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2: And he said - St. Stephen had been accused of blasphemy
against Moses, and even against God; and of speaking against the
temple and the law, threatening that Jesus would destroy the one,
and change the other. In answer to this accusation, rehearsing
as it were the articles of his historical creed, he speaks of
God with high reverence, and a grateful sense of a long series
of acts of goodness to the Israelites, and of Moses with great
respect, on account of his important and honourable employments
under God: of the temple with regard, as being built to the
honour of God; yet not with such superstition as the Jews;
putting them in mind, that no temple could comprehend God. And
he was going on, no doubt, when he was interrupted by their
clamour, to speak to the last point, the destruction of the
temple, and the change of the law by Christ. Men, brethren, and
fathers, hearken - The sum of his discourse is this:
I acknowledge the glory of God revealed to the fathers,(Ac 7:2) the calling of Moses, (Ac 7:34)&c; the
dignity of the law, (Ac 7:8,38,44); the holiness
of this place, (Ac 7:7,45,47). And indeed the
law is more ancient than the temple; the promise more ancient
than the law. For God showed himself the God of Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, and their children freely,(Ac 7:2,9,17,32,34,35)
and they showed faith and obedience to God,(Ac 7:4,20,23)
particularly by their regard for the law, (Ac 7:8)
and the promised land, (Ac 7:16)
Meantime, God never confined his presence to this one place or to
the observers of the law. For he hath been acceptably worshipped
before the law was given, or the temple built, and out of this land,(Ac 7:2,9,33,44)
And that our fathers and their posterity were not tied down to
this land, their various sojournings,(Ac 7:4,14,29,44)
and exile, (Ac 7:43)
But you and your fathers have always been evil, (Ac 7:9)
have withstood Moses, (Ac 7:25,39)
have despised the land, (Ac 7:39)
forsaken God, (Ac 7:40) superstitiously honoured the temple,
(Ac 7:48) resisted God and his Spirit, (Ac 7:50)
killed the prophets and the Messiah himself, (Ac 7:51)
and kept not the law for which ye contend, (Ac 7:53)
Therefore God is not bound to you; much less to you alone. And
truly this solemn testimony of Stephen is most worthy of his
character, as a man full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith and
power: in which, though he does not advance so many regular
propositions, contradictory to those of his adversaries, yet he
closely and nervously answers them all. Nor can we doubt but he
would, from these premises, have drawn inferences touching the
destruction of the temple, the abrogation of the Mosaic law, the
punishment of that rebellious people; and above all, touching
Jesus of Nazareth, the true Messiah, had not his discourse been
interrupted by the clamours of the multitude, stopping their ears,
and rushing upon him. Men, brethren, and fathers - All who are
here present, whether ye are my equals in years, or of more
advanced age. The word which in this and in many other places
is rendered men is a mere expletive. The God of glory - The
glorious God, appeared to Abraham before he dwelt in Haran
- Therefore Abraham knew God, long before he was in this land.(Ge 12:1).
3: Which I will show thee - Abraham knew not where he went.
4: After his father was dead - While Terah lived, Abraham lived
partly with him, partly in Canaan: but after he died, altogether
5: No, not to set his foot on - For the field mentioned,(Ac 7:16), he did not receive by a Divine donation, but
bought it; even thereby showing that he was a stranger in
6: (Ge 15:13).
7: They shall serve me - Not the Egyptians.
8: And so he begat Isaac - After the covenant was given, of which
circumcision was the seal. (Ge 17:10).
9: But God was with him - Though he was not in this land.(Ge 37:28).
12: Sent our fathers first - Without Benjamin.
14: Seventy - five souls - So the seventy interpreters, (whom
St. Stephen follows,) one son and a grandson of Manasseh,
and three children of Ephraim, being added to the seventy
persons mentioned (Ge 46:27).
