|Acts Chapter 7|
Translation by William E. Paul
by Charles Dailey
(Black underlined words match words in the Bible text.)
|As the last chapter closed, Stephen had been accused of speaking against the Temple and the Law (6:13). To Jewish leaders, the Temple was where God lived. As Stephen stands before the Council, he demonstrates from their history that God lives outside of the Temple.|
|1) Then the head priest asked [Stephen], "Are these charges true?"||– In Acts 4:6 Luke had called Annas the head priest and that is probably still the case here.|
|2) And he answered, "Brothers and fathers, listen to me: Our glorious God appeared to our forefather Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, [even] before he lived in Haran|| – GOD WAS IN MESOPOTAMIA and appeared to Abraham.
- This appearance is not mentioned in the Old Testament but is implied in Genesis 15:7 and Nehemiah 9:7
|3) and told him, 'Leave your country and relatives and go to the country where I will lead you.'|| – "Leave security and break your social ties." This required faith in God. Hebrews 11:8
- Quotes Genesis 12:1. Stephen generally quoted the Greek Septuagint version (LXX).
We have relied on Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament by Robert Bratcher and published by the United Bible Societies for decisions about Stephen's Old Testament sources.
|4) "So, he left Chaldea [Note: This was another name for Mesopotamia], and lived in Haran, and after his father died he was sent [by God] to this country where you people now live.|| – Reported in Genesis 11:27-31.
GOD WAS IN HARAN.
|5) But God gave him no inheritance [here at that time], no, not even a place [of his own] to stand on. Yet God promised that He would [someday] give it to him and to his descendants after him [i.e., the Israelites], as a [permanent] possession, even though [at that time] he had no child yet.|| – Abraham became a tent dweller, moving about regularly. Hebrews 11:9.
- The promises are located in Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8. Stephen is probably paraphrasing Genesis 17:8.
- Believing that he would have descendants required even more faith on Abraham and Sarah's part. Hebrews 11:11-12.
|6) And God had spoken about this [beforehand] by saying that Abraham's descendants would live in a foreign country and that they would [eventually] be ill-treated as slaves for four hundred years.|| – A paraphrase of Genesis 15:13
- For a discussion of the 400 year problem and other problems in chapter 7, see Acts by Gareth Reese, study #13. It is published by College Press, Joplin, Missouri. Also see J.W. McGarvey in his Commentary on Acts of Apostles.
- Josephus used both 400 and 430 years. Antiquities 2.9.1 and 2.15.2.
|7) And God said, 'I will judge the nation [i.e., Egypt] that enslaves them and [then] after my people are liberated, they will serve me in this place [i.e., Palestine].'|| – GOD WAS IN CANAAN before they moved to Egypt.
- The Egyptians were judged (punished) by the plagues.
- This is a paraphrase of Genesis 15:14 and Exodus 3:12.
- Even through trials, God had promised liberation.
|8) And God gave Abraham the Agreement which required circumcision [as an identifying mark] so when Abraham fathered Isaac he circumcised him when he was eight days old. Then Isaac had a son, Jacob; and Jacob had [as sons] the twelve patriarchs [i.e., ruling fathers of families].|| – Recorded in Genesis 17:10
- Recorded in Genesis 21:4.
|9) "[And when] these patriarchs, [still living in Canaan as young men], became jealous of [their brother] Joseph, they sold him [as a slave to traveling merchants who took him] to Egypt. But God was with him [during all that time],|| –
Our fathers (patriarchs) rejected Joseph, the man whom God raised up. |
But GOD WAS WITH JOSEPH IN CANAAN.
- Recorded in Genesis 37:3 -11.
- Recorded in Genesis 37:28
- GOD WAS WITH JOSEPH IN EGYPT and controlled the events.
|10) and rescued him from all his troubles and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him a governor over Egypt and his [i.e., the king's] household.|| – Pharaoh is a title like President.
