Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 14 April 2018
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Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online DSS Bible and DSS Docs. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations and pronunciation of Greek words. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
The Covenant of Abraham, 7:1-8
The Patriarchs in Egypt, 7:9-16
The Preparation for Deliverance, 7:17-22
The Failed Deliverance, 7:23-29
The Miracle Deliverance, 7:30-36
The Rebellion Against Moses, 7:37-43
The Sanctuary of ADONAI, 7:44-50
The Sin of the Sanhedrin, 7:51-53
The Martyrdom of Stephen, 7:54-60
The Covenant of Abraham, 7:1-8
1 Then the high priest asked whether these things be so.
Then: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. the high priest: Grk. archiereus (from archē, "chief, pre-eminent one" and hiereus, "a priest"), a high or chief priest, i.e., a leader among priests. In the LXX archiereus occurs only two times in the canonical books, but 41 times in the Apocrypha (DNTT 3:35). In Leviticus 4:3 archiereus renders Heb. Hakohen Hamaschiach, "the anointed priest" and inserted in Joshua 24:33 without Heb. equivalent to describe Aaron. The Hebrew title Hakohen Hagadol, 'the high [or great] priest,' occurs 11 times in the Tanakh, but in all of these passages the title is translated in the LXX by Grk. ho hierus ho megas, 'the great priest.'
The office of high priest was established by God to be a descendant of Aaron (Ex 27:21; 30:30). The high priest was the chief executive officer over all the priests. Only he could enter the holy of holies on Yom Kippur to offer an atoning sacrifice for the nation and complete the other sacrificial requirements specified for that day (Lev 16). The high priest also shared with the priests the duties of conducting the regular meal offering (Lev 6:14-15), caring for the lamp that burned continually (Ex 27:21) and arranging the showbread (Ex 25:30). Caiaphas was the ruling high priest at this time. The ruling high priest was president of the Sanhedrin.
asked: Grk. legō, aor., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. The focus of the verb here is interrogative. whether: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. In other words the high priest wanted to give the pretense of asking a neutral question about whether the claim made by the critics of Stephen was true while assuming that the claim was true.
these things: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. The pronoun refers back to the charge made by the critics of Stephen in 6:11-14. be: Grk. echō, pres., may mean (1) to have, hold or physically possess with a wide range of application; (2) to be situated, experience a condition or situation; or (3) to hold oneself fast (BAG). The second meaning applies here. so: Grk. houtōs, adv., particle used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done, is expressed or to be done; in this manner, in this way, in accordance with this description. Almost all versions treat the query of the high priest as an actual question: "Are these things so?"
2 But he began to declare, "Men, brothers and fathers, listen. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, being in Mesopotamia, or before his dwelling in Haran,
Sources: Genesis 11:27-31; 12:1-2; 15:7; Psalm 29:3; Philo, On the Migration of Abraham.
Stephen had been charged with having taught against Moses, God, the Temple and the Torah (6:11–14), the four pillars of Judaism. In response Stephen speaks passionately and boldly to defend himself against the false charges and in doing so indicts the religious leaders in the same manner as the great Prophets of Israel. Stephen proceeds to demonstrate how the leaders themselves had abandoned each one of these four pillars.
The content of the defense monologue was not a meandering distraction or delaying tactic because he couldn't think of anything better say. Instead this speech is a well thought-out piece of legal argumentation. In fact, Stephen approaches his task almost as a prosecutor, and before he could present any statement of charges he had to lay a solid foundation, which required a review of Israelite history.
Some Jewish scholars (e.g., Chizuk Emunah, 61-64) have criticized Stephen's historical review as being inaccurate in various details, but Stephen's exposition seems to reflect reliance on Greek translations of the original Hebrew text of the Tanakh and perhaps the writings of Philo (c. 20 BC – c. 50 AD), the first century Jewish philosopher and a contemporary of Stephen. Josephus would not have been a source, since his history of the Jewish people would not be published until sixty years later. Stephen also occasionally takes a midrashic approach of conflating various passages to make his homiletical point.
But: Grk. de, conj. See the previous verse. The conjunction is meant as a contrast to emphasize that Stephen ignored the question of the high priest. Many versions translate the conjunction with "and" to indicate simple continuance of the narrative and many other versions don't translate the conjunction at all. he began to declare: Grk. phēmi (from phaō, "shine"), impf., to convey one's thinking through verbal communication; say, declare. HELPS explains the meaning of the verb: "to bring to light by asserting one statement or point of view over another; to speak comparatively, i.e. making effective contrasts which illuminate, literally, "produce an epiphany." At least this was the intention of Stephen.
Men: pl. of Grk. anēr, voc. case, an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words: (1) ish, man; (2) enosh, men, people; (3) ba'al, lord, husband, head of a household; (4) gibbor, hero, warrior; (5) zaqen, elder; (6) nasi, prince; and (7) adôn, lord (DNTT 2:562). The direct address of anēr (which some versions omit; CJB, CSB, ESV, NASB, NEB, NIV, NLT, OJB, RSV, TLV) is meant to show honor and respect with the connotation of importance or authority. Anēr also sets the members apart since women could not serve in national leadership or judicial roles, and their testimony before the Sanhedrin was severely restricted.
brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. case, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites who are of the same blood by virtue of descent from Jacob. In the LXX adelphos is used for the Heb. ach, meaning (1) brother, a male sibling born of the same mother and father (Gen 4:2); also half-siblings (Gen 20:5). For Stephen to address the members of the Sanhedrin as "brothers" might simply be emphasizing their common lineage, but it might also hint that Stephen was a Hebrew-speaking orthodox Jew, not a Hellenistic Jew as commonly thought. He may have been a Hellenized Jew, considering his knowledge of the Greek Scriptures (LXX).
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr, voc. case, may mean (1) a male biological parent; (2) a forefather once removed or more from a biological father, ancestor, forebear; 3) one held in esteem for social position, personal excellence, or spiritual connection; (4) in imagery of a parent whose progeny displays parental characteristics; and (5) in an extended sense of God as father. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which has the same range of meaning (Ex 4:22) (DNTT 1:616f). By the first century the Heb. letter alef (א) had been added to "ab" to form the vocative or direct address of abba, so if Stephen spoke in Hebrew he would have used avot (pl. of abba). Many Bible scholars make a point of saying that abba is Aramaic to assert that Jews in the first century spoke Aramaic instead of Hebrew.
While abba is found in Aramaic sources, it is also found thirty-eight times in the Hebrew Mishnah. Even if abba had originally come from Aramaic, by the time of Yeshua, it was completely assimilated into Hebrew, and its use by Yeshua and the apostles (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6) is in complete harmony with the Hebrew of that day (Hamp 68). In addition, Jastrow's Hebrew dictionary treats abba as Hebrew (1). Addressing the members of the Sanhedrin as "fathers" does not violate Yeshua's prohibition against calling someone "father" (Matt 23:9), but is meant to show respect to their status as leaders of the nation and the major religious parties. According to Jastrow the Vice-President of the Great Sanhedrin was called abba, next in dignity to Nassi or President (1).
Isidore Epstein, editor of the Soncino Babylonian Talmud, says that abba was the title for a scholar less than that of "Rabbi" (fn68, Avot 2:8). A rabbi in the first century was not a synagogue pastor, but the leader of a school of Judaism, such as Hillel and Shammai. Calling Yeshua rabbi made him at least equal to the great leaders of Israel. The Jewish Sages were regarded as "fathers," as illustrated by the title of the tractate Avot, "Sayings of the Fathers," and were considered the ultimate authority by their disciples. The Pharisees often cited one of the "fathers" to buttress an argument. Various authorities are specifically called abba in the Talmud: e.g., Abba Sha'ul (Avot 2:8), Abba Jose ben Yochanan (Yebamot 53b), Abba Hanan (Yebamot 64:1), and Abba Halafta (Bava Metzia 94:1).
By using the address of "fathers" Stephen was not including all the Sanhedrin, because the "elders" on the Council would not qualify for that title. He probably only meant the President and Vice-President of the Sanhedrin and Pharisee leaders such as Gamaliel. Taken together the full address of "Men, brothers and fathers" (as Paul also uses when he addressed this group, Acts 22:1) indicates that Stephen speaks as a fellow Jew, one of the family, and as one respectful of Jewish authorities.
listen: Grk. akouō, aor. imp., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about; or (4) a legal term of hearing a case. The first meaning dominates here. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). The imperative mood of the verb is not intended to indicate "command" but rather an earnest entreaty.
The: Grk. ho, definite article. God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth in six days ex nihilo, "out of nothing" (Gen 1:1-31; Ex 20:11; Ps 33:9; Heb 11:3) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.
of glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties (BAG). In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod (pronounced "kah-vohd"), which refers to the luminous manifestation of God's person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). Stern comments that Stephen's first words refute the charge that he has "spoken blasphemously … against God" (6:11). His regard for the one God is demonstrated consistently throughout his speech.
appeared: Grk. horaō, aor. pass., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb denotes a personal experience. Thayer explains the aorist passive of the verb as indicating "was seen, showed myself, or appeared." to our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. father: Grk. patēr, used here in the sense of ancestor. Abraham: Grk. Abraam, a transliteration of Heb. Avraham, a personal name. The first Hebrew patriarch, he became the prime example of trusting faithfulness. He was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). He was known at the beginning as Abram ("father is exalted"), but his name was changed subsequently to Abraham ("father of a multitude") (Gen 17:5). For more information on the great patriarch see my web article The Story of Abraham.
In the context of Abraham's life, the title "God of glory" may allude to the miracle of the flaming torch passing between animals that Abraham had cut in two (Gen 15:17). Stephen's point is that the God who later revealed Himself in fire to Abraham was the same God who appeared to him in Genesis 12. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within."
Mesopotamia: Grk. Mesopotamia (from mesos, between, midst, and potamos, river) the land between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. The term does not denote political boundaries, but simply a geographical region. Gill says that Mesopotamia is the same with what is called in the Hebrew text of the Tanakh as Aram Naharaim (Gen 24:10). Because of the abundant agriculture that benefited from two rivers the region was also known as the Fertile Crescent. Abraham grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a prominent Sumerian city (Gen 11:27-31).
or: Grk. ē, conj. involving options and is used as (1) a marker of an alternative, "or;" or (2) a marker indicating comparison; than, rather than. Most versions do not translate the conjunction. The purpose of the conjunction is to introduce a clause that fixes the time more specifically of God's appearance to Abraham. before: Grk. prin, adv., at a point in time earlier than the moment of a specified event or activity; before. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here. dwelling: Grk. katoikeō, aor. inf., to make a specific locale or area of residence, thus to dwell, reside or live in.
in: Grk. en. Haran: Grk. Charran, a transliteration of Heb. Charan ("caravan route," SH-2771), a city situated in northwestern Mesopotamia on a tributary of the Euphrates River. The city was established by the middle of the third millennium B.C. The name appears in ancient Babylonian as Charran, which means "road," possibly because the city was on the trade route that ran from Nineveh in the east to Carchemish, south of Haran, and finally to Damascus. The city was known as a seat of the worship of Sin ("seen"), the moon-god, from very ancient times (ISBE). See the map here. Stephen declares that God appeared initially to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees before he moved to Haran. For more information on the great patriarch see my web article The Story of Abraham.
3 and said to him, 'Go out from your land and your kindred and come into the land which anyhow I would show to you.'
Sources: Genesis 12:1; 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7.
and: Grk. kai, conj. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above. The Greek verb "say" functions here as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. to: Grk. pros, prep., with the root meaning of "near or facing" (DM 110), preposition generally denotes motion toward a goal or destination and is used here of mental direction, with words denoting desires and emotions of the mind. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Stephen then quoted from Genesis 12:1.
MT: And ADONAI said to Abram, "Go out of your country and from your kindred and the house of your father unto a land I will show you."
LXX: And the LORD said to Abram, "Come forth from out of your land and your kindred and from the house of your father and come into the land which ever I shall show to you." (ABP)
The Greek text of Stephen's words matches the LXX. The context of the verse quoted implies the words were spoken to Abraham in Haran (12:4). However, Stephen asserts the testimony of Scripture that the original commission was given in Mesopotamia, or Ur of the Chaldees (cf. Gen 15:7; Neh 9:7). Go out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. imp., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. The verb is appropriate for departing a locality. from: Grk. ek, prep. with the root meaning of "out of, from within" (DM 102), denoting origin; from among. your: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person.
land: Grk. gē can mean (1) the earth as the planet in contrast to heaven; (2) a portion or region of the earth; land, country, region; (3) land as contrasted with the sea, as well as the ground or soil as the place of agriculture. The second meaning is intended here. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (SH-776; BDB 75), with the same range of meaning, first in Genesis 1:1 (DNTT 1:517). Most versions translate the first mention of gē in this verse as "country," but a number have "land" (ASV, CJB, ESV, MW, NTE, RSV). NLT has "native land." There may be a distinction intended in meaning, with the first denoting a region defined by borders and the second as a place of living and being fruitful. and: Grk. kai. your: Grk. su.
kindred: Grk. sungeneia, one connected by lineage. The term is meant generally, whether living or dead. In this case near blood relations is most likely intended. Stephen omits the following phrase "and the house of your father," probably regarding it as redundant and unnecessary to repeat. and: Grk. kai. come: Grk. deurō, adv., now, the present, but used here as a verbal command. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit. the land: Grk. gē. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. anyhow: Grk. an, disjunctive particle, that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. HELPS says the particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated.
I would show: Grk. deiknumi, aor. subj., may mean to show (1) so as to be observed by another, point out, make known; or (2) or so as to be understood by another, explain, demonstrate. The first usage applies here. The subjunctive mood looks toward what is conceivable or potential. to you: Grk. su. All versions translate the verbal phrase as if it were indicative mood, that is, a certainty, and eventually it was. However, in Ur of the Chaldees, nothing was certain. God promised Abraham of an unspecified land, but He could not show it until Abraham obeyed. For Abraham to leave Ur was an act of total trust. As Paul says, Abraham obeyed, not knowing where he was going (Heb 11:8).
4 Then having gone out from the land of the Chaldeans he dwelled in Haran, and from there ─ afterward his father was to die ─ He removed him into this land in which you now dwell.
Sources: Genesis 11:31-32; 15:7; 12:4-5.
Then: Grk. tote, temporal adv. that focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. having gone out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part. See the previous verse. from: Grk. ek, prep. See the previous verse. the land: Grk. gē. See the previous verse. of the Chaldeans: pl. of Grk. Chaldaios, inhabitants of a geographical locality in central and southeastern Mesopotamia, between the lower stretches of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Today Chaldea lies in the country of Iraq, very close to its border with Iran, and touching upon the head of the Persian Gulf. After the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (king of Babylon 605-562 BC), Chaldea came to include practically all of Babylon (NIBD 214). The noun appears only here in the Besekh. In the LXX Chaldaios transliterates Heb. Kasdi, (SH-3778), first in Genesis 11:28.
he dwelled: Grk. katoikeō, aor. See verse 2 above. in: Grk. en, prep. Haran: See verse 2 above. Genesis offers no information on Abraham's life in Haran, although he was married to Sarai when he arrived there (Gen 11:29). and from there: Grk. kakeithen (derived from kai, "and," and ekeithen "from there, from that place"), adv., a marker of movement from a position of place or time, here of the former. LSJ also notes a usage in Greek literature of a logical deduction "from that fact." The adverb does not occur in the LXX but is found in Josephus in relation to a location (Ant. XIV, 14:3). The adverb alludes to the previous mention of Haran, the point of departure for Abraham. By this time Abraham had become exceedingly wealthy and he departed with his wife, his nephew Lot and all the possessions and servants he had acquired in Haran (Gen 12:5).
afterward: Grk. meta, prep., may be used to (1) mark association or accompaniment; with, amid, among; or (2) mark sequence or position, after, behind. However, meta can also be used adverbially to mean "afterwards" (LSJ). HELPS defines meta as "properly, with ('after with'), implying 'change afterward,' i.e. what results after the activity. As an active 'with' meta looks towards the after-effect (change, result) which is only defined by the context." The grammar supports the interpretation that meta refers to action that occurred after the movement described by the adverb kakeithen, rather than before it.
his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. father: Grk. patēr. See verse 2 above. Most likely "father" refers to Terah. Gill says in his comment on Genesis 11:26 that according to Jewish sources Terah was the first that found out the way of coining money, and that in his days men began to worship images, and that he was the chief of their priests, but afterwards repented. Joshua reported that Terah had been an idolater in Ur of the Chaldees (Josh 24:2). was to die: Grk. apothnēskō, aor. inf. (derived from apo, "from," and thnēskō, "to die," properly, die away from), to die, generally used of physical death, whether natural or violent, but also fig. of eternal death, moral death, or being freed from any connection with something (Thayer). The verb stresses the significance of ending of what is former, namely life, to bring what naturally follows (HELPS).
Stephen alluded to the declaration of Genesis 11:32 that Terah died at the age of 205, which appears in the chronology before the call of Abraham in 12:1 and his departure from Haran in 12:4. All Bible versions translate the verb in this verse as if it were indicative mood ("died" or "was dead"). However, the verb is an infinitive, a verbal noun, which means it has the voice and tense of a verb, but also the case relations of a noun. As a verb it may express purpose (the most common usage), result, time (as a temporal expression), cause or command. All versions translate the infinitive as expressing result or time, but in my view, the infinitive expresses purpose and refers to an event that was to follow Abraham's movement from Haran. The MPNT interlinear gives the lit. translation as "to die." The phrase "afterward his father was to die" is thus parenthetical to Stephen's narrative concerning Abraham.
He removed: Grk. metoikizō, aor., cause to move, to transport or migrate; relocate, resettle, remove. The subject of the verb is God as some versions insert (e.g., CJB, ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, NRSV). him: Grk. autos; i.e., Abraham only left Haran by divine directive. into: Grk. eis, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. land: Grk. gē. Stephen views the land of Israel (including Galilee, Samaria and Judea) as a whole. Abraham moved into the land when he was 75 years of age (Gen 12:4). in: Grk. eis. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. now: Grk. nun, adv. of time in the present, 'now' or more emphatically 'right now.' dwell: Grk. katoikeō, pres.
By accepting the traditional Christian translation of the clause pertaining to the death of Terah, commentators have noted a supposed conflict between Stephen's narrative and the Genesis record regarding when Abraham moved from Haran to Canaan (cf. Gen 11:26-32; 12:4). Jewish tradition asserts that Terah was still alive when Abraham departed Haran for Canaan (Lightfoot 4:71). The Dead Sea Scrolls gives a straightforward summary of the chronology in line with Jewish tradition:
"Terah was one hundred and forty years old when he left Ur of the Chaldees and went to Haran and Abram was seventy years old. And Abram dwelt five years in Haran. Then Terah died sixty years after Abram went out to the land of Canaan." (Commentaries on Genesis, 4Q252, 1:8-10, TDSS, 354).
What should be noted is that the word order of the Greek text does not say, "Then having gone out from the land of the Chaldeans he dwelled in Haran, and after his father died He removed him from there into this land in which you now dwell." Thus, my translation demonstrates that Stephen accurately repeated Jewish tradition. For an analysis of the controversy see my additional note The Chronology of Terah and Abraham.
5 And he gave to him no inheritance in it, not even a step of a foot, but He promised to give it into a possession to him and to his seed after him, there not being a child given to him.
Sources: Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8; 23:3-18; Psalm 105:11.
And: Grk. kai, conj. he gave: Grk. didōmi, aor., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity, but may be used to mean bestow, hand over, impart, entrust, yield, put, or sacrifice (BAG). In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414, first in Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. no: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; no, not. inheritance: Grk. klēronomia, a share in what is passed on by a testator, inheritance. in: Gr. en, prep. it: Grk. autos, i.e., the land of Canaan. In other words, Terah owned no land in Canaan, so Abraham would not be able to claim property rights in Canaan on the basis of prior family ownership.
not even: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; neither, not even, nor. a step: Grk. bēma, space covered by a movement of one foot ahead of the other, a step; also a raised platform that requires steps for ascent, such as a speaker's platform; fig. of a judicial tribunal. of a foot: Grk. pous, the body part that is used for walking or running; the foot. Gill notes that the lack of inheritance in Canaan meant that when his wife Sarah died, Abraham was obliged to buy a piece of ground for a burial place (Gen 23:16-18). but: Grk. kai. He promised: Grk. epangellō, aor. mid., to promise something in the sense of a commitment.
to give: Grk. didōmi, aor. inf. Note the second use of the aorist infinitive, which all Bible translations treat here as expressing purpose. The verb emphasizes the act of transferring ownership. it: Grk. autos. into: Grk. eis, prep. a possession: Grk. kataschesis, holding something fast as one's own, possession. The noun occurs only twice in the Besekh, both in this chapter. to him: Grk. autos. and: Grk. kai. to his: Grk. autos. seed: Grk. sperma may refer either to the source (e.g. seed, semen) or the product of propagation (e.g., posterity, descendant). The noun is singular, but many versions translate it plural as "descendants."
In the LXX sperma renders Heb. zera, sowing, seed or offspring (SH-2233; BDB 282). Like sperma the singular form of zera may have a collective meaning. I have translated sperma as "seed" to preserve the dual meaning of the term as referring both to Abraham's descendants and to one particular descendant, the Messiah (cf. Gen 3:15; 22:17-18; 26:4; 28:14; Gal 3:6). See my web article Messiah in the Torah.
after: Grk. meta, prep. him: Grk. autos. there not: Grk. ou. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 2 above. a child: Grk. teknon, normally refers to man or woman's immediate biological offspring, but may also refer to more distant relations such as grandchildren or descendants. When used of immediate offspring a teknon is older than an infant, but younger than bar/bat mitzvah age. given to him: Grk. autos. In other words, God had given Abraham land, and promised the land to his descendants. Yet the promise was given while Sarah was barren and fathering offspring seemed impossible.
6 Moreover God thus spoke, that his seed will be a sojourner in a foreign land, and they will enslave them and will afflict them four hundred years.
Sources: Genesis 15:13-16; Exodus 12:40-41.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. God: See verse 2 above. thus: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. spoke: Grk. laleō, aor., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. that: Grk. hoti, conj., conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The third usage applies here. Stephen then refers to the narrative of Genesis 15.
his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, which alludes to Abraham. seed: Grk. sperma. See the previous verse. will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 2 above. a sojourner: Grk. paroikos, someone living close to others as a temporary dweller, an alien resident with limited rights; sojourner, stranger. in: Grk. en, prep. a foreign: Grk. allotrios, adj., belonging to another; foreigner, alien, hostile, stranger. The adjective can imply unsuitable and even hostile. In the LXX allotrios occurs frequently as a translation of Heb. nokri (SH-5231), foreign, alien, non-Israelite (Gen 31:15; Deut 14:21), and occasionally translates Heb. zar (SH-2114), another, strange, a stranger, foreign (Lev 10:1; Deut 32:16) (DNTT 1:684).
land: Grk. gē. See verse 3 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. they will enslave: Grk. douloō, fut., 3p-pl., to make a slave of someone, to subject. them: Grk. autos. The pronoun is singular by treated as having a collective meaning by Bible versions. It is possible the pronoun could be rendered as "him" as a hint of Joseph. and: Grk. kai. they will afflict them: Grk. kakoō, fut., 3p-pl., to abuse or mistreat. four hundred: Grk. tetrakosioi (from tetra, "four" and hekaton, "a hundred"), the number four hundred. years: pl. of Grk. etos, a period of twelve months. Stephen refers to the text of Genesis 15:
"13 Then He said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. 14 But I am going to judge the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will go out with many possessions. 15 But you, you will come to your fathers in peace. You will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here—for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.'"(Gen 15:13-16 TLV)
We should note that God clarifies the time of his descendants returning as the fourth generation. Morris suggests the 400 years was equivalent to "four generations," since men were still living in excess of one hundred years of age and older (327).
Additional Note: The Sojourn in Egypt
The dates of entry into and exit from Egypt by the Israelites proposed by Bible scholars depends on interpretation of the 400 years God announced to Abraham. The Dead Sea Scrolls (2Q2 Exodus) and Josephus assert that the Israelites dwelled in Egypt for 400 years (Ant. II, 9:1), which a number of Christian scholars also affirm (Archer 184; Harrison 167; Payne 162; Purkiser 116; and Varughese 94). However, Gill and Morris in their commentaries point out that Genesis 15:13 does not actually name Egypt, so the prophecy can refer to both Canaanites and Egyptians as oppressing agents. Philo in speaking of the prophecy does not associate the time period solely with Egypt, but simply the period in which Abraham and his seed would be subjected to afflictions (Questions and Answers on Genesis, III, 10).
Rashi, the Medieval Jewish scholar, reckons the four hundred years of Genesis 15:13 from the birth of Isaac to the Israelites going out of Egypt. Of that time Rashi calculated the actual time the tribes of Israel dwelled in Egypt as 210 years based on these facts: Isaac was sixty years old when Jacob was born (Gen 25:26), and Jacob, when he went down to Egypt, said, "The days of the years of my sojournings are one hundred and thirty years" (Gen 47:9), which total 190. Subtracting 190 from 400 yields 210 years. The Christian commentators Barnes, Coke, and Gill concur that the 400 years began with the birth of Isaac (comment on Gen 15:13). Bruce also agrees that considering rabbinical exegesis the time spent in Egypt was considerably shorter than 400 years (147).
Moses then gives a different number in Exodus 12:40, "Now the sojourning of the sons of Israel (who dwelled in Egypt) was thirty and four hundred years" (BR). Beginning with this number Morris suggests the time actually spent in Egypt was approximately 215 years (328). This time period may be deduced from these facts: Abraham's entry into Canaan to the birth of Isaac was 25 years (Gen 12:4; 17:1-21); Isaac was 60 years old at the birth of Jacob (Gen 25:26); and Jacob was 130 at his going down into Egypt (Gen 47:9); which three sums make 215 years and leaves 215 years. Clarke in his commentary on Exodus 12:40 agrees with this calculation.
