and secondly, that the account of the official action of the Sanhedrin should be wholly rejected, as an unhistorical addition.—They cast him ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, in accordance with the law, Lev. 24:14, that a blasphemer should be stoned “without the camp”, in order that the abode of the people might not be desecrated by an execution. [Comp. 1 Kings 21:13; Hebr. 13:12, 13.]
ACTS 7:58. Stoned him; the term ἐλιθοβόλουν is here employed summarily, or by way of anticipation, and is not to be understood in the sense that they prepared or attempted (conatus) to stone him; the fact itself is stated in its proper order in the next verse.—And the witnesses laid down their clothes.—The men who had witnessed against Stephen, Acts 6:13, were required by the law (Deut. 17:7) to cast the first stones on the transgressor. In order that they might not be impeded in the act by their wide and flowing upper garments, they laid these aside, and intrusted them to the care of the young man who was named Saul. Then they and the rest of the people hurled stones at Stephen.
ACTS 7:59. Stephen, calling upon, etc.—The dying martyr uttered two exclamations: the first is a petition referring to himself; he beseeches Jesus, the exalted Lord, to receive his departing spirit unto himself in heaven. He utters the second with a loud and distinct voice, on his knees; it is an intercessory petition for the forgiveness of his murderers. [It is “copied from our Lord’s upon the cross, Lu. 23:34” (J. A. Alex.), but “no parallel to it can be found out of Christian history.” (Hack.).—TR.].—Μἢστήσῃς—τήν ἁμ. ταύτην, literally translated, is: “Establish not this sin unto them”, (comp. Rom. 10:3), the antithetic or corresponding term [to ἱστάναι, here, subj. aor.—TR.] being ἀφιέναι. Others translate: “Weigh not this sin unto them”, i.e. “Do not recompense them according to strict justice.” Both of the petitions are addressed to Jesus; this is, undeniably, true of the former, unless we offer violence to the text, (namely, by arbitrarily pronouncing ̔Ἱησοῦ to be a genitive); [“It is in the vocative case, as in Rev. 22:20.” (de Wette).—TR.]; it is equally true with regard to the latter, [For the words: upon God, in the English version, see note 3 above, appended to the text.—TR.]
ACTS 7:60. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.—Luke describes the end of Stephen by designedly employing a word [occurring, e. g., John 11:11; Acts 13:36; 2 Pet. 3:4], which does not, at first view, seem to correspond in the least to a violent and bloody death. He evidently intends to imply by it, that the end of the noble disciple had, nevertheless, been peaceful, through the divine power and grace of the Redeemer, who overcame for him the terrors of a bloody death, and received his spirit. For although Stephen was overpowered and murdered by lawless violence and a brutal fury that was set on fire of hell, nevertheless, even when he succumbed, he gained a glorious victory by his steadfast faith, his forgiving love, and his patience. The people of Israel seemed, indeed, to have prevailed, when they silenced this enlightened and bold confessor of Jesus, by robbing him of life. But they sustained a vast moral and religious loss, through their implacable hostility towards Stephen, their increased obduracy and opposition to the truth, and the growing power which their mad passions acquired over them. They degraded themselves, became a prey to their delusions and passions, and were, in truth, not the conquering, but the conquered party.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The vision, or view of the opened sanctuary of heaven, which was granted to Stephen immediately before his cruel death, and which was intended to strengthen his faith and establish his earnestness of purpose, was not an objective appearance, but an internal illumination. For it was solely by virtue of the fulness of the Holy Ghost imparted to him, that he was enabled to glance into heaven. The operations of the Holy Spirit, proceeding forth from the soul, not only furnished him with internal views, but also embodied, as it were, the objects seen, and presented them to the external eye, so that he saw with his eyes (ἰδού, θεωρῶ) what his heart had previously believed. This seeing was a foretaste of that “sight” which, in the world of glory, will take the place of “faith.” [2 Cor. 5:7.]
