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ACTS
The continued Life of Jesus through the Apostles

CHAPTER SEVEN

"Stephen Stoned"
Key Verse = Acts 7:60

 
  Stephen's Address
  1. The call of Abraham 4. Israel rebels against God
  2. The patriarchs in Egypt 5. God's true tabernacle
  3. God delivers Israel by Moses 6. Israel resists the Holy Spirit
 
  7. Stephen, The first Martyr


Introduction to Chapter Seven
Stephen's Defense
Verses 2-53

Part 1
ABRAHAM  (verses 2-8)

Answer to the
1st & 4th Accusation

1. (vs 2, 3) God called Abraham
2. (vs 5) Gave Abraham no inheritance
3. (vs 5) Promised the land to his seed
4. (vs 6) His seed to sojourn in a strange land
5. (vs 6) His seed to be in bondage
6. (vs 7) God would bring them out
7. (vs 8) Gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision
Part 2
JOSEPH  (verses 9-16)

Joseph portrayed Jesus

1. (vs 9) Brothers moved with envy
2. (vs 10) BUT God was with him
3. (vs 10) Gave him favor with all Egyptians
4. (vs 10) Gave him wisdom in the sight of all the Egyptians
5. (vs 10) Made him governor over all of Egypt
6. (vs 10) Made him governor over all the house of Pharaoh
7. (vs 13) His brothers accepted him the second time
Part 3
MOSES  (verses 17-50)
Moses portrayed Jesus
Answer to the
2nd & 3rd Accusation
1. (vs 19, 20) Children were killed at his birth
2. (vs 22) Learned in all wisdom of Egypt
3. (vs 22) Mighty in words and deeds
4. (vs 23) Came into his heart to visit his brethren
5. (vs 24) Defended and avenged the oppressed
6. (vs 25) God would deliver by his hand
7. (vs 25) They did not understand
8. (vs 26) Would have set them at one again
9. (vs 27) He that did his neighbor wrong thrust away
10. (vs 29-34) God sent him to deliver Israel
11. (vs 35) Moses prophesied of Jesus
12. (vs 36) Moses brought them out of Egypt
13. (vs 38) Moses received the Law from God
14. (vs 39) Our fathers did not obey
15. (vs 39) They thrust him out
16. (vs 39) Turned back into Egypt
17. (vs 42) God gave them up
18. (vs 44-47) They had the Tabernacle & the Temple
19. (vs 48-50) But God does not dwell in a house made with hands
Part 4
ACCUSATION  (verses 51-53)

They Violated the
Covenant & Law

1. (vs 51) Stiff necked & uncircumcised in heart
2. (vs 51-52) As your fathers did, so do ye
3. (vs 53) You have received the law, but have not kept it

From the Bible Exposition Commentary

1. (vs 1-8) They misunderstood their own spiritual roots
2. (vs 9-36) They rejected their God-sent deliverers
3. (vs 37-43) They disobeyed their Law
4. (vs 44-50) They despised their temple
5. (vs 51-53) They stubbornly resisted their God and His truth
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)



THE  CALL  OF  ABRAHAM

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Acts 7:1-4
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(1)  Then the high priest said,  "Are these things so?"

Then  the high priest asked Stephen, Are these things so?

(2)  And he said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran,

He said, Men, brethren and fathers, hearken:  The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia before he came to dwell in Haran.

(3)  and said to him, 'Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.'

And he said to him, Get out of your land and from your relatives and come into the land which I shall show you.

(4)  Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

Then Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and came and settled in Haran and from thence, after his father's death, God removed him into this land in which you now live.

The high priest
Annas. Luke named the high priest only once, in Acts 4:6, and thereafter refers to him only as "the high priest."  He does not name the high priest again until Acts 23:2 when he names Ananias, who was the high priest about A.D. 48-58.

Are these things so?
A formal question by the high priest like our   "Do you plead guilty, or not guilty?"  to the charges brought against him. 

Brethren and fathers
Brethren The common people
Fathers The elders and scribes
In all this Stephen was perfectly respectful, and showed that he was disposed to render due honor to the institutions of the nation.

The God of glory
doxa (NT:1391) splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, preeminence, majesty
This is a Hebrew form of expression denoting  "the glorious God."
The word  "glory"  is often applied to the splendid appearances in which God has manifested Himself to people,  Deut 5:24;  Ex 33:18; 16:7, 10;  Lev 9:23;  Num 14:10.

