New Defender's Study Bible Notes
7:2 hearken. Stephen had been accused of blasphemy against the temple and the law but, even though the false witnesses had distorted his message, Stephen did not attempt to defend himself. Instead he probably presented the same type of message to the council he had been preaching in the synagogue, stressing that the principles of God’s plan for Israel were established long before the temple system, and that the Abrahamic covenant centered in the promised Messiah, as did the preaching of the prophets. But Israel had rejected God’s Word at every stage, had killed the prophets, corrupted the law and finally murdered the Messiah when He came. Stephen’s message was powerful and true, but could only anger the council still further.
7:2 God of glory. This title—“the God of glory”—occurs only one other time in the Bible, in Psalm 29:3: “The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.” In context, this psalm records David’s retrospective vision of the great Flood (for details, see the notes on Psalm 29). Stephen’s use of this name at the beginning of his apologetics exhortation to these rulers of Israel was probably to remind them that the same Creator God who judged the whole world in the days of Noah had called Abram, not just to found an elect nation but to use that nation to bring the promised seed who would bless all nations.
7:3 said unto him. Here Stephen quotes Genesis 12:1, God’s call to Abram; Stephen’s hearers would certainly recall that this call was immediately followed by the promise of a seed who would bless all nations of the earth (Genesis 12:3).
7:4 his father was dead. Apparently Abram’s father Terah had also been called to go to Canaan, but instead he only went as far as Haran (Genesis 11:32). Abram could not continue to Canaan until his father died. Terah had, at least to some degree, served other gods (Joshua 24:2), along with his belief in the true God. See notes on Genesis 11:26–12:4.
7:6 four hundred years. Genesis 15:13 also says 400 years, whereas Exodus 12:40 and Galatians 3:17 say this period was 430 years. Probably the Israelites were treated well for the first thirty years, then evil, as Stephen says, for four hundred years.
7:9 the patriarchs, moved with envy. In documenting the long-continued rebellion of the Israelite leaders against God’s plan, Stephen thus notes that this began with the very first generation of the children of Israel.
7:14 threescore and fifteen souls. In Genesis 46:27, we are told that “all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” A number of ways have been suggested for correlating these two numbers. Probably the most natural solution is to assume that the seventy-five included several wives of Jacob’s sons who were not actually “of the house of Jacob” but who did come into Egypt and were recognized as his kindred.
7:22 wisdom of the Egyptians. Critics used to allege that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch, because he could not have known how to write. This is absurd; most people in Egypt and Babylonia knew how to write long before Moses. Moses himself was raised as a prince, in line possibly even for Egypt’s throne, and was thoroughly trained in all the culture of the advanced Egyptian civilization.
7:27 thrust him away. Stephen reminded the council that even Moses had been rejected at first by the leaders of Israel.
7:37 A prophet. Stephen here quoted Deuteronomy 18:15, which the Jewish leaders did recognize as a Messianic prophecy. They should indeed have recognized that “Prophet like Moses,” since they professed to honor and follow Moses and were accusing Stephen of changing his customs.
7:38 the church. The Greek for “church” is ekklesia, meaning the “called-out ones.” In Deuteronomy 18:16, right after Moses’ prophecy of the coming prophet, the word for “assembly,” referring to the whole assembled congregation of Israel at Mount Sinai, was translated ekklesia in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. However, neither the nation Israel nor a local synagogue is ever called a “church” in the same sense as a local assembly of Christian believers.
7:38 the angel. The “angel” who spoke with Moses at Sinai, delivering unto him the “living oracles”—that is, the Scriptures—was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in a pre-incarnate theophany.
7:38 the lively oracles. This felicitous expression means “the utterances that are vibrantly alive” and refers to the Scriptures. There are just three other references to these “oracles” (Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; I Peter 4:11), always referring to God’s word.
7:42 gave them up. Compare Romans 1:24,26,28. Just as God had “given up” the ancient civilizations when they gave Him up for false gods, so He did with His chosen people when they lapsed into idolatry.