- Recorded in Genesis 41:39 - 41.
|11) "Now a great famine occurred all over Egypt and Canaan, causing extreme hardships, and our forefathers did not have enough to live on.|| – Recorded in Genesis 41:54.
- Out of hardship, God fulfilled his promises.
|12) But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent his sons [down there] on their first trip.||– Recorded in Genesis 42.|
|13) On their second trip Joseph identified himself to his brothers, and Pharaoh was made aware of his origins.|| – Recorded in Genesis 45:4.
- Joseph considered all of this as the working of God. Genesis 45:1-8.
|14) Joseph then sent [to Canaan] for his father Jacob and all seventy-five of his relatives.||– The Septuagint Version that Stephen was quoting from memory says 75 rather than 70. This critical crowd did not challenge the count. Because Stephen is speaking by inspiration, this may be the correct number rather than the Hebrew text. Genesis 46:27.|
|15) So, Jacob went down to Egypt and died there, along with our forefathers.|| |
|16) Their bodies were carried back [from Egypt] to Shechem and buried in the tomb that Abraham had purchased in Shechem from the sons of Hamor for a sum of silver. [Note: "Shechem" was a town in Israel, in the country which in New Testament times was known as Samaria].||– Recorded in Genesis 33:19|
|20) "It was at that time that Moses was born, and he was a very handsome child. He was cared for in his father's home for three months|| – Recorded in Exodus 2:2 ff.
- Josephus says Moses' name is made of two parts: Mo, the Egyptian word for water and Uses, meaning saved out of the water. Antiquities 2. 9. 6. Moses saved Israel though water.
|21) and then, when he was abandoned [as the Egyptians required], the daughter of Pharaoh took him in and cared for him as her own son.|| – Notice how God uses people not acquainted with him for his purposes. The timing of her arrival especially shows the hand of God.
- Being raised as the Pharaoh's daughter's son qualified Moses to eventually become King of Egypt.
|22) Now Moses was educated according to all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became an accomplished speaker and an effective leader.||– God's future leader was trained in the finest school of government on earth.|
|23) But when he was about forty years old he felt led to visit his relatives, the Israelites [i.e., called Hebrews at that time].|| – The number forty here is not in the Old Testament record and Josephus, who wrote later than Stephen's speech, did not use it. It is new information.
- visit is in the sense of visiting with a view to helping.
|24) And when Moses observed one [of his relatives] being mistreated, he came to his defense by hitting the Egyptian,|| |
|25) assuming his relatives would understand that God was using him to rescue them [from such abuse], but they did not [seem to] understand.|| – GOD WAS WITH MOSES.
- These Israelites did not understand and neither did those listening to Stephen.
|26) The next day Moses came across a couple of his relatives who were fighting and tried to settle their dispute by saying, 'Brothers, since you are fellow-countrymen, why are you hurting each other?'|| – God's man tried to be a peacemaker.
- From Exodus 2:13.
- An interesting discussion is: Where did Moses learn his godliness and his role as God's man?
|27) But the one who was trying to harm his neighbor pushed Moses away saying, 'Who gave you the right to act as a ruler and judge over us?|| – God's man Moses was rejected by those he was sent to help.
- This is a paraphrase of Exodus 2:13-15 in the LXX.
|28) Are you going to kill me like you did that Egyptian yesterday?'||– Moses realized that the killing of the Egyptian was known in the country.|
|29) When Moses heard this, he ran away and traveled to the country of Midian where he settled down and had two sons.||– Moses' sons were Gershom and Eliezer. Exodus 18:3,4.|
|30) "Then after [another] forty years passed, an angel appeared to him [one day] out of a flaming bush in the wilderness near Mt. Sinai.||– GOD APPEARED, as the Angel of Jehovah, in the flaming bush near Mt. Sinai. Exodus 3:2.|
|31) Moses marveled at the sight [of the burning bush] and, as he went to look at it more closely, the voice of the Lord spoke out,|| – Probably Moses marveled because the bush was not destroyed.