Ten titles of God in the New Testament:
1. (Acts 7:2) The God of Glory
2. (Romans 15:5) The God of Patience
3. (Romans 15:13) The God of Hope
4. (Romans 15:33) The God of Peace
5. (2 Corinthians 1:3) The God of All Comfort
6. (2 Corinthians 1:3) Father of Mercies
7. (2 Corinthians 13:11) The God of Love
8. (1 Peter 5:10) The God of All Grace
9. (Deuteronomy 32:4) The God of Truth
10. (Hebrews 12:23) God the Judge of All

Unto our father Abraham
 The Jews valued themselves much on being the children of Abraham.

Mesopotamia
The word "Mesopotamia" properly denotes the region between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris.  The name is Greek, and the region had also other names before the Greek name was given to it.  In Genesis 11:31; 15:7, it is called Ur of the Chaldees. Mesopotamia and Chaldea might not exactly coincide; but it is evident that Stephen meant to say that "Ur" was in the country afterward called Mesopotamia.  And being of the Hellenists, he would use the Greek form.

Haran
This place was also in Mesopotamia, in 36 degrees 52 minutes north latitude and 39 degrees 5 minutes east longitude.  Here Terah died (Genesis 11:32);  and to this place Jacob retired when he fled from his brother Esau  (Genesis 27:43).  It is situated  "in a flat and sandy plain, and is inhabited by a few wandering Arabs, who select it for the delicious water which it contains"  (Robinson's Calmet).  The word "Charran" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Haran," Genesis 11:31.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Get out from your country
1. According to Genesis 11:31,  Terah took his son Abraham (Abram) and moved to Haran
 Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot...and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans...and they came to Haran and dwelt there.
2. We know from Genesis 15:7 that this was by God's design.
I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans.
3. Then God commanded Abraham to move (Genesis 12:1) -
Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.
4. So Abraham left Haran and went to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:4)
So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

From the Amplified Bible
(1)  And The high priest asked [Stephen], Are these charges true?
(2)  And he answered, Brethren and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before he [went to] live in Haran, [Genesis 11:31; 15:7; Psalms 29:3.]
(3)  And He said to him, Leave your own country and your relatives and come into the land (region) that I will point out to you. [Genesis 12:1.]
(4)  So then he went forth from the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, [God] transferred him to this country in which you are now dwelling. [Genesis 11:31; 12:5; 15:7.]

Acts 7:5-7
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(5)  And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him.

And he gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it as an inheritance to him and to his posterity, when as yet he had no son.

(6)  But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.

God spoke to him and said, Your descendants will be settlers in a foreign land where they will be enslaved and mistreated for a period of four hundred years.

(7)  'And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.'

But the people to whom they will be enslaved I will condemn, said God, and after that,, they shall go out and serve me in this land.


None inheritance

Abraham led a wandering life;  and this passage means that he did not himself receive a permanent possession or residence in that land.  The only land which he owned was the field which he "purchased" of the children of Heth for a burial place, Gen 23:  As this was obtained by purchase,  and not by the direct gift of God,  and as it was not designed for a "residence,"  it is said that God gave him no "inheritance."
It is mentioned as a strong instance of his faith that he should remain there without a permanent residence himself, with only the prospect that his children, at some distant period, would inherit it.

He promised
Here Steven hits the keynote of his entire discourse.
The promise of God was not tied Moses, the Law, or the Temple!
And this was the keynote of the new covenant.
Romans 9:9
For this is the word of promise : "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son."
Galatians 3:18
For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise ; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Galatians 4:28
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
Ephesians 1:13
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
Ephesians 2:12
You were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise.
Hebrews 6:17
Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.
Hebrews 11:9
By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.

Bring into bondage

douloósousin  (NT:1402)  - quoted from the LXX and refers to the enslavement of Israel by the Egyptians (Ex 1:8-11).

Four hundred years
The entire length of the Dispensation of Promise — Abraham to Moses — was 430 years (Exodus 12:40; Galatians 3:14-17).
Exodus 12:40
Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.
Galatians 3:16, 17
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made ... And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.
The 400 years of Genesis 15:13; Acts 7:6 are to be reckoned from the confirmation of Isaac as the seed when Ishmael was cast out (Genesis 21:12; Galatians 4:30). This was 5 years after the birth of Isaac.
Genesis 15:13
Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.
Acts 7:6
...and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.
The 430 years are reckoned from the departure of Abraham from Haran at the age of 75 years,  25 years before Isaac was born or 30 years before Isaac was confirmed and Ishmael cast out.

