Acts 7CHAPTER 7 Introduction THIS chapter contains the defence of Stephen before the sanhedrim, or great council of the Jews. There has been great diversity of opinion about the object which Stephen had in view in this defence, and about the reason why he introduced at such length the history of the Jewish people. But a few remarks may perhaps show his design, He was accused of blasphemy in speaking against the institutions of Moses and the temple, that is, against everything held sacred among the Jews. To meet this charge, he gives a statement, at length, of his belief in the Mosaic religion, in the great points of their history, and in the fact that God had interposed in a remarkable manner in defending them from dangers. By this historical statement he avows his full belief in the Divine origin of the Jewish religion, and thus indirectly repels the charge of blasphemy. It is further to be remembered, that this was the best way of securing the attention of the council. Had he entered on an abstract defence, he might expect to be stopped by their cavils or their clamour. But the history of their own nation was a favourite topic among the Jews. They were always ready to listen to an account of their ancestors; and to secure their attention, nothing more was necessary than to refer to their illustrious lives and deeds. Comp. Psalm 78, 105, 106, 135, Ezekiel 20. In this way Stephen secured their attention, and practically repelled the charge of speaking reproachfully of Moses and the temple. He showed them that he had as firm a belief as they in the great historical facts,of their nation. It is to be remembered, also, that this speech was broken off in the midst, Acts 7:53,54, and it is therefore difficult to tell what the design of Stephen was. It seems clear, however, that he intended to convict them of guilt, by showing that they sustained the same character as their fathers had manifested, Acts 7:51,52) and there is some probability that he intended to show that the acceptable worship of God was not to be confined to any place particularly, from the fact that the worship of Abraham, and the patriarchs, and Moses, was acceptable before the temple was reared, (Acts 7:2, etc.,) and from the declaration in Acts 7:48, that God dwells not in temples made with hands. All that can be said here is, that Stephen (1) showed his full belief in the Divine appointment of Moses, and the historical facts of their religion. (2.) That he laid the foundation of an argument to show that those things were not perpetually binding, and that acceptable worship might be offered in other places and in another manner than at the temple. It has been asked in what way Luke became acquainted with this speech so as to repeat it. The Scripture has not informed us. But we may remark, (1.) that Stephen was the first martyr. His death, and the incidents connected with it, could not but be a matter of interest to the first Christians; and the substance of his defence, at least, would be familiar to them. There is no improbability in supposing that imperfect copies might be preserved by writing, and circulated among them. (2.) Luke was the companion of Paul. (See Introduction to the Gospel by Luke.) Paul was present when this defence was delivered, and was a man who would be likely to remember what was said on such an occasion. From him Luke might have derived the account of this defence. In regard to this discourse, it may be further remarked, that it is not necessary to suppose that Stephen was inspired. Even if there should be found inaccuracies, as some critics have pretended, in the address, it would not militate against its genuineness. It is the defence of a man on trial under a serious charge; not a man of whom there is evidence that he was inspired, but a pious, devoted, heavenly-minded man. All that the sacred narrative is responsible for is the correctness of the report. Luke alleges only that such a speech was in fact delivered, without affirming that every particular in it is correct. Verse 1. Then said the High Priest. Mt 2:4. In this case the high priest seems to have presided in the council. Are these things so? To wit, the charge alleged against him of blasphemy against Moses and the temple, Acts 6:13,14. Verse 2. Men, brethren, and fathers. These were the usual titles by which the sanhedrim was addressed. In all this Stephen was perfectly respectful, and showed that he was disposed to render due honour to the institutions of the nation. The God of glory. This is a Hebrew form of expression denoting the glorious God. It properly denotes his majesty, or splendour, or magnificence; and the word glory is often applied to the splendid appearances in which God has manifested himself to men, De 5:24; Ex 33:18, 16:7,10, Lev 9:23, Nu 14:10. Perhaps Stephen meant to affirm that God appeared to Abraham in some such glorious or splendid manifestation, by which he would know that he was addressed by God. Stephen, moreover, evidently uses the word glory to repel the charge of blasphemy against God, and to show that he regarded him as worthy of honour and praise. Appeared, etc. In what manner he appeared is not said. In Gen 12:1, it is simply recorded that God had said unto Abraham, etc. Unto our father. The Jews valued themselves much on being the children of Abraham, Mt 3:9. This expression was therefore well calculated to conciliate their minds. When he was in Mesopotamia. In Gen 11:31, it is said that Abraham dwelt in Ur of the Chaldees. The word Mesopotamia properly denotes the region between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Acts 2:9. The name is Greek, and the region had also other names before the Greek name was given to it. In Gen 11:31, 15:7, it is called Ur of the Chaldees. Mesopotamia and Chaldea might not exactly coincide; but it is evident that Stephen meant to say that Ur was in the country afterwards called Mesopotamia. Its precise situation is unknown. A Persian fortress of this name is mentioned by Ammianus, (xxv. 8,) between Nesibis and the Tigris. Before he dwelt in Charran. From Gen 11:31, it would seem that Terah took his son Abraham of his own accord, and removed to Haran. But, from Gen 12:1, 15:7, it appears that God had commanded Abraham to remove, and he so ordered it in his providence that Terah was disposed to remove his family with an intention of going into the land of Canaan, (Charran.) This is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Haran, Gen 11:31. This place was also in Mesopotamia, in 36� 52' N. lat. and 39� 5' E. lon. Here Terah died, (Gen 11:32;) and to this place Jacob retired when he fled from his brother Esau, Gen 27:43. It is situated "in a flat and sandy plain, and is inhabited by a few wandering Arabs, who select it for the delicious water which it contains."--Robinson' s Calmet. (a) "brethren" Acts 22:1 (*) "Charran" "Haran" Verse 3. And said unto him. How long this was said unto him before he went is not recorded. Moses simply says that God had commanded him to go, Gen 12:1. Thy kindred. Thy relatives, or family connexions. It seems that Terah went with him as far as to Haran; but Abraham was apprized that he was to leave his family, and to go almost alone. Into the land, etc. The country was yet unknown. The place was to be shown him. This is presented in the New Testament as a strong instance of faith, Heb 11:8,9. It was an act of simple confidence in God. And to leave his country and home, to go into a land of strangers, not knowing whither he went, required strong confidence in God. It is a simple illustration of what man is always required to do at the commands of God. Thus the gospel requires him to commit all to God; to yield body and soul to his disposal; and to be ready at his command to forsake father and mother, and friends, and houses, and lands, for the sake of the Lord Jesus, Lk 14:33; Mt 19:27,29. The trials which Abraham might have anticipated may be readily conceived. He was going, in a rude and barbarous age of the world, into a land of strangers. He was without arms or armies, almost alone. He did not even know the nature or situation of the land, or the character of its inhabitants. He had no title to it; no claim to urge; and he went depending on the simple promise of God that he would give it to him. He went, therefore, trusting simply to the promise of God. And thus his conduct illustrated precisely what we are to do in all the future--in reference to all our coming life, and to the eternity before us-we are to trust simply to the promise of God, and do that which he requires. This is faith. In Abraham it was as simple and intelligible an operation of mind as ever occurs in any instance. Nor is faith in the Scripture regarded as more mysterious than any other mental operation. Had Abraham seen all that was to result from his going into that land, it would have been sufficient reason to induce him to do as he did. But God saw it; and Abraham was required to act just as if he had seen it all, and all the reasons why he was called. On the strength of God's promises he was called to act. This was faith. It did not require him to act where there was no reason for his so acting, but where he did not see the reason. So in all cases