The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 7

Act 7:1

Acts 7: The main point of Stephen's defense:
There are extensive parallels with Heb 11: since both chapters describe faith demonstrated in actions, outside of the LM.

Act 7:2

THE GOD OF GLORY: Outward, visible glory: Shekinah. Cp "King of glory" (Psa 24:7,8); "Lord of glory" (1Co 2:8).

OUR FATHER ABRAHAM: Stephen uses "OUR father" so long as they might be persuaded (vv 11,12,15,19,39,44,45). Finally, at end, he abandons this (cp vv 51,52).

Act 7:3

THE LAND I WILL SHOW YOU: Abraham went out, not knowing where he was to go (Heb 11:8).

Act 7:5

HE GAVE HIM NO INHERITANCE HERE: Abraham has never seen the fulfillment of God's promise: He "died in faith": Heb 11:13. Abrahamic covenant: Gen 13:14-17.

NOT EVEN A FOOT OF GROUND: See Article, Ownership of property.

Act 7:6

IN A COUNTRY NOT THEIR OWN: Proving the worship of God was accepted outside Palestine, and without any temple or tabernacle. Joint quotation of Gen 15:13,14 and Exo 3:1,12.

400 YEARS: Includes only posterity of Abraham ("your descendants") -- from mocking of Isaac by Ishmael. 430 years includes Abraham's time spent in Egypt (from approx age 75): Heb 11:9; Gen 15:13n.

Act 7:7

AND WORSHIP ME IN THIS PLACE: "This place" = Mt Sinai, outside Palestine. God may be worshiped in many places besides Jerusalem (Exo 3:12).

Act 7:8

The covenant of circumcision: Rom 4:10-19.

Act 7:9

THE PATRIARCHS WERE JEALOUS: God was using the hardheartedness of the Jews!

THEY SOLD HIM (JOSEPH) AS A SLAVE INTO EGYPT: Joseph typ Christ, delivered up out of envy (Mat 27:18).

GOD WAS WITH HIM: Again, God remembered His children, even in Egypt!

Act 7:11

A FAMINE STRUCK ALL EGYPT AND CANAAN: "The dearth was in all lands" (Gen 41:54).

...COULD NOT FIND FOOD: That is, no fodder for cattle.

Act 7:12

GRAIN IN EGYPT: The gospel of life to be found in lands of Gentiles!

HE SENT OUR FATHERS ON THEIR FIRST VISIT: The only hope for the sons of Jacob was to leave their own land and go to a foreign land, where they would find their brother and savior Joseph.

Act 7:13

ON THEIR SECOND VISIT: "They will look on [ Or to ] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (Zec 12:10).

Act 7:14

SEVENTY-FIVE IN ALL: "70" in Gen 46:26, but "75" in Gen 46:26 LXX -- including those born in Egypt (outside of covenant-land!) -- agreeing with Exo 1:5.

Act 7:16

Jacob was buried in Machpelah near Hebron (Gen 50:12,13). "They" (Jacob's sons), were buried at Shechem (cf Jos 24:32), on land bought by Abraham to build an altar (Gen 12:6,7).

HAMOR AT SHECHEM: Not "Hamor the father of Shechem" (as KJV). Two different Hamors (cp Gen 33:19n).

Act 7:18

KNEW NOTHING ABOUT: That is, had no respect for...

Act 7:19

Cp Herod the Great / babies of Bethlehem to Pharaoh / male children of Israelites.

TO THROW OUT THEIR NEWBORN BABIES: "Cast out their young children" (KJV). "To expose their infants" (RSV).

Act 7:20

// Heb 11:23.

MOSES WAS BORN: Even Moses the giver of the Law, was born in EGYPT (not land of Canaan)!

NO ORDINARY CHILD: Lit "fair to God": same idiom in Gen 10:9; 30:8; Psa 36:6; 80:10; Jon 3:3.

Act 7:22

ALL THE WISDOM OF THE EGYPTIANS: Philosophy, medicine, astronomy, geometry, engineering.

POWERFUL IN SPEECH AND ACTION: Josephus says that while he was still in his early manhood the Ethiopians invaded Egypt and threatened Memphis. Moses was entrusted with the command of the royal troops. He surprised and defeated the enemy, captured their principal city, Meroe, and returned to Egypt laden with the spoils of victory.

Act 7:23

At 40 ("when he was grown": Exo 2:11), Moses was eloquent, but God did not use him. At 80, he was no longer eloquent (Exo 4:10-12); NOW God used him!