From the Amplified Bible
(5)  Yet He gave him no inheritable property in it, [no] not even enough ground to set his foot on; but He promised that He would give it to Him for a permanent possession and to his descendants after him, even though [as yet] he had no child. [Genesis 12:7; 17:8; Deuteronomy 2:5.]
(6)  And this is [in effect] what God told him: That his descendants would be aliens (strangers) in a land belonging to other people, who would bring them into bondage and ill-treat them 400 years.
(7)  But I will judge the nation to whom they will be slaves, said God, and after that they will escape and come forth and worship Me in this [very] place. [Genesis 15:13,14; Exodus 3:12.]

Acts 7:8
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(8)  Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs.

God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision; and then Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat our twelve patriarchs.


The covenant

The word  "covenant"  (diatheke - NT:1242)  denotes properly  "a compact or agreement between two or more persons,"  usually attended with seals, pledges, or sanctions.
In Genesis 17:7, and elsewhere, it is said that God would establish his  "covenant"  with Abraham;  that is, he made him certain definite promises, attended with pledges and seals, etc.
Genesis 17:7
And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
The idea of a strict  "compact"  or  "agreement"  between God and man, as between "equal parties";  is not found in the Bible.  The word is commonly used,  as here,  to denote  "a promise on the part of God,"  attended with pledges, and demanding, on the part of man, in order to avail himself of its benefits, a specified course of conduct.   The  "covenant"  is therefore another name for denoting two things on the part of God:
(1) A "command," which man is not at liberty to reject, as he would be if it were a literal covenant
(2) A "promise," which is to be fulfilled only on the condition of obedience.
The covenant with Abraham was simply a promise to give him the land, and to make him a great nation, etc.
It was NEVER proposed to Abraham with the supposition that he was at liberty to REJECT it, or to REFUSE to comply with its conditions.

Circumcision

Circumcision was appointed as the MARK or INDICATION that Abraham and those thus designated were the persons included in the gracious purpose and promise.  It served to SEPARATE them as a special people;  a people whose unique characteristic it was that they obeyed and served the God who had made the promise to Abraham. The phrase  "covenant of circumcision"  means,  therefore,
the covenant or promise which God made to Abraham, of which circumcision was the distinguishing "mark" or "sign."

The twelve patriarchs
The word "patriarch" properly denotes "the father and ruler of a family." But it is commonly applied, by way of eminence, to "the progenitors" of the Jewish race, particularly to the twelve sons of Jacob.

From the Amplified Bible
(8)  And [God] made with Abraham a covenant (an agreement to be religiously observed) of which circumcision was the seal. And under these circumstances [Abraham] became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac [did so] when he became the father of Jacob, and Jacob [when each of his sons was born], the twelve patriarchs. [Genesis 17:10-14; 21:2-4; 25:26; 29:31-35; 30:1-24; 35:16-26.]



THE  PATRIARCHS  IN  EGYPT

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Acts 7:9-10
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(9)   And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him

And our forefathers were jealous of Joseph; so they sold him into Egypt; but God was with him.

(10)  and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.

And he saved him from all his oppressors and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be overlord over Egypt and over all his house.


Becoming envious

That is, dissatisfied with the favor which their father Jacob showed Joseph,  and envious at the dreams which indicated that he was to be raised to remarkable honor above his parents and brethren, Gen 37:3-11.

Sold Joseph into Egypt
This was done at the suggestion of his brother Judah, who advised it that Joseph might not be put to death by his brothers, Gen 37:28.  Stephen,  by this fact,  prepare the way for a severe rebuke of the Jews for having dealt in a similar manner with their Messiah.

But God was with him
God protected him, and overruled all these wicked doings, so that he was raised to extraordinary honors.

From the Amplified Bible
(9)    And the patriarchs [Jacob's sons], boiling with envy and hatred and anger, sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt; but God was with him, [Genesis 37:11,28; 45:4.]
(10)  And delivered him from all his distressing afflictions and won him goodwill and favor and wisdom and understanding in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him governor over Egypt and all his house. [Genesis 39:2,3,21; 41:40-46; Psalms 105:21.]