Both the LXX and Samaritan Pentateuch of Exodus 12:40, which gives the time period of 430 years, supports the view that the time period included the sojourn in Canaan:
LXX: "And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, was four hundred and thirty years." (Ex 12:40 Brenton)
Samaritan Pentateuch: "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers which they had dwelt in the land of Canaan and in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." (Exodus 12:40 Desert Tabernacle)
Paul also refers to the time period of the sojourn as given by Moses:
"16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It doesn’t say, 'and to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'and to your seed,' who is the Messiah. 17 What I am saying is this: Torah, which came 430 years later, does not cancel the covenant previously confirmed by God, so as to make the promise ineffective" (Gal 3:16-17 TLV)
Paul marks the beginning of the 430-year sojourn period as God's promise "to your seed" (Gen 12:7). The promise was actually given to Abraham first in Ur of the Chaldees. The terminus of the period was the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (Ex 20:1). The Dead Sea Scrolls offer this important information:
"He [God] gave the land to Abraham His beloved. Terah was one hundred and forty years old when he left Ur of the Chaldees and went to Haran and Abram was seventy years old." (Commentaries on Genesis, 4Q252, 1:8-9; TDSS 354).
Thus, the extra thirty years takes in the time from when Abraham received his divine call and left Ur of the Chaldees at the age of 70 until the birth of Isaac at age 100. The text of Exodus 12:40 does not mean to say that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years, but that their sojourning from the time of Abraham lasted that length of time. Various passages speak of the sojournings of Abraham and his descendants: (1) Abraham in Egypt (Gen 12:10); (2) Abraham in Haran, Canaan and Egypt (17:8); (3) Abraham in Gerar (20:1); (4) Abraham in the land of the Philistines (21:23, 34); Abraham in Hebron (23:4); Isaac in Gerar (26:3); Jacob in Aram (28:4-5; 32:4); and Jacob in Egypt (47:4).
The reason given for the time period was "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Gen 15:16). This mysterious statement may imply that the 400 years was a time of grace. For two hundred years the Amorites and their fellow Canaanite tribes were exposed to the salt and light of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The covenantal presence of God delayed judgment on these pagan tribes. Once the family of Jacob was removed from Canaan, whatever restraint may have existed on the iniquity of the Amorites was also removed and their culture continued to degenerate until the time of grace had run out. The nation of Israel would become God's instrument of judgment to destroy this wickedness in the land (Ex 32:2; 34:11; Deut 7:1; 20:17
7 And God said, 'the nation to which if they will be enslaved I will judge, and after these things they will come out and will serve me in this place.'
Sources: Genesis 15:14; Exodus 3:12; 4:23; 1Samuel 12:8.
And: Grk. kai, conj. God: See verse 2 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above. Stephen then conflates three different passages, first a quotation from Genesis 15:14. the nation: Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group; i.e., Egypt. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations. In the Besekh ethnos in the singular may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9). "The nation" is Egypt. to which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. if: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 1 above. Bible versions don't translate the conjunction, but it is used to introduce a conditional statement with predictable consequences.
they will be enslaved: Grk. douleuō, fut., 3p-pl., to be in slavery to, to function in total obedience to a master as a slave or bond-servant. I: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. will judge: Grk. krinō, fut., may mean (1) make a selection, prefer; (2) subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior, judge, often in legal contexts, or (3) draw a conclusion. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX krinō is used mainly to translate three different Heb. words: din, rib and shaphat, all of which have application in the legal sense (DNTT 2:363). and: Grk. kai. after: Grk. meta, prep. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. they will come out: Grk. exerchomai, fut. mid. See verse 3 above. The MT adds "with great possessions." The rest of the quotation is not found in the MT.
and: Grk. kai. will serve: Grk. latreuō, fut., to minister or serve God, often in the context of religious activity at the sanctuary. The verb can also mean being committed and devoted to God beyond religious activities. me: Grk. egō. The phrase "and will serve me" probably alludes to Exodus 4:23. This was message God directed Moses to tell Pharaoh. in: Grk. en, prep. this: Grk. houtos. place: Grk. topos, a spatial area, which may be an unnamed geographical area or a named locality. The geographical reference "this place" refers to the land of Israel. Isaac criticizes Stephen's biblical knowledge by saying that Genesis 15:14 has no such words as "in this place," and in Exodus 3:12, the expression is, "When you shall bring out this people from Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain" (2:62).
However, in the last clause Stephen likely alludes to a statement of Samuel: "When Jacob went into Egypt and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron who brought your fathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place" (1Sam 12:8 NASB). There was nothing wrong with Stephen's biblical knowledge. He expresses God's original covenantal intention that the Israelites would return to the land promised to the patriarchs.
8 And He gave to him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham fathered Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day, and Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs.
Sources: Genesis 17:1-3; 21:2-4; 25:26; 29:31-33; 30:5-7; 35:23-25.
And: Grk. kai, conj. He gave: Grk. didōmi, aor. The subject of the verb is God. See verse 5 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Abraham. the covenant: Grk. diathēkē, a set-agreement having complete terms determined by the initiating party, which also are fully affirmed by the one entering the agreement (HELPS). Thayer explains that the term is used to mean (1) the last disposal which one makes of earthly possessions after death, as in "last will and testament" (e.g., Gal 3:15; Heb 9:16-17); or (2) a compact initiated by God with ones He chose for a close relationship and which makes certain absolute promises to the human parties (Eph 2:12; Heb 7:22 and often). The second meaning applies here. In the LXX diathēkē translates Heb. b'rit (SH-1285), pact, compact, or covenant, 270 times (first in Gen 6:18) (DNTT 1:365).
God made a covenant with several different men (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron and David) and with the nation of Israel. Each of these covenants set forth specific expectations, promises, duration and a sign or perpetual reminder of the covenant. For a detailed discussion of all these covenants see my web article The Everlasting Covenants. All of the covenants had these characteristics in common:
· God made His covenants unilaterally and He alone set the terms. There was no negotiation to reach a mutually agreeable result.
· God's covenant is the expression of His will concerning His property (His people). After all, the concept of being "holy to ADONAI" (Ex 19:6) means to be His property.
· God's covenant provided an inheritance for Abraham and his descendants and instructions for distribution of that inheritance.
· God acts as judge to enforce the terms of His covenants.
In this verse Stephen refers to a particular covenant. of circumcision: Grk. peritomē, the surgical removal of male foreskin. In the LXX peritomē occurs only two times: in Genesis 17:13 without Heb. equivalent regarding the circumcision of males in Abraham's household, and in Exodus 4:25 to render Heb. mulah, circumcision, regarding the circumcision of Moses' firstborn son. The covenant of circumcision is so-called because God made circumcision the sign of the covenant He made with Abraham (Gen 17:11) and the requirement was included in the covenant with Israel (Lev 12:3). Physical circumcision was to be symbolic of circumcision of the heart, which is required of those who wish to participate in the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Lev 26:41; Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; Rom 2:29).
and: Grk. kai. so: Gr. houtōs, adv. Abraham: See verse 2 above. fathered: Grk. gennaō, aor., to father, beget or procreate. The verb is used here of the father's role in producing a child. Isaac: Grk. Isaak, a transliteration of Heb. Yitschaq ("laughter"), the only son of Abraham by Sarah when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety (Gen 21:1-6). Isaac was actually Abraham's second-born child, Ishmael being his first-born by Hagar, Abraham's concubine-wife. God made it clear to Abraham that being the child of promise the Messianic line would go through Isaac (Gen 21:12). and: Grk. kai. circumcised: Grk. peritemnō, aor., the act of surgically removing the male foreskin by a knife. him: Grk. autos.
the eighth: Grk. ogdoos, adj., the number eight. day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The third meaning applies here. Stephen repeats the declaration of Genesis 21:4 concerning the circumcision of Isaac. Circumcision is commanded by God to be performed on this day (Gen 17:12; Lev 12:3). The significance of the time is not stated in Scripture but modern medical researchers discovered that the two main blood clotting factors, Vitamin K and Prothrombim, reach their highest level in life, about 110% of normal, on the 8th day after birth. These blood clotting agents facilitate rapid healing and greatly reduce the chance of infection.
and: Grk. kai. Isaac: Isaac became a child of sacrifice and a type of Yeshua when God commanded Abraham to kill his son in a worship ceremony in the "land of Moriah" (Gen 22:1-14), in the vicinity where Yeshua would be crucified. Through the matchmaking efforts of his father, Isaac married his second cousin Rebekah (Gen 22:15, 51, 57-58, 67). God reiterated the covenant He made with Abraham with his son Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24; Ex 2:24; 6:4; Lev 26:42). fathered Jacob: Grk. Iakōb attempts to transliterate Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"). The meaning of the name of Ya'akov is not known with any certainty, although the name may be derived from the verb aqav (SH-6117), "follow at the heel," denominative of aqev (SH-6119), "heel," thus "heel-holder," since he was holding on to the heel of Esau at birth.
On the other hand, David Stern says the name means "May God be your defending rear guard" (cf. Isa 52:12) (CJSB 46). The name certainly had no pejorative connotation when the parents gave it to him contrary to the definitions offered by Christian commentators. As indicated by Hosea 12:3, Ya'akov illustrated the strength and power he had with God. and: Grk. kai. Jacob: God reiterated the Abrahamic covenant with Isaac's son Jacob (Gen 28:10-22; 35:9-12), affirming the same promises and specifying that the Messianic line would not go through Esau. The covenant with Jacob introduced something new: Jacob's name was changed to Israel ("God perseveres," BDB 975) and God promised Jacob to make him a nation and an assembly of nations (Gen 35:11). For more on the life of Jacob see my web article Our Father Jacob.
the twelve: Grk. dōdeka, the number twelve. patriarchs: pl. of Grk. patriarchēs, head or founder of a people group. The term "patriarchs" referred to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (4Macc 7:19), but the "twelve patriarchs" refers to the twelve sons of Jacob (cf. 4Macc 16:25), each the ancestor of a tribe that together multiplied into a great host (Ex 1:7). Jacob's wife Leah gave birth to six sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. Rachel delivered Joseph and Benjamin. Bilhah gave Jacob his sons Dan and Naphtali and Zilpah bore Gad and Asher (Gen 46:8-27). See my commentary on Revelation 7:4-8 for a summary of each of the twelve tribes.
The Patriarchs in Egypt, 7:9-16
9 "And the patriarchs, having envied Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him
Sources: Genesis 37:11-28; 39:2, 21-22; 45:4.
Stephen transitions to the next part of his story by quoting from Genesis 37:11. And: Grk. kai, conj. the patriarchs: pl. of Grk. patriarchēs. See the previous verse. The plural noun denotes unity. having envied: Grk. zēloō, aor. part., may mean (1) to have a passionate interest in something, to be zealous; or (2) to envy, be jealous. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX (and in Gen 37:11) zēloō renders Heb. qanah (SH-7065), to be jealous, even to the point of anger, or zealous. The Greek and Hebrew verbs have the unique duality of sometimes being a negative emotion and sometimes a positive emotion. Envy is directed against humans whereas zeal is generally exhibited in service of God. The participle could mean "having manifested jealous anger."
Joseph: Grk. Iōsēph, a transliteration of Heb. Yosef, which is explained in Genesis 30:24 and means "he adds, increases" (BDB 415). Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob and fulfilled Rachel’s longing for a child (Gen 30:22ff). The account of his life is found in Genesis Chapters 37–50. He was born in Paddan-Aram while Jacob served his father-in-law Laban (Gen 35:26). Jacob spent twenty years in Haran and when he returned to Canaan no information is provided on the ages of his sons at that time. The story of Joseph begins in Chapter 37 when he was 17. He shepherded his father's flock along with his half-brothers, the sons of Bilhah (Dan and Naphtali) and the sons of Zilpah (Gad and Asher) (Gen 37:2). It was during these days that Joseph brought a report of their evil conduct to his father.
Moses offers no information on the evil report, but perhaps the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah were neglectful in their duties (Gill). However, Rashi attributes the evil report as concerning the sons of Leah and imagined that the report was of unclean and immoral conduct. Rashi notes that the Hebrew word for "report" (Heb. dibbah, SH-1681) denotes gossip and slander (Prov 10:18; Jer 20:10), but the word is also used of a true report (Num 14:36-37; Prov 25:9-10). There is nothing to suggest that Joseph's bad report was untrue. The Hebrew text clearly makes the evil report against the sons of the concubines, which no doubt turned them against Joseph. Jacob might be charged with dereliction of fatherly duty in not investigating the bad report.
Instead the narrative continues by saying that Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons and out of his deep affection he gave Joseph a varicolored tunic. The brothers reacted against the father's preferential treatment with hatred toward Joseph. Then Joseph received a revelation by two dreams that changed everything (Gen 37:5-10). The first dream depicted Joseph and his brothers as sheaves in the field and their sheaves bowed down to his. The second dream captured the imagination more than the first. In the second dream the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to Joseph. Joseph shared his dreams with his brothers and his father. In the Tanakh dreams were a common mode for God to communicate His will and to portend the future (cf. Gen 20:1; 28:12; 31:10-11; 40:5; 41:1; Num 12:6; Jdg 7:13; 1Kgs 3:5; Dan 2:3; 4:5; 7:11).
By unanimous interpretation Joseph's brothers and his father concluded that one day Joseph would rule over his family. Jacob on hearing the report of the second dream interpreted the sun as representing himself, the moon as his wife Rachel, and the stars as Joseph’s eleven brothers. The family was clearly unhappy about the meaning of the dreams. Jacob seems to be correct in his interpretation of the eleven stars, since the second dream is parallel to the first in the aspect of the brothers bowing down to Joseph. However, Jacob was wrong in his interpretation of the "moon" because Rachel died before Joseph was sold into slavery. She was not alive to bow down to Joseph in Egypt with the rest of the family. In Joseph’s situation the sun, moon and stars more likely referred to Egypt's political and religious leadership since they worshiped the heavenly bodies and did bow down to Joseph at the order of Pharaoh (Gen 41:40).
sold: Grk. apodidōmi (from apo, "from" and didōmi, "give"), aor. mid., 3p-pl., with the basic idea of reciprocity the verb may mean (1) give back, return, or restore; or (2) give or render as due. The second meaning applies here in the sense of selling something for a price. The brothers conspired to kill Joseph, but his brother Reuben interceded on his behalf and they put him in an empty cistern for a time. Then a caravan of Ishmaelite traders happened to be passing by and the brothers seized the opportunity to be rid of Joseph. The brothers of Joseph received 20 pieces of silver for the sale (Gen 37:28). Based on Joseph's later behavior in Egypt his brother Benjamin did not participate in the evil conspiracy, and was ignorant of what his brothers did to Joseph.
Jacob believed the story of Joseph's death (Gen 37:33), and Benjamin would surely have told his father if he knew the truth. The Testament of Gad Concerning Hatred gives a fascinating account of the transaction: "I and Judah sold him to the Ishmaelites for thirty pieces of gold, and ten of them we hid, and showed the twenty to our brethren: and so through my covetousness I was fully bent on his destruction" (9:2). According to Jewish tradition the ten brothers of Joseph divided the twenty pieces of silver equally among themselves and bought shoes for his feet; to which they apply the passage in Amos 2:6 "they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes" (Ginzberg 2:1).
The tradition also suggests that the price of 20 shekels for the redemption of the firstborn among the Israelites (cf. Lev 27:5; Num 3:46-50; 18:15-16) was on account of the selling of Joseph; they say,
"because they sold the firstborn of Rachel for twenty pieces of silver, let everyone redeem his son, his firstborn, with twenty pieces of silver; says R. Phinehas, in the name of R. Levi, because they sold the firstborn of Rachel for twenty pieces of silver, and there fell to each of them a piece of coined money (the value of half a shekel), therefore let everyone pay his shekel coined.'' (TJ Shekalim, 46:4; cited by Gill)
The brothers would later beg for forgiveness (Gen 50:17). However, the 2nd/3rd century Sage Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (mentioned in Avot 2:8-10; Sukkah 28a) said that the selling of Joseph was not atoned by the tribes until the death of the patriarchs, on the basis of the saying in Isaiah 22:14, "'Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you until you die,' says Adonai, YHVH-Tzva'ot [LORD of Hosts]" (BR) (Pirke of Rabbi Eliezer 38:1; cited by Gill). On the basis of this passage Rabbinic Judaism developed the concept of one's own death being meritorious for atonement (Berachot 60a; Yoma 86a). This is certainly not the meaning of the bad news in Isaiah. Rather, the practical meaning is that "as long as you live there will be no atonement for you," which is the most severe form of judgment.
him into: Grk. eis, prep. Egypt: Grk. Aiguptos, a land in northeastern Africa, home to one of the earliest civilizations, and an important cultural and political influence on ancient Israel. In contrast to the modern nation, ancient Egypt was confined to the Nile River valley, a long, narrow ribbon of fertile land (the "black land") surrounded by uninhabitable desert (the "red land"). Egypt proper, from the first cataract of the Nile to the Mediterranean, is some 750 miles long. The Hebrew name in the Tanakh is Mitzrayim (Mizraim in Christian Bibles). The English word Egypt is derived from the Greek word via Middle French "Egypte" and Latin "Aegyptus."
The Greek historian Herodotus (440 BC) provides perhaps the earliest secular account of ancient Egyptian culture (Histories, Book II). An Egyptian priest, Manetho of Sebennytus (285-246 BC), wrote a book Aegyptiaca in Greek to acquaint the Mediterranean world with the history and civilization of his country. The original work has perished, but fragments have been preserved and transmitted by other ancient authors. See the complete work here: Manetho.
but: Grk. kai. God: Grk. theos. See verse 2 above. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 2 above. with: Grk. meta, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Stephen quotes from Genesis 39:2, "And ADONAI was with Joseph," which follows the mention of being taken into the household of Potiphar, an important officer of Pharaoh. Thus, the phrase alludes to the fact that ADONAI prospered Joseph in Potiphar's house and blessed the house of Potiphar on account of Joseph. God was also with him in keeping him from the temptations of Potiphar's wife, and even when falsely accused and sent to prison, God was with him there. Joseph gained the favor of the prison jailer, as well as two fellow inmates, a royal cupbearer and baker, for whom he interpreted dreams that predicted life for the cupbearer and death for the baker.
10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he appointed him a ruling-one over Egypt and all his household.
Sources: Genesis 39:21; 41:14-46; Psalm 105:20-21.
and: Grk. kai, conj. rescued: Grk. exaireō, aor. mid., may mean (1) remove from a place, e.g., bodily organ, take out, extract; or (2) in an extended sense of removing from peril, deliver or rescue. The second meaning applies here. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. out of: Grk. ek, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. his: Grk. autos. afflictions: pl. of Grk. thlipsis (from thlibō, to press or crush), distress that is the result of outward circumstances; distress, affliction, suffering, trouble. In the LXX thlipsis renders several Hebrew words that denote need, distress, affliction, or trouble, from personal hostility to war and exile (e.g., Gen 35:3; Ex 4:31; Ps 4:1; 9:9; Isa 10:3) (DNTT 2:807). and: Grk. kai. gave: Grk. didōmi, aor. See verse 5 above. him: Grk. autos.
favor: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times in the derivative form of charin of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hēn (SH-2580), favor, first in Gen 6:8 in regards to Noah receiving the favor of God, and the others for Heb. racham (SH-7356), compassion, mercy, first in Gen 43:14 (DNTT 2:116). and: Grk. kai. wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understanding and insight, wisdom. In the LXX sophia renders predominately Heb. chokmah (SH-2451), wisdom, first in Exodus 28:3, but also Heb. binah (SH-998), understanding, first in Deuteronomy 4:6 (DNTT 3:1027).
Sophia appears primarily in the Wisdom literature (Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and Psalms). A large proportion of instances occur in the apocryphal writings (1Esdra, Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon). In Proverbs sophia is also used as a personification of ADONAI (Prov 1:20; 3:19; 7:4; 9:1). The fear of ADONAI is the beginning of wisdom (Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prov 9:10; 15:33). before: Grk. enantion, prep., 'in front of,' 'before,' especially in the sense of being subject to scrutiny. Pharaoh: Grk. Pharaō, the common title, not a personal name, of kings of ancient Egypt (Josephus, Ant. VIII, 6:2). The title is the Hebrew form of the Egyptian term meaning "great house."
king: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek (SH-4428). In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one person. of Egypt: Grk. Aiguptos. See the previous verse. Scripture never gives the birth name of the King of Egypt during the time of Joseph, or during the time of Moses and the exodus from Egypt. and: Grk. kai. he appointed: Grk. kathistēmi, aor., to put into a position of responsibility, to appoint. him: Grk. autos.
a ruling-one: Grk. hēgeomai, pres. mid. part., may mean either (1) to function in a leadership capacity, to lead; or (2) 'deem to be,' to think, consider or deduce. The first usage applies here. Most versions translate the verb as a noun, either "governor" or "ruler." over: Grk. epi, prep. with the root meaning of "upon," used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'at, in, on, upon, or over.' Egypt: Joseph's rise to power came about by a providential turn of events. After two years in prison Joseph was given the opportunity to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh on the recommendation of the cupbearer. Joseph explained that the dreams predicted seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Moreover Joseph dared to advise Pharaoh to appoint someone with discernment and wisdom over the agriculture of the nation and impose a 20% tax on production to store grain for the famine years.
Because of this advice Pharaoh recognized these qualities in Joseph and appointed him to the job. Joseph's authority was less than Pharaoh and the job description could be titled "Secretary of Agriculture and Land Management." Joseph wielded considerable power over a country whose prosperity and trade depended on agriculture, but he did not control other important functions of government, such as the military and judicial system. Joseph was thirty years of age when he began ruling.
and: Grk. kai. all: Grk. pas. his: Grk. autos. household: Grk. oikos may mean (1) a structure for habitation; house, home; or (2) persons inhabiting a house; household, family. Bible versions are divided in translating oikos, some with "house" and others with "household." It's likely the two meanings merge in this context as Joseph's authority was extended to include managing the house and household (i.e., the servants) of Pharaoh, just as he had performed for Potiphar.
Additional Note on the King of Egypt
Gill says that during the time of Joseph "the name of this Pharaoh was Misphragmuthosis; by the Jews he is called Rian ben Walid," and cites as his source Abraham Zacuto (1452-1515), Sefer Yuchasin, 135:2, a historical text of the Jewish people; available online only in Hebrew. Jewish knowledge of the kings of Egypt was dependent largely on the traditions by Manetho (see the note on the previous verse). Josephus offered a critique of Manetho's historical perspective of the time of Joseph (Contra Apion 1:15). Modern historians rely on archaeological evidence as well as ancient sources, but caution that many of the ancient king lists were written long after the reigns they report and are often damaged, inconsistent with one another and/or selective.
11 Now a famine came upon all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers were not finding food.
Sources: Genesis 41:47–42:7; Psalm 105:16.
Now: Grk. de, conj. a famine: Grk. limos, a condition of misery caused by an acute lack of food and impacting a large area. In the LXX limos translates Heb. ra'ab (SH-7458; Gen 12:10), meaning famine or hunger. Throughout Bible times famines were not infrequent, generally caused by a lack of adequate rainfall. Famine occurred during the lives of Abraham and Isaac (Gen 12:10; 26:1). came: Grk. erchomai, aor., to come or arrive, with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. upon: Grk. epi, prep. all: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of totality and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. Egypt: Grk. Aiguptos. See verse 9 above.
and: Grk. kai, conj. Canaan: Grk. Chanaan, a transliteration of Heb. Kna'an, a territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Scholars are divided concerning the northern and southern extremities, but the land stretched at least as far north as Sidon (Gen 10:19). The southern extremity included the area of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 10:19) and the Negev (Num 13:7; 33:40). The wilderness of Sinai, in which Israel wandered, was not considered part of Canaan. According to Genesis 41:54 the famine occurred "in all lands," so that it extended beyond Egypt and Canaan. Jewish writers included Arabia in the famine area (Gill). Rabbi Eliezer declared that the famine in Canaan was punishment for the sin of selling Joseph (Pirke of Rabbi Eliezer 38:1).
and: Grk. kai. great: Grk. megas, adj., large or great in extent and used (1) of any extension in space in all directions; or (2) fig. of measure, whether of age, quantity, intensity, importance or social position (BAG). The adjective is used here to emphasize the measure of time and intensity. affliction: Grk. thlipsis. See the previous verse. The famine lasted seven years (Gen 41:27), which caused unimaginable deprivation and misery. and: Grk. kai. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 2 above. The plural noun is used as a synonym of the twelve patriarchs (verse 8 above) and their families (cf. Num 20:15). were not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 5 above.
finding: Grk. heuriskō, impf., may mean (1) to come upon a person or thing by seeking; (2) to discover by inquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, or hearing; or (3) to find for oneself, to acquire, get, obtain, or procure. The first meaning applies here. food: Grk. chortasma, food, provision, sustenance. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. In Greek literature the term is also used of feed or fodder for animals (Thayer). It is not clear to what degree the famine affected pasture lands. Jacob had extensive herds (Gen 45:10). Grain production was extremely curtailed so that the immediate impact on humans was that there was no bread (Heb. lechem; Gen 41:54), which refers to a baked product made from cereal grain. Bread was made from either barley or wheat, so the fact of there being no bread meant the loss of both staple crops.
12 But Jacob having heard of grain being in Egypt, he sent forth our fathers first.
Sources: Genesis 42:1-28; Psalm 105:22.
But: Grk. de, conj. Jacob: See verse 8 above. having heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part. See verse 2 above. of grain: pl. of Grk. sitos, grain of any kind, although in the Besekh wheat or barley may be inferred. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 2 above. in: Grk. eis, prep. Egypt: See verse 9 above. According to Bereshit Rabbah the knowledge came by way of divine revelation (Gill), but the news of available grain in Egypt could have arrived by the normal means of trading caravans. he sent forth: Grk. exapostellō, aor., send, which may focus on (1) moving persons from one place to another, especially as an authoritative personal representative, send out/away/forth; or (2) dismissal, send away. The first usage is intended here. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person.
fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 2 above. The plural noun is used as a synonym of patriarchs (verse 8 above). first: Grk. prōton, having to do with beforeness, with resultant meanings of (1) having a primary position in sequence and (2) standing out in significance or importance. The first meaning has application here. Jacob sent all his sons, except Benjamin, before going himself. Stephen does not detail the Genesis narrative of the first visit. Upon arrival the ten sons of Jacob met with Joseph who at first accused his brothers of being spies and imprisoned them for three days. On the third day he released them, but required that one of them remain in prison while the rest took grain back to their families in Canaan. Joseph chose Simeon, the second son of Leah, to stay.