VISIT: Help or relieve, as in Mat 25:36; Luk 1:68; Jam 1:27. Cp Gen 50:24.

Moses' life consisted of 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Midian (v 30), and 40 years in wilderness (v 36). 120 years, but none of it in the Land of Promise!

Act 7:25

HIS OWN PEOPLE WOULD REALIZE... BUT THEY DID NOT: It was not God's desire that Moses wait another 40 years before bringing deliverance. It was the people's desire! Cp John 1:11: "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him."

The following is based on the contrasting viewpoint -- ie, that Moses should not have acted at all at this time... "There was a great deal for Moses to learn. In days to come he would learn the ways of the Lord. 'He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel' (Psa 103:7) But now he is full of his own ways. In days to come he will be a hand, nerved, and used and empowered by God Himself. 'Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron' (Psa 77:20). But now he is acting in his own self-energy -- rash, impetuous, headstrong, girding himself and walking as he perceives. In days to come he will be the meekest (most humble) and least obtrusive of men, conscious to a fault of his own weakness, and at every step looking up for guidance and help; but now he is leaning wholly on his own understanding and, without counsel of God, he tries to secure the emancipation of his people by the assertion of his will and his might.

"This is the making of a saint in him; but it will take many a long year of lonely waiting and trial before this strong and self-reliant nature could be broken down, shaped into a vessel meet for the Master's use and prepared for every good work. God's servants must be specially fitted for the service they are to render. That special adaptation is not natural to any of us, and can only come after years of deep and searching discipline.

" 'He went out unto his brethren.' Human sympathy will not serve God. It serves itself. It was a chivalrous act. He meant well. It showed the strength of the emotions pent up within him; but, after all, the mere impulse of pity would never have been strong enough to bear him through the weary years of the desert march. We must distinguish between passion and principle, between impulse and settled purpose. Missionary enthusiasm is not the loftiest motive for Christian service, and it certainly is not the most permanent. After a little while it dies down. When we become the channels through which the unebbing torrent of Divine pity is flowing, we have secured a principle of action that will bear us through disappointment, failure and ingratitude. The way in which men treat us will make no difference to us, because all is done for Him.

"It was premature. God's time for deliverance of his people was not due for forty years. Moses education was not complete either. It will take at least forty years to drain him of his self-will and self-reliance, and make him a vessel meet for the Master's use. Jesus knew this timing in waiting upon Father when He said. 'My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready' (John 7:6). Oh, for the grace to wait and watch with God, even though a horror of great darkness fall on us, and sleep steals up into our eyes and our head becomes thickly sown with the gray hair of age. One blow struck when the time is fulfilled is worth a thousand struck in premature eagerness.

"As Meyer wrote, 'It is not for thee, O my soul, to know the times and seasons which Father hath put in His own power; wait thou only upon God; let thy expectation be from Him; wait at the gates of thy Jericho for yet seven days; utter not a sound till He says, 'Shout': but when He gives the signal, with the glad cry of victory thou shalt pass over the fallen wall into the city' " (Veal).

Act 7:26

RECONCILE: "Sunelauno" = to drive together. Their common suffering by hand of others should have kept them from quarreling with each other.

YOU ARE BROTHERS: "For we are brothers" (Gen 13:8).

Act 7:27

The Jews may have been agreeable to being avenged and redeemed, by the hand of Almighty God, but not to making peace with one another at the behest of their Saviour!

Act 7:29

HE FLED TO MIDIAN: He was not afraid of Pharaoh (Heb 11:27) if his brethren would support him. But when they did not, and realizing his deeds were known, he had no choice but the leave Egypt.

Act 7:30

SINAI: = Horeb (Exo 3:1). The two terms are interchangeable: cp Deu 4:10; 33:2.

BURNING BUSH: The bush burning but not consumed typified Israel in Egypt, and Israel in her long period of persecution.

Notice that God revealed Himself in a bush in the wilderness, NOT in a tabernacle or temple!

Act 7:33

TAKE OFF YOUR SANDALS: Expressing reverence -- the shoe was unclean: Exo 3:5; Jos 5:15; Ecc 5:1.

THE PLACE WHERE YOU ARE STANDING IS HOLY GROUND: Notice that this holy ground was in Midian (not Israel), and apart from any Temple, and before any Law was given!