Acts 7:11-16
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(11)  Now a famine and great trouble came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and our fathers found no sustenance.

Now there came a famine which brought great distress throughout Egypt and the land of Canaan so that our forefathers found no sustenance.

(12)  But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.

But when Jacob heard that there was wheat in Egypt, he sent out our forefathers on their first venture.

(13)  And the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to the Pharaoh.

When they went the second time, Joseph made himself known to his brothers; and Joseph's family was made known to Pharaoh.

(14)  Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people.

Then Joseph sent and brought his father Jacob and all his family, seventy-five souls in number.

(15)  So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers.

So Jacob went down to Egypt where he and our forefathers died.

(16)  And they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.

And he was removed to Shechem and buried in the sepulchre which Abraham had brought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor.


Seventy-five people

Stephen quotes the Septuagint  (being a Hellenistic Jew, Stephen would naturally use the Septuagint)  of Genesis 46:20 where Machir, Gilead, Sutelaam, Taham, and Eden, sons of Manasseh and Ephraim are listed, making 75 souls.
In Genesis 46:27 and Deut. 10:22 there are 70 without the 5 sons of Manasseh and Ephraim

Joseph bears a wonderful resemblance to Christ in many ways:
    Joseph Jesus
(1) He was beloved of his father (Genesis 37:3) (Matthew 3:17)
(2) He was hated by his brethren (Genesis 37:4-8) (John 15:25)
(3) He was envied by his brethren (Genesis 37:11) (Mark 15:10)
(4) He was sold for the price of a slave (Genesis 37:28) (Matthew 26:15)
(5) He was humbled as a servant (Genesis 39:1 ff) (Philippians 2:5 ff)
(6) He was falsely accused (Matthew 26:59-60) (Matthew 26:59-60)
(7) He was exalted to honor (Philippians 2:9-10) (Philippians 2:9-10)
(8) He was not recognized by his brethren the first time (Genesis 42:8) (Acts 3:17)
(9) He revealed himself to them the second time (Genesis 45:1 ff) (Acts 7:13)
(10) While rejected by his brethren, he took a Gentile bride (Genesis 41:45) (Acts 15:6-18)
Stephen's argument here is that the Jews had treated Christ the way the patriarchs treated Joseph, but he did not bring this accusation out until the end.
Just as Joseph suffered to save his people,
so Christ suffered to save Israel and all humankind;
yet the Jews did not receive Him.
(from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(11)  Then there came a famine over all of Egypt and Canaan, with great distress, and our forefathers could find no fodder [for the cattle] or vegetable sustenance [for their households]. [Genesis 41:54,55; 42:5.]
(12)  But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our forefathers [to go there on their] first trip. [Genesis 42:2.]
(13)  And on their second visit Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, and the family of Joseph became known to Pharaoh and his origin and race. [Genesis 45:1-4.]
(14)  And Joseph sent an invitation calling to himself Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. [Genesis 45:9,10.]
(15)  And Jacob went down into Egypt, where he himself died, as did [also] our forefathers; [Deuteronomy 10:22.]
(16)  And their bodies [Jacob's and Joseph's] were taken back to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of [silver] money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. [Genesis 50:13; Joshua 24:32.]



GOD  DELIVERS  ISRAEL  BY  MOSES

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Acts 7:17-19
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(17)  But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt

But when the time of the promise was at hand, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people had already increased and become strong in Egypt.

(18)  till another king arose who did not know Joseph.

Till another king reigned over Egypt who knew not Joseph.

(19)  This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live.

He dealt deceitfully with our kindred, ill-treated our forefathers, and commanded that they cast out their male children to the end that they might not live.


The time of the promise

The time of the fulfillment of the promise.

Another king
This is quoted from Exodus 1:8

Dake suggests that this man was an Assyrian that overthrew the old Egyptian dynasty (Isaiah 52:4).
Isaiah 52:4
For thus says the Lord GOD:  "My people went down at first into Egypt to dwell there; then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause."

Who did not know Joseph

Vincent suggests
As sixty years had elapsed since Joseph's death, and a new dynasty was coming to the throne, this may be taken literally: did not know his history and services. Some explain, "did not recognize his merits."
(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) Robertson suggests
Joseph's history and services meant nothing to the new king. "The previous dynasty had been that of the Hyksos: the new king was Ahmes who drove out the Hyksos" (Knobel).
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Expose their babies
The Egyptians ordered the Hebrew boy babies to be thrown into the river to die  (Exodus 1:15-22).