Joseph insisted that when the brothers returned for more grain they must bring their youngest brother Benjamin. En route home the brothers discovered that their money had been returned to them, which left them with a sense of dread. Jacob was extremely distressed by the report of his sons, particularly with the knowledge that when his sons went back for more grain they must take Benjamin.
13 And on the second visit Joseph was made known to his brothers, and the family of Joseph became known to Pharaoh.
Sources: Genesis 43:1–45:24.
And: Grk. kai, conj. on: Grk. en, prep. the second visit: Grk. deuteros, adj., second, whether second in a series or as a temporal reference. The opening phrase alludes to the second time the sons of Jacob went to Egypt to obtain grain. Joseph: See verse 9 above. was made known: Grk. anagnōrizō, aor. pass., learned to know again, be recognized, made known. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. to his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 2 above. The term has the limited meaning here of siblings of the same father. Stephen summarizes the substance of Genesis 43, which tells the story of Jacob sending his sons again for more grain, this time allowing Benjamin to accompany them. In addition, Jacob sent some of the best products of the land that had not been impacted by the famine.
Upon meeting his brothers the second time Joseph provided gracious hospitality and then a lavish banquet for them to enjoy, during which Benjamin was given twice as much food as his brothers. After providing grain to his brothers Joseph engaged in a deception. Joseph commands his steward to put his cup secretly into Benjamin's sack. The sons of Jacob depart with the grain they had purchased, but Joseph commands his steward to pursue them, and charge them with having stolen his cup. The brothers protest their innocence, and offer to submit to be slaves should the cup be found with any of them. A search is made, and the cup is found in Benjamin's sack. They are brought back and submit themselves to Joseph who determines that Benjamin alone, with whom the cup is found, should remain a prisoner.
Judah makes an impassioned appeal for Benjamin's release, and offers himself to be a substitute prisoner. Moved by Judah's appeal, Joseph revealed himself to his brother, excuses their conduct towards him, and attributes the whole to the providence of God. The revelation produced first shock and then a tearful reunion. He orders them to hurry back to Canaan, and bring up their father and their own families and livestock, because there would be five more years of the famine. He also promised that their families could settle in a fertile territory called Goshen.
and: Grk. kai. the family: Grk. genos may mean (1) line of descent with focus on the role of progenitor, as in the ancestor of something; (2) role of birth in terms of a geographically identified people group; (3) a people group; (4) a group with a distinguishing characteristic. The first meaning applies here. of Joseph became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here.
known: Grk. phaneros, in a state or condition that makes observation possible; publicly known, in the open, known, recognizable, apparent. to Pharaoh: See verse 10 above. Gill notes that while Joseph was known beforehand as a Hebrew (Gen 39:17), yet it was not known to what family he belonged, but now the information was fully provided to Pharaoh (Gen 45:16). Pharaoh learned of Joseph's brothers having come to Egypt, and having met them reiterated Joseph's instruction and promise. Moreover Pharaoh offered wagons to facilitate the move of their families and goods. Joseph provides them with the wagons, as well as presents of money and clothing and sends ten donkeys loaded with the best of Egypt to his father. Before departing Joseph exhorted them not to quarrel on the way.
14 Then Joseph, having sent, summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, in total seventy five souls.
Sources: Genesis 45:25–46:27; Exodus 1:5;
Deuteronomy 10:22; Psalm 105:23;
Then: Grk. de, conj. Joseph: See verse 9 above. having sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. part., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative; send, send away/out/off. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). The verb alludes to Joseph sending his brothers back to Canaan to retrieve their father. summoned: Grk. metakaleō, aor. mid., call from one place to another; call for, send for, summon. Jacob: See verse 8 above. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. father: Grk. patēr. See verse 2 above. The noun is used here for immediate paternity. and: Grk. kai, conj. all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 10 above.
his kindred: Grk. sungeneia. See verse 3 above. in total: Grk. en, prep. seventy: Grk. hebdomēkonta, the number 70, which in Scripture is often a significant number. five: Grk. penta, the cardinal number five. souls: pl. of Grk. psuchē (for Heb. nephesh; SH-5315) may mean (1) a quality without which a body is physically dead; life; (2) that which possesses vital being; person; or (3) that which is integral to being a person beyond mere physical function; life (inner) self, soul. The second meaning is intended here. Stephen apparently quotes from the LXX, which gives the number of seventy-five in both Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5, meaning that when the headcount was taken at the reunion in Egypt there were 75 members of Jacob's household present. The point of giving the number is that no one of Jacob's family was left behind in Canaan.
Rabbi Isaac ben Abraham of Troki charges Stephen with error in stating the number of Joseph's kindred who came to Egypt, since the Hebrew text of Genesis 46:27 says Jacob's family that came down to Egypt, inclusive of Joseph and his sons, amounted to seventy persons, and not seventy-five (Isaac 2:63). Gill counters Isaac by saying, "Moses and Stephen are speaking of different things; Moses speaks of the seed of Jacob, which came out of his loins, who came into Egypt, and so excludes his sons' wives; Stephen speaks of Jacob and all his kindred, among whom his sons' wives must be reckoned." Stern offers an alternative analysis saying, "Genesis 46:20 accounts for the discrepancy. In this verse the Septuagint names four grandsons and one great-grandson of Joseph, whereas the Masoretic text does not."
We should note that Exodus 1:1 makes a point of saying, "these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob" (NASB). The LXX agrees with this statement, so Moses distinguishes between those already in Egypt and those who came to Egypt with Jacob. Lastly, it was Jewish rabbis translating the Hebrew into Greek that provided the number "75." Stephen did not invent the number.
Additional Note on the Number of Israelites.
The texts of Genesis 46:26-27 and Exodus 1:1, 5 give the headcount of those who came to Egypt:
MT: "26 All the souls who came with Jacob to Egypt, those coming out of his loins, besides the wives of Jacob's sons, all the souls were sixty and six. 27 The sons of Joseph who were born to him in Egypt were two souls. All the souls of the house of Jacob who came to Egypt were seventy." (Gen 46:26-27 BR)
LXX: "26 And all the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, who came out of his loins, besides the wives of the sons of Jacob, even all the souls were sixty-six. 27 And the sons of Joseph who were born to him in the land of Egypt were nine souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob who came to Egypt with Joseph were seventy-five souls." (Gen 46:26-27 Brenton)
MT: "1 And these are the names of the sons of Israel with Jacob. Each man and his household came. 5 And all the souls coming out of the loins of Jacob were seventy." (Ex 1:1, 5 BR)
LXX: "1 These are the names of the sons of Israel that came into Egypt together with Jacob their father; they came in each with their whole family. … 5 But Joseph was in Egypt. And all the souls born of Jacob were seventy-five." (Ex 1:1, 5 Brenton) [There is no Greek verb for "born" in the text.]
We should note that the MT and LXX are in agreement in Genesis 46:26 on the number sixty-six, but they differ in the next verse. The counting of Jacob's family members in Genesis 46:8-27 is organized according to the descendants of his four wives. The list of Leah includes 33 members, the list of Zilpah has 16, the list of Rachel has 14 and the list of Bilhah has 7, totaling 70. The MT number does not include Jacob in the count. The difference in the LXX is that the list of Rachel has 18 names, which brings the total to 74. The number 75 would include Jacob himself. Also, the LXX says that nine souls were born to Joseph, but lists only seven names. The remaining two may have been daughters.
Josephus agrees with the number 70 (Ant. II, 7:4; VI, 5:6), but Philo presents both numbers and attempts to harmonize them with allegorical exegesis (On the Migration of Abraham 36:199ff). Two DSS agree with the LXX on the number seventy-five in Exodus 1:5 (Gilbert 211): DSS 4Q1 Genesis-Exodus and 4Q13 Exodus. The LXX and DSS are several hundred years older than the Masoretic Text whose oldest extant MSS date from the 9th century AD. We should remember that the LXX was produced by Jewish scholars. For the background history of the LXX see Barry Setterfield, The Alexandrian Septuagint History (March 2010). The LXX preserves names in the household of Jacob that the Masoretic scholars chose to omit, probably to highlight the significance of the number 70.
15 And Jacob went down into Egypt and died, he and our fathers,
Sources: Genesis 46:1-7; 49:33; Exodus 1:6.
And: Grk. kai, conj. Jacob: See verse 8 above. went down: Grk. katabainō, aor., to proceed in a direction that is down. into: Grk. eis, prep. Egypt: See verse 9 above. The opening clause accurately alludes to the great difference in elevation between Canaan and Egypt. and: Grk. kai. died: Grk. teleutaō, aor., come to an end, here fig. of death. he: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 2 above. The plural noun is used as a synonym of patriarchs (verse 8 above). After receiving the report that Joseph was alive and the gifts sent by Pharaoh, Jacob set out for Egypt.
Jacob apparently only anticipated a short-term stay because he would see his son and then die (Gen 45:28). However, en route he received a revelation from God that he would settle in Egypt and become a great nation (Gen 46:1-4). Jacob arrived in Egypt at the age of 130 and lived with his family in the land of Goshen 17 years (Gen 47:28). He gave final blessings to his sons (Gen 49:1-28) and died at the age of 147 (Gen 49:33). Jacob's body was embalmed. After Jacob's death and a mourning period of seventy days his body was carried with great ceremony to Canaan and buried in the cave of Machpelah, the family burial plot (Gen 49:29-33; 50:1-12).
Moses reported that Joseph lived to see the third generation of his son Ephraim, died at the age of 110 and was also embalmed (Gen 50:23, 26). Before his death he spoke to his "brothers" (Heb. ach, SH-251, male sibling, kinsman) and reminded them that God would fulfill the promise made to Abraham of their return to Canaan. Moreover he required the "sons of Israel" to swear an oath that they would carry out his request. This request implies that even though he was the youngest son born in Paddan-Aram, Joseph died before his brothers (as affirmed by the Talmud, Sotah 13b) and he may have anticipated fulfillment of God's promise within their lifetimes.
Stephen quotes from Exodus 1:6 to assert that all the patriarchs also died in Egypt. Moses did not see fit to record the ages at which the brothers of Joseph died or even the occasion of their deaths, except for Levi who died at the age of 137 (Ex 6:16). Nevertheless it is reasonable to assume they all lived past 100 years, since Moses, who was born after them, lived to be 120 years. Gill in his commentary on Exodus 1:6 quotes a Jewish writer who give these ages at death for the patriarchs: Benjamin, 111 years; Judah, 119 years; Simeon 120 years; Issachar, 122 years; Asher, 123 years; Reuben, 124 years; Zebulun, 124 years; Gad, 125 years; Dan, 127 years; Naphtali, 133 years; and Levi, 137 years (Gedaliah ibn Yahya ben Joseph, c. 1515–1587, Sefer Shalshelet Hakabala 3:2).
16 and they were taken away into Shechem and were laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a price of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
Sources: Genesis 23:16; 33:19; 50:13; Joshua 24:32.
The first clause is taken from Genesis 50:13. and: Grk. kai, conj. they were taken away: Grk. metatithēmi, aor. pass., 3p-pl., may mean (1) make a change in position, either in the sense of spatial movement or transference of allegiance; or (2) cause to be different. The first meaning is intended here in the sense of movement of an object from one place to another. AMPC says the plural verb refers to the bones of Jacob and Joseph, but the verb surely refers to Joseph and his brothers. Moses removed the bones of Joseph during the exodus to bury him in Canaan according to Joseph's instruction (Ex 13:19). Josephus said, "Now the posterity and sons of these men, after some time, carried their bodies, and buried them at Hebron: but as to the bones of Joseph, they carried them into the land of Canaan afterward, when the Hebrews went out of Egypt" (Ant. II, 8:2).
However, other Jewish tradition affirmed that Moses carried the bones of all the sons of Jacob out of Egypt for burial in Canaan (Sotah 7b; Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael 13:19). into: Grk. eis, prep. Shechem: Grk. Suchem, a transliteration of Heb. Shekem (SH-7927), which is the proper name of a district in the central part of Canaan near Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal (Gen 12:6; 37:12), then the prominent city of that district named for its founder Shechem (Gen 33:18), and also the proper name of a son of Hamor (Gen 33:19). The name Shechem occurs 63 times in the Tanakh, primarily in reference to the location, either the district or the city. The place is noteworthy because its first mention is in connection with Abraham's arrival in the land. At this place God repeated his covenantal promise of seed and Abraham built an altar to ADONAI (Gen 12:6-7).
and: Grk. kai. were laid: Grk. tithēmi, aor. pass., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site, place or put; or (2) arrange for creation of role or status, make or appoint. The first meaning applies here. in: Grk. en, prep. the tomb: Grk. mnēma, a place for depositing the remains of a deceased person held in memory; grave, tomb. The term was applied to a broad range of memorial devices and structures. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. Abraham: See verse 2 above. purchased: Grk. ōneomai, aor. mid., to buy or purchase as a commercial transaction. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. Abraham had purchased land in Hebron for the burial of his wife (Gen 23:8-20), and his family (Gen 25:9; 49:29-32). According to non-biblical Jewish sources the bones of the brothers of Joseph after removal from Egypt were buried in Hebron in the tomb of Abraham (Jubilees 46:9; Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs 2:8; 7:7; 8:9; 11:20; 12:12; and Josephus, Ant. II, 8:2).
Stephen then quotes from Genesis 33:19 (repeated in Joshua 24:32). for a price: Grk. timē may mean (1) a valuing by which the price is fixed; or (2) honor or respect which belongs or is shown to one. The first meaning applies here. of silver: Grk. argurion may mean (1) the precious metal silver; or (2) silver as a medium of exchange. The second meaning applies here. from: Grk. para, prep., with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; or (2) a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of. The first usage applies here.
the sons: pl. of Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (SH-1121, "son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity; (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor; or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of. of Hamor: Grk. Hemmōr, which transliterates Heb. Chamor (SH-2544), a proper name and father of the son named Shechem. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Hamor was the original clan ancestor of the city of Shechem (Jdg 9:28) and he and his son Shechem were killed by Simeon and Levi in an act of revenge for the outrage committed against Dinah (Gen 34:25-26).
in: Grk. en. Shechem: The district in Canaan. Jacob had purchased a plot of ground in the area (Gen 33:18-19) and gave it to Joseph (Gen 48:21-22; John 4:5). There Joseph was buried (Josh 24:32; Sotah 13b). This land became an inheritance for the descendants of Joseph.
Additional Note on the Burial of the Patriarchs
Much controversy has resulted because Rabbi Isaac (2:63) alleged that Stephen committed multiple errors in this verse:
• Jacob was not buried in
Shechem, but in the cave of Machpelah, in Hebron.
• The "fathers" of the several
tribes were not buried in Egypt, Joseph only being buried there, but his remains
Moses carried away with him at the time of the departure of the Israelites from
• Abraham did not buy the cave of
Machpelah of the children of Hamor, the son of Shechem, but of Ephron, the
• The plot of field, situated
near Shechem, was purchased by Jacob, and not by Abraham. The author of the Acts
had but a confused idea of the several purchases made by the patriarchs Abraham
and Jacob, and his statements respecting them must have been from hearsay.
• Shechem was the son, and not
the father of Hamor.
Rabbi Isaac's conclusions were based on reading into the text what isn't there and twisting the words of Stephen to his own purpose. Various solutions have been offered to resolve the conundrum:
1. The text of Stephen's defense sermon is a condensation of what Stephen actually said, and in cases of compressed reporting mistakes can easily occur. (Williams II, 63:3)
2. Stephen's confusion between Abraham's tomb at Hebron (cf. Gen 23:3-20) and the burial plot purchased by Jacob at Shechem is an example of the conflations and inexactitudes of Jewish popular religion, which, it seems, Luke simply recorded from his sources in his attempt to be faithful to what Stephen actually said in his portrayal. (Longenecker)
3. Stephen was a Samaritan and relying on a Samaritan tradition, which says that Abraham was buried in Shechem (Jewish authors Spero and Jervell, cited by Stern 244 but without publication data). Stern concludes that Stephen may have erred under pressure, but at worst his error was an honest mistake. [NOTE: The Samaritan Pentateuch says that Abraham was buried in the cave of Machpelah with his wife Sarah, Gen 25:9.]
4. Stephen was making a comparison between Abraham and Jacob and the verse could be translated, "the tomb which he [Jacob] bought, as Abraham." (Messianic Jewish scholar Jechiel Lichtenstein, Commentary on the New Testament; cited by Williams II, 63:3) Stern often quotes from Lichtenstein, but make no mention of his interpretation in this instance. Gill mentions this option but dismisses it since there is no supporting documentary evidence.
5. Gill believes the best solution is that Stephen combines the separate accounts of both places and purchases; the burial plot bought by Abraham in Hebron, the burial plot bought by Jacob in Shechem, the burial of Jacob in Hebron and the burial of Joseph in Shechem. Conflating passages was a typical method of rabbinical exegesis. Bruce concurs that Stephen combined the two purchases of land in much the same way as he combines the two separate calls of Abraham in verse 2 above and the two separate Torah quotations in verse 7 above (149).
The Preparation for Deliverance, 7:17-22
17 "But as the time of the promise was drawing near, that God had declared to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt
Sources: Genesis 15:13; Exodus 1:7-8.
But: Grk. de, conj. as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. the time: Grk. chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time, or (2) a point or definite moment in time. In the LXX chronos occurs about 100 times and translates seven different Hebrew words, most yōm, "day, days" (DNTT 3:841). The Hebrews did not conceive of time in the abstract, but used yom overwhelmingly in the sense of ordinary measurable time. of the promise: Grk. epangelia, promise, especially associated with God's covenantal promises to Israel. A promise from God is a guaranteed assurance. The "time of the promise" alludes to the promise in Genesis 15:13 that after 400 years the descendants of Abraham would return to Canaan.
was drawing near: Grk. engizō, impf., come or draw near, approach. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. God: See verse 2 above. had declared: Grk. homologeō, aor., to express oneself opening and firmly about a matter; inform, declare, affirm, profess, confess. In the LXX the verb is used once each to translate Heb. yadah, praise, (Job 40:14), nadar, make a vow (Jer 44:25) and shaba, swear (Ezek 16:8) (DNTT 1:344). From a legal standpoint the verb is equivalent to a public statement made under oath. to Abraham: See verse 2 above. the people: Grk. laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically, and often in the apostolic narratives people associated with the God of Israel. In this context "people" refers to the household and descendants of Jacob.
increased: Grk. auxanō, aor., cause to become greater in extent or amount, increase. and: Grk. kai, conj. multiplied: Grk. plēthunō, aor. pass., become more in number; increase, multiply. in: Grk. en, prep. Egypt: See verse 9 above. Jacob had been given the territory of Goshen in the northeastern part of the Nile delta in Lower Egypt for all his household (Gen 45:10; 46:28; 47:1; 50:8). Goshen was considered the best of the land for grazing (Gen 47:6). In the time since the arrival of Jacob in Egypt the families and clans of his twelve sons continue to increase with great numbers until there were many thousands at the time of the exodus (cf. Ex 12:37).
18 until that time another king arose over Egypt who knew not Joseph.
Sources: Exodus 1:8.
Stephen then quotes from Exodus 1:8. until: Grk. achri, adv., a function word signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here of an extension in time; until. that time: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 3 above. The pronoun is used here to qualify a time period. A few versions insert "time" (AMP, AMPC, DLNT, MSG, PNT, TLB). Many versions don't translate the pronoun. Moses does not explain the number of years that elapsed from the death of Jacob or Joseph to the birth of Moses. A considerable time would be required to achieve the population recorded in Exodus 12:37. Since the total time Jacob's family and descendants spent in Egypt until the exodus was 210 years (verse 6 above), and Jacob lived in Goshen 17 years before his death, and the exodus occurred when Moses was 80 (Ex 7:7) then 113 years had elapsed since the death of Jacob.
another: Grk. heteros, adj., a distributive pronoun, used here to distinguish one person from another. The Hebrew text has chadash (SH-2319), "new," which the LXX translates with heteros. The LXX intends a qualitative difference. king: Grk. basileus. See verse 10 above. arose: Grk. anistēmi, aor., to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to the physical motion of transition from a sitting or prone position or simply standing. The verb is used here in an idiomatic sense of a personal elevation in status. In the LXX anistēmi renders Heb. qum (SH-6965), to arise, stand up, or stand. It's noteworthy that its first use in Genesis 4:8 means "arise" in a hostile sense, and the verb no doubt includes that sense here.
over: Grk. epi, prep. Egypt: See verse 9 above. Gill gives the name of the new king as Ramesses Miamun; and one of the treasure cities built for him was given his name, Raamses (Ex 1:11). who: Grk. hos. knew: Grk. oida, plperf., may mean (1) to see with physical eyes; or (2) to perceive or comprehend something. The verb is used for experiential knowledge. In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045), to know, (e.g., Gen 3:5; 4:1), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, primarily by experience but also by learning (DNTT 2:395). The pluperfect tense denotes action in the past that is complete and the results of the action in existence at some point in past time as indicated by the context. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 5 above. The particle completely negates the preceding verb. Joseph: See verse 9 above.
Jewish writers are divided about this king, whether he was a different king from the former; or only so called, because he made new edicts (Rashi on Ex 1:8; Erubin 53:1; Sotah 11:1). The lack of knowledge by the new king of Joseph is certainly a function of time in that they were not contemporaries and personally acquainted. The phrase might also imply that the new king had no knowledge of the time of Joseph and the good that he did for the nation.
Additional Note: Egypt Post-Joseph
A tradition as old Josephus (Against Apion 1:14) states that a Hyksos dynasty was ruling Egypt when Joseph came to the country and rose to power in Pharaoh's court (Archer 184). Josephus translated Hyksos as "shepherd kings." Modern scholarship says the Hyksos was a Semitic people of mixed origin from the Eastern Mediterranean that immigrated and settled in the Nile delta about 1900 BC. By 1730 they were in control of Lower Egypt. Modern scholarship says that the origin of the term "Hyksos" derives from the expression heqa-khaset ("rulers of foreign lands") used in Egyptian texts. About 1580 BC the Hyksos kings were driven out by native Egyptians. The new native Egyptian rulers were unsympathetic with the Semitic people who had come in under the Hyksos rulers (Purkiser 442).
19 Having taken advantage of our people this one mistreated the fathers to cause their infants to be cast out, so that they might not be preserved alive.
Sources: Exodus 1:10-22.
Having taken advantage: Grk. katasophizomai (from kata, "against," and sophizō, skillfully devise), aor. mid. part., act in a subtle manner to gain an advantage. Thayer says that in secular Greek authors the verb means "to circumvent by artifice or fraud, conquer by subtle devices; to outwit, overreach; to deal craftily with." LSJ has "to outwit by sophisms or fallacies." The verb occurs only here in the Besekh and is used in the LXX of Exodus 1:10 to render Heb. chakam (SH-2449; BDB 314), to be wise, to make wise, to deal wisely or shrewdly toward someone. The verb also occurs in the Apocrypha in reference to the king who knew not Joseph: "So the king of Egypt became hostile to them; he took advantage of them and set them to making bricks, and humbled them and made slaves of them" (Judith 5:11 RSV).
of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. people: Grk. genos, people group. See verse 13 above. Some versions translate the noun with "race" (ASV, CSB, ESV, MSG, NASB, NEB, NJB, NRSV, RSV, TLB, WEB), which in my view is inappropriate given its historical association with Darwinian evolution. Darwin's distinction between three supposed races (Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid with different color and genetic characteristics) has had a devastating impact on culture worldwide. There is only one race, the human race, which is genetically descended of "one blood" from Adam (Acts 17:26 NKJV).
The first clause of the verse refers to the narrative of Exodus 1:10-14. The new regime became fearful of the large population of Israelites and argued a foreign power might make them allies against the Egyptian government. So, the king devised a plan to subjugate and use them, rather than to annihilate them. The new king imposed a decree of "national service" to require the Israelites to provide labor for "public works" projects. The government also used the concept of "eminent domain" to require that private lands of the Israelites to only produce for the sake of the government. The government chose supervisors for the Israelites who specialized in cruelty.
Josephus described the transition in power and its consequences for the Hebrews:
"Now it happened that the Egyptians grew delicate and lazy, as to pains-taking, and gave themselves up to other pleasures, and in particular to the love of gain. They also became very ill-affected towards the Hebrews, as touched with envy at their prosperity; for when they saw how the nation of the Israelites flourished, and were become eminent already in plenty of wealth, which they had acquired by their virtue and natural love of labor, they thought their increase was to their own detriment. And having, in length of time, forgotten the benefits they had received from Joseph, particularly the crown being now come into another family, they became very abusive to the Israelites, and contrived many ways of afflicting them; for they enjoined them to cut a great number of channels for the river, and to build walls for their cities and ramparts, that they might restrain the river, and hinder its waters from stagnating, upon its running over its own banks: they set them also to build pyramids, and by all this wore them out; and forced them to learn all sorts of mechanical arts, and to accustom themselves to hard labor." (Ant. II, 9:2)
The rest of the verse summarizes the narrative of Exodus 1:15-22. The Egyptian regime realized that the Israelites were becoming more numerous in spite of the hard labor. So the king took action to forcefully reduce the Israelite population, essentially a holocaust.
this one: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, referring to Pharaoh. See verse 1 above. The pronoun is masculine, so most versions render it as "he." mistreated: Grk. kakoō, aor., to oppress, afflict, harm, abuse or mistreat. the fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 2 above. The plural noun may refer to some of the patriarchs who lived into this period, but primarily it denotes the tribal leaders descended from the patriarchs (cf. Ex 6:14-27). to cause: Grk. poieō, pres. inf., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here, and being an infinitive the verb denotes causing the result of an action. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity.
their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun is in the genitive case and follows the noun it modifies giving it adjectival function, lit. "of them." However, most versions translate the pronoun as nominative case and making it a direct object of the verb poieō, thus "them." Such a translation misstates what Stephen said. infants: pl. of Grk. brephos may refer to unborn offspring and be translated as 'fetus' or 'baby' or to a newborn or very young child and rendered as 'infant' or 'baby.' The second meaning applies here. to be cast out: Grk. ekthetos, adj. (from the verb ektithēmi, "abandon, expose"), cast out, exposed (to the elements), put or placed outside, or abandoned.