Act 7:35

"Whom THEY had rejected": The rejection of one (v 27) is seen as the rejection by all. The great ct: the divine mission of Moses, and his all-too-human rejection by God's people.

RULER AND DELIVERER: "Redeemer, ransomer" -- as was Christ.

THROUGH THE ANGEL WHO APPEARED TO HIM IN THE BUSH: The angels (ie, messengers) of God speak in His Name (notice "I" in v 32): cp Exo 3:6; 24:12,17,18.

Act 7:36

WONDERS AND MIRACULOUS SIGNS IN EGYPT: Manifestations of God's power and goodness have not been restricted to Holy Land.

Act 7:37

Deu 18:15,18: already applied to Christ by Peter in Act 3:22.

Act 7:38

Notice the general outline, and plain parallels: (1) Land of Egypt = Law of Moses; (2) Moses = Jesus Christ, the deliverer; and (3) priests of Zoan = priests of Law (cp 2Ti 3:8).

ASSEMBLY: "Church" (KJV); "congregation" (RSV).

THE ANGEL WHO SPOKE TO HIM ON MOUNT SINAI: The Law was given to Moses by the hand of the angel, yet it is said that God spoke to him: Lev 1:1; Exo 19:3-6; 20:1-6.

LIVING WORDS: Its source: life; its effect: life. Stephen offered them the true living word (Christ), not dead traditions. Cp Deu 30:19; 32:47.

Act 7:39

BACK TO EGYPT: Being addicted to their idols (Eze 20:7,8).

Act 7:41

MADE: Constrained Aaron to make (Exo 32:1-4).

A CALF: Perhaps out of mistaken reverence for cherubim. Stephen shows how true can be corrupted into idolatry (as they were doing with Moses).

A CELEBRATION: A licentious festival (Exo 32:6; 1Co 10:7).

Act 7:42

This abandonment to idolatry occurs later than the time of the Exodus, but it was the outcome of their attitude there: cp Rom 1:28; 2Th 2:11,12.

Vv 42,43: The inspired prophet (Amos, in Amo 5:25-27) had warned of the imminent destruction of the Temple; Stephen implies the like thing here.

Act 7:43

BEYOND BABYLON: Or Damascus, in Amo 5:27. (1) Perhaps Stephen is combining Jer 20:4,5 with Amos; or simply (2) see Lesson, Babylon = Assyria.

Act 7:44

// Heb 8:5.

IN THE DESERT: An official tabernacle outside of the Holy Land!

AS GOD DIRECTED...: Appointed by God, not by Moses!

PATTERN: Gr "tupos": implying a higher reality: Heb 8:5; 9:23,24.

Act 7:45

JOSHUA: "Jesus", but wrongly, in KJV.

UNTIL THE TIME OF DAVID: The dispossession of Canaanites was not completed until days of David -- when Jebusites were defeated (2Sa 5:6).

Act 7:47

BUT IT WAS SOLOMON WHO BUILT THE HOUSE FOR HIM: God, not man, chose who may build His "house".

Act 7:48

THE MOST HIGH DOES NOT LIVE IN HOUSES MADE BY MEN: Or, "made by hands". The greatest "house" is the one built "without hands" (ie Dan 2:34), ie Jesus (Gen 3:15). (Cp Paul in Athens: Act 17:24.) Therefore, even if Herod's temple were destroyed (cp Acts 6:14; John 2:19), God would still have a "temple" -- ie, Christ and the saints (Eph 2:19-22; 1Pe 2:3-5; Heb 3:6; Rev 3:12).

Act 7:50

// Rom 2:17-19.

Stephen stops his quotation of Isa 66 immediately before the words: "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word" (Isa 66:2). Those who are humbled by the Word of God are His last, and greatest, "temple" -- in them He will dwell forever!

Stephen stops his quotations before these words, leaving the erudite Sanhedrin to think of them... then he replaces them with Acts 7:51. What a blistering indictment!

Act 7:51

Instead of continuing the quotation (Isa 66: I will look to the man who is meek and contrite...), Stephen (knowing they will complete the quotation in their minds) castigates his listeners for NOT being meek and contrite and trembling! 'Such a sudden change in tone must have been occasioned by sighs of impatience and displeasure in the audience.

STIFF-NECKED: Only NT use of a common OT word (as used in LXX).

UNCIRCUMCISED: Having a covering over heart and ears, making them impervious to Truth (Lev 26:41; Deu 10:16; Jer 6:10; 9:26; Eze 44:7).