2. The Son of man standing on the right hand of God.—Stephen sees and recognizes Jesus; he had doubtless previously known him on earth, loved him as his Lord, and often heard the term “Son of man” proceeding from his lips. He now sees him, exalted to the right hand of God, it is true, but still appearing as man. The Redeemer is, and remains, He who was born of a woman [Gal. 4:4], true man.—The Scriptures employ various modes of expression, when the state of exaltation of Jesus Christ is described. The apostles and evangelists say that he sat down (Mark 16:19; Rev. 3:21), or that God set him at his right hand (Eph. 1:20). Jesus himself says: “Ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming, etc.” (Matt. 26:64). And here Stephen sees him standing at the right hand of God. All these terms express, partly, the most perfect personal union of Jesus with God the Father, and, partly, the plenitude of his divine power and authority. But these different modes of expression are, without doubt, designed to prevent the Christian from adhering to any one conception exclusively, as if it alone corresponded to the reality, and to remind him that any term which may be employed, is still only an image presented to our faith, and not the heavenly reality itself as an object of sight.
3. We cannot entertain, a single doubt, suggested by exegetical considerations, that Stephen called on Jesus himself, and prayed to Him. He had, in his ecstatic vision, seen Jesus, looking down on him with kindness and love, willing and ready to receive him. Nothing was, therefore, more natural, than that he should call on Him in behalf of himself and his murderers. Who would censure him for doing so? It is precisely because Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God the Father, is most intimately united with him, and participates in the government of all things, that men are at liberty and under obligations to call on him in prayers addressed directly to him. [“The Christians called on Jesus, Acts 9:14, 21; 22:16; comp. 2:21; Rom. 10:12, 13.” (de Wette); see above, EXEG. note on Acts 1:24.—TR.].—Such prayers cannot impair, indeed, they rather promote, the divine honor of the Father (Phil. 2:10 ff.), who has so highly exalted Jesus Christ his Son, that men may honor him, even as they honor the Father [John 5:23], The case would, of course, be very different, if an individual should pray to Christ alone, and never call on God the Father; the New Testament furnishes no authority for such a course either by precept or example. The prayers which occur in it, are, in the great majority of cases, addressed to God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. The martyrdom of Stephen is the only case of the kind which is described in detail in THE ACTS, and, indeed, in the whole New Testament. He is the first of all those who, under the new covenant, sealed their testimony with their blood; a cloud of witnesses followed after him. And the history of these martyrs, who died for the sake of the Gospel, and kept “the patience and the faith of the saint
[Rev. 13:10], abounds in instructive materials. But here, too, as elsewhere [see DOCTR. etc. on Acts 7:44–53, No. 1], the sinful tendency of man to substitute the creature for the Creator, and to allow Him to recede from the view, through whom alone salvation can be obtained, and who alone possesses absolutely perfect merit, has more than once betrayed its influence. To this error the history of Stephen is already intended by the Holy Spirit to offer a barrier; for, in the first place, we have here the only case of martyrdom of which the New Testament gives a full account; and, in the second place, even this narrative designs, when its whole tenor is carefully examined, to give prominence and glory, not to Stephen, but, in truth, to Jesus Christ alone. For if the sufferings and death of Stephen exhibit any noble and holy features, and if they, in any form, terminate in victory, this is the result solely of “the fellowship of” Stephen’s “sufferings” with those of Christ, he “being made conformable unto His death.” [Phil. 3:10]. As Jesus prayed on the cross: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” [Lu. 23:46], so Stephen prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And as the Redeemer offered up the supplication for his enemies: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” [Lu. 23:34], so Stephen offered an entreaty in behalf of his murderers: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” The dying man’s soul is, very evidently, occupied with the crucifixion of Jesus, and with the words which he pronounced on the cross. It was, indeed, Christ himself, dwelling in him by faith, who spoke through him and suffered in him; Stephen’s soul, his words and his acts, like a mirror, reflected the image of Jesus himself. In him and in his martyrdom, Christ was glorified.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 7:54. Gnashed on him with their teeth.—As a chained dog seizes with his teeth the man that attempts to release him, so wicked men cannot endure the contact of those who desire to deliver them from bondage, and begin to rend them as enemies. Matth. 7:6. (Starke.)