of faith. If man could see all that God sees, he would perceive reasons for acting as God requires. But the reasons of things are often concealed, and man is required to act on the belief that God sees reasons why he should so act. To act under the proper impression of that truth which God presents, is faith--as simple and intelligible as any other act or operation of the mind. Mk 16:16. Verse 4. Land of the Chaldaeans. From Ur of the Chaldees, Gen 11:31. When his father was dead. This passage has given rise to no small difficulty in the interpretation. The difficulty is this: From Gen 11:26, it would seem that Abraham was born when Terah was seventy years of age--" And Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran." From Gen 12:4, it seems that Abraham was seventy-five years of age when he departed from Haran to Canaan. The age of Terah was therefore but one hundred and forty-five years. Yet, in Gen 11:32, it is said that Terah was two hundred and five years old when he died; thus leaving sixty years of Terah's life beyond the time when Abraham left Haran. Various modes have been proposed of meeting this difficulty. (1.) Errors in numbers are more likely to occur than any other. In the Samaritan copy of the Pentateuch, it is said that Terah died in Haran at the age of one hundred and five years; which would suppose that his death occurred forty years before Abraham left Haran. But the Hebrew, Latin Vulgate, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic, read it two hundred and five years. (2.) It is not affirmed that Abraham was born just at the time when Terah was seventy years of age. All that the passage in Gen 11:26 proves, according to the usual meaning of similar expressions, is, that Terah was seventy years old before he had any sons, and that the three were born subsequently to that. But which was born first, or how long intervals intervened between their birth, does not appear. Assuredly it does not mean that all were born precisely at the time when Terah was seventy years of age. Neither does it appear that Abraham was the eldest of the three. The sons of Noah are said to have been Shem, Ham, and Japheth, (Gen 5:32;) yet Japheth, though mentioned last, was the eldest, (Gen 10:21.) As Abraham afterwards became much the most distinguished, and as he was the father of the Jewish people of whom Moses was writing, it was natural that he should be mentioned first. If it cannot be proved that Abraham was the eldest, as assuredly it cannot be, then there is no improbability in supposing that his birth might have occurred many years after Terah was seventy years of age. (3.) The Jews unanimously affirm that Terah relapsed into idolatry before Abraham left Haran; and this they denominate death, or a moral death.--Kuin�el. It is certain, therefore, that, from some cause, they were accustomed to speak of Terah as dead, before Abraham left him. Stephen only used language which was customary among the Jews; and would use it doubtless correctly, though we may not be able to see precisely how it can be reconciled with the account in Genesis. (a) "Then came he out" Gen 12:5 (*) "Charran" "Haran" Verse 5. And he gave him none inheritance. Abraham led a wandering life; and this passage means, that he did not himself receive a permanent possession or residence in that land. The only land which he owned was the field which he purchased of the children of Heth, for a burial-place, Gen 23. As this was obtained by purchase, and not by the direct gift of God, and as it was not designed for a residence, it is said that God gave him no inheritance. It is mentioned as a strong instance of his faith, that he should remain there without a permanent residence himself, with only the prospect that his children, at some distant period, would inherit it. Not so much as to set his foot on. This is a proverbial expression, denoting in an emphatic manner that he had no land, De 2:5. Would give it to him. Gen 13:15. Abraham did not himself possess all that land; and the promise is evidently equivalent to saying that it should be conferred on the family of Abraham, or the family of which he was the father, without affirming that he should himself personally possess it. It is true, however, that Abraham himself afterwards dwelt many years in that land as his home, Gen 13, etc. For a possession. To be held as his own property. When as yet he had no child. When there was no human probability that he would have any posterity. Comp. Gen 15:2,3, 18:11,12. This is mentioned as a strong instance of his faith: "Who against hope believed in hope," Rom 4:18. (b) "he promised" Gen 13:15 Verse 6. And God spake on this wise. In this manner, Gen 15:13,14. His seed. His posterity; his descendants. Should sojourn. This means that they should have a temporary residence there. The word is used in opposition to a fixed, permanent home, and is applied to travellers or foreigners. In a strange land. In the Hebrew, (Gen 15:13,) "Shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs." The land of Canaan and the land of Egypt were to them strange lands, though the obvious reference here is to the latter. Should bring them into bondage. Or, should make them slaves, Ex 1:11. And entreat them evil. Should oppress or afflict them. Four hundred years. This is the precise time which is mentioned by Moses, Gen 15:13. Great perplexity has been experienced in explaining this passage, or reconciling it with other statements. In Ex 12:40, it is said that their sojourning in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. Josephus (Antiq. b. ii.chap. ix. 2 ]) also says, that the time in which they were in Egypt was four hundred years; though in another place (Antiq. b. ii. chap. xv. & 2) he says, that they left Egypt four hundred and thirty years after their forefather Abraham came to Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years after Jacob removed to Egypt. Paul also (Gal 3:17) says, that it was four hundred and thirty years from the time when the promise was given to Abraham to the time when the law was given on Mount Sinai. The Samaritan Pentateuch says also, (Ex 12:40,) that the "dwelling of the sons of Israel, and of their fathers, which they dwelt in the land of Canaan, and in the land of Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." The same is the version of the Septuagint. A part of this perplexity is removed by the fact that Stephen and Moses use, in accordance with a very common custom, round numbers in speaking of it; and thus speak of four hundred years, when the literal time was four hundred and thirty. The other perplexities are not so easily removed. From the account which Moses has given of the lives of certain persons, it would seem clear that the time which they spent in Egypt was not four hundred years. From Gen 46:8,11, it appears that Kohath was born when Jacob went into Egypt. He lived one hundred and thirty-three years, Ex 6:18. Amram, his son, and the father of Moses, lived one hundred and thirty-seven years, Ex 6:20. Moses was eighty years old when he was sent to Pharoah, Ex 7:7. The whole time thus mentioned, including the time in which the father lived after his son was born, was only three hundred and fifty years. Exclusive of that, it is reasonable to suppose that the actual time of their being in Egypt could not have been but about two hundred years, according to one account of Josephus. The question then is, how can these accounts be reconciled? The only satisfactory way is, by supposing that the four hundred and thirty years includes the whole time from the calling of Abraham to the departure from Egypt. And that this was the fact is probable from the following circumstances: (1.) The purpose of all the narratives on this subject is to trace the period before they became finally settled in the land of Canaan. During all this period from the calling of Abraham, they were in a wandering, unfixed situation. This constituted substantially one period, including all their oppressions, hardships, and dangers; and it was natural to have reference to this entire period in any account which was given. (2.) All this period was properly the period of promise, not of possession. In this respect, the wanderings of Abraham and the oppressions of Egypt came under the same general description. (3.) Abraham was himself occasionally in Egypt. He was unsettled; and since Egypt was so pre-eminent in all their troubles, it was natural to speak of all their oppressions as having occurred in that country. The phrase, "residence in Egypt," or" in a strange land," would come to be synonymous, and would denote all their oppressions and trials. They would speak of their sufferings as having been endured in Egypt, because their afflictions there were so much more prominent than before. (4.) All this receives countenance from the version of the LXX., and from the Samaritan text, showing the manner in which the ancient Jews were accustomed to understand it. (5.) It should be added, that difficulties of chronology are more likely to occur than any others; and it should not be deemed strange if there are perplexities of this kind found in ancient writings which we cannot explain. It is so in all ancient