- Where had Moses learned to honor God?
|32) 'I am the God of your forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' Moses shook with fear, not [even] wanting to look [at the bush].|| – Quoted from Exodus 3:6.
- Jesus identified with I AM in John 8:58.
- Some members of the court had heard this same passage directly from Jesus as recorded earlier by Luke in Luke 20:37, 38.
- Those who fear God the most are most shaken by His demonstrations.
|33) And the Lord said to him, 'Take off your shoes, [Moses], for the place you are standing on is holy ground.|| – This paraphrases Exodus 3:5, 7, 8a, 10a.
- Removing shoes was an act of reverence, like removing a hat is in the west.
|34) I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people there in Egypt and I have heard their groaning and I have determined to rescue them. Now [get ready], I will send you to Egypt [to lead out in their rescue].'||– See Exodus 1:11-14.|
|35) But the Hebrews refused [to acknowledge Moses as their leader], saying, 'Who made you a ruler and judge [over us]?' [Nevertheless], God sent him [to Egypt] to be both a ruler and liberator [of the people] through the direction of [His] angel who appeared [to Moses] from the bush.|| – God's man is rejected in Egypt by Israel.
- They would not accept Moses as a ruler or liberator, just as the present generation would not accept Jesus.
|36) This man led them out [of Egypt], performing wonders and [miraculous] signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.|| – Jesus was like Moses in performing wonders and signs and they knew it.
- See Exodus 3:20.
|37) "This is the Moses who had said to the Israelites [Deut. 18:15], 'God will raise up a prophet from among your countrymen who will be like me [in some ways].'|| – In verses 36, 37 and 38 Stephen's sentences began with the pattern "This man . . . "
- Jesus is the Prophet that God raised up and they had been told this before by Peter in Acts 3:22,23.
- This is a quotation from the LXX.
|38) This is the man who was with our forefathers and with the assembly [of Hebrews] in the wilderness [after] the angel had spoken to him at Mt. Sinai. He [is the one] who received the living messages [from God at Mt. Sinai] and gave them to us.||– GOD WAS AT MT. SINAI|
|39) [And yet] our forefathers refused to obey him, but rejected [his leadership] and turned back to Egypt in their hearts.||– God's man was refused and rejected by our forefathers at Mt. Sinai.|
|40) They said to Aaron [i.e., Moses' brother], 'Make gods to lead us, because we do not know what happened to this Moses who led us when we first left the country of Egypt.'|| – God was rejected at the same time Moses was rejected.
- From Exodus 32:1. See also verse 23.
- Moses was away 40 days receiving the Testimony. Exodus 24:18.
|41) And so the people fashioned a calf [out of gold] and offered [an animal] sacrifice to this idol and [then] celebrated joyously over what they had done [See Exodus 32:4-6; 17-19].|| |
|42) But God turned [away from them] and allowed them to worship heavenly bodies [i.e., stars], just as it was written in the prophet [Amos 5:25ff], Did you offer me slain animals as sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness, you Israelites?|| – Just as Israel had turned back in their hearts to Egypt (vs. 39), God turned away from them. |
- This is the LXX of Amos 5:25 - 27.
|43) [No], you set up a tent for Moloch [i.e., a heathen idol worshiped by the Ammonites] and [another one for] the star [representing the false god] Rephan and images used in worshiping them. I will allow you to be transported beyond [the country of] Babylon.'|| – Moloch was the sun-god also known as Baal.
- Rephan may be related to the star Saturn.
- At any rate, they chose idols over the God that had saved them from Egypt.
- Both LXX and Masoretic text say Damascus instead of Babylon.
|44) "Our forefathers had the Tabernacle of the Testimony in the wilderness [i.e., the tent containing the ten commandments], which God instructed Moses to make according to the model he was shown.|| – The Law was housed in the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Testimony refers to Scripture. Exodus 25:16; 31:18.