From the Amplified Bible
(17)  But as the time for the fulfillment of the promise drew near which God had made to Abraham, the [Hebrew] people increased and multiplied in Egypt,
(18)  Until [the time when] there arose over Egypt another and a different king who did not know Joseph [neither knowing his history and services nor recognizing his merits]. [Exodus 1:7,8.]
(19)  He dealt treacherously with and defrauded our race; he abused and oppressed our forefathers, forcing them to expose their babies so that they might not be kept alive. [Exodus 1:7-11,15-22.]

Acts 7:20-22
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(20)  At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; and he was brought up in his father's house for three months.

During that very period Moses was born, and he was favored before God, so that for three months he was nourished in his father's house.

(21)  But when he was set out, Pharaoh's daughter took him away and brought him up as her own son.

And when he was cast away by his mother, Pharaoh's daughter found him and reared him as a son for herself.

(22)  And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.

So Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and he was well versed in his words and also in his deeds.


Well pleasing to God

Asteios too Theoo.   Literally,  "fair unto God:"  a Hebrew superlative;  i.e., "in God's sight."
Asteios,  "fair" (only here and Hebrews 11:23), is from astu,  "a town,"  and means originally  "town-bred;"  hence,  "refinedelegant,  comely."  The word is used in the Septuagint of Moses (Exodus 2:2),  and rendered "goodly."  The Jewish traditions extol Moses' beauty.  Josephus says that those who met him,  as he was carried along the streets,  forgot their business and stood still to gaze at him.
(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

He was sanctified from the womb, and this made him beautiful in God's eyes;
for it is the beauty of holiness that is in God's sight of great price.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Brought up in his father's house
At the peril of his parents' lives;  but  "through faith ... they were not afraid of the king's commandment" (Hebrews 11:23).
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Moses was learned...and mighty
Learned = paideuo  (NT:3816)  to train up a child,  educate, or (by implication) discipline (by punishment)
It does not mean that he HAD that learning, but that he was carefully  "trained"  or educated in that wisdom.  The passage does not express the fact that Moses was distinguished for  "learning,"  but that he was carefully  "educated,"  or that pains were taken to MAKE him learned.
In all the wisdom
The learning of the Egyptians was confined chiefly to astrology,  to the interpretation of dreams,  to medicine,  to mathematics,  and to their sacred science or traditional doctrines about religion,  which were concealed chiefly under their hieroglyphics.  It is known that science was carried from Egypt to Phoenicia,  and thence to Greece;  and not a few of the Grecian philosophers traveled to Egypt in pursuit of knowledge.  Herodotus himself frankly concedes that the Greeks derived very much of their knowledge from Egypt.  (See Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. 2, pp. 80, 81; Herodotus, bk. 2, pp. 50, 51.)
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Philo (the Jewish commentator on Moses) represents him as having had tutors from the most celebrated foreign schools, and accomplished in geometry, music, and philosophy.
Mighty = dunatos  (NT:1415)  powerful or capable
In words  (logos - NT:3004)  something said (including the thought); by implication a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive
From Exodus 4:10, it seems that Moses was "slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." When it is said that he was mighty in words, it means that he was mighty in his communications to Pharaoh, though they were spoken by his brother Aaron. Aaron was in his place, and "Moses" addressed Pharaoh through him, who was appointed to deliver the message, Ex 4:11-16.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
It may seem strange that one who by his own account, was  "slow of speech and of a slow tongue" - probably defective in utterance (Exodus 4:10) - should be held forth as "mighty in his words."  But his recorded speeches - not to speak of his wonderful writings - are in a high degree worthy of the epithet "mighty."
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
and deeds = (ergon - NT:2041)  to work, toil, by implication, an act
Josephus Ant. lib. 2 cap. 10, sect. 1, gives an account of his being general of an Egyptian army, defeating the Ethiopians, who had invaded Egypt, driving them back into their own country, and taking Saba their capital, which was afterward called Meroe.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
He was powerful, or was distinguished.  This means that he was eminent in Egypt before he conducted the children of Israel forth. It also refers to his addresses to Pharaoh, and to the miracles which he performed "before" their departure.