16: And were carried over to Shechem - It seems that St. Stephen,
rapidly running over so many circumstances of history, has not
leisure (nor was it needful where they were so well known) to
recite them all distinctly. Therefore he here contracts into
one, two different sepulchres, places, and purchases, so as in
the former history, to name the buyer, omitting the seller, in
the latter, to name the seller, omitting the buyer. Abraham
bought a burying place of the children of Heth, Gen. xxiii.(Ge 23:1-20) There Jacob was buried. Jacob bought a field
of the children of Hamor. There Joseph was buried. You see
here, how St. Stephen contracts these two purchases into one.
This concise manner of speaking, strange as it seems to us,
was common among the Hebrews; particularly, when in a case
notoriously known, the speaker mentioned but part of the story,
and left the rest, which would have interrupted the current of
his discourse, to be supplied in the mind of the hearer. And
laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought - The first land which
these strangers bought was for a sepulchre. They sought for a
country in heaven. Perhaps the whole sentence might be rendered
thus: So Jacob went down into Egypt and died, he and our fathers,
and were carried over to Shechem, and laid by the sons (that is,
decendants) of Hamor, the father of Shechem, in the sepulchre
that Abraham bought for a sum of money.
17: (Ex 1:7).
18: Another king - Probably of another family.
19: Exposed - Cast out to perish by hunger or wild beasts.
20: In which time - A sad but a seasonable time.(Ex 2:2).
21: Pharaoh's daughter took him up - By which means, being designed
for a kingdom, he had all those advantages of education, which he
could not have had, if he had not been exposed.
22: In all the wisdom of the Egyptians - Which was then celebrated
in all the world, and for many ages after. And mighty in words
- Deep, solid, weighty, though not of a ready utterance.
23: It came into his heart - Probably by an impulse from God.
24: Seeing one wronged - Probably by one of the task masters.
25: They understood it not - Such was their stupidity and sloth;
which made him afterward unwilling to go to them.
26: He showed himself - Of his own accord, unexpectedly.
27: Who appointed thee - "Under the presence of the want of a call
by man, the instruments of God are often rejected."
30: The angel - The Son of God; as appears from his styling
himself Jehovah. In a flame of fire - Signifying the majesty
of God then present. (Ex 3:2).
33: Then said the Lord, Loose thy shoes - An ancient token of
reverence; for the place is holy ground - The holiness of places
depends on the peculiar presence of God there.
35: This Moses whom they refused - Namely, forty years before.
Probably, not they, but their fathers did it, and God imputes
it to them. So God frequently imputes the sins of the fathers
to those of their children who are of the same spirit. Him did
God send to be a deliverer - Which is much more than a judge; by
the hand of - That is, by means of the angel - This angel who spoke
to Moses on Mount Sinai expressly called himself Jehovah, a name
which cannot, without the highest presumption, be assumed by any
created angel, since he whose name alone is Jehovah, is the Most
High over all the earth.(Ps 83:18). It was therefore the Son of God who delivered the
law to Moses, under the character of Jehovah, and who is here
spoken of as the angel of the covenant, in respect of his
37: The Lord will raise you up a prophet - St. Stephen here shows
that there is no opposition between Moses and Christ.(De 18:15)
38: This is he - Moses. With the angel, and with our fathers - As
a mediator between them. Who received the living oracles - Every
period beginning with, And the Lord said unto Moses, is properly
an oracle. But the oracles here intended are chiefly the ten
commandments. These are termed living, because all the word of
God, applied by his Spirit, is living and powerful, (Heb 4:12),
enlightening the eyes, rejoicing the heart, converting the soul,
raising the dead. (Ex 19:3).
40: Make us gods to go before us - Back into Egypt.(Ex 32:1).
41: And they made a calf - In imitation of Apis, the Egyptian god:
and rejoiced in the works of their hands - In the god they had made.
42: God turned - From them in anger; and gave them up - Frequently
from the time of the golden calf, to the time of Amos, and
afterward. The host of heaven - The stars are called an army or
host, because of their number, order, and powerful influence.
