SUMMARY.--Stephen Outlines God's Dealings with Abraham.
The Christ Promised.
Abraham a Man of Faith Before Circumcision Was Appointed.
The Patriarchs Sell Joseph into Bondage, Ignorant of the Counsels of God.
The Israelites in Egypt First Reject Moses Their Deliverer.
The Rejected Moses Is Their Savior.
He Predicted a Prophet Like Unto Himself.
The Tabernacle and Temple Built, Though God Dwells Not in.
Temples Made with Hands.
The Jews of Stephen's Time Were Like Their Fathers in Resisting God.
Had Slain the Holy One and Had Not Kept the Law.
The Outburst of Rage.
Stephen Stoned by the Mob.
1. Are these things so? As president, the high priest asks what
reply Stephen has to make to the charges. 
2. Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken. In order to make his
defence, to unveil the fact that his accusers were fighting God, and to
preach Christ, Stephen rapidly outlines Jewish history. Every fact
cited has a point. Note (1) that Abraham was called in uncircumcision,
and the Christ promised through his seed before he was circumcised; (2)
that Joseph, the type of Christ, was rejected by his brethren, and
afterwards saves them; (3) that Moses is also rejected and despised,
but that God makes choice of him to save Israel; (4) that the
Israelites went whoring after false gods and were carried into
captivity; (5) that God had the tabernacle and temple built, but was
particular to assure Israel that he dwelt not in temples made with
human hands; (6) that their Moses, rejected, whom the people refused to
obey, predicted a prophet like unto himself, and (7) that in the
rejection of Christ they showed just the same spirit as their fathers
who had rejected and slain the prophets who predicted Christ's coming.
The speech is pointed, logical, and powerful, not intended to
conciliate, but to show the Jews their own sins.
The God of glory appeared unto . . . Abraham . . . in
Abraham's childhood home was at Ur of the Chaldees in
Mesopotamia, the country between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
gives a second call at Haran, or Charran (the same), but Stephen
declares that the family had gone from Ur to Charran, because of an
Charran was on the route to Canaan, and Abraham made a stop there of
five years, until his father died
(Gen. 11:31, 32).
verse 4 of this chapter.
5. Gave him none inheritance in it. Abraham possessed Canaan
only by faith. He looked to the fulfillment of the promise, that it
would be the possession of his children when he had neither land nor
6. His seed should sojourn in a strange land. See
Gen. 15:13, 16.
Four hundred years. In round numbers, counting from the time
the seed, Isaac, should be born to the Exodus. It is stated in
that the sojourning of the children of Israel was 430 years. This
includes the period from the call of Abraham to the Exodus. See
Gal. 3:16, 17.
But Isaac was born about thirty years after the call of Abraham, which
leaves Stephen's period of 400 years.
8. And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. After his call
and the promise of Christ. See
The covenant of Christ was for all; circumcision for the Jews.
9. The patriarchs, moved with envy. The sons of Jacob. See
As they rejected Joseph, their descendants rejected Jesus.
God was with him. With the one rejected, and raised him to royal
honors in the house of Pharaoh.
11. There came a dearth. For the history of Joseph, begin at
and read to the close of Genesis. For the account of the famine and the
visit to Egypt of the ten brethren, see
Gen. 42 and 43.
14. Then sent Joseph. The rejected Joseph becomes the prince and
savior of all Israel.
Threescore and fifteen souls.Gen. 46:27
says that sixty-six persons besides Jacob, Joseph and his two sons,
seventy in all, were in Egypt. But the Septuagint Version, quoted
almost invariably by Christ and the apostles, as well as by Stephen
here, after giving the sixty-six, adds: "And the sons of Joseph born in
Egypt were nine souls." The nine, added to the sixty-six, make the
seventy-five that Stephen gives. Why this clause was omitted from the
Hebrew text, followed by the Common Version, is unknown. Stephen simply
follows the text received by Christ, the apostles, and the Jews
16. And were carried over into Sychem. Jacob was buried at
Hebron in the cave of Machpelah
but the fathers were buried in Sychem. We are told
that Joseph was buried there, and Jewish tradition always affirmed that
his brethren were buried there also. Jerome, in the fourth century,
said that their tombs were still to be seen. He lived in Palestine.
That Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor. For
an account of this purchase, see
Gen. 33:19 and Josh. 24:32.
The difficulty arises that it was Jacob that made the purchase
instead of Abraham. Some have supposed that Stephen, in the hurry of a
rapid speech under exciting circumstances, by an oversight used the
name of Abraham for Jacob; others have thought that Abraham did make
the purchase first and that it was repeated by Jacob. Neither of these
are probable. Had Stephen made a lapsus, it would have been
corrected by Luke, who wrote under Paul's supervision (see
so as to give Stephen's meaning. It is far more probable that some
copyist, by oversight, first wrote "Abraham" for "Jacob," and that the
MSS. that have come down to us were made from that copy. There can
hardly be a doubt that a man so learned in the Scriptures as Stephen,
and making an inspired defence, said Jacob.
17. The time of the promise. Of deliverance from Egypt. See
Gen. 15:13, 14.
Which God had 
sworn. Solemnly promised. There is no account of a formal oath.
"Every divine assurance is equivalent to an
18-21. For an account of the persecution of Israel and birth of
Exod. 1 and 2.