Most versions, in my view, completely mistranslate this clause: e.g., "making them expose their babies" (NKJV) or "forcing them to throw out their newborn babies" (NIV), or "forced our ancestors to abandon their infants" (NRSV). These translations not only misstate what Stephen said, but misrepresent the Exodus narrative upon which Stephen relies. A few versions offer a more accurate rendering of the Greek grammar:
Darby: "He dealt subtilly with our race, and evil entreated the fathers, casting out their infants that they might not live."
DLNT: "This one, having dealt-shrewdly-with our nation, mistreated our fathers, so that he caused their babies to be exposed that they might not be kept-alive."
LITV: "Dealing slyly with our race, this one oppressed our fathers, causing their infants to be exposed so as not to be kept alive."
YLT: "this one, having dealt subtilely with our kindred, did evil to our fathers, causing to expose their babes, that they might not live."
Pharaoh DID NOT force Israelite parents to abandon their children. He first tried to get the midwives to kill the male babies. But, they feared God more than Pharaoh. When questioned about the matter the midwives offered a rationalization that could have been a bald-faced lie or perhaps a lie wrapped in truth. They said the Hebrew women were "vigorous" in delivering babies (1:19). The Talmud interprets the adjective "vigorous" to mean "like animals" (Sotah 11b). In other words, Hebrew women gave birth quickly like animals in the wild. The Targum interprets the adjective to mean that the mothers were "as skillful as midwives," a view favored by Rashi. In any event, God rewarded the midwives and blessed their faithfulness to life by giving them households of their own.
When Pharaoh couldn't gain the cooperation of the Hebrew midwives he decided to issue an executive order: "every son that is born you shall cast into the Nile and every daughter you will let live" (Ex 1:22 BR). The verb "cast" is Heb. shalak (SH-7993, throw, fling, or cast), which the LXX translates with Grk. rhipteō, (SG-4495) with the same meaning. By casting the baby into the Nile death could result from either drowning or being eaten by crocodiles. The decree was directed to "all his people," which meant his government officers at the least or possibly all Egyptians, essentially granting license to murder Israelite babies. Pharaoh did not consider the Israelites "his people." They were enemies to be oppressed.
so that: Grk. eis, prep., used here to signify the end by which a thing is completed, i.e. the result or effect. they might not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). be preserved alive: Grk. zōogoneō, pres. pass. inf., preserve alive, save. The infinitive is plural and is used to express result. This verb translates Heb. chayah (SH-2421), to live, in Exodus 1:17, which describes the midwives preserving the lives of the newborn male babies. God insured that the goal of Pharaoh was not achieved.
20 In that time Moses was born; and he was beautiful to God; who was nurtured three months in the house of the father,
Sources: Exodus 2:1-2; cf. Hebrews 11:23; Philo On the Life of Moses I
In: Grk. en, prep. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. time: Grk. kairos may refer to (1) an appropriate or set temporal segment of time; or (2) a period, definite or approximate, in which an event tales place; time, period. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX kairos translates five different Hebrew words, primarily Heb. eth (SH-6256), 'time,' of an event or an appointed time (first in Gen 18:10) (DNTT 3:835). The breadth of usage in the LXX indicates the versatility of the word. Considering the prophecy given to Abraham of 400 years (Gen 15:13), the "time" may be intended as a reference to God's sovereign predestination (cf. Gal 4:4).
Moses: Grk. Mōusēs, transliterates Heb. Mosheh, born about 1525 BC. which is most likely derived from Egyptian mes meaning "child" or "son" (BDB 602), since the daughter of Pharaoh named him (Ex 2:10). She explained the chosen name by saying, "Because I drew [Heb. mashah, "to draw"] him out of the water." was born: Grk. gennaō, aor. pass., to father, beget or procreate. In the LXX gennaō is used chiefly for Heb. yalad (SH-3205), to bear, bring forth, to beget, to father (first use in Gen 4:18), which can refer to either the male or female role in conception and birth (DNTT 1:176). The passive voice of the verb is probably intended to convey the female role in giving birth. Stephen then quotes from Exodus 2:2.
and: Grk. kai, conj. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 2 above. beautiful: Grk. asteios, adj., elegant, pretty, fair, fine, beautiful, handsome. The adjective occurs only twice in the Besekh, the other in reference to Moses (Heb 11:23). In the LXX passage asteios renders Heb. tôv (SH-2896; BDB 397), pleasant, agreeable or good. One rabbinic sage concluded on the basis of this verse that the Hebrew name of Moses was Tobiah, derived from tôv (Sotah 12a). to God: See verse 2 above. Stephen asserts that the accolade was not just a mother's opinion. The intent of this claim is probably to emphasize that Moses met the later standard for a priest to be physically perfect to offer sacrifices (Lev 21:16-23).
who: Grk. hos. was nurtured: Grk. anatrephō, aor. pass., provide nurture; bring up, rear. Thayer adds, "to nurse up, to nourish up." The verb probably alludes to being nursed and cared for as a mother would do for a newborn baby. three: Grk. treis, adj., the numeral three. months: pl. of Grk. mēn, a lunar month. in: Grk. en. the house: Grk. oikos. See verse 10 above. of the father: Grk. patēr. See verse 2 above. The father of Moses was Amram (Heb. Amram, SH-6019, "exalted people"), the son of Kohath, and grandson of Levi (Ex 6:18). He was the head of the Levitical family, the Amramites (Num 3:27; 1Chr 26:23). Amram lived to the age of 137 years (Ex 6:20) and died before the Israelites left Egypt.
Additional Note: The Parents of Moses
The mother of Moses was Jochebed (Heb. Yokebed, SH-3115, "Yah is glory"). She was born in Egypt sometime after the arrival of Jacob's family (Num 26:59). Her name occurs only these two times in Scripture. According to the Hebrew text of Exodus 6:20 says Jochebed was a "father's sister" (Heb. dodah, SH-1733), i.e., the sister of Kohath, the father of Amram, making her the aunt of Moses. Other cultures at the time of Moses permitted similar unions between close relatives. However, this marriage relationship was not banned until the laws were given at Sinai (Lev 18:12), so Amram marrying his aunt at this time was not sinful. Indeed, prior to the commandments given at Sinai there were no restrictions on marriage for God's people.
Scripture does not give the ages of Amram and Jochebed at their marriage. If Jochebed was older than Amram, which might be expected being his aunt, there would not have to be many years separating the two. The Israelites practiced polygamy and Levi in his elder years could have taken a young wife or concubine who bore Jochebed. While Amram was the grandson of Levi, their lengthy years (137 and 133 respectively) would have overlapped to a great degree. However, there is evidence to suggest that Jochebed was not the aunt of Moses, although she would have been a relative by virtue of being born in the same tribe.
The LXX of Exodus 6:20 says, "And Amram took to wife Jochebed the daughter of the brother of his father." The LXX treats the Hebrew word dodah as a genitive case rather than nominative case, meaning "of his father's sister." Kohath had two brothers, Gershon and Merari, but the names of their wives are not given (Ex 6:16). Thus, the LXX makes Jochebed a cousin of Amram. Numbers 26:59 says Jochebed was a "daughter" of Levi, but both the Hebrew and Greek words for "daughter" can mean any female descendent, however far removed. The Jerusalem Targum commenting on Exodus 2:1 says, "And there went a man of the tribe of Levi and took Jokeved, who was beloved of him (or, who was related to him) to wife." Targum Onkelos says simply, "And a man of the house of Levi went and took a daughter of Levi (to wife)."
Jochebed and Amram had three children: Miriam, Aaron and Moses (Num 26:59). Aaron was three years older than Moses (Ex 7:7). According to Jewish tradition Miriam was the sister who watched over Moses (Ex 2:4), thus making her the firstborn of Amram and Jochebed (Targum of Jonathan; Ginzberg 4:6). The birth of Aaron occurred three years before the decree of Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew infants.
Philo (20 BC-50 AD), the Jewish philosopher in Alexandria, said this of the parents of Moses: "And his father and mother were among the most excellent persons of their time, and though they were of the same time, still they were induced to unite themselves together more from an unanimity of feeling than because they were related in blood" (On the Life of Moses I, 2:7).
Josephus describes Amram as "one of the nobler sort of the Hebrews" who bore a burden for the condition of his people and spent time in intercessory prayer for the nation's deliverance. According to the story God came to Amram in a dream and exhorted him not to despair, for his wife who was at first barren would be enabled to conceive just as God did for Sarah and Rebekah. His wife would given him a son who would deliver the nation from destruction. Moreover, "his memory shall be famous while the world lasts; and this not only among the Hebrews, but foreigners also, … he shall also have such a brother, that he shall himself obtain my priesthood, and his posterity shall have it after him to the end of the world" (Ant. II, 9:3).
The Talmud says one particular rabbinic sage taught that upon the decree of Pharaoh for male Hebrew babies to be killed Amram and all the Israelite men divorced their wives. Jochebed criticized this action as short-sighted and persuaded her husband to take her back and the other Israelite husbands followed suit (Sotah 12a). This sage goes on to say that Jochebed was conceived on the journey to Egypt and then remarried Amram at the age of 130. Another Jewish Sage said that Amram was known for his piety and he was one of the four who were "immaculate, untainted by sin." Jochebed and Amram were born the same day and they were first married at the age of 126. She was also one of the heroic midwives (Ginzberg 4:6).
Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD) has the same story of Amram divorcing Jochebed and then remarrying her, which is not found in earlier Targums. The remarriage took place when Jochebed was 130 years old and her body was miraculously returned to that of a youth when she was called the daughter of Levi. And she conceived a son and delivered him prematurely at six months so the three months of nurture totaled nine months. The earlier Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) does not repeat the legend but says simply, "And a man of the house of Levi went and took a daughter of Levi (to wife). And the woman conceived, and bare a son; and she saw that he was good, and concealed him three months."
21 and he having been set outside, the daughter of Pharaoh claimed him and nurtured him herself as a son.
Sources: Exodus 2:1-10.
and: Grk. de, conj. he: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. having been set outside: Grk. ektithēmi, (from ek, "out of, outside," and tithēmi, "put or set"), aor. pass. part., to set outside, with focus on a public aspect. Some versions translate the verb as "exposed" (ESV, NAB, NEB, NJB, OJB, RSV), but this might imply being left naked and exposed to the elements. The use in other versions of "cast out" (ASV, BRG, KJV, MW), "put out" (CJB, TEV), "thrown out" (HNV, WEB) and "abandoned" (GW, NLT, NRSV, TLB), also give the wrong impression. The early English versions also used "cast out" or "exposed." These Bible translations might give the impression that Jochebed was a cruel and abusive mother. Marshall inexplicably interprets this verse to mean Pharaoh had decreed that the Hebrew babies be exposed (148), when he had actually decreed that midwives kill the babies immediately after birth (Ex 1:16).
The best translation is "set" or "placed outside" (CSB, NASB, NIV, NKJV, TLV). Jochebed attempted to hide her son from the Egyptian Gestapo by putting him into box or basket made of papyrus ("ark" in some versions), which was covered over with tar and pitch (Ex 2:3). Then she set the basket with her son among the reeds by the bank of the nearby river, a tributary stream of the Nile. Contrary to the interpretation of AMP that the baby was exposed to die as an alternative to murder by Egyptian authorities, the parents were simply trying to keep their son safe and entrusting him to the providence of God. If Jochebed wanted to kill her son she could have just thrown him into the river without the protective basket. Miriam stayed nearby to watch over him.
the daughter: Grk. thugatēr, a female offspring, daughter, or a female descendant. of Pharaoh: See verse 10 above. Her name, according to Josephus, was "Thermuthis" (Ant. II, 9:5-7) and in the Talmud she is called "Bithya" (Megillah 13a). According to Philo, this princess was the king's only daughter, who had been a long time married, but had had no children (On the Life of Moses I, 4:13). claimed: Grk. anaireō, aor., to take up, but it has three very different applications: (1) to take up for oneself, to claim; (2) to remove by causing death, kill; or (3) put something aside, abrogate, annul. The first application is intended here. Many versions have "adopted," but a few versions have "rescued" (AMP, AMPC, MRINT, MSG), which stresses the initiation of the action.
him: Grk. autos. Jewish tradition says that she was desirous of a son who could succeed her father to prevent his prosperity and authority passing to another family. The Jewish midrash on Exodus has this interesting account:
"When Pharaoh's daughter indicated to her maidens, who accompanied her to the river, her intention of saving the weeping child (Moses), her maidens expressed their disapproval, arguing that it would be bad enough for any of the king's subjects to disregard his decree, but in the king's own daughter such a want of loyalty would be highly reprehensible. Their arguments--lest they should have the effect desired by them--were cut short by the angel Gabriel, who struck them all down except one, so that the dignity of the princess should not be outraged by not having even one maid to attend on her. Hence, at the opening of the narrative we find maidens attending her, but when she rescued the child she sent her maiden, not maidens. (Exodus Rabba).
and: Grk. kai, conj. nurtured: Grk. anatrephō, aor. See the previous verse. him: Grk. autos. herself: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same. as: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." a son: Grk. huios. See verse 16 above. The narrative affirms that the daughter of Pharaoh took personal responsibility for the raising of Moses. According to Josephus (Ant. II, 9:5), and some other Jewish writers (Rashi; Sotah 12b), when the child was taken out of the basket and offered the breast by several Egyptian women, he refused to suck of any of them. So Miriam being present, suggested that a Hebrew woman might be sent for, which was the very mother of Moses (Ex 2:8).
22 And Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; moreover he was mighty in his words and deeds.
Sources: Philo, On the Life of Moses I.
And: Grk. kai, conj. Moses: See verse 20 above. was educated: Grk. paideuō, aor. pass., exercise instructive discipline; discipline, educate, instruct or train. In Scripture paideuō can refer to a range of behaviors from instruction, to guidance, to corrective discipline, to punitive measures. in all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 10 above. the wisdom: Grk. sophia. See verse 10 above. of the Egyptians: pl. of Aiguptios, adj., native inhabitant of Egypt. This description of the education of Moses is not found in the Exodus narrative. However, Philo says that Moses learned arithmetic, geometry, and every branch of music, the hieroglyphics, the Assyrian language, and the Chaldean knowledge of the heavens, and the mathematics (On the Life of Moses I, 5:23).
Josephus says, "Now Moses's understanding became superior to his age, nay, far beyond that standard; and when he was taught, he discovered greater quickness of apprehension than was usual at his age" (Ant. II, 9:6). An Alexandrian Jewish writer, Artabanus (3rd or 2nd. c. BC), in his work Concerning the Jews, says that the Egyptians owed all their civilization to Moses; he identifies him with the Museus of the Greeks and with the Egyptian Hermes. An earlier Hellenistic Jew, Eupolemus (author of On the Kings in Judaea, quoted by the church father Eusebius) describes Moses as the inventor of alphabetic writing (Bruce 150). Compared to these accolades the comment of Stephen is pure understatement.
moreover: Grk. de, conj. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 2 above. mighty: Grk. dunatos, adj., may mean (1) having power, competence or ability, able, powerful; or (2) capable of being realized, possible, realizable. The first meaning applies here. in: Grk. en, prep. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. words: pl. of Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos primarily renders Heb. dabar (SH-1697; BDB 182), which has a similar range of meaning, whether words of men or of God (DNTT 3:1087). This compliment seems to contradict Moses' later self-description of not being eloquent (Ex 4:10). However, Moses was quite skilled in speech as the later narratives of the Torah reveal, so his self-effacing comment might have been evidence of humility or just an excuse to avoid the mission he was given.
and: Grk. kai. deeds: pl. of Grk. ergon generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed, whether of men or God. Josephus relates an expedition of Moses against the Ethiopians, while he was in Pharaoh's court, in which he obtained victory over them, when the Egyptians had been greatly oppressed by them; in which his prudence and fortitude were highly commended (Ant. II, 10:1-2). One of the Emmaus disciples paid Yeshua the same compliment (Luke 24:19).
The Failed Deliverance, 7:23-29
23 "Now when a period of forty years was being fulfilled to him, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the sons of Israel.
Sources: Exodus 2:11.
Now: Grk. de, conj. when: Grk. hōs, a temporal adverb. a period: Grk. chronos. See verse 17 above. of forty years: Grk. tessarakontaetēs, adj., forty years, here in reference to age. was being fulfilled: Grk. plēroō, impf. pass., may mean (1) cause to abound in content to a maximum, fill; or (2) to bring to fruition or completion, complete, fulfill, fill up, carry out. The second meaning has application here. The practical meaning is that the action of Moses occurred in his fortieth year. In Hebrew culture the expression of someone's age was not based on the modern cultural practice of counting a "birthday" on the anniversary of the date of birth. For example, when a baby was one year old from birth, he was entering his second year. So the verb "being fulfilled" indicates that Moses had passed his 39th birthday, but had not yet reached his 40th birthday.
to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. it came: Grk. anabainō, aor., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. The verb is used in an Hebraic sense of an awareness or idea arising within a person. into: Grk. eis, prep. his: Grk. autos. heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used fig. of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia renders Heb. lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (DNTT 2:181). to visit: Grk. episkeptomai, aor. mid. inf., pay attention to with the intent to be helpful; visit or go see. In the LXX the verb renders Heb. paqad (SH-6485), to attend to, or to visit, especially in order to determine one's well-being or offer practical help (e.g., Gen 21:1; 1Sam 17:18; Ps 8:4). The grammar implies that the desire to conduct this visit had not previously occurred to Moses, but now in his fortieth year, the idea spring into his mind.
his: Grk. autos. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 2 above. The noun is used here in the sense of kinsmen. The noun also implies that Moses was aware of his adoption by the Egyptians princess and that he had a Hebrew mother. the sons: pl. of Grk. huios. See verse 16 above. The plural noun refers to the male descendants, although many versions translate the noun with the neutral "children" or "people." of Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The name here refers to Jacob whose name was changed by divine decree to Israel (Gen 32:28; 35:9). Some versions translate the noun as "Israelites," which is not the noun used here. The Greek word for "Israelite" is Israēlitēs (John 1:47; Acts 2:22; 5:35; Rom 9:4).
The life of Moses can be easily divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt, the second his years in Midian, and the third the wilderness period after the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Paul recounts that Moses determined to no longer be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter (Heb 11:24), which apparently took place in his fortieth year. He chose to embrace his heritage and seek the life God had intended for him.
24 And having seen someone being wronged, he defended him and acted in retaliation for the one being mistreated, having struck down the Egyptian.
Sources: Exodus 2:12.
Stephen omits the last phrase of Exodus 2:11, "and looked on their hard labors." And: Grk. kai, conj. having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. part. See verse 2 above. someone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun to indicate non-specification; some one, any one, a certain one. One Jewish writer (Aben Ezra) interpreted the reference to mean someone of the tribe of Levi and another Jewish writer (Pirke Eliezer) was more particular saying the "someone" was of the clan of Kohath to whom Moses belonged (cited by Gill). being wronged: Grk. adikeō, pres. pass. part., doing wrong or doing harm to others as defined by Torah. he defended: Grk. amunō, aor. mid., ward off, engage in assistance, come to aid through aggressive counter-measures. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh.
him and: Grk. kai. acted: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 19 above. in retaliation: Grk. ekdikēsis, satisfaction for wrongdoing with the focus being on (1) carrying out of justice, righting of wrong; (2) exaction of penalty or punishment or (3) as retaliation, vengeance. Danker applies the first usage here, but the third is more likely. for the one: Grk. ho, definite article. being mistreated: Grk. kataponeō, pres. pass. part., inflict misery on someone, maltreat. having struck down: Grk. patassō, aor. part., to hit with a sharp blow; strike, strike down with deadly force. the Egyptian: Grk. Aiguptios, a citizen of Egypt. In the eyes of Moses he was righting a wrong, but the Israelite victim and the Egyptian authorities viewed the situation differently. According to the Exodus narrative Moses killed the Egyptian and then hid his body. This "cover-up" made his spontaneous act of retaliation look like premeditated murder.
25 Moreover he was supposing the brothers to understand that God was giving them deliverance by his hand, but they did not understand.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. he was supposing: Grk. nomizō, impf., to determine on the basis of ordinary reasoning, to conclude or to suppose. the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 2 above. to understand: Grk. suniēmi, pres. inf., to grasp the significance of a word or action; understand, comprehend. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 6 above. God: See verse 2 above. was giving: Grk. didōmi, pres. See verse 5 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. deliverance: Grk. sōtēria means rescue, deliverance or salvation from physical harm, but often from God's wrath (Rom 5:9; 1Cor 5:5). In the LXX sōtēria translates six different Hebrew formations derived from the root verb yasha, to deliver (DNTT 3:206). In context the deliverance was from Egyptian oppression.
by: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. his: Grk. autos. hand: Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand, but used here in the figurative sense of authority. but: Grk. de. they did not: Grk. ou, adv. understand: Grk. suniēmi, aor., 3p-pl. Stephen offers an interpretation of the rationale of Moses not found in the Exodus narrative. Jewish tradition claimed that God had revealed to the parents of Moses that their son would deliver their nation from Egyptian oppression. It would have been only natural that the mother of Moses would pass this information to him. Moses may have assumed that he would be able to work within the system to bring about reforms that would benefit his people.
26 Also the following day he appeared to those quarreling and sought to reconcile them into peace, having said, 'Men, you are brothers, so that why wrong one other?'
Sources: Exodus 2:13.
Also: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; also, both. the following: Grk. epiousa, pres. part., being next, following. The verb occurs five times in the Besekh, all in Acts. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 8 above. he appeared: Grk. horaō, aor. pass. See verse 2 above. to those: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. quarreling: Grk. machomai, pres. mid. part., to fight, in the sense of engaging in quarreling or heated disputation. The Hebrew text (Ex 2:13) gives the impression of a physical altercation. Targum Jonathan and Rashi said the two Hebrew adversaries were Dathan and Abiram, later known for their opposition to Moses in the rebellion of Korah (Num 16:1, 12, 23-33).
and: Grk. kai, conj. sought to reconcile: Grk. sunallassō (from sūn, "with," and allassō, change, alter"), impf., overcome the disruption of a relationship; reconcile. Mounce defines the verb as "to negotiate or bargain with someone." The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. them: pl. of Grk. autos. toward: Grk. eis, prep. peace: Grk. eirēnē (i-ray'-nay), peace, which may be in reference to (1) a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostilities, whether in political or personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being, sometimes used Hebraically as a greeting or as characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor. In the LXX eirēnē renders Heb. shalom (SH-7965), which can mean completeness, safety, soundness, welfare, or peace. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 1 above.
Men: pl. of Grk. anēr, voc. case. See verse 2 above. The direct address stresses both the gender and age of the antagonists. you are: Grk. eimi, pres., 2p-pl. See verse 2 above. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 2 above. Moses likely meant that the antagonists were siblings. so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. wrong: Grk. adikeō, pres. See verse 24 above. one other: Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun, each other, one another. Moses attempted to be a peacemaker by intervening without invitation.
The rhetorical question seems to imply that "Israelites ought to act better than Egyptians." (How much more should peace exist between followers of Yeshua?) Rightly did Solomon offer the proverbial saying, "Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him" (Prov 26:17 NASB).
27 But the one wronging the neighbor shoved him, having said, 'Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us?
Sources: Exodus 2:14.
But: Grk. de, conj. the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. wronging: Grk. adikeō, pres. part. See verse 24 above. the neighbor: Grk. plēsion, indicating nearness whether in proximity or circumstance, generally rendered as "neighbor." Plēsion is used in the LXX to render Heb. reya (SH-7453), which means friend, companion, or fellow, including a fellow citizen (BDB 945f). The use of "neighbor" does not negate the adversaries being siblings, but the phrase "wronging the neighbor" hints at the Torah expectation of treating others in the community in a just manner. shoved: Grk. apōtheō, aor. mid., may mean (1) to push or thrust away, repel from one’s self, often with the connotation of force; or (2) cast off, discard, refuse or reject. The first meaning applies here.
him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, referring to Moses. The one who was confronted by Moses reacted to his invading personal space. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See the previous verse. appointed: Grk. kathistēmi (from kata, "down," and histēmi, "stand"), aor., to put into a position of responsibility, to appoint. HELPS defines the verb as "set down in place, i.e. "put in charge," give standing (authority or status) which enables someone to rule or exercise decisive force. you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. a ruler: Grk. archōn, one who has eminence in a ruling capacity or one who has administrative authority. In the LXX archōn translates Heb rôsh (SH-7218), head, leader (Jdg 10:18), and also Heb. sar (SH-8269), prince, ruler (Gen 12:15) (DNTT 1:165).
and: Grk. kai, conj. a judge: Grk. dikastēs, one who holds a judicial position; judge. The noun occurs only in this chapter of the Besekh. In the LXX dikastēs renders Heb. shaphat (SH-8199), law-giver, judge or magistrate (Ex 2:14; Josh 8:33). over: Grk. epi, prep. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The retort of the quarrelsome man was reasonable and equivalent to "who do you think you are?' There is also an implied contempt for Moses who had been living the good life in luxury and prominence in Egyptian society. He had never before concerned himself with the antisemitic subjugation of his kinsmen.
29 And at this statement Moses fled and became a sojourner in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons.
Sources: Exodus 2:15-22; 18:3.
And: Grk. de, conj. at: Grk. en, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. statement: Grk. logos. See verse 22 above. Moses: See verse 20 above. fled: Grk. pheugō, aor., to make a decisive movement away to avoid a hazard, to flee or to escape. and: Grk. kai, conj. became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 13 above. a sojourner: Grk. paroikos, adj., someone living close to others as a temporary dweller, i.e. in a specific locale as a non-citizen with limited rights; alien, foreigner, sojourner, or stranger. in: Grk. en. the land: Grk. gē. See verse 3 above. The term is used here for a particular geographical region. of Midian: Grk. Madiam. The name of the region was derived from the son of Abraham named Midian (Gen 25:2). The name appears only here in the Besekh.