- Reported in Exodus 25:40
- It is important to follow God's model.
|45) Our forefathers also brought this Tabernacle with them under Joshua's leadership when they entered [Canaan] to occupy the land of these Gentile nations. God removed these nations as our forefathers advanced through the land, up until the reign of King David,||
– Reported in Joshua 18:1
- Summarized in Nehemiah 9:24.
- Summarized in Psalm 44:2.
|46) who found favor in God's sight and asked for permission to build a [special] house for the God of Jacob's [descendants] to live in.||– Reported in 1 Kings 8:17-20.|
|47) But [eventually] it was Solomon who [actually] built this house [for God].||– Reported in 1 Kings 6:1.|
|48) However, the Highest [i.e., God] does not live in a house made by human beings, as the prophet said [Isaiah 66:1ff],||– It was the Law that was housed in the Temple. God put His Spirit there also, but He was not confined there as this verse clearly shows.|
|49) 'Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footrest. What kind of a house do you plan to build for me? the Lord asked. Or what sort of a place is suitable for me to rest in?||– The reader may wish to review the comments before verse one.|
|50) Did I not really make everything [myself]?'||
|51) You people are unbending and unrepentant in your hearts and [unwilling to listen with] your ears. You are always resisting [the desires of] the Holy Spirit just like your forefathers did.|| – Previous to this sentence, Stephen had identified with his listeners (our fathers). Acts 7:11, 12, 15, 19, 29. Now the tone changes to You people.
- Like their forebears, they are rejecting God's man.
|52) Which one of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute? They [even] killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One [i.e., Jesus], whom you people betrayed and murdered.|| – They perpetually persecuted prophets.
- Stephen has not defended himself as much as he has charged the court with betrayal and murder.
|53) You received the law that was ordained through [the medium of] angels [See Gal. 3:19] and yet have not obeyed its requirements."||– The Law receivers, Law interpreters and Law preservers are also Lawbreakers. So who is guilty here?|
|54) Now when the Council members heard these things they were enraged and ground their teeth at him.||– This was like their response in Acts 5:33, except worse. They have been pushed to their unrepentant limits.|
|55) But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw God's splendor and Jesus standing at His right side.||– Jesus was not in the tomb, but standing at God's right side. All other places he is pictured as sitting. He must have been standing for the first martyr.|
|56) He said, "Look, I see heaven opened up and the Son of man standing at the right side of God."|| – |
|57) But they shouted loudly and refused to listen, and then all of them rushed at him.||– This report of Stephen seeing the one they had crucified made them shout so they didn't have to hear another word.|
|58) They threw him out of the city and stoned him [to death]. Those who witnessed [the incident] placed their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.|| – Following his usual plan, Luke is introducing Saul before the focus turns to him in a later chapter.
- The Spirit may have enabled Saul's memory to give Luke the contents of this chapter. Compare John 14:26. Saul never forgot this moment. Acts 22:20. It may have started him towards conversion to Jesus.
- The Council could not legally enact the death penalty. John 18:31.
|59) So, they stoned Stephen [to death] as he called out to the Lord, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit [as I die]."|| – One more prophet is stoned. See verse 52.
- He addresses Jesus of Nazareth as Lord, the truth the Council would not accept.
|60) Then he kneeled down and called out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold them responsible for this sin [of killing me]." And when he said this he fell asleep [in death].|| – Stephen prayed TO Jesus, not the Father specifically.
- His prayer was similar to that of Jesus in Luke 23:34.
This is the longest speech recorded in Acts.
The death of Stephen is a transition point in Luke's story. The spotlight leaves Jerusalem as the preaching is forced to the outlying regions. The story of Jesus is beginning its spread around the world. Luke will first take us to Samaria; its people were unpopular with Jerusalem Jews.
This may mark the end of Daniel's 70th week because Jerusalem, through its government, has officially rejected the truth of Christ.