ACTS 7:55. Looked up into heaven.—Heaven accepts of that which the earth rejects. (Starke).—God grants to many dying believers, through his great mercy, a foretaste of the joys of life eternal.—Jesus standing on the right hand of God.—The exalted Saviour: I. Sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high [Hebr. 1:3; 8:1]; (a) ruling over all with God; (b) the Judge of the world; but also, II. Standing, ready (a) to protect his people against their enemies; (b) to receive them, when they have “fought the good fight of faith” [1 Tim. 6:12].
ACTS 7:56. Behold, I see the heavens opened.—The heavens opened above the death-bed of the believer.—The Son of man standing, etc.—It is only through Christ, and in him, that the heavens are opened, whether we live, or whether we die.—Christ, even on the right hand of God, is still the Son of man; the instruction and consolation, which this truth affords, whether we contemplate the present life, or the life to come.
ACTS 7:58. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him.—Blessed are the afflictions that conduct us to God himself! When the world casts us from its bosom, we ascend to Abraham’s bosom. (Starke).—He, too, was thrust out of the city, whose name Stephen confessed. The faithful witnesses of Jesus still hear the cry repeated: “Out of the city!” We cannot long preach Christ in any city without molestation; even if stones are not always thrown at us, the filth of slander is heaped upon us. (Gossner).—Now liest thou there, beloved Stephen! This is the reward which the world gives to the servants and faithful followers of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Such is the death of true saints. (Luther).—The stones which the world casts at the witnesses of God: they become, I. Monuments, proclaiming the shame of the enemies of the truth; II. Precious stones, in the crowns of glorified martyrs; III. The seed of a new life for the Church of Christ.—A young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.—They stone one witness, but God is preparing another to take his place. (Starke).
ACTS 7:59. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!—Lord Jesus! Lord Jesus! This is the glorious battle-cry of the children of God, the watchword by which we recognize one another, the sound of the trumpet at which the walls of Jericho fall down. It rings in the Church of God like the alarm-bell which proclaims that a conflagration is raging in the city—it resounds like the signal-gun when the enemy approaches. Lord Jesus! This is the cry of the new-born babe in Christ, the exclamation of the aged pilgrim who is leaving the world—it is the utterance of all their grief and their hope. Lord Jesus! This is our sword, our pilgrim’s staff, our whole dependence. Stephen commits his soul into the hands of his King: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” O sure and blessed refuge of the soul! We are happy when we fall into these priestly hands, and are offered up on this altar. Many an individual becomes aware only in the last moments of his life, that he has a soul, which can no longer walk in the same way with the flesh. Whither shall this soul go? Shall it return to the world? But the gate is closed. Shall it fall into the hands of Satan? That would be an awful doom. Shall it fall into the hands of the Almighty? But he is a consuming fire. Shall it seek Jesus? But it does not believe in him. Cruel perplexity! Stephen’s soul enjoys a holy calm—it knows the way of peace. He reposes on the bosom of his Mediator: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Krummacher).
ACTS 7:60. Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!—This petition of Stephen, viewed in its different aspects: as the petition, I. Of a dying man; II. Of a man who forgets his personal concerns; III. Of a man who seeks nothing but the kingdom of God. (Schleiermacher).—Si Stephanus non sic orasset, ecclesia Paulum non haberet. (Augustine).—He fell asleep.—Not many words are expended on the pains and death endured by Stephen; they were a “light affliction and but for a moment” [2 Cor. 4:17], “not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” [Rom. 8:18]. Hence, the historian briefly says: “He fell asleep.” It may, in truth, be said, that when the saint dies, he falls asleep; “there remaineth a rest to the people of God.” [Heb. 4:9]. (Apost. Past.).—The best will and testament of the Christian: it is that which commends, I. The soul, to heaven; II. The body, to the earth; III. Friends, to the divine protection; IV. Enemies, to the divine compassion. (Starke).—The death of Stephen: I. Directing his last glance to heaven; II. Bearing his last testimony to the Lord; III. Devoting his last care to his spirit; IV. Offering his last prayer for his enemies. (Florey).