The Tanakh mentions the Midianites in widely scattered geographical locations, but their main homeland was bounded on the north by Edom, on the east by Arabia, on the south by the Red Sea and on the west by the Gulf of Aqaba (Atlas 59). The relative position of the borders between these locations is not known with any certainty. Moses found hospitality with a man named Reuel after helping his daughters water their flocks of sheep. After some period of time Reuel gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses as a wife. where: Grk. hou, adv. of place, where. he fathered: Grk. gennaō, aor. See verse 8 above. two: Grk. duo, adj., the numeral two. sons: pl. of Grk. huios. See verse 16 above. The two sons born of Zipporah were Gershom and Eliezer (Ex 2:22; 18:3-4).
Additional Note: Father-in-law of Moses
In Exodus 2:18-21 the name of the father-in-law of Moses is given as Reuel, whereas in Exodus 3:1 the name is given as Jethro. Reuel (SH-7467, "friend of God") and Jethro (Yithro, SH-3503) might refer to the same man. However, in Numbers 10:29 the name of Moses' father-in-law is given as Hobab, who is also identified as the son of Reuel. Thus, Reuel was the grandfather of Zipporah and head of the clan when Moses first met him. Of particular interest is that Jethro is identified as the priest of Midian (Ex 3:1), no doubt a role he assumed upon the death of his father.
The Miracle Deliverance, 7:30-36
30 "And forty years having been fulfilled, an angel in a flame of fire of a bush appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai.
Sources: Exodus 3:1-2, 12; Philo, On the Life of Moses I.
And: Grk. kai, conj. forty: Grk. tessarakonta, the numeral "40." years: pl. of Grk. etos. See verse 6 above. having been fulfilled: Grk. plēroō, aor. pass. part. See verse 23 above. The verb indicates not just the passage of time, but the completion of a component of God's sovereign plan. an angel: Grk. angelos means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The term is used here to mean a heavenly messenger. See my web article The Host of Heaven. Stern notes that according to Jubilees 1:27, 29; 2:1, "the angel of the Presence" talked with Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses identified this person as Malak-ADONAI (Ex 3:2), who appears several times to select individuals in a manner that suggests a pre-incarnate appearance of the eternal Word who became flesh in Yeshua the Messiah.
in: Grk. en, prep. a flame: Grk. phlox, a flame, from phlegō, to burn or be aflame. of fire: Grk. pur, fire, as a physical state of burning. of a bush: Grk. batos, a thorn bush or bramble. appeared: Grk. horaō, aor. pass. See verse 2 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. in: Grk. en. the wilderness: Grk. erēmos, adj., may mean (1) unpopulated, lonely; (2) deserted; or (3) desolate as a state of loneliness. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX erēmos often renders Heb. midbar (SH-4057), which refers to tracts of land used for pasturage or uninhabited land (BDB 484), first in Genesis 14:6. The translation of "desert" in a number of versions is misleading, if not inaccurate, because the territory had sufficient vegetation to sustain the flocks of Jethro that Moses shepherded (Ex 3:1).
of Mount: Grk. oros means "mountain," "hill," or "hill-country." The corresponding Heb. word, har (SH-2022), is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation. Contrary to the arbitrary standard of modern science, the Hebrew and Greek words were used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height.
Sinai: Grk. Sina (for Heb. Sinay, SH-5514), a mountain probably located in the extreme southern part of the Sinai Peninsula. In Exodus 3:1 the mountain of God is referred to as Horeb, and the identity of Horeb and Sinai is implied by a comparison of Exodus 19:11-13 and Deuteronomy 1:6 (Bruce 151). Moses was directed to bring the Israelites to this mountain. We should not assume that the present topography of the Sinai Peninsula was the same in the 15th century BC. The assumption by some scholars that Mount Sinai was located in Midian is not supported by the narrative of the Israelite travels after leaving Goshen.
31 And Moses having seen, marveled at the vision, and himself coming near to behold, there came the voice of ADONAI:
Sources: Exodus 3:2-3.
And: Grk. de, conj. Moses: See verse 20 above. having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. pass. See verse 2 above. marveled at: Grk. thaumazō, impf., be extraordinarily impressed; to wonder, be amazed, astonished, impressed, surprised. the vision: Grk. horama, something that is seen by virtue of a transcendent or revelatory experience; vision. The "burning bush" is called a vision because the bush was not consumed by the fire. and: Grk. de. himself: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. coming near: Grk. proserchomai, pres. mid. part., to approach from a point to a person or place; come, go to, approach. to behold: Grk. katanoeō, aor. inf., to pay close attention to, to take a close look at. Moses was naturally curious about such an extraordinary and impossible sight.
there came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 13 above. the voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language (1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). The second meaning applies here. In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113). In this instance the voice was not that of a man.
of ADONAI: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times to translate Heb. words for God, and in the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), it renders the sacred name YHVH as it does in the passage Stephen quoted (DNTT 2:511). While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). Christian versions have "LORD," but kurios and "LORD" do not actually translate YHVH. In the Tanakh YHVH, who is the Divine Logos (John 1:1), is the One who speaks for Elohim, the name of the triune Creator. Yeshua is YHVH (John 8:58).
For more information on the history and usage of YHVH see my article The Blessed Name.
32 'I am the God of your fathers, God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.' And Moses having become terrified dared not to look.
Sources: Exodus 3:6.
I am: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. Consistent with the Hebrew text there is no verb, but it is implied. the God: Grk. theos (for Heb. Elohim). See verse 2 above. of your: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. The pronoun refers to the entirety of the Sanhedrin. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 2 above. The plural noun is used as a synonym of patriarchs. God of Abraham: See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. of Isaac: See verse 8 above. The Hebrew text has "God of Isaac." and: Grk. kai. of Jacob: See verse 8 above. The Hebrew text has "God of Jacob." The messenger did not say, "I am an angel and I represent God." No this messenger identifies himself as God, the very covenant-keeping God whom the ancestors of Moses followed and worshipped. This was not an ordinary angelic visitation.
And: Grk. de, conj. Moses: See verse 20 above. having become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 13 above. terrified: Grk. entromos, adj., in quivering condition or trembling with fear; atremble, trembling, terrified. Hearing a voice coming out of the bush scared him. dared: Grk. tolmaō, impf., act with apparent abandonment or audacity, dare. The verb alludes to the Jewish idiom of chutzpah. not: Grk. ou, adv. to look: Grk. katanoeō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. The divine voice halted Moses in his tracks and left him fearful. The fear may have been akin to the experience of Isaiah upon seeing the seraphim (Isa 6:5). Indeed, the Exodus narrative says that Moses hid his face. Gill suggests that he wrapped his face in his mantle or cloak, as Elijah did (1Kg 19:13).
33 Moreover ADONAI said to him, 'Untie the sandals of your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.
Sources: Exodus 3:5.
In the Hebrew narrative this warning actually precedes God's statement of identity. Moreover: Grk. de, conj. ADONAI: See verse 31 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Untie: Grk. luō, aor. imp., has a range of meaning from (1) loose or untie bonds; (2) set free, loose, untie a person, animal or object; (3) break up into its component parts, destroy, tear down; or (4) destroy, bring to an end, abolish, do away with; repeal, annul or abolish (BAG). The second meaning applies here. In the LXX luō is used to translate seven different Heb. verbs with various nuances of the Greek meanings (DNTT 3:177). Most versions translate the verb as "take off" or "remove" to indicate the result of untying.
the sandals: Grk. hupodēma, anything bound under, a sandal (Mounce). The singular noun does not imply that Moses wore only one sandal, but the kind of shoe he wore. The shoe was considered the humblest article of clothing and could be bought cheaply. Two types of shoes existed: slippers of soft leather and the more popular sandals with a hard leather sole. The Hebrew noun is also singular, but it has a dual ending (Owens 1:245), which indicates a pair or two of something (Ross 71). of your: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. feet: pl. of Grk. pous. See verse 5 above. The command to remove the sandals may have been because being made of the hide of a dead animal, they were considered unclean. Rabbinic regulations required anyone entering the temple mount to be barefooted (Gill; Berachot 9:1).
for: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. the place: Grk. topos. See verse 7 above. on: Grk. epi, prep. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you stand: Grk. histēmi, perf., may mean (1) cause to be in a place or position; or (2) be in an upright position, used of bodily posture. The second meaning applies here. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity. The term is used of sacred things, places, people, angels and God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadôsh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. ground: Grk. gē. See verse 3 above.
God declared the ground in the vicinity of Mount Sinai where His glory was present to be holy. There may be in Stephen's quotation an implied rebuke of the Sadducean priests who regarded the temple mount as "holy ground" in an almost idolatrous sense (cf. Matt 12:6; 23:16-17; Mark 13:1; John 4:21). N.T. Wright comments, "Wherever God reveals himself as the saviour of his people, bringing about plans which, though they seem new and surprising, are nevertheless the fulfilment of what he had said long ago, that place becomes holy" (114). The idiom of "holy ground" has passed into the popular vernacular of the Body of Messiah, but care should be exercised in its use, so as not to diminish its meaning.
34 Having seen, I saw the oppression of my people in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.'
Sources: Exodus 3:7-8.
Having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. part. See verse 2 above. I saw: Grk. horaō, aor. The redundancy of the verb "to see" makes emphatic the reality of God's personal observation, as well as the impact on Him. Many versions translate the dual verbs with "I have surely seen" or words to that effect. the oppression: Grk. kakōsis, affliction, ill-treatment, oppression, misery. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. of my: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. people: Grk. laos. See verse 17 above. God clearly identifies with Israel and those who would join with Israel. in: Grk. en, prep. Egypt: Grk. Aiguptos. See verse 9 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. have heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 2 above. their: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The singular form has a corporate meaning. groaning: Grk. stenagmos, a groaning or sighing, especially brought on by circumstances creating great pressure (HELPS). The groaning resulted from the bad treatment of taskmasters.
and: Grk. kai. I have come down: Grk. katabainō, aor. See verse 15 above. The omnipresent God is quite capable of making His presence felt in any locale. The same description is used of God's inspection at Babel (Gen 11:5) and Sodom (Gen 18:20). to deliver: Grk. exaireō, aor. mid. inf. See verse 10 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos. God intended to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham. And: Grk. kai. now: Grk. nun, adv. See verse 4 above. come: Grk. deuro, adv. that conveys immediacy and used here as an imperative; come! I will send: Grk. apostellō, aor. See verse 14 above. you: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." Egypt: ADONAI intended to send Moses from the land of Midian back to Egypt to be His agent of deliverance.
35 "This Moses, whom they rejected, having said, 'Who appointed you a ruler and a judge?' him God indeed had sent, ruler and kinsman-redeemer, with the hand of the angel having appeared to him in the bush.
Sources: Exodus 2:14; 3:2, 10-12.
Stern notes that verses 35 through 38 in particular refute the charge that Stephen spoke against Moses (245). This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. Moses: See verse 20 above. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. they rejected: Grk. arneomai, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to give a negative answer; say no, deny, and at worst to disown or repudiate. The plural nature of the verb does not refer to all Israelites, but does give credence to the Jewish tradition that the opposition came from leaders in the tribe of Levi. In the same way Yeshua was rejected by the leaders of Israel, not the people of Israel. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. Who appointed you a ruler and a judge: The question in verse 27 above is repeated verbatim. Stephen treats the question asked by one man (Ex 2:14) as representative of a wider opinion. him: Grk. houtos, masc. God: See verse 2 above.
indeed: Grk. kai. See verse 2 above. The conjunction has an intensive effect here. had sent: Grk. apostellō, perf. See verse 14 above. ruler: Grk. archōn. See verse 27 above. Moses was not sent to be a king, but he did function with authority as an agent and servant of God. In this capacity Moses was at times a high priest, a judge, a legislator and a spiritual shepherd. and: Grk. kai. kinsman-redeemer: Grk. lutrōtēs (from lutroō, to release by paying a ransom), redeemer. LSJ adds "ransomer." Thayer adds "deliverer" and "liberator." HELPS explains that the goal of the verbal action was to restore something back into the possession of its rightful owner, and thus to rescue from the power and possession of an alien possessor. The noun does not occur anywhere in ancient secular literature and only here in the Besekh.
The Jewish translators of LXX apparently coined the term to translate Heb. geullah (SH-1353; BDB 145), redemption, occurring in Lev 25:31-32, where it refers to the right of buying back a field; and to translate the participle of ga'al (SH-1350), act as a kinsman redeemer, which is twice applied to God as a synonym of "Rock" (Ps 19:14; 78:35). Philo used lutrōtēs in The Sacrifice of Abel and Cain in which he says the Levites became the ransom for the rest of the Israelites (XXXVI.118; cf. Num 3:12). He also said a wise man may be a ransom for a worthless one (XXXVII.121), such as a physician exposing himself to the infirmities of an invalid to provide help. He then argued that the lack of ten righteous men in Sodom meant an insufficient ransom to prevent its destruction. This use in the LXX and Philo indicate the noun was in the common vocabulary of Jews.
In describing Moses as a "kinsman-redeemer" Stephen does not imply that he paid Pharaoh anything for the release of the Israelites. Conversely, Pharaoh and his nation did pay dearly for his obstinate refusal to end the bondage of the Israelites. The death of Egyptian firstborn finally secured the release of the Israelites. Ironically, the Israelites would have been subject to the same judgment if they had not smeared lamb's blood on the doorposts of their houses. For them "redemption" meant not only freedom from slavery, but deliverance from death. Bible versions are divided in translating the noun as "deliverer" (CSB, CEB, HNV, KJV, MW, NASB, NIV, NKJV, RSV), "liberator" (NEB, NRSV), "ransomer" (CJB), "redeemer" (ESV, HCSB, MSG, NJB, OJB, TLV), and "savior" (NCV, TLB).
with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. the hand: Grk. cheir. See verse 25 above. The noun is idiomatic here of personal assistance. of the angel: Grk. angelos. See verse 30 above. having appeared: Grk. horaō, aor. part. See verse 2 above. to him: Grk. autos. in: Grk. en, prep. the bush: Grk. batos. See verse 30 above. The experience of the burning bush admitted Moses to a very select group of men to whom ADONAI appeared in a singularly unique manner (Abraham, Jacob, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul and John). Stephen reminds his hearers of the promise of the Malak-ADONAI, "I will be with you" (Ex 3:12). The spiritual lesson Stephen makes is that the one who was rejected became their deliverer. Hint. Hint.
36 This one led them out, having done wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.
Sources: Exodus 7–14; 16:35; Numbers 14:33; Deuteronomy 2:7; 4:34; 29:5; 34:11; Jeremiah 32:20; Philo, On the Life of Moses I, 95-136, 176-180.
This one: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, referring to Moses. led them out: The verb is Grk. exagō, aor., to bring, lead or take out. The exodus occurred about 1450 BC based on the statement that the building of Solomon's temple began 480 years after the Israelites left Egypt (1Kgs 6:1), about 967 BC (Purkiser 117). The Egyptian priest Manetho (3rd c. BC) revised the true history by saying that Pharaoh expelled the Israelites from Egypt (Book II, Fr. 51). having done: Grk. poieō, aor. part. See verse 19 above. wonders: pl. of teras, a phenomenon with astounding effect; marvel, wonder, portent. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the plural and always coupled with "signs." In the LXX teras renders Heb. mopheth (SH-4159), a wonder, sign or portent. The term is used of special displays of God's power, especially the miracles performed through Moses and Aaron in Egypt (Ex 4:21; 11:10).
and: Grk. kai, conj. signs: pl. of Grk. sēmeion, may mean (1) and indirect way, as by a circumstance or deed, of indicating or verifying something at hand or in the future; or (2) something that confirms or validates through display of transcendent power, especially of miracles performed by God, Yeshua or his apostles. In the LXX sēmeion is predominately a translation of the Heb. word oth (SH-226), "sign, pledge, token, standard or miracle," first used in Genesis 1:14 of the stars (DNTT 2:626). "Sign" referred to a visible reminder of God's covenant, such as the rainbow, circumcision and the Sabbath (Gen 9:12f, 17; 17:11; Ex 31:13, 17). Sometimes a sign was a token that would serve as a future warning or reminder, such as Aaron’s rod (Num 17:25) and the stones in the Jordan (Josh 4:6). Most of the usages of "sign" in the Tanakh are related to miraculous wonders that only the Creator could perform, especially the many miracles for the deliverance and protection of Israel.
in: Grk. en, prep. the land: Grk. gē. See verse 3 above. of Egypt: See verse 9 above. Generally ADONAI spoke to Moses and gave instructions of what to say to Pharaoh as a warning of a calamity that would occur. Moses also interceded for ADONAI to remove plagues. Often Aaron or Moses were directed to do something with their staffs that resulted in the sign. The summary description of "wonders and signs" in Egypt apply to twelve miracles:
• Aaron threw down his staff and it changed into a serpent, and then ate the staff-serpents of the magicians (Ex 7:8-12).
• Aaron stretched his staff over the water of rivers, streams and reservoirs, which turned them into blood. The plague lasted seven days (Ex 7:17-25).
• Aaron stretched his staff over sources of water and a plague of frogs occurred (Ex 8:1-6). Moses interceded for the removal of the plague (Ex 8:10-13).
• Aaron stretched his staff and struck the ground to make the dust into a plague of gnats (Ex 8:16-17).
• Moses announced to Pharaoh there would be a plague of flies (Ex 8:20-24) and Moses interceded for the removal of the plague (Ex 8:30-31).
• Moses announced to Pharaoh there would be a plague of a killing pestilence on livestock (Ex 9:1-6).
• Moses took soot from a kiln and threw it toward the sky and a plague of boils resulted (Ex 9:8-10).
• Moses announced to Pharaoh there would be a plague of hail (Ex 9:22-23) and he later interceded for the ending of the plague (Ex 9:30-33).
• Moses announced to Pharaoh there would be a plague of locusts (Ex 10:4) and he then stretched his staff over the land and an East wind brought the locusts (Ex 10:12-13). Moses later interceded for the removal of the plague and a West wind took them away (Ex 10:19).
• Moses stretched his staff toward the sky and a plague of thick darkness resulted, which lasted three days (Ex 10:21-23).
• Moses announced to the Israelites that there would be a plague of death on the Egyptian firstborn and the deliverance of the Israelites from death (Ex 12:23, 29).
• Moses directed the Israelites to ask the Egyptians for articles and gold, and ADONAI motivated the Egyptians to give generously. Thus, it could be said they "plundered the Egyptians" (Ex 11:1-3; 12:35-36).
For all the calamities God protected the land of Goshen and the Israelites did not suffer adverse effects (Ex 8:22; 9:4-7, 26).
and: Grk. kai. in: Grk. en. the Red: Grk. eruthros, adj., red, the color resembling blood. In the LXX eruthros renders Heb. suph (SH-5488), reed or rushes. Suph could also denote the name of a city, which Greek included in the wider name of "Red Sea" (BDB 693). Sea: Grk. thalassa is used of both oceanic bodies of salt water and inland bodies of water, whether salt or fresh. In the English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. In the LXX thalassa renders Heb. yam (SH-3220), "sea," which is used for oceans and seas (Gen 1:10), an inland salt sea (Gen 14:3) and an inland fresh-water lake (Num 34:11). In the creation narrative a single sea was formed on the third day by the waters being gathered in one place (Gen 1:10). The present configuration of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers came about in the aftermath of the global deluge of Noah's time (cf. Job 12:14-15; 14:11-12; 22:15-16; 26:10; 38:8-11; Ps 29:3-10; 65:5-9).
The name "Red Sea" was originally given to the upper end of the major gulf separating Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula (now called the Gulf of Suez), extending into Bitter Lakes, shallow and marshy, where reeds grew in abundance (probably also reddish in color) (BDB 693). In modern times the Red Sea is defined as a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. See a modern map here. Christian versions translate the name in the Tanakh passages as "Red Sea," but the CJB has "Sea of Suf" and TLV has "Sea of Reeds." In the Tanakh the name "Red Sea" is applied most often to the major gulf on the eastern shore of Egypt (Ex 10:19; 13:18; 15:4,22; 23:31; Num 33:10, 11; Deut 11:4; Josh 2:10; 4:23; Neh 9:9; Ps 106:7, 9, 22; 136:13, 15). Sometimes the name is applied to the lesser gulf that separates the Sinai Peninsula from Arabia, now called Gulf of Aqaba (Num 14:25; 21:4; Deut 1:40; 2:1; 1Kgs 9:26; and perhaps Jdg 11:16; Jer 49:21).
These are the wonders and signs related to the Red Sea in which Moses had a part:
• At the direction of ADONAI Moses stretched out his staff over the Red Sea and a strong wind divided the waters into a natural canal with a wall of water on the right and on the left and dried the land of the Sea (Ex 14:21, 29). NOTE: The MT says the agent was an east wind, but both the LXX and Philo (On the Life of Moses I, 176) say it was a south wind. The MT likely changed "south" to read "east" for theological reasons, but a south wind is more logical for creating a canal wall. An east wind could have been used to dry the bottom of the canal.
• At the direction of ADONAI Moses stretched out his staff and the sea water returned to its place, totally destroying the army of Pharaoh that had pursued the Israelites (Ex 14:26-28; 15:4).
and: Grk. kai. in: Grk. en. the wilderness: Grk. erēmos. See verse 30 above. for forty years: See verse 30 above. God unilaterally performed some miracles during the wilderness years, such as insuring that their clothing and shoes did not wear out and their feet did not swell (Deut 8:4; 29:5; Neh 9:21), enabling the donkey of Balaam to speak (Num 22:28) and giving victory to the Israelites in battles with their enemies, the Amalekites (Ex 17:13), the Amorites (Num 21:21-25), the Bashanites (Num 21:33-35) and the Midianites (Num 31:7-8). "Wonders and signs" in the wilderness refers to twelve miracles in which Moses had a part:
• ADONAI inflicted a skin disease on a hand of Moses and then healed the hand (Ex 4:6-7).
• ADONAI showed Moses a tree which he threw into the waters of Marah to remove the bitterness (Ex 15:25).
• Moses announced that ADONAI would provide daily bread from heaven (Ex 16:4, 35).
• Moses announced that ADONAI would provide meat to eat and quails arrived in the camp (Ex 15:12-13).
• Moses struck a rock with his staff to produce water for the people (Ex 17:6).
• Moses held up his staff with the aid of Aaron and Hur to give them victory over the Amalekites (Ex 17:9-13).
• Moses brought tablets inscribed by the finger of God down from Mount Sinai to inform Israel of God's expectations (Ex 31:18; Deut 9:10).
• Moses interceded to end the fire of ADONAI at Taberah (Num 11:1-2).
• Moses interceded to prevent ADONAI from destroying Israel and the prayer was answered (Num 14:11-20).
• Moses directed the people to separate themselves from Korah and his followers and that the ground would open up and swallow the rebels (Num 16:28-33).
• Moses directed that each tribe provide a rod and the rod ADONAI selected would represent the family of who would serve as priests. The rod of Aaron budded denoting the divine choice (Num 17:1-10).
• Moses interceded to remove a plague of snakes and prepared a bronze snake on a staff for the healing of serpent bites (Num 21:6-9).
Stephen stresses that Moses was the leader of the Israelites from Egypt and in all their journey through the wilderness. At Mount Sinai Moses served as God's spokesman to facilitate the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Forty years later on the plains of Moab Moses renewed the covenant with Israel and made preparations for their entry into the promised land.
Additional Note: The Red Sea Crossing
Atheistic archaeologists consider the Red Sea crossing a myth since there are no corroborating Egyptian records. Some Bible scholars diminish the miracle of the Red Sea crossing by locating it in a shallow marshy extension of a lake in northern Egypt. The Exodus narrative of Moses is a reliable historical document, which clearly rebuts this false claim. A map of the traditional crossing may be viewed here and here. However, some Bible maps place Mt. Sinai in Midian and thus depict the Red Sea miracle as crossing the Gulf of Aqaba (see here and here).
The proposed alternate crossing site is not supported by the Exodus narrative. First, the crossing probably occurred not more than a week after departing Goshen (cf. Ex 12:2-3, 41, 51; 13:4, 6-7, 17-22; 14:1-9, 13, 27, 30; 15:22). The main body of Israelites included at least 600,000 men besides women and children (Ex 12:37; Num 1:45-46; 11:21) and their livestock, all fleeing on foot (Ex 12:37). It would take weeks to arrive at the Gulf of Aqaba. Third, after crossing the Red Sea the Israelites went into the wilderness of Shur (Ex 15:22), which is in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula and nowhere near the Gulf of Aqaba (Atlas 59).
The Rebellion Against Moses, 7:37-43
37 This is the Moses having said to the sons of Israel, 'God will raise up to you a prophet like me from your brothers.'
Sources: Deuteronomy 18:15-18.
Stephen repeats the statement made by Peter in his second sermon (Acts 3:22-23). This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. the Moses: See verse 20 above. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. to the sons: pl. of Grk. huios. See verse 16 above. of Israel: See verse 23 above. Stephen then quotes from Deuteronomy 18:15. God: See verse 2 above. will raise up: Grk. anistēmi, fut. See verse 18 above. Since anistēmi is the usual word in the Besekh for resurrection, the verb could constitute a play on words. In other words Moses not only predicted the appearance, but also the resurrection of the one like him. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person.
a prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling (predicting or telling beforehand) or forth-telling (declaring a message to be heeded). like: Grk. hōs, comparative adv. me: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. from: Grk. ek, prep. your: Grk. humeis. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, i.e., a descendant of Jacob. See verse 2 above. The passage Stephen quotes is the only one in the Torah where Moses identifies himself as a prophet. The epilogue in Deuteronomy states that no prophet had arisen in Israel like Moses who spoke to ADONAI face to face (Deut 34:10).