records; and all that is usually expected in relation to such difficulties is, that we should be able to present a probable explanation. (+) "on this wise" "In this manner" (c) "that his seed" Gen 15:13,16 (++) "strange land" "Foreign" (*) "evil" "Afflict them" (d) "four hundred years" Ex 12:40,41 Verse 7. And the nation, etc. Referring particularly to the Egyptians. Will I judge. The word judge, in the Bible, often means to execute judgment, as well as to pronounce it; that is, to punish. See Jn 18:31, 3:17, 8:50, 12:47, Acts 24:6, 1Cor 5:13, etc. It has this meaning here. God regarded their oppressive acts as deserving his indignation, and he evinced it in the plagues with which he visited them, and in their overthrow in the Red Sea. Shall serve me. Shall worship me, or be regarded as my people. In this place. That is, in the place where God made this promise to Abraham. These words are not found in Genesis; but similar words are found in Ex 3:12; and it was a practice, in making quotations, to quote the sense only, or to connect two or more promises having relation to the same thing. (a) "serve me in this place" Ex 3:12 Verse 8. And he gave him. That is, God appointed, or commanded this, Gen 17:9-13. The covenant. The word covenant denotes, properly, a compact or agreement between two or more persons, usually attended with seals, or pledges, or sanctions. In Gen 17:7, and elsewhere: it is said that God would establish his covenant with Abraham; that is, he made him certain definite promises, attended with pledges and seals, etc. The idea of a strict compact or agreement between God and man, as between equal parties, is not found in the Bible. It is commonly used, as here, to denote a promise on the part of God, attended with pledges, and demanding, on the part of man, in order to avail himself of its benefits, a stipulated course of conduct. The covenant is therefore another name for denoting two things on the part of God: (1.) A command, which man is not at liberty to reject, as he would be if a literal covenant; and, (2.) a promise, which is to be fulfilled only on the condition of obedience. The covenant with Abraham was simply a promise to give him the land, and to make him a great nation, etc. It was never proposed to Abraham with the supposition that he was at liberty to reject it, or to refuse to comply with its conditions. Circumcision was appointed as the mark or indication that Abraham and those thus designated were the persons included in the gracious purpose and promise. It served to separate them as a peculiar people; a people whose peculiar characteristic it was, that they obeyed and served the God who had made the promise to Abraham. The phrase, "covenant of circumcision," means, therefore, the covenant or promise which God made to Abraham, of which circumcision was the distinguishing mark or sign. The twelve patriarchs. The word patriarch properly denotes the father and ruler of a family. But it is commonly applied, by way of eminence, to the progenitors of the Jewish race, particularly to the twelve sons of Jacob. Acts 2:29. (b) "he gave him the covenant" Gen 17:9-11 (c) "so Abraham" Gen 21:1-4 (d) "Isaac begat" Gen 25:26 (e) "Jacob begat twelve patriarchs" Gen 29:32 Verse 9. Moved with envy. That is, dissatisfied with the favour which their father Jacob showed Joseph, and envious at the dreams which indicated that he was to be raised to remarkable honour above his parents and brethren, Gen 37:3-11. Sold Joseph into Egypt. Sold him, that he might be taken to Egypt. This was done at the suggestion of Judah, who advised it that Joseph might not be put to death by his brethren, Gen 27:28. It is possible that Stephen, by this fact, might have designed to prepare the way for a severe rebuke of the Jews for having dealt in a similar manner with their Messiah. But God was with him. God protected him, and overruled all these wicked doings, so that he was raised to extraordinary honours. (f) "envy" Gen 37:28, Ps 105:17 (g) "God was with him" Gen 39:2,21 Verse 10. And delivered him, etc. That is, restored him to liberty from his servitude and humiliation, and raised him up to high honours and offices in Egypt. Favour and wisdom. The favour was the result of his wisdom. His wisdom was particularly evinced in interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh, Gen 41. And he made him governor, etc. Gen 41:40. All his house. All the family, or all the court and government of the nation. (h) "he made him" Gen 41:40 (*) "house" "Palace" Verse 11. Now there came a dearth. A famine. Gen 41:54. And Chanaan. Jacob was living at that time in Canaan. Found no sustenance. No food; no means of living. (i) "there came a dearth" Gen 41:54 Verse 12. Was corn in Egypt. The word corn here rather denotes wheat. Mt 12:1. Our fathers. His ten sons; all his sons except Joseph and Benjamin, Gen 42:2. Stephen here refers only to the history, without entering into details. By this general reference he sufficiently showed that he believed what Moses had spoken, and did not intend to show him disrespect. (k) "But when Jacob heard" Gen 13:1,2 (+) "sent out our fathers first" "The first time" Verse 13. Joseph was not known. Gen 14:4. Joseph's kindred, etc. His relatives, his family. Gen 14:16. (l) "Joseph was made known" Gen 14:4,16 Verse 14. All his kindred. His father and family, Gen 45:17-28 Gen 46:1-26. Threescore and fifteen souls. Seventy-five persons. There has been much perplexity felt in the explanation of this pas sage. In Gen 46:26, Ex 1:5, De 10:22, it is expressly said that the number which went down to Egypt consisted of but seventy persons. The question is, in what way these accounts can be reconciled? It is evident that Stephen has followed the account which is given by the Septuagint. In Gen 46:27, that version reads, "But the sons of Joseph who were with him in Egypt, were nine souls; all the souls of-the house of Jacob which came with Jacob into Egypt, were seventy-five souls." This number is made out by adding these nine souls to the sixty-six mentioned in Gen 46:26. The difference between the Septuagint and Moses is, that the former mentions five descendants of Joseph who are not recorded by the latter. The names of the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh are recorded in 1Chr 7:14-21. Their names were Ashriel, Machir, Zelophehad, Peresh, sons of Manasseh; and Shuthelah, son of Ephraim. Why the Septuagint inserted these, it may not be easy to see. But such was evidently the fact; and the fact accords accurately with the historic record, though Moses did not insert their names. The solution of difficulties in regard to chronology is always difficult; and what might be entirely apparent to a Jew, in the time of Stephen, may be wholly inexplicable to us. (m) "all his kindred" Gen 46:27, De 10:22 Verse 15, 16. And died. Gen 49:33. He, and our fathers. The time which the Israelites remained in Egypt was two hundred and fifteen years; so that all the sons of Jacob were deceased before the Jews went out to go to the land of Canaan. And were carried over. Jacob himself was buried in the field of Machpelah, by Joseph and his brethren, Gen 1:13. It is expressly said that the bones of Joseph were carried by the Israelites when they went into the land of Canaan, and buried in Shechem, Josh 24:32. Comp. Gen 1:25. No mention is made in the Old Testament of their carrying the bones of any of the other patriarchs; but the thing is highly probable in itself. If the descendants of Joseph carried his bones, it would naturally occur to them to take also the bones of each of the patriarchs, and give them an honourable sepulchre together in the land of promise. Josephus (Antiq. b. ii. chap. viii. & 2) says, that "the posterity and sons of these men, (of the brethren of Joseph,) after some time, carried their bodies and buried them in Hebron; but as to the bones of Joseph, they carried them into the land of Canaan afterward, when the Hebrews went out of Egypt." This is the account which Josephus gives, and it is evidently in accordance with the common opinion of the Jewish writers, that they were buried in Hebron. Yet the tradition is not uniform. Some of the Jews affirm that they were buried in Sychem. (Kuin�el.) As the Scriptures do not anywhere deny that the fathers were buried in Sychem, it cannot be proved that Stephen was in error. There is one circumstance of strong probability to show that he was correct. At the time this defence was delivered, Sychem was in the hands of the Samaritans, between whom and the Jews there was a violent hostility. Of course the Jews would not be willing to concede that the Samaritans had the bones of their ancestors; and hence perhaps the opinion had been maintained that they were buried in Hebron. Into Sychem. This was a town or village near to Samaria. It was called Sychar, Jn 4:5,) Schechem, and Sychem. It is now called Naplous, or Napolose, and is ten miles from Shiloh, and about forty from Jerusalem, towards the north. That Abraham bought. The word Abraham here has given rise to considerable perplexity; and it is now pretty generally conceded that it is a mistake. It is certain, from Gen 33:19, Josh 24:32, that this piece of land was bought not by