7:42 host of heaven. The “host of heaven” was the array of false gods (actually “fallen angels”) believed to dwell in the heavens, associated with the stars and the practice of astrology.
7:42 book of the prophets. See Amos 5:25-27. The ultimate result of their apostasy was exile beyond Damascus into Assyria, Babylonia and Persia.
7:44 he had appointed. Stephen reminds the council that the temple of which they were so zealous had not actually been appointed by God, as the movable tabernacle in the wilderness had. God had even given Moses all the detailed specifications for the tabernacle, which He had not done for the temple. Although God had accepted and blessed the temple with His presence, the building itself was not sacred and was not destined to last forever. In fact, the existing temple had been built by the Edomite Herod, who cared nothing for God and had built it only for political reasons. Jesus had predicted it would soon be destroyed (Luke 21:5-6).
7:45 with Jesus. This reference, of course, is to Joshua, whose name was the Hebrew form of “Jesus,” (meaning “Jehovah the Savior,” or simply “salvation”). Possibly Stephen inserted this name here deliberately in order to subtly call attention to the parallel ministries of Joshua, who conquered Canaan, and Jesus, who had come to conquer Satan, sin and death.
7:48 temples made with hands. Even Solomon, in his dedicatory prayer at the completion of the first temple, had acknowledged that God, being omnipresent, could not really dwell in a physical building (I Kings 8:27).
7:48 saith the prophet. Stephen here quoted their most honored prophet (Isaiah 66:1-2).
7:50 my hand made. Stephen had evidently taken the Great Commission seriously. The God of Israel was actually the God who had created the whole world, and now wanted the gospel carried to all men.
7:51 uncircumcised. The Jews placed great stress on the physical ritual of circumcision, forgetting that it was meant to be symbolic of their complete dedication to the will and purposes of God. Thus their hearts were still cold toward God and their ears inattentive to His Word, so that God could not reach them.
7:51 as your fathers did. Although their fathers had persecuted the prophets, the current generation of Jews professed to honor them. They claimed that if they had been living in the days of the prophets, they would not have slain them as their fathers had done (Matthew 23:30), but Jesus had called them the true “children of them which killed the prophets” (Matthew 23:31), and Stephen repeated the charge. This they had proved when they murdered Jesus (Acts 7:52) and now were planning the same for Stephen, whose messages had contained the same rebukes their fathers had heard for similar rebellion against the true God and His Word.
7:53 disposition of angels. See Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2; Deuteronomy 33:2.
7:53 not kept it. Stephen concluded by accusing the Jews of breaking God’s law, even as they had accused him of speaking against the law (Acts 6:13).
7:56 Son of man. Jesus had called Himself “the Son of man” at least eighty times, but this is the first time one of His disciples used the title. It had stressed, by implication, the universality of His ministry, and Stephen now emphasized it evidently for the same reason. Furthermore, the vision reported by Stephen must certainly have reminded them of the very similar circumstances of Jesus’ trial and conviction just a few weeks previously. He had said to them: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). Now, at Stephen’s trial, he was thus confirming the claim (and supposed blasphemy) of Jesus, thereby giving them an immediate excuse to slay him too. In addition, it would remind them of their frustration at being unable to produce the dead body of Jesus to stop the preaching of His resurrection. His body was alive and in heaven at the right hand of the Father. No wonder they were furious and proceeded forthwith to stone Stephen, not even going through Herod or Pilate, as they had with Jesus.
7:56 standing. Jesus is often presented as sitting at the right hand of God, acting as our Intercessor and Advocate (e.g., Acts 2:34; Romans 8:34; I John 2:1). Normally, the defense counsel remains seated in the presence of the judge, rising only to make objection when his client comes under especially severe attack or misrepresentation. Thus it is significant that Stephen saw Him standing at God’s right hand.
7:58 whose name was Saul. This is the first introduction to the young zealot who would become the Apostle Paul.