From the Amplified Bible
(20)  At this juncture Moses was born, and was exceedingly beautiful in God's sight. For three months he was nurtured in his father's house; [Exodus 2:2.]
(21)  Then when he was exposed [to perish], the daughter of Pharaoh rescued him and took him and reared him as her own son. [Exodus 2:5,6,10.]
(22)  So Moses was educated in all the wisdom and culture of the Egyptians, and he was mighty (powerful) in his speech and deeds.

Acts 7:23-25
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(23)  Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel.

And when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel.

(24)  And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian.

When he saw one of his own kindred mistreated, he avenged him and did justice to him, and killed the Egyptian who had mistreated him.

(25)  For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.

For he thought his brethren, the Israelites, would understand that God would grant them deliverance by his hand, but they understood not.


Forty years old

This is not recorded in the Old Testament;  but it is a constant tradition of the Jews that Moses was 40 years of age when he undertook to deliver them.  Thus, it is said,
"Moses lived in the palace of Pharaoh forty years; (Acts 7:23)
he was forty years in Midian; (Acts 7:30)
and he ministered to Israel forty years" (Kuinoel). (Acts 7:36)
By this time he had,   in the exercise of faith, deliberately  "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward"  (Hebrews 11:24-26).
His heart, now yearning with love to his people as God's chosen family, and heaving, no doubt, with the consciousness of a divine vocation to set them free, he goes forth to look them in the face, and see if some occasion will not present itself for coming to some understanding with them on this subject.

And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian. (Exodus 2:11-14)
Humphry quotes from Diodorus Siculus (i. 77) an Egyptian law requiring the subjects to rescue anyone whom they should see ready to be slain, or suffering violence at the hands of another; and if that could not be done, to kill the oppressor.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

But they did not understand
This furnishes to Stephen another example of Israel's slowness to apprehend and fall in with the divine purposes of love.

From the Amplified Bible
(23)  And when he was in his fortieth year, it came into his heart to visit his kinsmen the children of Israel [to help them and to care for them].
(24)  And on seeing one of them being unjustly treated, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian and slaying [him].
(25)  He expected his brethren to understand that God was granting them deliverance by his hand [taking it for granted that they would accept him]; but they did not understand.

Acts 7:26-29
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(26)  And the next day he appeared to two of them as they were fighting, and tried to reconcile them, saying, 'Men, you are brethren; why do you wrong one another?'

And the next day he found them quarreling one with another and he pleaded with them that they might be reconciled, saying, Men, you are brothers; why are you wronging one another?

(27)  But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?

But the one who was wronging his fellow thrust him aside and said to him, Who appointed you leader and judge over us?

(28)  Do you want to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?'

Perhaps you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday.

(29)  Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons.

And because of this saying, Moses fled and took refuge in the land of Midian where two sons were born to him.


Pushed him away

Here is the point Stephen was making:  The one sent by God to deliver them, they rejected  (verse 35).

Midian
This was a part of Arabia.  "This would seem,"  says Gesenius,  "to have been a tract of country extending from the eastern shore of the Elanitic Gulf to the region of Moab on the one hand,  and to the vicinity of Mount Sinai on the,  other.  The people were nomadic in their habits,  and moved often from place to place."  This was extensively a desert region,  an unknown land;  and Moses expected there to be safe from Pharaoh.

He had two sons
He married Zipporah, the daughter of "Reuel" (Ex 2:18), or "Jethro" (Num 10:29; Ex 3:1),  a priest of Midian.
The names of the two sons were Gershom and Eliezer, Ex 18:3-4.

From the Amplified Bible
(26)  Then on the next day he suddenly appeared to some who were quarreling and fighting among themselves, and he urged them to make peace and become reconciled, saying, Men, you are brethren; why do you abuse and wrong one another?
(27)  Whereupon the man who was abusing his neighbor pushed [Moses] aside, saying, Who appointed you a ruler (umpire) and a judge over us?
(28)  Do you intend to slay me as you slew the Egyptian yesterday?
(29)  At that reply Moses sought safety by flight and he was an exile and an alien in the country of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. [Exodus 2:11-15,22; 18:3,4.]

Acts 7:30-34
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(30)  And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai.