Abraham, but by Jacob, of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. The land which Abraham purchased was the cave of Machpelah, of the sons of Heth, in Hebron, Gen 23. Various solutions have been proposed of this difficulty, which it is not necessary to detail. It may be remarked, however, (1.) that as the text now stands, it is an evident error. This is clear from the passages cited from the Old Testament, above. (2.) It is not at all probable that either Stephen or Luke would have committed such an error. Every consideration must lead us to the conclusion that they were too well acquainted with such prominent points of the Jewish history to commit an error like this. (3.) The probability therefore is, that the error has arisen since; but how is not known, nor is there any way of ascertaining. All the ancient versions agree in reading Abraham. One Ms. only reads "Abraham our Father." Some have supposed, therefore, that it was written, "which our father brought," and that some early transciber inserted the name Abraham. Others, that the name was omitted entirely by Stephen; and then the antecedent to the verb "bought" will be "Jacob," in Acts 7:15, according with the fact. Other modes have been proposed also, but none are entirely satisfactory. If there was positive proof of Stephen's inspiration, or if it were necessary to make that out, the difficulty would be much greater. But it has already been remarked, that there is no decisive evidence of that; and it is not necessary to make out that point to defend the Scriptures. All that can be demanded of the historian is, that he should give a fair account of the defence as it was delivered; and though the probability is that Stephen would not commit such an error, yet, admitting that he did, it by no means proves that Luke was not inspired, or that Luke has committed any error in recording what was actually said. Of the sons of Emmor. In the Hebrew, Gen 33:19, the "children of Hamor"--but different ways of rendering the same word. Verse 16. (a) "Was carried over into Sychem" Josh 24:32 (*) "Sychem" "Shechem" (+) "Emmor" "Hamor" Verse 17. The times of the promise. The time of the fulfillment of the promises. The people grew, etc. Ex 1:7,8 (b) "the people grew" Ex 1:7-9 Verse 18. Till another king arose. This is quoted from Ex 1:8. What was the name of this king is not certainly known. The common name of all the kings of Egypt was Pharaoh, as Caesar became the common name of the emperors of Rome after the time of Julius Caesar: thus we say, Augustus Caesar, Tiberius Caesar, etc. It has commonly been supposed to have been the celebrated Rameses, or Ramses Meiamoun, the sixth king of the eighteenth dynasty; and the event is supposed to have occurred about 1559 years before the Christian era. But M. Champollion supposes that his name was Mandonel, whose reign commenced 1585, and ended 1565 years before. Christ. (Essay on the Hieroglyphic System, pp. 94, 95.) Which knew not Joseph. It can hardly be supposed that he would be ignorant of the name and deeds of Joseph; and this expression, therefore, probably means that he did not favour the designs of Joseph; he did not remember the benefits he had conferred on the nation; or furnish the patronage for the kindred of Joseph which had been secured for them by Joseph under a former reign. National ingratitude and forgetfulness of favours have not been uncommon in the world; and a change of dynasty or succession has often obliterated all memory of former obligations and compacts. Verse 19. Dealt subtilly. He acted deceitfully; he used fraud, The cunning or deceitful attempt which is referred to, is his endeavour to weaken and destroy the Jewish people by causing their male children to be put to death, Ex 1:22. Our kindred. Our nation, or our ancestors. And evil entreated. Was unjust and cruel towards them. So that, etc. For that purpose, or to cause them to cast them out. He dealt with them in this cruel manner, hoping that the Israelites themselves would destroy their own sons, that they might not grow up to experience the same sufferings as their fathers had. The cunning or subtilty of Pharaoh extended to everything that he did to oppress, to keep under, and to destroy the children of Israel. (c) "so that they cast out" Ex 1:22 Verse 20. In which time, etc. During this period of oppression. See Ex 2:2, etc. Was exceeding fair. Greek, "was fair to God;" properly rendered, was very handsome. The word God is used in the Greek here in accordance with the Hebrew usage, by which anything that is very handsome, or lofty, or grand, is thus designated. Thus, Ps 36:7, mountains of God mean lofty mountains; Ps 80:10, [ver. 11, Heb.,] cedars of God mean lofty, beautiful cedars. Thus Nineveh is called "a great city to God," (Jonah 3:3, Greek,) meaning a very great city. The expression here means simply, that Moses was very fair, or handsome. Comp. Heb 11:23, where he is called a "proper child," i.e., a handsome child. It would seem from this, that Moses was preserved by his mother on account of his beauty; and this is hinted at in Ex 2:2. And it would also seem from this, that Pharaoh had succeeded by his oppressions in what he had attempted; and that it was not unusual for parents among the Jews to expose their children, or to put them to death. (d) "Moses was born" Ex 2:2 (1) "exceeding fair" or, "fair to God" (+) "exceeding fair" "Very Beautiful" Verse 21. Was cast out. When he was exposed on the banks of the Nile, Ex 2:3. And nourished him. Adopted him, and treated him as her son, Ex 2:10. It is implied in this, that he was educated by her. An adopted son in the family of Pharaoh would be favoured with all the advantages which the land could furnish for an education. (e) "nourished him" Ex 2:10 Verse 22. Moses was learned. Or, was instructed. It does not mean that he had that learning, but that he was carefully trained or educated in that wisdom. The passage does not express the fact that Moses was distinguished for learning, but that he was carefully educated, or that pains were taken to make him learned. In all the wisdom, etc. The learning of the Egyptians was confined chiefly to astrology, to the interpretation of dreams, to medicine, to mathematics, and to their sacred science or traditionary doctrines about religion, which were concealed chiefly under their hieroglyphics. Their learning is not unfrequently spoken of in the Scriptures, 1Kgs 4:30; Comp. Isa 19:11,12. And their knowledge is equally celebrated in the heathen world. It is known that science was carried from Egypt to Phenicia, and thence to Greece; and not a few of the Grecian philosophers travelled to Egypt in pursuit of knowledge. And was mighty. Was powerful, or was distinguished. This means that he was eminent in Egypt, before he conducted the children of Israel forth. It refers to his addresses to Pharaoh, and to the miracles which he wrought before their departure. In words. From Ex 4:10, it seems that Moses was "slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." When it is said that he was mighty in words, it means that he was mighty in his communications to Pharaoh, though they were spoken by his brother Aaron. Aaron was in his place, and Moses addressed Pharaoh through him, who was appointed to deliver the message, Ex 4:11-16. Deeds. Miracles, Ex 7, etc. (*) "Learned" "Instructed" (f) "mighty in words" Lk 24:19 Verse 23. Full forty years of age. This is not recorded in the Old Testament, but it is a constant tradition of the Jews that Moses was forty years of age when he undertook to deliver them. Thus it is said, "Moses lived in the palace of Pharaoh forty years; he was forty years in Midian; and he ministered to Israel forty years." (Kuin�el.) To visit, etc. Probably with a view of delivering them from their oppressive bondage. Comp. Acts 7:26. (a) "And when he was" Ex 2:11 Verse 24. Suffer wrong. The wrong or injury was, that the Egyptian was smiting the Hebrew, Ex 2:11,12. Smote the Egyptian. He slew him, and buried him in the sand. Verse 25. For he supposed. This is not mentioned by Moses; but it is not at all improbable. When they saw him alone contending with the Egyptian, when it was understood that he had come and taken vengeance or one of their oppressors, it might have been presumed that he regarded himself as directed by God to interpose, and save the people. (1) "For he supposed" "Now" Verse 26. And the next day. Ex 2:13. He shewed himself. He appeared in a sudden and unexpected manner to them. Unto them. That is, to two of the Hebrews, Ex 2:13. As they strove. As they were engaged in a quarrel. Have set them at one. Greek, "would have urged them to peace." This he did by remonstrating with the man that did the wrong. Saying. What follows is not quoted literally from the account which Moses gives, but it is substantially the same. Sirs. Greek, "men." Ye are brethren. You belong not only to the same nation, but you are brethren and companions in affliction, and should not, therefore, contend with each other. One of the most melancholy scenes in this world, is that where those who are poor, and afflicted, and oppressed, add to all their other calamities, altercations and strifes among themselves. Yet it is