Moreover, Deuteronomy 18:15 is the only passage in the Torah where Moses identifies the coming of the Messiah as one like him. After the intertestamental period when apocalyptic writings predicted the coming of the Messiah, expectation was high that the prophecy of Moses would come to pass. When Yochanan the Immerser began his ministry a delegation from the Judean authorities asked him if he was "the Prophet" (John 1:21), a clear allusion to the prediction of Moses. Yochanan denied that he was the Prophet. However, after the immersion of Yeshua Philip encountered Nathanael and said, "We have found him, of whom Moses in the Torah, and the Prophets, wrote" (John 1:45). Then after Yeshua fed the five thousand, people in the crowd declared "This is truly the Prophet who is coming into the world" (John 6:14) and tried to force him to become king.
After Yeshua's prophesying on the last day of the Feast of Booths, someone in the crowd said, "This is truly the Prophet" (John 7:40). Other people criticized the idea because they didn't believe the Messiah could come from Galilee. In considering the question, "was Yeshua a prophet like Moses?" Stern answers,
"Yes, and more. A prophet speaks for God, which Yeshua did; but he also spoke as God. He spoke what the Father gave him to say, as did all the prophets; but he and the Father are one (John 10:31). Moses explained the sacrificial system for atonement; Yeshua was the final sacrifice for sin, the eternally effective atonement. Moses established the system of priests, with his brother Aaron as the first high priest of the Tabernacle; the resurrected Yeshua is the eternal high priest in the heavenly Tabernacle that served as model for the earthly one (Heb 7–10). At no point did Yeshua contradict what Moses said; rather, he clarified and strengthened the Torah (Matt 5:17–20), made its application plainer (Matt 5:21–7:29), and sometimes himself was the application." (231)
Yeshua had referred to himself on occasion as a prophet (Matt 13:57; Luke 13:33), as did others (Matt 21:11, 46; Luke 24:19; John 4:19; 9:17), but the one "like Moses" is a unique title. For points of comparison between Moses and Yeshua see my web article Moses and Yeshua.
38 This is the one having been in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel, the one speaking to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.
Sources: Exodus 19:17-24; 20:1; Deuteronomy 32:47; Philo, On the Life of Moses II, 67, 97, 188-189, 192, 246.
This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun in reference to Moses. having been: Grk. ginomai, aor. part. See verse 13 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia (from ek, "out from" and kaleō, "to call"), assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation. In Greek culture ekklēsia referred to an organization with members, a political body or a public meeting of citizens (e.g., Acts 19:32, 39, 41). In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (SH-6951), assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874), occurring first in Deuteronomy 4:10 (DNTT 1:292-295). In the Tanakh qahal often denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 9:10; 18:16; 31:30; Ps 35:18).
The first use of qahal is in the blessing of Isaac given to Jacob, "And may El Shaddai bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you so that you may be a congregation [Grk. sunagōgē] of peoples" (Gen 28:3 BR), and God later confirmed this blessing as a covenantal promise, ""I am El Shaddai; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a congregation [Grk. sunagōgē] of nations shall come from you" (Gen 35:11; 48:4). The prophecy hints at the future establishment of the synagogue, which means "assembly" or "congregation." In the first century, synagogues were the central institution of Jewish life. Wherever there was a Jewish synagogue there was also a devoted body of Gentiles attached to it (Schurer 2:308, 312).
The synagogue with Jews and Gentiles in attendance became the starting point for Yeshua and later the apostles to proclaim the good news of Messiah's Kingdom. Thus God's chosen people Israel, with the grafted-in Gentiles (Rom 11:24-25), became the "assembly of nations" as promised to the patriarch Jacob, which Paul dubbed the "Commonwealth of Israel" (Eph 2:12) and the "Body of Messiah" (Eph 4:12). An interesting synchronicity occurs in the Besekh. Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua referred to the congregation of disciples in Jerusalem as a synagogue (Jas 2:2).
The term ekklēsia is translated "church" in a few Christian versions (ASV, BRG, DRA, KJV, PHILLIPS, RV, and some early English versions), which is totally inappropriate in speaking of Israel and the Jewish people. The word "church" is not Jewish even though sometimes Christian commentators or ministers will refer to "the Jewish church." However, "church" is exclusively a term of Christianity. Indeed, the instructions of King James to the translators of the 1611 KJV show that the reason for using "church" was to maintain the ecclesiastical language of Christianity. "Church" is simply not an accurate translation of ekklēsia anywhere in the Besekh, but the decision to use it created a permanent wedge between Christianity and its Jewish roots.
By etymology ekklēsia can mean "called-out ones," which refers to a corporate entity in the context of a covenantal relationship. In the Tanakh we find that the nation of Israel was called (Heb. qara, SH-7121) out from Egypt (Hos 11:1), referring to the nation's deliverance from bondage. Under the New Covenant the Body of Messiah is the result of "calling." Members of congregations in the apostolic era were referred to as "called" in order to identify them as followers of Yeshua separated from the world (Rom 1:6; 1Cor 1:2; Jude 1:1; cf. Rev 17:14). Unfortunately among some Christian interpreters "called out ones" is used in a replacement theology sense, of being called out of Israel or out of Judaism, which is certainly not the meaning intended by Yeshua or the apostles. The problem with Christianity is that there is still too much of "Egypt" present.
in: Grk. en. the wilderness: Grk. erēmos. See verse 30 above. with: Grk. meta, prep. the angel: Grk. angelos. See verse 30 above. the one: Grk. ho. speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part. See verse 6 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. at: Grk. en. Mount Sinai: See verse 30 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. with our: Grk. humeis. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 2 and 32 above. He received: Grk. dechomai, aor. mid., to receive, frequently with the connotation of enthusiastic acceptance. living: Grk. zaō, pres. part., be in the state of being alive in a physical sense. In the LXX zaō renders the Heb. adjective chay (SH-2416), alive, living, used for animal and human life (Gen 1:20; 3:20); the verb chayay (SH-2425), live, revive, save life (Gen 3:22; Ex 33:20); and the verb chayah (SH-2421), live (Gen 5:21; Prov 4:4).
oracles: pl. of Grk. logion (derived from logos, "word"), a special saying and in Scripture communication or revelation from the God of Israel. In the LXX logion translates two words: First, Heb. choshen (SH-2333), breastpiece, sacred pouch (Ex 28:15, 22-24, 26, 28; 29:5; 35:9) in reference to the breastplate containing the Urim and Thummim worn by the High Priest and used to determine God's will or to receive a divine answer to a question. Second, Heb. emer (SH-561), speech, word, first in Num 24:4 and used in reference to the divine revelations made through Balaam, then later in reference to all the words of God to Israel (Deut 33:9; Ps 12:6; 18:30; Isa 5:24). Of note is that the Ten Commandments are referred to as "words" of God (Ex 20:1). The words of God are considered "living" because they come from the living God (Deut 5:26) and obeying God's instructions assures life (Deut 30:19-20; 32:47).
to give: Grk. didōmi, aor. inf. See verse 5 above. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person, i.e., Israel. Not often considered by Bible commentators is that after the global deluge in the time of Noah God only spoke verbally to His own people. No other nation has had such a privilege. This verse rebuts the charge that Stephen spoke against the Torah (Acts 6:13-14).
39 to whom our fathers were not willing to become obedient, but they rejected him, and they turned back in their hearts to Egypt,
Sources: Numbers 11:5; 14:2-4.
to whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun, used in reference to Moses. our: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 2 and 32 above. Here the term refers to ancestors in the nation of Israel. were not: Grk. ou, adv. willing: Grk. thelō, aor., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf. See verse 13 above. obedient: Grk. hupēkoos, listening to, obedient, submissive. but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand, yet. they rejected him: Grk. apōtheō, aor. mid. See verse 27 above. Here the verb means the "fathers" refused to recognize the authority of Moses over them.
and: Grk. kai, conj. they turned back: Grk. strephō, aor., to redirect a position; turn. In the LXX strephō or (or epistrephō) is used to translate shuv, (SH-7725), turn back or return (DNTT 1:354). The verb presents a powerful word picture. in: Grk. en, prep. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia. See verse 23 above. Here the term is used of attitude and character. to Egypt: See verse 9 above. The narrative in the book of Numbers depicts grumblers within Israel recalling the food of Egypt and longing to return to Egypt.
40 having said to Aaron, 'Make us gods who will go before us. For this Moses who led us from the land of Egypt, we know not what has happened to him.'
Sources: Exodus 32:1; Philo, On the Life of Moses II, 159-173.
Stephen then recounts evidence of the people's rejection of Moses. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. to Aaron: Grk. Aarōn, which transliterates Heb. Aharôn, the elder brother of Moses and Israel's first high priest chosen by God. He was ordained to his office at Mount Sinai (Ex 28:1). Aaron died in the wilderness at the age of 123 years (Num 20:23-28). Make: Grk. poieō, aor. imp. See verse 19 above. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. gods: pl. of Grk. theos. See verse 2 above. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. will go before: Grk. proporeuomai, fut. mid., to precede, go in advance of, pass on before. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Luke 1:76). In the LXX the verb translates a Hebrew construction (Ex 32:34; Deut 3:18; 9:3). us: Grk. hēmeis.
For: Grk. gar, conj. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. Moses: See verse 20 above. who: Grk. hos. led: Grk. exagō, aor. See verse 36 above. us: Grk. hēmeis. from: Grk. ek, prep. the land: Grk. gē. See verse 3 above. of Egypt: See verse 9 above. we know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 18 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. what: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. has happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 13 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. According to the Targum of Jonathan on Exodus 32:1 the people concluded Moses was consumed with fire on the mount which flamed with fire. The Talmud records similarly,
"When Moses ascended on high, he said to Israel, I will return at the end of forty days, at the beginning of the sixth hour. At the end of forty days Satan came and confounded the world. Said he to them: 'Where is your teacher Moses?' 'He has ascended on high,' they answered him. 'The sixth [hour] has come,' said he to them, but they disregarded him. 'He is dead' — but they disregarded him. [Thereupon] he showed them a vision of his bier, and this is what they said to Aaron, for this Moses, the man, etc." (Shabbath 89a)
41 And they made a calf in those days, and brought an offering to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.
Sources: Exodus 32:2-35.
And: Grk. kai, conj. they made a calf: Grk. moschopoieō, aor., engage in calf fabrication, referring to the making of an image. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The image was formed from golden jewelry collected from the people. Gill suggests that this was done in imitation of the Egyptian idol Apis or Serapis, which was an ox or a bullock. Later Aaron will tell Moses that the calf just spontaneously appeared out of the fire after the jewelry was thrown in. The explanation might have been the truth since Satan would have motivated the idolatry. in: Grk. en, prep. those: pl. of Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there, those. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 8 above. The time refers to the forty days and forty nights that Moses spent on the mountain receiving divine instructions for the nation (Ex 24:18; 34:28).
and: Grk. kai. brought: Grk. anagō, aor., to conduct from a lower place to a higher, to lead or bring up. The verb implies the building of an altar or an elevated place, probably with steps in violation of Exodus 20:26. an offering: Grk. thusia, an offering devoted to the Lord on His terms, always in reference to an animal victim presented for religious purposes. In the LXX thusia renders Heb. minchah (SH-4503), a gift, offering, tribute, first in Genesis 4:3. This is the usual term for an offering made to the God of Israel, of any kind, whether grain or animals (BDB 585). to the idol: Grk. eidōlon, a representation or symbol of a worshipped non-existent deity; cultic image, idol. Making an idol and then offering a sacrifice to that idol violates the second commandment (Ex 20:4). Presenting a sacrifice to a god that does not actually exist is a supreme insult to the only living God, the God of Israel.
and: Grk. kai. were rejoicing: Grk. euphrainō, impf., make glad or happy, be glad, even celebrate. in: Grk. en. the works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 22 above. of their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. hands: pl. of Grk. cheir. See verse 25 above. Of interest is that Stephen does not repeat the culpability of Aaron in accommodating the idolatrous desires of the people. Gill notes that the Jews themselves are so sensible of the horribleness of the calf idolatry, and of the guilt of it, that it is common for them to say, "there is not a generation, or an age, in which there is not an ounce of the sin of the calf'' (TJ Taaniot 68:3); or, as elsewhere expressed, "Every evil dispensation which came upon Israel contained in it a twenty-fourth part as punishment for the golden calf'' (Sanhedrin 102a).
42 But God turned away and delivered them to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: 'Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
Sources: Jeremiah 8:2; 19:13; Ezekiel 20:39; Amos 5:25.
Stephen now fast forwards to later prophetic criticism of Israel's history of idolatry.
But: Grk. de, conj. God: See verse 2 above. turned away: Grk. strephō, aor. See verse 39 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. delivered: Grk. paradidōmi, aor., to convey from one position to another, in general "to hand over," in this case a reference to permitting a transfer of loyalty with the connotation of betrayal. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to worship: Grk. latreuō, pres. inf. See verse 7 above. the host: Grk. stratia, a formation of entities on a large scale, here collectively of celestial bodies viewed as an army of deities commanding worship. of heaven: Grk. ouranos refers to (1) the area above the earth that encompasses the atmosphere and interstellar space; (2) the transcendent dwelling-place of God; and (3) as an extension of the second meaning a Semitic circumlocution for the sacred name of God (e.g., Matt 3:2; 21:25; Luke 15:18).
In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. plural noun shamayim (SH-8064, lit. "the heavens”) with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:191). Only in post-Tanakh writings does ouranos-shamayim occur in lieu of the word "God" (e.g., 1Macc 3:18-19; 4:10-11; 12:15; Avot 1:3, 11). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are generally used in Scripture to refer to three different cosmological locations (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29) and the third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2). In Scripture ouranos is always "up" as a direction from the surface of the earth. In Jewish tradition there were seven heavens (Hagigah 12b).
The expression "host of heaven" has three uses in Scripture. First, the host of heaven may refer to the sun, moon and planets of the solar system as representing deities worshipped in pagan cultures (Deut 4:19; 2Kgs 17:19; 21:3, 5; 23:4-5; 2Chr 33:3, 5; Isa 24:21; Jer 8:2; Dan 8:10; Zeph 1:6). Second, the host of heaven may refer to the angelic armies of God (1Kgs 22:19; 2Chr 18:18; Dan 4:23). See verse 30 above. Third, the "host of heaven" may refer simply to the physical celestial bodies in interstellar space (Isa 34:4; Jer 33:22). Stephen employs the first usage in this verse.
as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 17 above. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. The phrase "it is written" is the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, normally followed by a quote from the Tanakh. in: Grk. en, prep. the book: Grk. biblos, originally the inner bark or rind of the papyrus, which was anciently used instead of paper, hence by extension a written volume or roll, book, catalog or account (Mounce). of the prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See verse 37 above. Stern notes that the "book of the prophets," refers to the book of the twelve 'minor prophets," which was regarded as a single book in Jewish reckoning of the Tanakh. Stephen then quotes from Amos 5:25.
Did: Grk. mē, adv., negative particle, used here with interrogative effect. you bring: Grk. prospherō, aor., to cause movement of something or someone to a person or place, to bring or to present. The verb is used here of a religious sacrificial offering. to me: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. sacrifices: pl. of Grk. sphagion, an animal proffered for ritual killing; a victim slaughtered in sacrifice, offering. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. In the LXX sphagion renders Heb. zebach (SH-2077), a sacrifice, only in Amos 5:25. Zebach is the general name for all sacrifices eaten at feasts; also called "peace offering" (Lev 3:1). Spagion also renders Heb. tebach (SH-2874), a slaughter or slaughtering) in Ezekiel 21:10, 28.
and: Grk. kai. offerings: pl. of Grk. thusia. See the previous verse. during the forty years: See verse 30 above. in: Grk. en. the wilderness: Grk. erēmos. See verse 30 above. O house: Grk. oikos, voc. case. See verse 10 above. of Israel: See verse 23 above. The phrase "House of Israel" is idiomatic for the nation that descended from Jacob and as a corporate entity entered into covenant with God at Mount Sinai. According to the Torah the idolatrous sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness were actually made to goat demons (Lev 17:7). The message of Amos asserted that the idolatry of his generation was of the same type as occurred in the years of wilderness wandering.
43 And you took up the tent of Moloch and the star of the god Rephan, the images which you made them to worship; but I will remove you beyond Babylon.'
Sources: Jeremiah 20:4; 32:35; Amos 5:26-27
Stephen continues his quotation from Amos, drawing first from Amos 5:26. And: Grk. kai, conj. you took up: Grk. analambanō, aor., 2p-pl., may mean (1)to cause movement in an upward direction; (2) to lift up in order to take along; or (3) to take something with. The second meaning applies here. the tent: Grk. skēnē, a tent, booth, lodging, or dwelling. In the LXX skēnē renders the Hebrew words ‘ohel (a pointed tent), sometimes mishkan (dwelling) and on occasion sukkah (a matted booth, shed or hut). The noun has a particular meaning here as a place of worship. of Moloch: Grk. Moloch, a god worshipped by several Semitic peoples. In the LXX Moloch renders Heb. Molech (SH-4432), first in Leviticus 18:21. Molech is often associated with Ammon (cf. 1Kgs 11:7) and worship of Molech was strongly condemned (Levi 20:2-5).
Some passages mention the horrific practice of some Israelites making their children "pass through the fire to Molech," particularly in the Valley of Hinnom (cf. 2Kgs 17:31; 21:6; 23:10; 2Chr 28:3; Ps 106:38; Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35). Some recent archaeological evidence points to child sacrifice in ancient Ammon. Precisely how this was done is unknown. Some contend that the children were thrown into a raging fire. Certain rabbinic writers describe a hollow bronze statute in the form of a human but with the head of an ox. According to the rabbis, children were placed in the structure which was then heated from below. Drums were pounded to drown out the cries of the children ("Molech," HBD). The practice of offering children as human sacrifice was strongly condemned in ancient Israel, but the Exile seems to have put an end to this type of wicked worship in Israel.
and: Grk. kai. the star: Grk. astron, used for a single star, or a constellation of stars viewed as one entity. The noun astron is used here for the image of Saturn, the ancient, pagan star-god (HELPS). of the god: Grk. theos. See verse 2 above. Rephan: Grk. Rhemphan, the Saturn of later mythology. English versions reflect the numerous spellings of this proper name. The name Rephan occurs only here in the Besekh. The LXX substitutes Rhemphan for Heb. Kiyyun (SH-3594), the name of an Assyrian deity for the planet Saturn (BDB 475). In the Tanakh the name Kiyyun occurs only in Amos 5:26. Thayer says Rhemphan was a Coptic name for Saturn. The Jewish translators of the LXX may have thought the name Rhemphan more appropriate to the historical narrative connected to Israel's rejection of Moses.
the images: pl. of Grk. tupos may mean (1) a mark left by the downward force of a device; (2) an artisan's representation of an entity; or (3) that which serves as a design for something. The second meaning applies here. which: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. you made: Grk. poieō, aor., 2p-pl. See verse 19 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to worship: Grk. proskuneō, pres. inf., to bow down, to worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to or welcome respectfully. In the LXX proskuneō principally translates Heb. shachah (SH-7812), to bend down, to pay homage to another one by bowing low or getting on the knees with the face to the ground. It occurs without Heb. equivalent in the apocryphal books and occasionally in canonical writings (DNTT 2:876).
The quotation of Amos is not meant to assert that the Israelites worshipped Molech and Rephan during the wilderness years. Lightfoot notes that there is no mention of any idolatry committed in the wilderness after the golden calf besides that of Baal-Peor (4:83). It is also highly unlikely that Baal-Peor and Molech were treated as the same deity. The message of Amos asserted that the idolatry of his generation was of the same type as occurred in the years of wilderness wandering. Gill notes that the Jews themselves are so sensible of the horribleness of the calf idolatry, and of the guilt of it, that it is common for them to say, "there is not a generation, or an age, in which there is not an ounce of the sin of the calf'' (TJ Taaniot 68:3); or, as elsewhere expressed, "Every evil dispensation which came upon Israel contained in it a twenty-fourth part as punishment for the golden calf'' (Sanhedrin 102a).
Stephen continues by alluding to Amos 5:27. but: Grk. kai. I will remove: Grk. metoikizō, fut., cause to migrate or move, relocate, resettle. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. beyond: Grk. epekeina, prep., farther on, beyond. The preposition occurs only here in the Besekh. Babylon: Grk. Babulōn, the wicked, godless city in ancient Mesopotamia, was the most powerful city in the world in early Bible history, especially from 605 to 539 BC (HELPS). The MT has Damascus. Critics assume Stephen made a mistake in substituting Babylon for Damascus. Stern suggests that "beyond Babylon" in place of "beyond Damascus" found in the MT may be Stephen’s midrash pointing out that the penalty for turning away from the one true God will be worse than the Babylonian exile. It is also just as likely is that Stephen conflates Amos 5:27 with Jeremiah 20:4.
The Sanctuary of ADONAI, 7:44-50
44 "The tabernacle of the testimony was with our fathers in the wilderness, just as the one speaking to Moses had directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen.
Sources: Exodus 25:8-9, 40; Numbers 8:4; 9:15.
The tabernacle: Grk. skēnē. See the previous verse. Here the noun stands for Heb. mishkan, the tabernacle in which ADONAI dwelled. of the testimony: Grk. marturion, that which serves to corroborate or attest; testimony or witness. In the LXX marturion renders four different Hebrew words, but relevant here is Heb. eduth (SH-5715), testimony, first in Exodus 16:34; in reference to the jar of manna to be preserved in the ark of the covenant as a continual reminder of God's provision (cf. Ex 25:16). Marturion is also inserted without Hebrew equivalent in various passages to describe the ark, first in Exodus 25:10. The tabernacle was called the "tent of meeting" (Ex 33:7; 39:32), since it was the place for seeking ADONAI, as well as the "tent of testimony" (Num 9:15), since it contained the "ark of testimonies." The ark also contained the two tablets of stone engraved by the finger of God and Aaron's rod that blossomed (Heb 9:4), and thus it could be called the "ark of testimony" (Ex 25:22).
was: Grk. eimi, impf., to be. See verse 2 above. The majority of Bible versions incorrectly translate eimi with "had," which would require the verb echō. with our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 2 and 11 above. The plural noun "our fathers" is used to refer to the descendants of the twelve patriarchs that came out of Egypt (cf. Josh 24:17). The majority of Bible versions incorrectly make "our fathers" the subject of the verse (ASV, AMP, CJB, CSB, ESV, JUB, KJV, MW, NASB, NEB, NET, NJB, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, OJB, RSV, TLV). The Israelites did not possess or own the tabernacle. God simply chose to dwell in the midst of His people and directed Moses to construct a tent in which His Sh'kinah glory could reside. Some versions follow the Greek word order of the verse, making "tabernacle" (or "tent") the subject followed by "with [or "among"] our fathers" (CEB, CEV, DLNT, DRA, ERV, EXB, ICB, LEB, LITV, NCV, YLT).
in: Grk. en, prep. the wilderness: Grk. erēmos, adj. See verse 30 above. As in the previous mention of the noun a number of versions inaccurately translate the noun here as "desert." The Israelites had vast herds of livestock that grazed the land where they were encamped. The first clause could even be translated "The tabernacle of the testimony was among our wilderness fathers" and hint at the organization of the encampment. The tabernacle was surrounded first by the tribe of Levi and then the other tribes were situated around Levi (Num 1:50; 2:2-32). The position of the Levites was to protect the other tribes from God's wrath (Num 1:53). The tribal tents had to maintain a considerable distance from the tabernacle (Num 2:2; cf. Ex 19:21-24; 20:21; 24:1), perhaps as much as a thousand cubits (1500 feet) or more (cf. Num 35:4; Josh 3:4).
just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 17 above. the one speaking: Grk. laleō, pres. part. with definite article. See verse 6 above. to Moses: See verse 20 above. had directed: Grk. diatassō, aor. mid., to make appropriate arrangement for securing an objective; give orders to, prescribe, arrange, take care of. him to make: Grk. poieō, pres. inf. See verse 19 above. it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. according to: Grk. kata, prep., properly "down from," and used here to mean "in reference to." the pattern: Grk. tupos. See the previous verse. Here the noun means "that which serves as a design for something." that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. he had seen: Grk. horaō, plperf. See verse 2 above. While Moses was on top of Mount Sinai God showed him a detailed design of the tabernacle and everything that would go into it. John the apostle also saw the original pattern of the tabernacle of testimony in his visit to heaven (Rev 15:5).
45 and which having received in turn our fathers brought in with Joshua in the possession of the nations whom God drove out from the face of our fathers, until the days of David,
Sources: Joshua 3:14-17; 18:1; 2Samuel 7:6.
and: Grk. kai, conj. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun, used in reference to the tabernacle of testimony. having received in turn: Grk. diadechomai, aor. part., receive one from another, have something handed down to one. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The verb is not meant to describe possession by inheritance, but rather assumption of stewardship responsibility. our fathers: See the previous verse. Here the "fathers" are the survivors of the wilderness generation that entered Canaan. brought in: Grk. eisagō, aor., cause to enter into an area; bring or lead in. with: Grk. meta, prep. Joshua: Grk. Iēsous (for Heb. Y'hoshua, "YHVH is Salvation," BDB 221), the same Greek spelling of Yeshua's name. In Hebrew Yeshua is a contraction of Y’hoshua.
Joshua was born in Egypt (c. 1485 BC) during the period of slavery. He was the son of Nun ("noon") of the tribe of Ephraim (Num 13:8). His name first appears in reference to the battle with the Amalekites during the desert travels. He led the Israelites in the actual fighting while Aaron and Hur held up Moses' hands (Ex 17:8-13). Only he was chosen to accompany Moses to the top of Sinai to receive the words of God (Ex 24:13). Joshua was one of the twelve chosen to spy out the land (Num 13:16) and returned with a good report (Num 14:28-30, 38). As a result he was promised a portion in the land of Israel. When Moses needed a successor God chose Joshua to be the shepherd of Israel (Num 27:16-17), because he was full of the Spirit (Num 27:18).