—The suffering and dying Stephen, a mirror reflecting the image of the crucified Jesus: I. The shame of the cross; both appearing before the same great Council, falsely accused, unjustly condemned, cast out of the city; II. The glory of the cross; in both, fearlessness in self-defence, patient endurance, ardent love of enemies (the first word of Jesus [Luke 23:34], the last of Stephen), a blessed hope of heaven (the last word of Jesus, the first of Stephen).—The Christian’s chamber of death: I. The battle-field on which faith overcomes the word; II. The sanctuary of holy love; III. The scene of the triumph of Christian hope.—The first evangelical martyr: I. The cause for which he suffers; II. The divine aid which he receives; III. The frame of mind in which he dies. (Krummacher).—The power of Christ, manifested in believers: I. He enables them to confess him with such joyousness and courage, that no enemies can resist them, Acts 6:8–10; II. He adorns them with such purity of life, that even the tongue of slander cannot reach them, Acts 6:11–13; III. He fills them with such meekness and love, that they pray even for their worst enemies; Acts 7:59; IV. He soothes them in the hour of death, by affording them a view of his eternal glory, Acts 7:55, 59. (Leonh. and Spiegelh.).—The example of Stephen: it teaches us, that the Christian possesses, I. The zeal and the wisdom of faith, in his walk and conversation; II. The serenity and the courage of faith, in his trials; III. The confidence and the peace of faith, in the hour of death. (Bachmann).—The honorable badges by which the Lord distinguished the nobility of soul of his faithful disciple Stephen: I. He was full of faith and power, and did great wonders and miracles among the people [ch. 6:8]; II. He was filled with a cheerful and unshrinking courage, when he suffered from the injustice of the world; III. He beheld the approach of death with firmness and holy hope; IV. His memory was blessed [Prov. 10:7], and wrought a new life (Saul), even after he had fallen asleep. (W. Hofacker).—Stephen, and his three crowns (his Greek name signifies, a crown): I. The beautiful crown of grace, with which the Lord adorned him in his words and works; II. The bloody crown of thorns, which, like his Saviour, he wore in suffering and in death; III. The heavenly crown of honor, which was laid up [2 Tim. 4:8] in eternity for this faithful martyr.—The three birthdays of the Christian: inconsequence of the birth of Christ, I. Our spiritual birth becomes possible; II. Our bodily birth is a welcome event; III. Our eternal birth is sure. (Strauss, on the festival of St. Stephen [Dec. 26], in allusion to Christmas [Dec. 25].).—The manifestation of Jesus Christ is both unto life, and unto death: I. It is unto life (the primitive church; the power of the wisdom and the words of Stephen); II. It is unto death (bodily, spiritual death); III. In death, it is unto life (the happy end of Stephen; the conversion of Saul). (W. Hofacker).—The manger, the path to the cross; the cross, the path to heaven. (Kapff).—The manger, the cross, and the crown, the three stations in the life of the disciple, as of the Master.—The dying Stephen, a conqueror: I. He overcomes the murderous cry of a hostile world, when he looks with the eye of faith into heaven, Acts 7:54, 55; II. He overcomes the bitterness of death, when he serenely commits his spirit into the hands of Jesus, Acts 7:56–58; III. He overcomes his own flesh and blood, when he offers an intercessory prayer for his murderers, Acts 7:59.—Why is Stephen’s death the only case of martyrdom described in the New Testament? I. This narrative exhibits the leading features of all succeeding cases of martyrdom; II. It stands alone, in order that here, too, the glory of Christ may not be diminished, and that we may, like the dying Stephen himself, look first of all to Him who is the author and finisher of our faith. [Heb. 12:2].
Acts 7:56. Tischendorf, who follows the authority of A. B. C. [also Cod. Sin.], prefers the reading διηνοιγμένους to ἀνεῳγμ.; the latter is the usual reading, and is attested by D. E. H., as well as some of the fathers. [Lach. and Alf. concur with Tisch.—TR.]
Acts 7:57. κράξαντος, in place of the usual reading, κράξαντες, is found only in one manuscript [a minuscule ms.], and is unquestionably spurious. [The plural, of text rec., is found also in Cod. Sin., and is retained by all the recent editors.—TR.]
Acts 7:59. [“Upon God is introduced by the Geneva version, and King James’s, no doubt with a good design, but with a very bad effect, that of separating Stephen’s invocation from its object, and obscuring, if not utterly concealing, a strong proof of the divinity of Christ.” (Alexander).—TR.]