from this class that contentions and lawsuits usually arise. The address which Moses here makes to the contending Jews, might be applied to the whole human family, in view of the contentions and wars of nations: "Ye are brethren, members of the same great family, and why do you contend with each other?" (*) "at one again" "Would have reconciled them" Verse 27. But he that did, etc. Intent on his purpose, filled with rage and passion, he rejected all interference, and all attempts at peace. It is usually the man that does the injury that is unwilling to be reconciled; and when we find a man that regards the entreaties of his friends as improper interference, when he becomes increasingly angry when we exhort him to peace, it is usually a strong evidence that he is conscious that he has been at fault. If we wish to reconcile parties, we should go first to the man that has been injured. In the controversy between God and man, it is the sinner who has done the wrong that is unwilling to be reconciled, and not God. His neighbour. The Jew with whom he was contending. Who made thee, etc. What right have you to interfere in this matter? The usual salutation with which a man is greeted who attempts to prevent quarrels. Verse 28. Wilt thou kill me, etc. How it was known that he had killed the Egyptian does not appear. It was probably communicated by the man who was rescued from the hands of the Egyptian, Ex 2:11,12. Verse 29. Then fled Moses, etc. Moses fled because he now ascertained that it was known. He supposed that it had been unobserved, Ex 2:12. But he now supposed that the knowledge of it might reach Pharaoh, and that his life might thus be endangered. Nor did he judge incorrectly; for as soon as Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to take his life, Ex 2:16. Was a stranger. Or became a sojourner--παροικος--one who had a temporary abode in the land. The use of this word implies that he did not expect to make that his permanent dwelling. In the land of Madian. This was a part of Arabia. It was situated on the east side of the Red Sea. The city of Midian is placed there by the Arabian geographers; but the Midianites seem to have spread themselves along the desert east of Mount Seir, to the vicinity of the Moabites. To the west they ex, tended also to the neighbourhood of Mount Sinai. This was extensively a desert region, an unknown land; and Moses expected there to be safe from Pharaoh. Where he begat two sons. He married Zipporah, the daughter of Reuel, (Ex 2:18,) or Jethro, (Nu 10:29, Ex 3:1,) a priest of Midian. The names of the two sons were Gershom and Eliezer, Ex 18:3,4. (+) "stranger" "Sojourned" Verse 30. And when forty years, etc. At the age of eighty years. This, however, was known by tradition. It is not expressly mentioned by Moses. It is said, however, to have been after the king of Egypt had died, (Ex 2:23;) and the tradition is not improbable. In the wilderness of mount Sina. In the desert adjacent to, or that surrounded Mount Sinai. In Ex 3:1, it is said that this occurred at Mount Horeb. But there is no contradiction; Horeb and Sinai are different peaks or elevations of the same mountain. They are represented as springing from the same base, and branching out in different elevations. The mountains, according to Burckhardt, are a prodigious pile, comprehending many peaks, and about thirty miles in diameter. From one part of this mountain, Sinai, the law was given to the children of Israel. An angel of the Lord. The word angel means, properly, a messenger, (Mt 1:20,) and is applied to the invisible spirits in heaven, to men, to the winds, or pestilence, or to whatever is appointed as a messenger to make known the will of God. The mere name, therefore, can determine nothing about the nature of the messenger. That name might be applied to any messenger, even an inanimate object. The nature and character of this messenger are to be determined by other considerations. The word may denote that the bush on fire was the messenger. But a comparison with the other places where this occurs will show that it was a celestial messenger, and perhaps that it was the Messiah who was yet to come, appearing to take the people of Israel under his own charge and direction. Comp. Jn 1:11, where the Jews are called "his own." In Ex 3:2, it is said that the angel of the Lord appeared IN a flame of fire; in Ex 3:4, it is said that Jehovah spake to him out of the midst of the bush; language which implies that God was there, and which is strongly expressive of the doctrine that the angel was Jehovah. In Ex 23:20,21, God says, "I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice," Ex 23:23, 32:34, 33:2. In all these places this angel is mentioned as an extraordinary messenger to conduct them to the land of Canaan. He was to guide them, defend them, and drive out the nations before them. All these circumstances seem to point to the conclusion that this was no other than the future Deliverer of the world, who came then to take his people under his own guidance, as emblematic of the future redemption of mankind. In a flame of fire. That is, in what appeared to be a flame of fire. The bush or clump of trees seemed to be on fire, or to be illuminated with a peculiar splendour. God is often represented as encompassed with this splendour, or glory, Lk 2:9, Mt 17:1-6, Acts 9:3, 12:7. In a bush. In a grove, or clump of trees. Probably the light was seen issuing from the midst of such a grove. (b) "And when forty years" Ex 3:2 Verse 31. He wondered, etc. What particularly attracted his attention was the fact that the bush was not consumed, Ex 3:2,3. The voice of the Lord. Jehovah spake to him from the midst of the bush. He did not see him, but he simply heard a voice. Verse 32. Saying, I am the God, etc. See this explained Mt 22:32. Then Moses trembled. Ex 3:6. (a) "God of thy fathers" Mt 22:32, Heb 11:16 Verse 33. Then said the Lord, etc. In Ex 3 this is introduced in a different order, as being spoken before God said, "I am the God," etc. Put off thy shoes, etc. Ex 3:5. To put off the shoes, or sandals, was an act of reverence. Especially the ancients were not permitted to enter a temple or holy place with their shoes on. Indeed, it was customary for the Jews to remove their shoes whenever they entered any house, as a mere matter of civility. Comp. Jn 13:6. See Josh 5:15. Is holy ground. Is rendered sacred by the symbol of the Divine Presence. We should enter the sanctuary, the place set apart for Divine worship, not only with reverence m our hearts, but with every external indication of veneration. Solemn awe, and deep seriousness, become the place set apart to the service of God. (b) "Put off thy shoes" Josh 5:15, Eccl 5:1 Verse 34. I have seen, etc. The repetition of this word is in accordance with the usage of the Hebrew writers when they wish to represent anything emphatically. Their groaning. Under their oppressions. Am come down. This is spoken in accordance with human conceptions. It means that God was about to deliver them. I will send this, etc. This is a mere summary of what is expressed at much greater length in Ex 3:7-10. (*) "seen the affliction" "I have surely seen" Verse 35. When they refused. That is, when he first presented himself to them, Ex 2:13,14. Stephen introduces and dwells upon this refusal in order, perhaps, to remind them that this had been the character of their nation; and to prepare the way for the charge which he intended to bring against those whom he addressed, as being stiff-necked and rebellious. See Acts 7:51,52, etc. A ruler. A military leader, or a governor in civil matters. A deliverer. A Redeemer--λυτρωτην--. It properly means one who redeems a captive or a prisoner by paying a price or ransom. And it is applied thus to our Lord Jesus, as having redeemed or purchased sinners by his blood as a price, Tit 2:14, 1Pet 1:18, Heb 9:12. It is used here, however, in a more general sense to denote the deliverance, without specifying the manner. Comp. Ex 6:6; Lk 24:21, 1:68, 2:38. By the hand of the angel. Under the direction and by the help of the angel, Nu 20:16. Acts 7:30. (c) "the angel" Ex 14:19, Nu 20:16 Verse 36. Wonders and signs.Miracles, and remarkable interpositions of God. Acts 2:22. In the land of Egypt. By the ten,plagues, Exodus chapters 4-12. In the Red sea. Dividing it, and conducting the Israelites in safety, and overthrowing the Egyptians, Ex 13. In the wilderness. During their forty years' journey to the promised land. The wonders or miracles were, providing them with manna daily; with flesh in a miraculous manner; with water from the rock, etc., Exodus chapters 16 and 17. (d) "after that he had showed" Exodus chapters 7-11,14 (e) "forty years" Ex 16:35 Verse 37. Which said, etc. De 18:15,18. See this explained, Acts 3:22. Stephen introduced this to remind them of the promise of a Messiah; to show his fait in it; and particularly to remind them of their obligation to hear and obey him. (f) "said unto the children on Israel" De 18:15,18, Acts 3:22 (1) "like unto me" "as myself" (g) "him shall ye hear" Mt 17:5 Verse 38. In the church. The word church means, literally, the people called out; and is applied with great propriety to the assembly or