Like Joseph before him no moral fault can be attached to the life of Joshua. Joshua was a capable leader in every sphere. Like Moses he spoke directly to God and communicated the Lord's will and the Lord's message to God's people. His declaration at the end of his life, "as for me and my house, we will serve ADONAI" (Josh 24:15), represented the commitment and example of his entire life. He had obeyed the charge to be a student of Torah and obey the commandments given to Moses. There is no mention of a wife and children, but they are implied by his mention of "my house" (24:15). He lived 110 years (24:29). According to Jewish tradition Joshua wrote the book bearing his name, except 24:29-33 written by the priests Eleazar and Phinehas.
in: Grk. en, prep. the possession: Grk. kataschesis, holding something fast as one's own, possession. of the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 7 above. The noun refers to the seven tribes that Israel was to displace: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and the Jebusites (Deut 7:1). whom: Grk. hos. God: See verse 2 above. In reality it was the Malek-ADONAI (Ex 23:20-23; 32:34; Jdg 2:1). drove out: Grk. exōtheō, drive out or expel. The verb occurs only in Acts (also 27:39). from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, lit. "away from," here denoting distance from a point. the face: Grk. prosōpon may mean (1) the face, by which someone is identified; (2) the countenance or visage projected by someone; and (3) a personal presence or the act of appearing before someone. The third meaning is intended here.
our fathers: the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua were victorious by the miraculous power of God. until: Grk. heōs, adv., a particle marking a limit, here of time; till, until. the days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 8 above. The plural noun alludes to the full duration. of David: Grk. David, which transliterates the Heb. David ("dah-veed") perfectly. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to anoint him as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). In the military sphere David gained victories against the enemies of Israel and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority.
His accomplishments in the arena of worship are especially noteworthy. David was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what is known as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). He invented special music for worship services by establishing Levitical choirs and instrumental ensembles (1Chr 15:16; 16:4; 25:1). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
The phrase "until the days of David" has two applications in this context. First, Stephen makes the point that the tabernacle served as the central place of worship for Israel from the time of Moses until the time of David (cf. 2Sam 7:6). During the time of Joshua and the judges the tabernacle was established at Shiloh (Josh 18:1; 1Sam 1:3, 9). After David became king he moved the tabernacle to Mount Zion in Jerusalem (cf. 2Sam 6:17; 1Chr 11:5; 15:1; 16:1; 2Chr 5:2; Ps 20:2; 76:2).
Second, the temporal phrase alludes to God's promise to Israel that removing the pagan nations from the land of Canaan would take considerable time.
"I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30 I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land" (Ex 23:29-30 NASB; cf. Deut 7:22).
Therefore, full possession of the land of Canaan was a gradual process. The first chapter of Judges makes a point of saying that the inhabitants of certain locales were not driven out by the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan (Jdg 1:27-36). Moreover, occupation of the land and cessation of hostilities did not equal subjugation (cf. Josh 13:13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12-13; 21:43-44; 23:1-5). Subjugation of the land was not completed until the time of the monarchy, over 350 years after Joshua. After the failure of the reign of King Saul, it was David who finally broke the power of the Philistines (2Sam 8:1), and then extended his authority over Moab, Edom, Ammon, and Syria (2Sam 8:2-15).
46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to provide a temple for the household of Jacob.
Sources: 2Samuel 7:1-7, 11-12; Psalm 132:1-5.
who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. See verse 11 above. favor: Grk. charis. See verse 10 above. in the sight of: Grk. prosōpon. See the previous verse. God: See verse 2 above. The mention of favor with God probably alludes to the personal and everlasting covenant with David by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 23:5-6; 33:21).
The last clause of this verse is a midrashic allusion to Psalm 132:5. and: Grk. kai, conj. asked: Grk. aiteō, aor. mid., to ask in expectation of a response; ask, ask for, request. The verb is often associated with prayer. to provide: Grk. heuriskō, aor. inf., i.e., looking for an opportunity to build (Thayer). a temple: Grk. skēnōma, a place in which to stay, tent, dwelling, lodging or habitation (BAG). The noun refers here to a dwelling place for God. In 2Samuel 7:7 it is referred to as a house of cedar. In the LXX skēnōma renders Heb. ohel (SH-168), tent, often used of personal or family dwellings (Deut 33:18; Josh 3:14), but also the tabernacle (1Kgs 1:39; 2:28; 8:4; Ps 15:1; 26:8; 61:4). Also, skēnōma translates Heb. mishkan (SH-4908), tent, used of the tabernacle (Ps 26:8; 46:4; 74:7; 78:60), which is the term used in Psalm 132:5. A number of versions have "dwelling place" (CJB, CSB, ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, TLV) and the KJV has "tabernacle," but I believe "temple" best represents the historical context.
for the household: Grk. oikos. See verse 10 above. The LXX of Psalm 132:5 has theos. The earliest MSS of this verse have oikos (GNT 443), but copyists of later MSS changed the word to conform to the LXX on the assumption that Stephen was quoting the Psalm. Thus, many Bible versions have "God." However, Metzger says the editorial committee for the UBS Greek New Testament gave oikos a "B" rating, meaning that the reading is "almost certain" (308). In addition, the NA28 Greek New Testament has oikos. Some versions do recognize oikos as original and render it as "family" (GW, NOG), "house" (DLNT, ISV, NABRE, NET, NJB, NRSV, NTE) or "people" (CEV, ERV). of Jacob: See verse 8 above. The name is used to encompass all the biological descendants of the great patriarch.
David thought it proper that since he dwelled in a house of cedar it would be fitting to transition from a tent and build a rigid permanent structure for the worship of ADONAI (2Sam 7:1-2). Nathan at first approved his plan, but ADONAI Himself said He had been used to living in a tent since the Exodus from Egypt. He would allow David's son to build Him a house (temple), but He would build for David a house (dynasty, 2Sam 7:3-16). This covenant promise became exceedingly significant to the messianic hope fulfilled in the coming of the ideal king of the line of David. Stephen passes over God's refusal of David's desire and the rationale in order to make a different point (2Sa 7:1-29; 1Chr 22:8; cf. 1Kgs 5:3). However, David provided detailed architectural plans for the temple prepared under divine inspiration (2Sam 7:13; 1Kgs 5—8; 1Chr 28:10-19; 2Chr 3:1; 8:14).
Stephen's wording in this verse and the next is deliberate in order to make a midrashic point and to set up a second midrashic point in verses 48-49. First, Yeshua twice rebuked the temple ruling authorities for turning the "house of prayer for the nations" into a shopping mall (Matt 21:12-13; John 2:14-17). Yeshua did not restrict "nations" to mean only "Gentiles" as in the text he quoted (Isa 56:7), but extended its meaning to all the Jewish groups descended from Jacob that the Judeans treated as foreigners and unwelcome at the temple (Essenes, Hellenists and Samaritans). Thus, David desired that the temple he would build as a residence for the Sh'kinah glory would be a place where the "whole household of Jacob," all Israelites, could come for worship.
47 But Solomon built Him a house.
Sources: 1Kings 6:1-38; 7:13–8:11; 1Chronicles 28:1-21; 2Chronciles 3:1–5:1.
But: Grk. de, conj. Solomon: Grk. Solomōn, a transliteration of Heb. Shelômôh ("His peace"), the tenth son of David and the second son of Bathsheba (2Sam 12:24). He succeeded David to the throne by the expressed will of God (1Kgs 1:29-30) and reigned forty years, c. 970-930 B.C. (1Kgs 11:42). Solomon is remembered for his wisdom, which the historical record offers anecdotes of the judging of two harlots over a baby (1Kgs 3:16-27) and the visit of the Queen of Sheba who came to test him with difficult questions (1Kgs 10:1). Solomon was credited with originating three thousand proverbs and a thousand and five songs (1Kgs 4:32). Thus, it is not surprising that Proverbs (Heb. Mishlei), Ecclesiastes (Heb. Qohelet) and Song of Songs (Heb. Shir HaShirim) in the Bible are attributed to Solomon, as well as Psalm 72 and Psalm 127.
Solomon expanded his kingdom until it covered about 50,000 square miles, from Egypt to Mesopotamia (NIBD 1000). Solomon also increased trade by land and sea, which promoted the prosperity of the nation and helped build his personal fortune. The reign of Solomon is known for his extravagance, far exceeding his father. He engaged in extensive and important building projects, including a palace for himself, other ostentatious buildings, and a palace for one of his wives, the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt (1Kgs 7:1). Solomon fortified a number of cities that helped provide protection to Jerusalem, built "store-cities" for stockpiling the materials required in his kingdom, and established military bases for contingents of charioteers (1Kgs 9:15-19). Solomon is particularly known for his transgression of specific marriage prohibitions (Deut 7:3-4; 17:15-17), which in his old age led him into idolatry (1Kgs 11:1-3).
The book of Ecclesiastes may well represent Solomon's end-of-life reflection and return to God. When Solomon died he was buried in the City of David (1Kgs 11:43). In the Besekh Solomon is mentioned in the genealogy of Yeshua (Matt 1:6) and Yeshua's teaching about anxiety (Matt 6:29; Luke 12:27). Yeshua noted that the queen of Sheba came a long way to see Solomon and that "something greater than Solomon is here" (Matt 12:42; Luke 11:31).
built: Grk. oikodomeō, aor., to erect a structure, which can be new construction, restoration of a structure or adding on to an existing structure. Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., ADONAI. a house: Grk. oikos. See the previous verse. Solomon constructed a magnificent Temple on Mount Moriah (2Chr 3:1). The general outline of the Temple was based on the tabernacle, a rectangle shape with three successive rooms from east to west, a vestibule of only 15-feet depth, the holy place of 60 feet and an inner sanctuary (the most holy place) of 30 feet (1Kgs 6:2-3; 16–17). It was approximately 30-feet wide and 45-feet high by its interior measurements for the "house" proper, not counting the porch, which was sort of an open entryway (HBD).
Around the outside of the house proper was constructed three stories of side chambers for Temple storehouses, above which were recessed windows in the walls of the holy place (1Kgs 6:4-10). The inside of the house proper was paneled with cedar, floored with cypress, and inlaid with gold throughout. It was decorated with well-known Phoenician artistic ornamentation, floral designs with cherubim, flowers, and palm trees. The most holy place, a windowless cube of about 30 feet, housed the ark of the covenant and was dominated by two guardian cherubim 15-feet tall with outstretched wings spanning fifteen feet to touch in the middle and at each side wall (1Kgs 6:15-28). The temple was completed in seven years (c. 960 B.C.; 1Kgs 6:37-38). For more information on the temple see the article at ISBE.
At the Feast of Booths, Solomon conducted an elaborate dedication festival for the Temple (1Kgs 8:1–9:9). Afterwards, God's Sh'kinah glory filled the sanctuary (1Kgs 8:1-11). Then the king blessed the assembly, praised God for His covenant faithfulness, and gave a long, passionate prayer in which he described seven different situations in which the prayers of his people should arise to God (1Kgs 8:22-53). The consistent emphasis of Solomon's prayer and God's answer is the awareness of sin and the necessity for wholehearted repentance to maintain the Temple as a residence for God (2Chr 7:13-14). God had consecrated this house of prayer, but He required covenant obedience of Solomon and his successors. God warned Solomon of future wrath on the holy place because of the rebellion of His people (1Kgs 9:1-9).
The succinct wording of this verse emphasizes that Solomon constructed a building where God could dwell, but he did not give sufficient thought to building a "household" for the God of his father to inhabit. Instead, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, abandoned the God of David and built a house of idolatry and harlotry (1Kgs 14:21-24). Thereafter, many kings of Judah and Israel received the epitaph of not being wholly devoted to ADONAI as their father David (1Kgs 15:3; 2Kgs 14:3; 16:2; 2Chr 28:1).
48 Yet the Most High dwells not in hand-made houses, as the prophet says,
Sources: 1Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1.
Yet: Grk. alla, conj., used here to introduce a contrast to the previous verse. the Most High: Grk. hupsistos, adj., a superlative that means being positioned at the uttermost upward point in status, generally translated as "Most High" as a name for God. In the LXX hupsistos renders the Heb. Elyon. In the Tanakh the Hebrew name Elyon occurs often as a synonym of Elohim and YHVH (e.g. Num 24:16). God is first called El Elyon ("God most high") at Genesis 14:18-20, where Abraham tithed to the Melchizedek, the priest of El Elyon. This name of God emphasizes that He dwells in the highest heavens (Deut 10:14; Ps 68:33; 148:4).
dwells: Grk. katoikeō, pres. See verse 2 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. in: Grk. en, prep. hand-made houses: pl. of Grk. cheiropoiētos, adj., done or made with hands, hand-crafted, i.e., made by the skill of man. In this context the adjective refers to structures built for worship of deity. Stephen is not saying that God's presence was not in the holy of holies, but rather he echoes the statement of Solomon at the dedication of the temple, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!" (1Kgs 8:27 NASB). God is not confined to one place and may be worshipped in any place devoted to that purpose (cf. Acts 16:13; 1Cor 1:2; 14:25; 1Tim 2:8).
as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 17 above. the prophet: Grk. prophētēs. See verse 37 above. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. Stephen then quotes from Isaiah 66:1-2. Some commentators interpret Stephen as saying that building the temple was an idolatrous act (Gilbert 213) or not God's will (Stern 245), based on the statement of God to David that He had never asked for a permanent dwelling-place (2Sam 7:4-7). If building the temple was never God's will, He would not have agreed to David's petition, given David the plans for the temple and then placed His Sh'kinah glory therein! So, Stephen does not criticize the building of the temple, but implies the current attitude of the temple ruling authorities was like that of former times (cf. Mic 3:11; Jer 7:1-7).
The temple had become a point of Judean pride and exclusivity (cf. John 4:20-21). Yeshua had rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for viewing the temple as a guarantor of their vows and values (Matt 23:16-21). Stern does observe that the current establishment had tended toward "Temple-olatry" instead of adopting God’s attitude.
49 "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is a footstool of my feet. What house will you build me," says ADONAI, "or what is the place of my rest?
Sources: Psalm 132:7; Isaiah 66:1.
Heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 42 above. The term refers here to the third heaven where angels and glorified humans dwell. is my: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. throne: Grk. thronos refers to a throne or chair upon which a king sits. Ancient thrones typically had a high back-rest and arm-rests and sometimes with a foot-stool. The throne was the official place from which the king exercised his power, authority and judgment. The term is often used figuratively of sovereignty or dominion (DNTT 2:611-615). Scripture often describes God as seated on a throne (1Kgs 22:19; Ps 11:4; 29:10; 47:8; 103:19; Isa 6:1; Ezek 1:26; Dan 7:9; Rev 4:2; 7:9).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 19 above. is a footstool: Grk. hupopodion, a device for supporting one's feet when in a sitting position. The noun originally referred to a footstool used by a conquering king, to place his foot on the neck of the conquered, i.e. those under his total dominion (HELPS). of my: Grk. egō. feet: pl. of Grk. pous. See verse 5 above. The description employs a poetic anthropomorphism to illustrate the extent of divine dominion and His omnipresence.
What: Grk. poios, interrogative pronoun used in reference to a class or kind, "of what sort?" house: Grk. oikos. See verse 10 above. will you build: Grk. oikodomeō, fut., 2p-pl. See verse 47 above. me: Grk. egō. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. ADONAI: Grk. kurios. See verse 31 above. or: Grk. ē, conj. involving options. See verse 2 above. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 26 above. is the place: Grk. topos. See verse 7 above. of my: Grk. egō. rest: Grk. katapausis, a state or condition of rest.
God determined that Zion would be the center of His presence on earth, "This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it" (Ps 132:14 NASB). However, no physical structure can confine God to one location. He may be worshipped anywhere on the earth. Moreover, God prefers to dwell within living temples, that is, His people (1Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21; Jas 4:5; 1Pet 2:5).
50 "Did not my hand make all these things?'
Sources: Isaiah 66:2.
Stephen converts a declaration of Isaiah 66:2 into a rhetorical question. Did not: Grk. ouchi, interrogative particle, an emphatic negative statement, here with a tone suggesting a positive answer ought to be self-evident or is a no-brainer, not. my: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. hand: Grk. cheir. See verse 25 above. The question employs a poetic anthropomorphism to make the point. make: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 19 above. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 10 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun.
Isaiah 66:2 asserts, as repeated often in Scripture, that God created the heavens and the earth and all that occupies those locations (Gen 1:1; Ex 20:11; 31:17; 2Kgs 19:15; 1Chr 16:26; 2Chr 2:12; Ps 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6; Neh 9:6; Isa 37:16; Jer 32:17). The works of God are far greater than any work of man.
The Sin of the Sanhedrin, 7:51-53
51 "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in hearts and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers, so also you.
Sources: Exodus 32:9; 33:3, 5; Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 9:6, 13; 10:16, 30:6; 31:27; Isaiah 48:4; 63:10; Jeremiah 4:4; 6:10; 9:25-26; Ezekiel 44:7, 9.
You stiff-necked: Grk. sklērotrachēlos, adj., voc. (direct address), refusal to budge from a point of view; stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. In the LXX the adjective is used to render the Hebrew construction qasheh [SH-7186, 'stiff'] oreph [SH-6203, 'neck'], first in Exodus 32:9. The spiritual description is based on a physical condition in which the neck keeps the head in one position. The criticism of being "stiff-necked" was often leveled at Israel for their deliberate rebellion against covenantal expectations (Ex 33:3,5; 34:9; Deut 9:6, 13; 31:27; Jdg 2:19; Isa 48:4; Ezek 2:4; 3:7).
and: Grk. kai, conj. uncircumcised: Grk. aperitmētos, adj., voc., lit. "not cut around," referring to an uncircumcised male organ (HELPS). Spiritually the adjective signifies alienation from God or being rebelliously opposed to Him. The adjective occurs only here in the Besekh. In the LXX aperitmētos renders Heb. arel (SH-6189), "having foreskin," first in Genesis 17:14. in hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia. See verse 23 above. God intended that His people have circumcised hearts (Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4). The plural form includes all those being addressed by Stephen. Stephen's criticism of being uncircumcised would be especially irritating, because it's tantamount to likening them to Gentiles and pagans. In this he echoes Jeremiah:
"Behold, the days are coming," says ADONAI, "when I will visit judgment upon all the circumcised with the uncircumcised, 26 upon Egypt and Judah and Edom and the sons of Ammon, and Moab, upon those dwelling in the wilderness, all that cut off the corners of their hair [Lev 19:27]; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart." (Jer 9:25-26 BR; LXX 9:25-26; MT 9:24-25)
and: Grk. kai. ears: pl. of Grk. ous, the organ of hearing, the ear, as well as the faculty of understanding or perception. In Hebrew writing parts of the human body were often used as allusions to behavior, both positive and negative (cf. Matt 5:29f; Rom 6:13; Heb 12:13). Stephen makes a reference to the "ear" in order to make a point. The human ear is a beautifully designed organ to receive sound. The ear, of course, does not pick and choose the sounds it will accept. By turning the physical function of the ear into a metaphor, Stephen addresses the root issue in obedience. The metaphor of being uncircumcised in "ear" points to the unwillingness to heed the Messianic prophecy and command of Moses to hear the prophet like him.
Yeshua summed up the reality succinctly in his dialog with the Pharisees – "He who is of God hears the words of God" (John 8:47 NASB) and "My sheep hear My voice" (John 10:3). The Sanhedrin manifested a spiritual condition not unlike Ezekiel’s time – "Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house" (Ezek 12:2). The Judean leaders outwardly physically bore the sign of the covenant with Abraham (verse 8 above), but inwardly were impure and rebellious as the pagan nations.
you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. always: Grk. aei, adv. with a focus on regularity; always, customarily, unceasingly, perpetually, on every occasion. resist: Grk. antipiptō, pres., strive against, resist, oppose, or work against. the Holy: Grk. hagios, adj. See verse 33 above. Spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is used for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (pneuma ho theos, John 4:24), just as God is the Word (John 1:1).
The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh. The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Jdg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). The description of resisting the Holy Spirit hints at the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables understanding of Scripture and guides people into truth (John 14:26; 16:13). The Spirit convicts of sin, confirms the righteousness of Yeshua and warns of the coming judgment (John 16:8-11). Grieving and rebelling against the Holy Spirit is dangerous (cf. Isa 63:10; Matt 12:31; Acts 5:3-9; Eph 4:30; 1Th 5:19). Yeshua accused his adversaries among the temple ruling authorities of being too much like their father the devil (John 8:44).
as: Grk. hōs, comparative adv. your: Grk. hēmeis. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 39 above. Stephen alludes to all the former ancestral generations, beginning with the Israelites who came out of Egypt, that rebelled against covenantal expectations and provoked God with idolatry and harlotry. also: Grk. kai. you: Grk. hēmeis. Stephen accuses the members of the Sanhedrin of having the same evil inclination as their unspiritual forefathers.
52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those having foretold about the coming of the Righteous One, of whom you now have become betrayers and murderers,
Sources: Matthew 23:29–32, 35; Acts 2:22-23; 3:13-15; 4:8-11.
Which: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. of the prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See verse 37 above. Stephen does not restrict the term to the literary prophets, but all those served as God's messengers to His people. did your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 1 above and the previous verse. not: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. persecute: Grk. diōkō, aor., may mean (1) to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; (2) to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after; (3) in any way whatever to harass, trouble, molest one; to persecute; (4) without the idea of hostility, to run after, follow after: someone; or (5) metaphorically, to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire (Thayer). The third meaning primarily applies here, but also the first.
In this statement Stephen echoes the accusation of Yeshua against the hypocrites of the scribes and Pharisees to whom he imputed the murders of various notable figures "from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah" (Matt 23:35). Yeshua then uttered the heart-felt lament, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her" (Matt 23:37). Paul summarized the persecutions experienced by godly messengers:
"32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith … shut the mouths of lions [Daniel], 34 quenched the power of fire [three friends of Daniel], escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings [Samson, Elishah] and scourgings [Isaiah], yes, also chains and imprisonment [Micaiah, Jeremiah]. 37 They were stoned [Jeremiah; Habakkuk], they were sawn in two [Isaiah], they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword [1Kgs 19:10; 1Macc 2:9; 2Macc 5:26]; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground [2Macc 10:6]." (Heb 11:32-38 NASB)
And: Grk. kai, conj. they killed: Grk. apokteinō, aor., 3p-pl., put an end by force the existence of someone, kill. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having foretold: Grk. prokatangellō, aor. part., announcing something before it happens; foretold, predicted. about: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. the coming: Grk. eleusis, a coming, arrival, advent. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. of the Righteous One: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with God's covenantal standards expressed in Torah for acceptable behavior, upright or just; used here as a substantive.
In the LXX dikaios renders Heb. tsaddiq (SH-6682), 'just or righteous' (BDB 843). In Scripture a just man is one who is blameless or innocent of wrongdoing, one who follows the ethical and moral demands of Torah. Referring to Yeshua as the Righteous One could have two meanings. First, the "Righteous One" would be a Messianic title (Isa 53:11; Jer 23:5; 33:15). Second, calling Yeshua the "Righteous One" serves as a rebuttal to the slander of the ruling council that he was a sinner (John 9:16, 24; cf. 2Tim 4:8; Heb 4:15; 1Jn 2:1).
A number of passages in the Tanakh point out the killing of the messengers of God or prophets by various leaders (1Sam 22:18; 1Kgs 18:4, 13; 19:10, 14; 1Chr 16:22; Neh 9:26; Lam 4:13). According to Jewish traditions Stephen's reference to the martyrs among those who prophesied the Messiah would include Joel, Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel (from Lives of the Prophets, an apocryphal work of Jewish origin, repeated in the medieval Nestorian book The Book of the Bee, Chap. XXXII). Yochanan the Immerser could also be included in that list (Matt 14:8-10).
of whom: Grk. hos, demonstrative pronoun. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. now: Grk. nun, adv. See verse 4 above. have become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 13 above. betrayers: pl. of Grk. prodotēs, traitor, betrayer. The criticism alludes to the act of the Judean authorities to turn Yeshua over to the uncircumcised Romans for crucifixion. This label is stronger than that of Peter, who in his second sermon accused the leaders as having disowned Yeshua (Acts 3:14). and: Grk. kai. murderers: pl. of Grk. phoneus, one who commits unjustified intentional homicide, a violation of the sixth commandment. This last accusation is even stronger that the charge leveled by Peter at the Judean leaders (Acts 2:23; 4:10). The crucifixion of Yeshua constituted murder because the religious elite conspired to break their own law to put him to death.
53 who received the Torah by directions of angels and have not kept it."
Sources: Deuteronomy 33:2; cf. Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2.
who: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb, 'anyone,' or 'whoever.' received: Grk. lambanō, aor., to lay hold of by actively accepting what is offered (HELPS). the Torah: Grk. nomos may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. In the LXX nomos translates primarily torah (SH-8451), direction, instruction or law, first in Exodus 12:49. In the Tanakh the noun especially refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Israel through Moses.
In the Besekh nomos can refer to (1) specific commandments given to Israel (Matt 12:5; Luke 2:22; John 8:5), (2) that plus the entire Pentateuch (John 1:45), (3) that plus the Prophets (Matt 5:17; John 1:45; 1Cor 14:21), (4) that plus the Writings (Luke 24:44; John 10:34), (5) as a synonym for Scripture (Matt 5:18; Luke 16:17; John 12:34; 15:25), and (6) universal principles derived from Scripture (Matt 22:36-40; 23:23). In the apostolic narratives nomos refers primarily to the written words of Moses.
by: Grk. eis, prep. The preposition has an instrumental meaning here. directions: pl. of Grk. diatagē, an orderly quantity or arrangement, such as a battle line, then of an authoritative declaration that effects the orderly objective of command; directive, ordinance. LSJ adds "command." Some versions translate the noun as a verb ("delivered, given or ordained), but some versions have "direction[s] (CSB, DLNT, LEB, NKJV, OJB, TLV). HELPS notes that the root (diata-) implies detailed orders which typically relate to chain-of-command situations. The noun occurs only twice in the Besekh, the other in Romans 13:2 in reference to the "ordinance of God." Clarke translates diatagē as "ranks" to describe the arrangement of the angels as they were attending the Divine Majesty when He gave the law.
of angels: pl. of Grk. angelos., lit. "messengers." See verse 31 above. The translation of some versions might give the impression that the angels rather than God gave the commandments (CEB, NIRV) or the angels "ordained" the commandments (NRSV). The involvement of the angels is assumed from the statement of Deuteronomy 33:2, made more definite by the LXX:
MT: "ADONAI came from Sinai and rose up from Seir on them; He shone forth from Paran and He came from the midst of ten thousands of holy ones; at His right hand a fiery law to them."