22. Moses was learned. He was reared as "the son of Pharaoh's
and would be educated in all the accomplishments of his time. We know
from the researches of the Egyptologists (see Rawlinson's Egypt) that
at the period of Moses there were great universities for the education
of all who were expected to engage in public employments. Eber's
Uarda gives a good picture of Egypt when Moses was a child.
23-29. For the accounts here given, see
Observe the point of Stephen, that Israel rejected Moses as "a ruler
and judge over them,"
as they had rejected Joseph and Jesus. Yet God chose both Joseph and
Moses to be their saviors and rulers.
35, 36. This Moses whom they refused. With great force Stephen
makes his application. This Moses they refused, but God sent him
as their ruler and deliverer. If his hearers failed to see the point,
makes it clear.
37. This is that Moses, which said. This rejected Moses who was
chosen by God to be a prince and a savior hath said,
A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up . . . like unto me.
Like me, "of your brethren;" like me, rejected and despised by Israel;
like me, exalted to be a Prince and a Savior by God. See
38. This is he. Moses.
That was in the church in the wilderness. The congregation of
Israel, the typical church. Moses was its mediator.
With the angel. The angel of the Covenant, who communicated the
law to Moses in Sinai. See
verse 53 and Exod. 23:20, 23.
Lively oracles. The Word of life.
39-42. These verses summarize the unbelief, disbelief and
waywardness of Israel under Moses. The point is to show that the
rejection of Christ harmonizes with their past history. See
Exod. 16:3; 17:4; 32:1-14;
Did ye offer unto me slain beasts and sacrifices? This passage
is quoted 
The emphasis is on me. Did ye not offer them to false gods also?
gives the reply.
43. Ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch. Israel turned to the
abominable worship of Moloch and other false gods, and hence shall be
carried into Captivity. Moloch, a god of the Amorites, worshiped
by human sacrifices.
Remphan. Some planet worshiped as a god.
Beyond Babylon. A punishment brought on all Israel for its sins,
predicted by Amos.
Observe still his point of showing their national sinfulness.
44-50. Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness. The tabernacle
built at Sinai, a witness of the Covenant
and of the good things to come
This tabernacle, built by God's command, according to his pattern
(Exod. 25:9, 40),
they had rejected for "the tabernacle of Moloch"
Which also our fathers . . . brought in with Jesus. Joshua,
the Hebrew form for Jesus. He and the later generations of Jews brought
this tabernacle into Canaan when they conquered it.
Desired to find a tabernacle. David, who sought to build a
(2 Sam. 7:2; 1 Chron. 22:7).
He was restrained from building the temple, and it was erected by
(2 Chron. 6:7, 8).
48. Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not. See
2 Chron. 6:18.
The argument is that the tabernacle was laid aside for the temple by
God's command; that God does not confine himself in any house made with
hands, and hence the temple also might be laid aside. God's real temple
was greater than the building they reverenced so superstitiously. See
51. Ye stiffnecked. Stubborn, like the ox which refuses to bend
its neck for the yoke. Stephen now makes his direct application.
Uncircumcised. Aliens in heart from God. The uncircumcised were
aliens from Israel. Stephen told them that spiritually they were
heathen. They, like their fathers,
resist the Holy Ghost. The will of God.
52, 53. Which of the prophets, etc.? Their fathers habitually
persecuted the prophets and slew some of them who predicted Christ (see
lives of Isaiah and Jeremiah). Now they, his hearers, were murderers of
the Just One.
Received the law by the disposition of angels. Through the
ministration of angels. See
Have not kept it. Pretending to be very scrupulous observers
of the law, they were wicked law-breakers.
54. They were cut to the heart. Convulsed with rage. Stephen's
speech was now violently interrupted. Their rage is shown by their
gnashing their teeth.
55. Looked up stedfastly into heaven. The Lord who had promised
his presence was with him. His faith was so strengthened that, by
faith, he saw the Savior in Heaven, through the opened heavens. The
scene was revealed to his soul, instead of his eyes.
57. Cried out with a loud voice. They cried, closed their ears
to what they called blasphemy, then, in a tumult, without a vote on his
guilt or innocence, rushed upon him to slay him, though yet uncondemned
58. Cast him out of the city. See
Though committing murder, they were scrupulous to comply with their
custom of execution outside of the city.
And stoned him. Jesus was crucified, because the Romans put him
to death; Stephen was stoned, because Jesus slew him. Stoning was their
usual method of execution.
The witnesses. The witnesses had to cast the first stones
(Deut. 13:10; 17:7).
Though doing all in a tumult, without the consent of the Roman
governor, the forms of the law were observed.
At a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. Chrysostom says that
this young man, who was to become so celebrated, was now about
thirty-five. Hackett thinks we was about thirty. For a fuller account
of him, see
59, 60. Stoned Stephen. Repeated to show that in the storm of
stones he committed himself to Jesus.
Kneeled down. Either voluntarily, or brought to his knees by the
cruel blows. The point is that in his sufferings, like his Master, he
prayed for his enemies. Saul, no doubt, noted this, and it had its
He fell asleep. To wake again at his Savior's voice. The death
of Stephen was a murder, instead of an execution, because (1) no vote
of the Sanhedrim was taken, and (2) the consent of the Roman governor,
requisite to capital punishment, was not obtained. Consult