multitude called out of Egypt, and separated from the world. It has not, however, of necessity our idea of a church; but means the assembly, or people called out of Egypt, and placed under the con- duct of Moses, With the angel. In this place there is undoubted reference to the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. Yet that was done by God himself, Ex 20. It is clear, therefore, that by the angel here Stephen intends to designate him who was God. It may be observed, however, that the law is represented as having been given by the ministry of an angel (in this place,) and by the ministry of angels, Acts 7:53 Heb 2:2. The essential idea is, that God did it by a messenger, or by mediators. The character and rank of the messengers, or of the principal messenger, must be learned by looking at all the circumstances of the case. The lively oracles. See Rom 3:2. The word oracles here means commands or laws of God, The word lively, or living--ζωντα--stands in opposition to that which is dead, or useless, and means that which is vigorous, efficacious; and in this place it means that the commands were of such a nature, and given in such circumstances, as to secure attention; to produce obedience; to excite them to act for God--in opposition to laws which would fall powerless, and produce no effect. (h) "This is he" Heb 2:2 (+) "church" "Congregation" (i) "angel" Isa 63:9, Gal 3:19 (k) "in the mount Sina" Ex 19:3,17 (l) "who received" De 5:27,31, Jn 1:17 (m) "received" Rom 3:2 (*) "lively" "Life giving" Verse 39. Would not obey, etc. This refers to what they said of him when he was in the mount, Ex 32:1,23. In their hearts turned, etc. They wished to return to Egypt. They regretted that they had come out of Egypt, and desired again the things which they had there, as preferable to what they had in the desert, Nu 11:5. Perhaps, however, the expression means, not that they desired literally to return to Egypt, but that their hearts inclined to the habits and morals of the Egyptians. They forsook God, and imitated the idolatries of the Egyptians. Verse 40. Saying unto Aaron. Ex 32:1 Make us gods. That is, idols. (n) "Saying unto Aaron" Ex 32:1 (=) "wot" "know" Verse 41. And they made a calf. This was made of the ear-rings and ornaments which they had brought from Egypt, Ex 32:2-4. Stephen introduces this to remind them how prone the nation had been to reject God, and walk in the ways of sin. (o) "calf" De 9:16 Verse 42. Then God turned. That is, turned away from them; abandoned them to their own desires. The host of heaven. The stars, or heavenly bodies. The word host means armies. It is applied to the heavenly bodies, because they are very numerous, and appear to be marshalled or arrayed in military order. It is from this that God is called JEHOVAH of hosts, as being the Ruler of these well-arranged heavenly bodies, Isa 1:9. The proof that they did this, Stephen proceeds to allege by a quotation from the prophets. In the book of the Prophets. Amos 5:25,26. The twelve minor prophets were commonly written in one volume, and were called the Book of the Prophets; the book containing these several prophecies, Daniel, Hosea, Micah, etc. They were small tracts separately, and were bound up together to preserve them from being lost. This passage is not quoted literally; it is evidently made from memory; and though in its main spirit it coincides with the passage in Amos, yet in some important respects it varies from it. 0 ye house of Israel. Ye people of Israel. Have ye offered, etc. That is, ye have not offered. The interrogative is often an emphatic way of saying that the thing had not been done. But it is certain that the Jews did offer sacrifices to God in the wilderness, though it is also certain that they did not do it with a pure and upright heart. They kept up the form of worship to idols. Through the continuous space of forty years they did not honour God, but often departed from him, and worshipped idols. (p) "gave them up" Psa 81:12 (q) "host of heaven" De 4:19 (r) "as it is written" Amos 5:25,26 (*) "wilderness" or, "Desert" Verse 43. Yea, ye took up. That is, you bore, or you carried with you, for purposes of idolatrous worship. The tabernacle. This word properly means a tent; but it is also applied to the small tent or house in which was contained the image of the god; the house, box, or tent, in which the idol was placed. It is customary for idolatrous nations to bear their idols about with them, enclosed in cases or boxes of various sizes, usually very small, as their idols are commonly small. Probably they were made in the shape of small temples or tabernacles; and such appear to have been the silver shrines for Diana, made at Ephesus, Acts 19:24. These shrines, or images, were borne with them as a species of amulet, or charm, or talisman, to defend them from evil. Such images the Jews seem to have borne with them. Moloch. This word comes from the Hebrew word signifying king. This was a god of the Ammonites, to whom human sacrifices were offered. Moses in several places forbids the Israelites, under penalty of death, to dedicate their children to Moloch, by making them pass through the fire, Lev 18:21, 20:2-5. There is great probability that the Hebrews were addicted to the worship of this deity after they entered the land of Canaan. Solomon built a temple to Moloch on the Mount of Olives, 1Kgs 11:7; and Manasseh made his son pass through the fire in honour of this idol, 2Kgs 21:3,6. The image of this idol was made of brass, and his arms extended so as to embrace any one; and when they offered children to him, they heated the statue, and when it was burning hot, they placed the child in his arms, where it was soon destroyed by heat. It is not certain what this god was supposed to represent. Some suppose it was in honour of the planet Saturn, others the sun, others Mercury, Venus, etc. What particular god it was, is not material. It was the most cutting reproof that could be made to the Jews, that their fathers had been guilty of worshipping this idol. And the star. The Hebrew in this place, is "Chiun your images, the star of your god." The expression here used leads us to suppose that this was a star which was worshipped, but what star it is not easy to ascertain; nor is it easy to determine why it is called both Chiun and Remphan. Stephen quotes from the LXX. They have rendered the word Chiun by the word Raiphan, or Rephan, easily changed into Remphan. Why the LXX. adopted this is not known. It was probably, however, from one of two causes. (1.) Either because the word Chiun in Hebrew meant the same as Remphan in the language of Egypt, where the translation was made; or, (2.) because the object of worship called Chiun in Hebrew, was called Remphan in the language of Egypt. It is generally agreed that the object of their worship was the planet Saturn, or Mars, both of which planets were worshipped as gods of evil influence. In Arabic, the word Chevan denotes the planet Saturn. Probably Rephan, or Remphan, is the Coptic name for the same planet, and the Septuagint adopted this because their translation was made in Egypt, where the Coptic language was spoken. Figures which ye made. Images of the god which they made. See the article Chuin in Robinson's Calmet. And I will carry you away, etc. This is simply expressing in few words what is stated at greater length in Amos 5:27. In Hebrew it is Damascus; but this evidently denotes the eastern region, in which also Babylon was situated. Verse 44. The tabernacle of witness. The tent or tabernacle which Moses was commanded to make. It was called a tabernacle of witness, or of testimony, because it was the visible witness or proof of God's presence with them; the evidence that he to whom it was devoted was their protector and guide. The name is given either to the tent, or to the two tables of stone, or to the ark; all of which were witnesses or evidence, of God's relation to them as their Lawgiver and Guide, Ex 16:34, 25:16,21, 27:21, 30:6,36, 31:18 Nu 1:50,53. The two charges against Stephen were that he had spoken blasphemy against Moses, or his law, and against the temple, Acts 6:13,14. In the previous part of this defence he had shown his respect for Moses and his law. He now proceeds to show that he did not design to speak with disrespect of the temple, or the holy places of their worship. He therefore expresses his belief in the Divine appointment of both the tabernacle Acts 7:44-46 and of the temple, Acts 7:47. According to the fashion, etc. According to the pattern that was shown to him, by which it was to be made, Ex 25:9,40; Ex 26:30. As God showed him a pattern, it proved that the tabernacle had his sanction. Against that Stephen did not intend to speak. (+) "witness" "Testimony" (1) "speaking" "who spake" (a) "that he should make" Ex 25:40, 26:30, Heb 8:5 Verse 45. Our fathers that came after. None of the generation that came out of Egypt were permitted to enter into the land of Canaan on account of their rebellion, except Caleb and Joshua, Nu 14:22-24, 32:11,12. Hence it is said that their fathers who came after, i.e. afar the generation when the tabernacle was built. The Greek, however, here means, properly, "which also our