LXX: "The LORD is come out of Sinai and He appeared upon Seir to us. And He hastened from out of Paran with myriads of holy ones; at his right hand angels with Him." (ABP)
Paul twice mentions the involvement of angels:
"Why therefore the Torah? It was added on account of transgressions until the Seed would come, to whom the promise had been made, having been ordained through angels in the hand of a mediator." (Gal 3:19 BR)
"For if the message having been spoken through angels was unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape having neglected so great a salvation?" (Heb 2:2-3 BR)
Josephus says something similar:
"And for ourselves, we have learned from God the most excellent of our doctrines, and the most holy part of our law, by angels or ambassadors; for this name brings God to the knowledge of mankind, and is sufficient to reconcile enemies one to another. What wickedness then can be greater than the slaughter of ambassadors, who come to treat about doing what is right?" (Ant. XV, 5:3).
The Sages noted that the Torah was not given to the ministering angels to observe and keep (Berachot 25b; Yoma 30a; Kiddushin 54a), so the employment of actual angels in transmitting God's commandments to Israel is debatable. Stern notes that while the idea of angelic mediation of the Torah was widespread in rabbinic midrashic literature, one medieval Jewish work strongly rebuts the idea:
"When [God] gave the commandments on Mount Sinai, at first he uttered them loudly all at once, as it is said, 'And God spoke all these words [simultaneously], saying, … ' (Exodus 20:1). Then [the angel] Mikha’el said, 'He will commission me to explain his words.' And [the angel] Gavri’el said, 'He will commission me to explain them.' But as soon as he continued, saying, 'I am ADONAI your God' (Exodus 20:2), they said, 'As he gives his children the Torah he is committing his commandments, fully explained, directly to his son Israel." (Pesikta Rabbati 21:5, quoted by Stern)
Moses did not say that angels participated in the giving of the tablets or Torah commandments to the Israelites, but simply stated that angels were with ADONAI on Sinai. The one receiving the ministry of angels would be Moses, just as Yeshua received the ministry of angels in the wilderness (Matt 4:11). Since God provided detailed instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and all its contents, angels could have assisted in this communication. It's possible that that "angels" with its root meaning of "messengers" could be an idiomatic way of referring to Moses and Aaron, but most scholars do not favor this suggestion.
and: Grk. kai, conj. have not: Grk. ou, adv. kept it: Grk. phulassō, aor., may mean (1) serve as sentinel; guard, watch; (2) ensure that something remains intact; keep safe, preserve, watch; (3) 'be on guard against' or 'be on the alert against;' avoid (4) 'keep something from being violated;' keep, observe. The fourth meaning is primarily in view, although there may be a nuance of the other meanings. Stephen's comment reflects the message of Second Esdras, which repeatedly points out that the fathers did not obey the commandments given to them (1:8; 3:22; 4:23; 7:24, 72)
Stephen's daring and blunt words are comparable to the speech of Yeshua against the hypocrites among the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23:13-36). The Sanhedrin was the final authority in matters of Torah, but Stephen presumes to pass judgment on the Supreme Court by calling them criminals. He does not bother to address the accusation that Yeshua of Nazareth would change the customs Moses (6:14). Stern suggests that if the leaders do not observe them now, what difference will it make if Yeshua changes them?
Martyrdom of Stephen, 7:54-60
54 Now hearing these things they were infuriated in their hearts, and they were gnashing their teeth at him.
Now: Grk. de, conj. hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part. See verse 2 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The pronoun refers to the content of Stephen's sermon. they were infuriated: Grk. diapriō, impf., 3p-pl., originally meant to be sawn asunder and then came to mean be cut to the quick (with indignation), be infuriated. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh, the other in Acts 5:33 where it is used of the negative reaction of Judean leaders to the words of Peter. in their: pl. of Grk. autos, 3p-pl., personal pronoun. hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia. See verse 23 above. The figurative use of the noun depicts a passionate attitude.
Throughout this final section of the chapter it is not clear to whom the third person plural verbs describe. Given the location of the Chel where many members of the public might be found to observe deliberations of the Judean leaders, "they" could have been the accusers of Stephen from the various synagogues to which he had proclaimed the good news (6:9), temple priests, members of the Sanhedrin or more particularly Sadducean members. It was the Sadducean chief priests that plotted and carried out the arrest and trial of Yeshua.
and: Grk. kai, conj. they were gnashing: Grk. bruchō, impf., 3p-pl., grind or gnash, as with the teeth for rage or pain. In the LXX bruchō renders the Heb. verb charaq (SH-2786), to gnash or grind the teeth (BDB 359), the action of a perceived enemy (Job 16:9; Ps 35:16; 37:12; 112:10; Lam 2:16). their teeth: pl. of odous, a tooth. at: Grk. epi, prep. him: Grk. autos, i.e. Stephen. The physical act serves as a prelude to a violent outburst. In contrast to the crowd on Pentecost who felt conviction after Peter's sermon (Acts 2:33), the Judean leaders manifested their hostility to the apostolic message. Luke continues to demonstrate in his Acts narrative that it was the Judean leaders who rejected Yeshua, not the Jewish people.
55 But he being full of the Holy Spirit, having gazed into heaven, saw the glory of God, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of God.
But: Grk. de, conj. he being: Grk. huparchō, pres. part., to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance, here of occupying a position; be. full: Grk. plērēs, adj., in a state or condition of being supplied abundantly with something, filled up, full of. of the Holy Spirit: See verse 51 above. Luke emphasizes that Stephen's blunt accusatory words did not make him less spiritual. It was the Holy Spirit who had given him holy boldness in fulfillment of the promise of Yeshua, "do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you" (Matt 10:19-20).
having gazed: Grk. atenizō, aor. part., look intently, gaze. into: Grk. eis, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 42 above. The phrase essentially means that Stephen looked up toward the sky. The mention of Stephen gazing into heaven (i.e., the sky) supports the suggestion that the hearing before the Council took place in an open-air area and not inside a building. The location could be the terrace area called "Chel" that ran along the north and south sides of the temple. See the illustrations here and here. The Sanhedrin would meet in some part of the open-air Chel to conduct discussions on application of Torah (Sanh. 88b). In addition, a small Sanhedrin of Twenty-Three members met at the entrance to the Temple mount (Sanh. 10:4; 88b). saw: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 2 above. the glory: Grk. doxa. See verse 2 above.
of God: See verse 2 above. When Stephen looked up his spiritual eyes were opened and he received a vision of the glory of heaven's throne not unlike Paul and John later experienced even more dramatically. and: Grk. kai, conj. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
standing: Grk. histēmi, perf. part. See verse 33 above. at: Grk. ek, prep. the right hand: Grk. dexios, right as a direction or location, used of a bodily member or a location within a structure or in relation to a structure. In the LXX dexios renders Heb. yamin (SH-3225), "right hand," first in Genesis 13:9. Many versions have the anthropomorphic translation of "right hand." of God: The posture of Yeshua is unusual since when he ascended to heaven he sat down at the right of God (Mark 16:19; Col 3:1; Heb 10:11-12; 12:12). Stern observes that since Yeshua's function in heaven with God is to be the high priest for all believers and intercede for them (Heb 2:16–18; 7:25), possibly his posture indicates that Stephen sees him performing his high-priestly duties, for which sitting would be inappropriate.
However, Bruce observes that the standing posture is especially relevant to the context of Stephen being on trial since witnesses stood in legal hearings to give testimony (168). Heaven is the final court of appeal and in this matter Yeshua standing was a silent witness of the good character of Stephen and the divine favor extended to him. Lastly, the standing might also have been a sign of respect for the first martyr of his disciples.
56 And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
And: Grk. kai, conj. he said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 1 above. Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek verb, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). The interjection is equivalent to "look at what I'm seeing!" I see: Grk. theōreō, pres., may mean (1) pay attention to; look at, observe, watch, behold; (2) conclude on the basis of personal experience; consider, infer, see; or (3) have awareness in depth; perceive, experience. The first meaning has primary application here.
the heavens: pl. of Grk. ouranos. See verse 42 above. opened: Grk. dianoigō, perf. pass. part., to open up, from dia ("through") and anoigō, "open." The verb graphically describes a phenomenon that permitted Stephen to see into the very throne room of heaven. and: Grk. kai. the Son: Grk. huios. See verse 16 above. of Man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for humans as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5); (2) ish, SH-376, an adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, a man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5); as well as Aram. enash, man (Ezra 6:11) (DNTT 2:564).
The title "Son of Man," which occurs only here in Acts, alludes to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13. The title "Son of Man" is thoroughly Hebraic and has no counterpart in Greek culture. Christian interpreters typically treat "Son of Man" in the context of Yeshua's ministry as representative of his humanity, whereas "Son of God" pertains to his deity. In Hebraic thought these expressions mean just the opposite. "Son of God" is a Messianic title that refers to the Davidic king who reigns as God's regent on earth (Ps 80:15-2; cf. Ps 2:7, 12; 110:1; John 1:49). "Son of Man" is the eschatological supra–natural figure from heaven who establishes a kingdom on the earth (Dan 7:13–14, 27; cf. Matt 25:31). For a full discussion on this important title see the note on John 1:51.
standing: Grk. histēmi, perf. part. See verse 33 above. at the right hand of God: See the previous verse. Stephen factually reported his visionary experience and his hearers reacted with fury.
57 But having cried out with a loud voice, they covered their ears and rushed un unanimously upon him.
But: Grk. de, conj. having cried out: Grk. krazō, aor. part., may mean (1) to utter a loud cry; scream, cry out, or (2) express something with a vigorous voice; call out, which fits this situation. The first meaning applies here. with a loud: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 11 above. voice: Grk. phōnē. See verse 31 above. they covered: Grk. sunechō, aor., 3p-pl., may mean (1) restrict by surrounding; (2) control by circumstance; or (3) restrict capability. The third meaning applies here in the sense of the prevention of hearing. Some versions have "stopped (ESV, KJV, NKJV, RSV). their: pl. of Grk. autos, 3p-pl., personal pronoun. ears: pl. of Grk. ous. See verse 51 above. Gill notes that the verbal phrase describes the men as inserting their fingers into their ears and pretending they could not bear the words they considered blasphemy (cf. Zech 7:11). This was a common practice, as it says in the Talmud, "if a man hears an unworthy thing he shall plug his finger into his ears" (Ketubot 5a-b).
and: Grk. kai, conj. rushed: Grk. hormaō, aor., 3p-pl., move rapidly in impulsive or undisciplined manner; stampede, rush. unanimously: Grk. homothumadon, adv., in spontaneous meeting of minds, properly "with the same passion;" of one mind, of one accord, at the same time. upon: Grk. epi, prep. him: Grk. autos; i.e., Stephen. Regarding the identity of those who rushed at Stephen, Stern observes,
"This is hardly the behavior expected from the supreme tribunal of the land. It is not clear whether those who rushed at Stephen included some of his Greek-speaking accusers along with the angrier members of the Sanhedrin (which had not delivered a verdict). In any case, experienced jurists should have sensed the danger latent in the circumstances and taken steps to protect Stephen instead of joining the mob. Either the Sanhedrin had already decided to put Stephen out of the way without an honest trial, or the judges allowed emotion to overrule reason after his inflammatory speech."
Gill interprets the spontaneous reaction as being committed by the common people, rather than members of the Sanhedrin. Joseph Klausner concurs saying that this violent action was the work of some fanatical persons among the bystanders who decided the case for themselves (292). They saw in Stephen a blasphemer worthy of stoning, although according to the Talmudic rule the blasphemer is not culpable unless he pronounces the Sacred Name itself (Sanh. 7:7; Makk. 3:15; Ker. 1:1), which Stephen had not done. Since the Talmud is the work of Pharisees then it is reasonable to suppose that they would be more rigorous about this rule. However, the Pharisees among the hearers would likely be incensed by Stephen daring to stand in judgment of the judges.
The rush to be rid of Stephen could well have been joined or led by priests, since Stephen had been talking about the temple. The Talmud records an incident in which a priest who had performed his duties while unclean was taken out of the temple court by young priests who broke his skull with clubs instead of taking him before a Beth Din (Sanhedrin 82b). The apostolic narratives record incidents of violent religious zeal directed at Yeshua (cf. Mark 3:6; Luke 4:28-30; John 8:3-4, 59; 10:31), and Yeshua warned his disciples they would suffer the same opposition (Matt 10:16-18; 24:9; John 16:2, 33).
58 And having cast him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
And: Grk. kai, conj. having cast: Grk. ekballō, aor. part., to cause to move out from a position, state or condition; to put out, drive out, send out, bring out, cast out. him out of: Grk. exō, adv. of place, outside, used of a position that beyond a limit or boundary (e.g., Matt 12:46). The significance of the adverb is obscured in most versions since its meaning is merged with the verb. The adverb is sometimes associated with an act of punishment or place of judgment (Matt 21:39; Luke 4:29; John 12:31; 15:6; Acts 14:19; 21:30; 1Cor 5:13; Heb 13:12; Rev 22:15). the city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town; here of Jerusalem. they began stoning him: Grk. lithoboleō, impf., 3p-pl., throw stones at someone, here as a mode of killing.
We should note that the stoning did not occur because of a formal verdict of guilty and determination of capital punishment. In normal circumstances, the accused had the right of calling witnesses for his defense before sentence was passed. Stoning was one of the four methods of capital punishment prescribed under Jewish law (Sanhedrin 6:1), based on the Torah instruction in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. Stoning was the punishment prescribed in the Torah for blasphemy (Lev 24:16; Sanh. 7:5). Stoning was to take place outside the city gates (Lev 24:14). Once outside the gates the usual procedure was thus:
"when he was ten cubits distant from the place of stoning, they order him to confess … and when four cubits from it, they take off his garments. … the place of stoning was twice a man's height.'' (Sanh. 6:2; 6:3; 6:4).
However, there was nothing "usual" about this stoning. Some commentators have posed a valid question. How could this execution be carried out on the spot without authorization from the Roman governor? Members of the council had made a point of this when they brought Yeshua to Pilate for judgment (John 18:31). The Roman procurator normally lived in Caesarea, so there was no reason at this time of year for him to be present. In addition, the antisemitic Romans could care less if Jews killed Jews. Pilate would have only been interested if the incident had disturbed the peace of the city or been a threat to his administration.
and: Grk. kai. the witnesses: pl. of Grk. martus, one who attests the fact or truth of something, often used in a legal context of who testifies before a legal proceeding regarding first hand knowledge (cf. Matt 18:16; Acts 7:5). In this context the term refers to those who heard the testimony of Stephen and according to the Torah regulation the witnesses were to be the first to throw stones. In this case the "witnesses" were probably those who had brought the charges against Stephen. laid aside: Grk. apotithēmi, aor. mid., to put off, put away, lay aside or rid oneself of. Its regular usage pertained to removing articles of clothing.
their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. garments: pl. of Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally refers to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). In the Tanakh beged meant garment, clothing, raiment, or robe of any kind, regardless of quality (BDB 94). at: Grk. para, prep. See verse 16 above. the feet: pl. of Grk. pous. See verse 5 above. of a young man: Grk. neanias, young man, used of men between twenty-four and forty years of age (Thayer). named: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part., to identify by name or give a term to.
Saul: Grk. Saulos, a transliteration of the Heb. Sha'ul (lit. "asked for" or "prayed for"). The Greek has no letter with an "sh" sound. Luke uses Saulos 14 times in his historical narrative to identify the future apostle but none after 13:9, at which point he is known by his Latin name Paul. Saul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 9:11; 21:39) of the tribe of Benjamin (Php 3:5). He was "set apart from his mother's womb" (Gal 1:15) for a sacred life. Saul was educated in the typical manner of other Jews, and in particular studied under Gamaliel the Elder (Acts 5:34; 22:3), a leader in the Sanhedrin and a preeminent scholar. Saul was a devout Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5). Gill suggests that he was a member of the synagogue of Cilicia in Jerusalem at which Stephen had spoken. Saul's presence indicates that he had gained a formal position among the Judean and temple leaders, no doubt due to the influence of his mentor Gamaliel.
In the next chapter Saul has authority to put followers of Yeshua in prison (Acts 8:1) and afterward he acts as an official agent of the high priest to arrest disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:1-2). In his last defense speech Paul comments that he "cast a vote against" the Messianic believers (Acts 26:10). The verbal phrase does not mean simple concurrence with a vote, but membership in a group which makes decisions by voting. This group could be the Great Sanhedrin, but considering his work for the high priest, it could be the Small Sanhedrin or the Temple ruling council. To have such an important position Saul would have been at least thirty. Paul would later acknowledge his complicity in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 22:20). For a biographical summary of the apostle's background see my web article Paul the Jew.
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he was calling out and saying, "Lord, Yeshua, receive my spirit."
And: Grk. kai, conj. as they were stoning: Grk. lithoboleō, impf. See the previous verse. Stephen: Grk. Stephanos, a personal name meaning, "crown." His name appears first in the list of deacons appointed by the Jerusalem congregation (6:5). he was calling out: Grk. epikaleō, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) to give a name or nickname to; call, name; or (2) call upon for help, aid or intercession; invoke, appeal to, call upon for oneself. The second meaning applies here. and: Grk. kai. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. Lord: Grk. kurios, voc. (direct address). See verse 31 above. Kurios is the primary title by which disciples addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry. The frequent use of kurios would not have normally considered deity. The apostles meant kurios in the sense of Heb. adôn ("master, owner"), because of Yeshua's position of authority over his disciples.
Yeshua: voc. case. See verse 55 above. Calling his Lord by name denotes a personal relationship and is quite distinctive in the apostolic narratives. Previously there were only three occasions when Yeshua was addressed directly by name: by ten lepers (Luke 17:13), by blind Bartimaeus (Luke 18:38) and by the thief on the cross (Luke 23:42). receive: Grk. dechomai, aor. mid. imp. See verse 38 above. The imperative mood functions as a confident entreaty. my: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 51 above. Stephen's entreaty imitates the last utterance of Yeshua on the cross (Luke 23:46), except that Yeshua addressed his request to the Father.
In a legal execution the condemned man was asked to make confession, based on the example of Achan (Josh 7:19-21). Stephen instead gave a confession common to followers of Yeshua (cf. 1Tim 3:16), not the mob wanted. Stephen acknowledged Yeshua as his master and heavenly mediator. He fully expected as Saul (Paul) would later declare that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2Cor 5:8). The statement of Stephen essentially affirms the Messianic belief in the deity of Yeshua (Bruce 171).
60 And having fallen to his knees he cried out a loud voice, "Lord, do not let this sin stand against them." And having said this, he fell asleep.
And: Grk. de, conj. having fallen: Grk. tithēmi, aor. part. See verse 16 above. to his knees: pl. of Grk. gonu, the anatomical joint of the knee. he cried out: Grk. krazō, aor. See verse 57 above. a loud voice: See verse 57 above. The repetition of the exact wording contrast sharply the mercy of Stephen with the rage of his attackers. Lord: Grk. kurios, voc. case. See the previous verse. do not: Grk. mē, adv., negative particle. See verse 19 above. let this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. sin: Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. The first meaning applies here.
In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16). Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7). The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. In this instance the "sin" would be murder.
stand: Grk. histēmi, aor. subj., lit. "stand." See verse 33 above. The subjunctive mood denotes mild contingency or probability. In this verse the verb is a subjunctive of prohibition or a negative entreaty. Many versions translate the verb as "hold," perhaps giving the sense of clinging to an attitude of opposition. The choice of histēmi is probably meant to suggest the word picture of weighing out something on scales (BAG 383). In the LXX histēmi is used to render Heb. shaqal (SH-8254), to weigh something with both literal and figurative uses (cf. Job 6:2; 31:6; Dan 5:27; Jer 32:10; Zech 11:12). against them: pl. Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun is in the form of an indirect object.
Bruce comments that the petition of Stephen contrasts with that of Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, who when he was stoned to death for his message from God, uttered, "May ADONAI see and avenge!" (2Chr 24:22 TLV). Gilbert suggests that the intercession of Stephen on behalf of his killers was possibly modeled on the image of the servant in Isaiah 53:12 (213). Even though Stephen does not say "I forgive them," the entreaty reflects that he did not hold a grudge. He prayed for his persecutors as Yeshua had instructed (Matt 5:44), presumably on the basis of his countrymen's ignorance, as Yeshua had acknowledged from the cross (Luke 23:34). Knowing the justice and judgment of God, Stephen did not want wrath poured out on his native country because of the injustice done to him, but instead that they would have the opportunity to come to faith in their Messiah.
Even so Stephen did not presume to dictate to God. Stephen was well aware that in the time of the wilderness wanderings Moses had initially petitioned for God to grant mercy in the wake of the golden calf idolatry and God granted his request (Ex 32:11-14). However, when Moses discovered the depth of the rebellion he realized the need for atonement, but he couldn't be sure that God would be merciful. Moses was even willing to be blotted out of the book of life in order to preserve Israel from God's wrath. In response God warned Moses that the rebels would be punished for their sin and then God struck the offenders with some kind of plague (Ex 32:30-35). In this instance God would simply add the sin against Stephen to the list of offenses for which Yeshua promised the Judean leaders would be punished (cf. Matt 23:34-36).
Regardless of Stephen's prayer, the apostolic message and writings do not invalidate the need for justice so often emphasized in the Tanakh. Rather, there is consistency between the New Covenant and the former covenants in the expectation and promise of doing justice. The contrast between the mercy exhibited in Stephen's prayer and the desire for justice and vindication in the case of Zechariah and the great tribulation martyrs (Rev 6:10) has led some Christian commentators to view Stephen as the model Christian response (even though he was a Jew) and the prayers for justice as a Jewish response. The Christian response to opposition is thought to be limited to passive toleration of evil and returning good for evil as described by Yeshua (Matt 5:38-48) and Paul (Rom 12:14-21). However, "passive toleration" is equivalent to acceptance. Sin should be confronted as Stephen did (e.g., Mark 6:18; Matt 18:15; John 5:14; Acts 5:3), not tolerated.
From the time of Noah, God declared, "whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Gen 9:6). Victims of murder deserve justice from the Supreme Court of the Universe and not pacifist platitudes. It may seem ironic that Saul, who witnessed and gave approval to the stoning of Stephen would later as an apostle of Yeshua declare that God would do this very thing:
"Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted with us, when the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 punishing those who don’t know God, and to those who don't obey the Good News of our Lord Yeshua, 9 who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might." (2Th 1:6-9 HNV)
And: Grk. kai, conj. having said: Grk. legō, aor. part. See verse 1 above. this: Grk. houtos. he fell asleep: Grk. koimaō, aor. pass., normally used of sleep, but used here as a euphemism of death (cf. Matt 27:62; John 11:11; 1Cor 15:18-20). Thus, the chapter concludes with the report of the first martyrdom of a follower of Yeshua. There will be more to come in Luke's narrative. Stern notes that readiness for martyrdom is seen already in the Tanakh in the case of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who preferred being thrown into the burning fiery furnace over bowing down to the idols of King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 3:16-18). In the Hellenistic period, 2Maccabees reports that when Antiochus IV ordered Jews to renounce their religion, seven sons and their mother, one after the other, chose death over betrayal of their faith (2Macc 7:1-41). Ever since Stephen millions of Yeshua followers have made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives rather than betray their Savior.
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot. ed. Charles Van der Pool. Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation. Online.
Ant.: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Antiquities of the Jews (Latin Antiquitates Judaicae). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Archer: Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. Moody Bible Institute, 2007.
Atlas: Oxford Bible Atlas, Second Edition. ed. Herbert G. May. Oxford University Press, 1974.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barnes: Albert Barnes (1798-1870), New Testament Notes. Baker Book House, 1949. Online.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1954.
Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible (1826). ed. Ralph Earle. Baker Book House, 1967. Online.
Coffman: James Burton Coffman (1905-2006), Commentaries on the Bible. Online.
Coke: Thomas Coke (1747-1814), Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Gilbert: Gary Gilbert, Annotations on "The Acts of the Apostles," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
Ginzberg: Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews. Public Domain, 1909.
Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic? CreateSpace, 2005.
Harrison: R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament. Hendrickson Pub., 1969.
HBD: Holman Bible Dictionary. ed. Trent C. Butler. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Isaac: Isaac ben Abraham of Troki (1533-1594), Chizuk Emunah ("Faith Strengthened"). 2 vols. Trans. Moses Mocatta, 1851. Online.
ISBE: James Orr, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1939. Website HTML, 2011. Online.
Jastrow: Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903, 1926. Online.
Klausner: Joseph Klausner (1874-1958), From Jesus to Paul. trans. William Stinespring. The Macmillan Company, 1943; First Menorah Pub. Co., 1979.
Lichtenstein: Jechiel Zvi Lichtenstein (1827-1912), A Commentary on the New Testament (1904); slightly edited edition published by Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 2002. Online in Hebrew.
Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), "Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations upon the Acts of the Apostles," (Vol. 4), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), 4 Vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.
Longenecker: Richard N. Longenecker, Acts. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 9. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp., 1989-1999.
Marshall: I. Howard Marshall, Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity Press, 1980.
Mekhilta: Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael (A.D. 135). Online with Hebrew text and English translation.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Midrash: Medieval Hebrew: The Midrash, vol. 4, The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East. Parke, Austin, and Lipscomb, Inc., 1917. public domain. Online.
Morris: Henry Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Baker Book House, 1976.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NA28: Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition. eds. Barbara and Kurt Aland, John Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger. German Bible Society and American Bible Society, 2012. [NA28 has the same Greek text as UBS-5.]
Payne: J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. Baker Books, 1973.
Purkiser: W.T. Purkiser, ed. Exploring the Old Testament. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1955.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TDSS: The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. Rev. ed. Trans. Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr. and Edward Cook. HarperOne, 2005.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
Varughese: Alex Varughese, ed., Discovering the Old Testament: Story and Faith. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2003.
Williams: A. Lukyn Williams (1853–1943), A Manual of Christian Evidences for Jewish People. 2 vols. Public Domain, 1919. Online.
Wright: N.T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-12 (The New Testament for Everyone). Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.
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