RESIST: "Antipipto" in Num 27:14 LXX.

Generally, cp Mat 23:29-37; 2Ch 36:16; 1Th 2:15,16.

Act 7:52

PERSECUTE: Mat 5:11,12.

THOSE WHO PREDICTED...: "Who showed beforehand) the coming of..." -- ie, not just by their words, but esp by their actions and their lives!

THE RIGHTEOUS ONE: Designation of Messiah suggested by Isa 53:11 (cp Act 3:14; 22:14).

BETRAYED: By consorting with Judas.

Act 7:54

FURIOUS: Lit "to cut in two": sw Act 5:33.

Act 7:55

FULL: Sig a permanent endowment.

LOOKED UP TO HEAVEN: Standing in the temple "heavens", he gazed up into the true "heavens".

Act 7:56

THE SON OF MAN: A title never otherwise given to Christ by an apostle or evangelist. (Used 82 times by Christ of himself.)

STANDING: Why does Jesus stand here, when elsewhere he is always sitting? The answer may be found in Paul's last words: "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord STOOD at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom" (2Ti 4:16-18).

Christ was so involved with the life of his servant Stephen that he was moved to stand beside him. He tore, as it were, the thin veil separating us from his sight, rose from his seat, and revealed himself to Stephen, encouraging him as he himself had been encouraged by an angel at Gethsemane.

Jesus is acting as the "Comforter" or "Advocate" -- the Greek being "Paraklete", which is a legal term for one who is called to stand alongside, that is, a defense attorney (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7; 1Jo 2:1). The defense attorney, then as now, stood alongside the accused in the courtroom and took his part with the Judge.

Act 7:57

// Acts 19:29: the madness of the mob at Ephesus.

Act 7:58

OUT OF THE CITY: Quite possibly to Golgotha, the place of his execution -- as that of his Lord. "And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore" (Heb 13:12,13).

TO STONE HIM: The punishment for blasphemy (Lev 24:16). Notice how they were careful to observe even the forms of the Law (Num 15:35; Luk 4:29).

THE WITNESSES LAID THEIR CLOTHES AT THE FEET OF A YOUNG MAN NAMED SAUL: " 'The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.' David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this" (1Sa 30:24,25). See Paul's later refs to his own role in the persecutions: Acts 22:20; 26:10; 1Co 15:9; Gal 1:13; 1Ti 1:13.

Act 7:59

LORD JESUS, RECEIVE MY SPIRIT: Cp the words of Jesus: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (citing Psa 31:5).

Act 7:60

LORD, DO NOT HOLD THIS SIN AGAINST THEM: These words seem to be the conscious echo of Jesus' dying words in Luke 23:34: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." But there is this exception: Stephen does not add the last phrase, because they -- Israel's rulers -- DO know what they are doing! With this final rejection of the word of life by the leaders of Israel, the way is finally and conclusively opened to the Gentiles -- to Samaria and beyond.

It has been well said that the church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen. This martyr died, but -- in answer to his dying words, the Lord Jesus Christ sought out Saul of Tarsus -- and Stephen's words, his spirit, and his mission were destined to live on in the life of his accuser and murderer, who stood unknowingly there that day -- presiding over his execution.

Likewise, Paul's dying words -- 30 years later -- may be compared both to those of his Lord and to those of his victim, Stephen: "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. MAY IT NOT BE HELD AGAINST THEM" (2Ti 4:16). The spirit of Stephen, and of Christ, had become his, and the man Paul, knowing that soon he would die, prayed that those who had turned their backs on him would not be held accountable for that desertion.

"They were the spiritual leaders of the people but Stephen's description of them is much less than flattering. They may have been the spiritual leaders, but in actual fact they were rogues, power-hungry, money-hungry and opposed to anyone who got in their way. As Stephen said, they were just like their fathers who killed the prophets God sent to them -- in fact even worse -- because they killed the Messiah. 'You stiff necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: you always resist the Holy Spirit!'

"Now they had turned on Stephen. The more truth they heard, the more rage they had. And when he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the throne of God,' they completely lost their selfcontrol. They dragged Stephen out of the city and began to stone him.

"But Stephen's last words must have made some of them stop to think. 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' How could Stephen be so forgiving to these hypocritical wicked people? The answer is because he loved them and followed the example of Christ. When we are wronged (and usually it is a lot less than murder), let us do the same and be as forgiving as Stephen" (RP).

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