fathers, having received, brought," etc. The sense is not materially different. Stephen means that it was not brought in by that generation, but by the next. With Jesus. This should have been rendered, "with Joshua." Jesus is the Greek mode of writing the name Joshua. But the Hebrew name should by all means have been retained here, as also in Heb 4:8. Into the possession of the Gentiles. Into the land possessed by the Gentiles; that is, into the promised land then occupied by the Canaanites, etc. Whom God, etc. That is, he continued to drive them out until the time of David, when they were completely expelled. Or it may mean that the tabernacle was in the possession of the Jews, and was the up, pointed place of worship, until the time of David, who desired to build him a temple. The Greek is ambiguous. The connexion favours the latter interpretation. (b) "Which also" Josh 3:14 (2) "Which also our fathers" or, "having received" (*) "Jesus" "Joshua" (=) "possession of the Gentiles" "When they possessed the land of the nations" (c) "whom God Drave out" Nehh 9:24, Psa 44:2, 78:55 Verse 46. Who found favour. That is, God granted him great him great prosperity, and delivered him from his enemies. To find a tabernacle. To prepare a permanent dwelling place for the ark and for the visible symbols of the Divine Presence. Hitherto the ark had been kept in the tabernacle, and had been borne about from place to place. David sought to build an house that would be permanent, where the ark might be deposited, 2Sam 7, 1Chr 22:7. (d) "favour before God" 1Sam 16:1 (e) "desired to find a tabernacle" 1Chr 22:7 Verse 47. But Solomon, etc. Built the temple. David was not permitted to do it, because he had been a man of war, 1Chr 22:8. David prepared the principal materials for the temple, but Solomon built it, 1Chr 22; comp. 1Kgs 6. (f) "Solomon" 1Kgs 8:27, 8:20 (=) "house" "Temple" Verse 48. Howbeit. But. Why Stephen added this, is not very clear. He was charged with speaking against the temple. He had now shown that he had due veneration for it, by his declaring that it had been built by the command of God. But he now adds, that God does not need such a temple. Heaven is his throne; the universe his dwelling-place; and therefore this temple might be destroyed. A new, glorious truth was to be revealed to mankind, that God was not confined in his worship to any age, or people, or nation. In entire consistency, therefore, with all proper respect for the temple at Jerusalem, it might be maintained that the time would come when that temple would be destroyed, and when God might be worshipped by all nations. The Most High. God. This sentiment was expressed by Solomon when the temple was dedicated, 1Kgs 8:27. As saith the prophet. Isa 66:1,2. The place is not literally quoted, but the sense is given. (g) "Howbeit" 1Kgs 8:27, Acts 17:24 Verse 49. Heaven is my throne. Mt 5:34. Earth is my footstool. Mt 5:35. What house, etc. What house or temple can be large or magnificent enough for the dwelling of Him who made all things? The place of my rest. My home, my abode, my fixed seat or habitation. Comp. Psa 95:11. (h) "Heaven is my throne" Isa 66:1,2 Verse 51. Ye stiffnecked. The discourse of Stephen has every appearance of having been interrupted by the clamours and opposition of the sanhedrim. This verse has no immediate connexion with that which precedes; and appears to have been spoken in the midst of much opposition and clamour. If we may conjecture in this case, it would seem that the Jews saw the drift of his argument; that they interrupted him; and that when the tumult had somewhat subsided, he addressed them in the language of this verse, showing them that they sustained a character precisely similar to their rebellious fathers. The word stiff-necked is often used in the Old Testament, Ex 32:9; Ex 33:3,5, 34:9, De 9:6,13, 10:16, etc. It is a figurative expression taken from oxen that were refractory, and that would not submit to be yoked. Applied to men, it means that they were stubborn, contumacious, and unwilling to submit to the restraints of law. Uncircumcised in heart. Circumcision was a sign of being a Jew-- of acknowledging the authority of the laws of Moses. It was also emblematic of purity, and of submission to the law of God. The expression uncircumcised in heart denotes those who were not willing to acknowledge the law, and submit to it. They had hearts filled with vicious and unsubdued affections and desires. And ears. That is, who are unwilling to hear what God says. Comp. Lev 26:41, Jer 9:26; Rom 2:28,29. Resist the Holy Ghost. You oppose the message which is brought to you by the authority of God, and the inspiration of his Spirit. The message brought by Moses, by the prophets, by the Saviour, and by the apostles--all by the infallible direction of the Holy Ghost--they and their fathers opposed. As your fathers did, etc. As he had specified in Acts 7:27,35,39-43. (a) "stiffnecked" Ex 32:9, Isa 48:4 (b) "uncircumcised" Lev 26:41, Jer 9:26, Rom 2:28,29 (*) "Holy Ghost" "Holy Spirit" Verse 52. Which of the prophets, etc. The interrogative form here is a strong mode of saying that they had persecuted all the prophets. It was the characteristic of the nation to persecute the messengers of God. This is not to be taken as literally and universally true; but it was a general truth; it was the national characteristic. See Notes, Mt 21:33-40, 23:29-35. And they have slain them, etc. That is, they have slain the prophets, whose main message was that the Messiah was to come. It was a great aggravation of their offence, that they put to death the messengers which foretold the greatest blessing that the nation could receive. The Just One. The Messiah. Acts 3:14. Of whom ye, etc. You thus show that you resemble those who rejected and put to death the prophets. You have even gone beyond them in guilt, because you have put the Messiah himself to death. The betrayers. They are called betrayers here, because they employed Judas to betray him--agreeable to the maxim in law, He who does anything by another, is held to have done it himself. (c) "Which of the prophets" 2Chr 36:16, 1Thes 2:15 (d) "Just One" Acts 3:14 Verse 53. Who have received the law. The law of Moses given on Mount Sinai. By the disposition of angels. There has been much diversity of opinion in regard to this phrase, ειςδιαταγαςαγγελων. The word translated disposition does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It properly means the constituting or arranging of an army; disposing it into ranks and proper divisions. Hence it has been supposed to mean that the law was given amidst the various ranks of angels, being present to witness its promulgation. Others suppose that the angels were employed as agents or instruments to communicate the law. All that the expression fairly implies is the former; that the law was given amidst the attending ranks of angels, as if they were summoned to witness the pomp and ceremony of giving law to an entire people, and through them to an entire world. It should be added, moreover, that the Jews applied the word angels to any of the messengers of God; to fire, and tempest, and wind, etc. And all that Stephen means here may be to express the common Jewish opinion, that God was attended on this occasion by the heavenly hosts; and by the symbols of his presence, the fire, and smoke, and tempest. Comp. Ps 104:4, 68:17. Other places declare that the law was spoken by an angel, one eminent above all attending angels, the peculiar messenger of God. Acts 7:38. It is plain that Stephen spoke only the common sentiment of the Jews, Thus Herod is introduced by Josephus, (Antiq. b. xv. chap. v. & 3,) as saying, "We have learned from God the most excellent of our doctrines, and the most holy part of our law by angels," etc. In the eyes of the Jews, it justly gave increased majesty and solemnity to the law, that it had been given in so grand and imposing circumstances. And it greatly aggravated their guilt, that, notwithstanding this, they had not kept it. (e) "law by the disposition of angels" Gal 3:19 Verse 54. They were cut to the heart. They were exceedingly enraged and indignant. The whole course of the speech had been such as to excite their anger, and now they could restrain themselves no longer. They gnashed on him, etc. Expressive of the bitterness and malignity. (f) "heard these things" Acts 5:33 Verse 55. Full of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:4. Looked up stedfastly. Fixed his eyes intently on heaven. Foreseeing his danger, and the effect his speech had produced--seeing that there was no safety in the great council of the nation, and no prospect of justice at their hands-he cast his eyes to heaven and sought protection them. When dangers threaten us, our hope of safety lies in heaven. When men threaten our persons, reputation, or lives, it becomes us to fix our eyes on the heavenly world; and we shall not look in vain. And saw the glory of God. This phrase is commonly used to denote the visible symbols of God. It means some magnificent representation; a splendour, or light, that is the appropriate exhibition of the presence of God, Mt 16:27, 24:30. Lk 2:9. In the case of Stephen there is every