In the book of the prophets - Of the twelve prophets, which the
Jews always wrote together in one book. Have ye offered - The
passage of Amos referred to, (Am 5:25)
consists of two parts; of which the former confirms,(Ac 7:41,42)
of the sin of the people; the latter the beginning of ver. 42,
concerning their punishment. Have ye offered to me - They had
offered many sacrifices; but God did not accept them as offered
to him, because they sacrificed to idols also; and did not
sacrifice to him with an upright heart. (Am 5:25).
43: Ye took up - Probably not long after the golden calf: but
secretly; else Moses would have mentioned it. The shrine - A
small, portable chapel, in which was the image of their god.
Moloch was the planet Mars, which they worshipped under a human
shape. Remphan, that is, Saturn, they represented by a star.
And I will carry you beyond Babylon - That is, beyond Damascus
(which is the word in Amos) and Babylon. This was fulfilled
by the king of Assyria, (2Ki 17:6).
44: Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony - The testimony
was properly the two tables of stone, on which the ten
commandments were written. Hence the ark which contained them
is frequently called the ark of the testimony; and the whole
tabernacle in this place. The tabernacle of the testimony
- according to the model which he had seen - When he was caught
up in the visions of God on the mount.
45: Which our fathers having received - From their ancestors;
brought into the possession of the Gentiles - Into the land which
the Gentiles possessed before. So that God's favour is not a
necessary consequence of inhabiting this land. All along St.
Stephen intimates two things: 1. That God always loved good men
in every land: 2. That he never loved bad men even in this.(Jos 3:14).
46: Who petitioned to find a habitation for the God of Jacob - But
he did not obtain his petition: for God remained without any
temple till Solomon built him a house. Observe how wisely the
word is chosen with respect to what follows.
48: Yet the Most High inhabiteth not temples made with hands - As
Solomon declared at the very dedication of the temple, (1Ki 8:27).
The Most High - Whom as such no building can contain.(Isa 66:1).
49: What is the place of my rest? - Have I need to rest?
51: Ye stiff necked - Not bowing the neck to God's yoke; and
uncircumcised in heart - So they showed themselves,(Ac 7:54) and ears - As they showed,(Ac 7:57) So far were they from receiving the word of God into their
hearts, that they would not hear it even with their ears.
Ye - And your fathers, always - As often as ever ye are called,
resist the Holy Ghost - Testifying by the prophets of Jesus, and
the whole truth. This is the sum of what he had shown at large.
53: Who have received the law by the administration of angels
- God, when he gave the law on Mount Sinai, was attended with
thousands of his angels, (Ga 3:19,Ps 68:17).
55: But he looking steadfastly up to heaven, saw the glory
of God - Doubtless he saw such a glorious representation, God
miraculously operating on his imagination, as on Ezekiel's, when
he sat in his house at Babylon, and saw Jerusalem, and seemed
to himself transported thither, (Eze 8:1-4).
And probably other martyrs, when called to suffer the last
extremity, have had extraordinary assistance of some similar kind.
56: I see the Son of man standing - As if it were just ready to
receive him. Otherwise he is said to sit at the right hand of
57: They rushed upon him - Before any sentence passed.
58: The witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young
man, whose name was Saul - O Saul, couldst thou have believed, if
one had told thee, that thou thyself shouldst be stoned in the
same cause? and shouldst triumph in committing thy soul likewise
to that Jesus whom thou art now blaspheming? His dying prayer
reached thee, as well as many others. And the martyr Stephen,
and Saul the persecutor, (afterward his brother both in faith
and martyrdom,) are now joined in everlasting friendship, and
dwell together in the happy company of those who have made their
robes white in the blood of the Lamb.
59: And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying, Lord Jesus,
receive my spirit - This is the literal translation of the words,
the name of God not being in the original. Nevertheless such
a solemn prayer to Christ, in which a departing soul is thus
committed into his hands, is such an act of worship, as no good
man could have paid to a mere creature; Stephen here worshipping
Christ in the very same manner in which Christ worshipped the
Father on the cross.