indication of a vision, or supernatural representation of the heavenly objects; something in advance of mere faith, such as dying Christians now have. What was its precise nature, we have no means of ascertaining. Objects were often represented to prophets by visions; and probably something similar is intended here. It was such an elevation of view, such a representation of truth, and of the glory of God, as to be denoted by the word see; though it is not to be maintained that Stephen really saw the Saviour with the bodily eye. On the right hand of God. That is, exalted to a place of honour and power in the heavens. Mt 26:64. Acts 2:25. (g) "being full of" Acts 6:5 (*) "Holy Ghost" "Holy Spirit" Verse 56. I see the heavens opened. A figurative expression, denoting that he was permitted to see into heaven, or to see what was there, sd if the firmament was divided, and the eye was permitted to penetrate the eternal world. Comp. Eze 1:1. (h) "heavens opened" Eze 1:1 (i) "the Son of man" Dan 7:13 Verse 57. Then they cried out. That is, probably, the people, not the members of the council. It is evident he was put to death in a popular tumult. They had charged him with blasphemy; and they regarded what he had now said as full proof of it. And stopped their ears. That they might hear no more blasphemy. With one accord. In a tumult; unitedly. (+) "accord" "consent" Verse 58. And cast him out of the city. This was in accordance with the usual custom. In Lev 24:14, it was directed to bring forth him that had cursed without the camp; and it was not usual, the Jewish writers inform us, to stone in the presence, of the sanhedrim. Though this was a popular tumult, and Stephen was condemned without the regular process of trial, yet some of the forms of law were observed, and he was stoned in the manner directed in the case of blasphemers. And stoned him. This was the punishment appointed in the case of blasphemy, Lev 24:16. Jn 10:31. And the witnesses. That is, the false witnesses who bore testimony against him, Acts 6:13. It was directed in the law De 17:7 that the witnesses in the case should be first in executing the sentence of the law. This was done to prevent false accusations by the prospect that they must be employed as executioners. After they had commenced the process of execution, all the people joined in it, De 17:7, Lev 24:16. Laid down their clothes. Their outer garments. They were accustomed to lay these aside when they ran or worked. Mt 5:40. At a young man's feet, etc. That is, they procured him to take care of their garments. This is mentioned solely because Saul, or Paul, afterwards became so celebrated, first as a persecutor, and then an apostle. His whole heart was in this persecution of Stephen; and he himself afterwards alluded to this circumstance as an evidence of his sinfulness in persecuting the Lord Jesus, Acts 22:20. (k) "cast him out" Lk 4:29, Heb 13:12,13 (l) "witnesses" Acts 6:13 (m) "whose name was Saul" Acts 8:1,3, 22:20 (+) "clothes" "mantles" Verse 59. Calling upon God. The word God is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. It is in none of the ancient Mss. or versions. It should have been rendered, "They stoned Stephen, invoking, or calling upon, and saying, Lord Jesus," etc. That is, he was engaged in prayer to the Lord Jesus. The word is used to express prayer in the following, among other places: 2Cor 1:23, "I call God to witness." 1Pet 1:17, "And if ye call on the Father," etc. Acts 2:21, "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord," etc.; Acts 9:14, 22:16, Rom 10:12-14. This was, therefore, an act of worship; a solemn invocation of the Lord Jesus, in the most interesting circumstances in which a man can be placed --in his dying moments. And this shows that it is right to worship the Lord Jesus, and to pray to him. For if Stephen was inspired, it settles the question. The example of an inspired man, in such circumstances, is a safe and correct example. If it should be said that the inspiration of Stephen cannot be made out, yet the inspiration of Luke, who has recorded it, will not be called in question. Then the following circumstances show that he, an inspired man, regarded it as right, and as a proper example to be followed. (1.) He has recorded it without the slightest expression of an opinion that it was improper. On the contrary, there is every evidence that he regarded the conduct of Stephen in this case as right and praiseworthy. There is, therefore, this attestation to its propriety. (2.) The Spirit that inspired Luke knew what use would be made of this case. He knew that it would be used as an example, and as an evidence that it was right to worship the Lord Jesus. It is one of the cases which has been used to perpetuate the worship of the Lord Jesus in every age. If it was wrong, it is inconceivable that it should be recorded without some expression of disapprobation. (3.) The case is strikingly similar to that recorded in Jn 20:28, where Thomas offered worship to the Lord Jesus, as his God, without reproof. If Thomas did it in the presence of the Saviour without reproof, it was right. If Stephen did it without any expression of disapprobation from the inspired historian, it was right. (4.) These examples were used to encourage Christians and Christian martyrs to offer homage to Christ. Thus Pliny, writing to the emperor Trajan, and giving an account of the Christians in Bithynia, says, that they were accustomed to meet and sing hymns to Christ as to God.-Lardner. (5.) It is worthy of remark, that Stephen in his death offered the same act of homage to Christ, that Christ himself did to the Father, when he died, Lk 23:46. From all these considerations, it follows that the Lord Jesus is an object of worship; that in most solemn circumstances it is proper to call upon him, to worship him, and to commit our dearest interests to his hands. If this may be done, he is Divine. Receive my spirit. That is, receive it to thyself; take it to thine abode in heaven. (a) "receive my spirit" Ps 31:5, Lk 23:46 Verse 60. And he kneeled down. This seems to have been a voluntary kneeling; a placing himself in this position for the purpose of prayer, choosing to die in this attitude. Lord. That is, Lord Jesus. Acts 1:24. Lay not, etc. Forgive them. This passage strikingly resembles the dying prayer of the Lord Jesus, Lk 23:34. Nothing but the Christian religion will enable a man to utter this passage in his dying moments. He fell asleep. This is the usual mode of expressing the death of saints in the Bible. It is an expression indicating (1.) the peacefulness of their death, compared with the alarm of sinners; (2.) the hope of a resurrection--as we retire to sleep with the hope of again awaking to the duties and enjoyments of life. See Jn 11:11,12; 1Cor 11:30, 15:51, 1Thes 4:14, 5:10, Mt 9:24. In view of the death of this first Christian martyr, we may remark, (1.) That it is right to address to the Lord Jesus the language of prayer. (2.) It is peculiarly proper to do it in afflictions, and in the prospect of death, Heb 4:15. (3.) Sustaining grace will be derived in trials chiefly from a view of the Lord Jesus. If we can look to him as our Saviour, see him to be exalted to deliver us, and truly commit our souls to him, we shall find the grace which we shall need in our afflictions. (4.) We should have such confidence in him, as to enable us to commit ourselves to him at any time. To do this, we should live a life of faith. In health, and youth, and strength, we should seek him as our first and best Friend. (5.) While we are in health, we should prepare to die. What an unfit place for preparation for death would have been the situation of Stephen! How impossible then would it have been to have made preparation! Yet the dying bed is often a place as unfit to prepare as were the circumstances of Stephen.--When racked with pain; when faint and feeble; when the mind is indisposed to thought, or when it raves in the wildness of delirium, what an unfit place is this to prepare to die! I have seen many dying beds; I have seen many in all stages of their last sickness; but never have I yet seen a dying bed which seemed to me to be a proper place to make preparation for eternity. (6.) How peaceful and calm is a death like that of Stephen, when compared with the alarms and anguish of a sinner! One moment of such peace, in that trying time, is better than all the pleasures and honours which the world can bestow. And to obtain such peace, the dying sinner would be willing to give all the wealth of the Indies, and all the crowns of the earth. So may I die--and so may all my readers--enabled, like this dying martyr, to commit my de- parting spirit to the sure keeping of the great Redeemer! When we take a parting view of the world; when our eyes shall be turned for the last time to take a look of friends and relatives; and when the darkness of death shall begin to come around us, then may we be enabled to cast the eye of faith to the heavens, and say, "Lord Jesus, receive our spirits;" and thus fall asleep, peaceful in death, in the hope of the resurrection of the just. (b) "lay not this sin" Mt 5:44, Lk 23:34
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