And when he had completed forty years, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai and angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

(31)  When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him,

When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight; and as he drew near to look at it, the Lord spoke to him in a loud voice,

(32)  saying, 'I am the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses trembled and dared not look.

Saying, I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. And Moses trembled and dared not look at the sight.

(33) 'Then the LORD said to him, "Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.

Then the Lord said to him, Take off your shoes from your feet, for the ground on which you stand is holy.

(34)  I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt."

Already I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt, I have heard their groans, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you into Egypt.


Wilderness of Mount Sinai

In the desert adjacent to, or that surrounded Mount Sinai.
Moses says "Horeb"  (Exodus 3:1),  but this was the name of the whole mountain range;  Sinai was the name of one mountain.

An Angel of the Lord
The word "angel"  (aggelos - NT:32)  means properly a  "messenger."  and is applied to the invisible spirits in heaven, to people, to the winds, to the pestilence, or to whatever is appointed as a messenger "to make known" or to execute the will of God.

This angel of the Lord was God Himself appearing to man (Acts 7:32-34; Exodus 3:2-4:17).
He is called in Exodus chapters 3 & 4:
1. (Exodus 3:2) The Angel of the Lord
2. (Exodus 3:4-7; Exodus 4:1-27) The Lord and God
3. (Exodus 3:6,15-16; Exodus 4:5) The God of thy Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob
4. (Exodus 3:14) I AM THAT I AM, I AM
5. (Exodus 3:18) The Lord God of the Hebrews
6. (Exodus 3:18) The Lord our God
(Dake's Annotated Reverence Bible, Finis Jennings Dake, Dake Publishing, Lawrenceville, GA)

From the Amplified Bible
(30)  And when forty years had gone by, there appeared to him in the wilderness (desert) of Mount Sinai an angel, in the flame of a burning bramblebush.
(31)  When Moses saw it, he was astonished and marveled at the sight; but when he went close to investigate, there came to him the voice of the Lord, saying,
(32)  I am the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. And Moses trembled and was so terrified that he did not venture to look.
(33)  Then the Lord said to him, Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground and worthy of veneration.
(34)  Because I have most assuredly seen the abuse and oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their sighing and groaning, I have come down to rescue them. So, now come! I will send you back to Egypt [as My messenger]. [Exodus 3:1-10.]

Acts 7:35 & 36
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(35)  This Moses whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush.

This Moses whom they had denied, saying, Who appointed you leader and judge over us? this very one God sent to be a leader and deliverer to them by the hand of the angel which had appeared to him in the bush.

(36)  He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years.

It was he who brought them out after he had performed miracles, wonders, and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red sea and in the wilderness for forty years.


Whom they rejected

That is, when he first presented himself to them.  Stephen introduces and dwells upon this refusal in order,  perhaps,  to remind them that this had been the character of their nation,  and to prepare the way for the charge which he intended to bring against those whom he addressed,  as being stiff-necked and rebellious.

A ruler
A military leader or a governor in civil matters.

A deliverer
A Redeemer - lutrooteen (NT: 3086).  It properly means one who redeems a captive or a prisoner by paying a "price" or "ransom."  It is applied thus to the Lord Jesus,  as having redeemed or purchased sinners by his blood as a price, Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18; Heb 9:12.   It is used here,  however,  in a more general sense to denote the deliverance, without specifying the manner.

God assured Moses that He had not forgotten His people even though they were in Egypt, and that He would soon fulfill His covenant promises and deliver them.  God reversed the judgment of Moses' kinsmen.
They scorned him because they thought he was trying to act as a ruler and a judge
God made Moses a ruler and deliverer of his people from Egypt
Deliverer carries the idea of redeemer.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1962 by Moody Press. All rights reserved.)

Clearly Stephen means to draw a parallel between Moses and Jesus.
They in Egypt denied Moses as now you the Jews denied Jesus.
Moses was "both a ruler and a deliverer"  as Jesus was to be.
The Pharisees had accused Stephen of blaspheming "against Moses and God."  Stephen here answers that slander by showing how Moses led the people out of Egypt in cooperation sun with the hand of the Angel of Jehovah (Yahweh).
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

From the Amplified Bible
(35)  It was this very Moses whom they had denied (disowned and rejected), saying, Who made you our ruler (referee) and judge? whom God sent to be a ruler and deliverer and redeemer, by and with the [protecting and helping] hand of the Angel that appeared to him in the bramblebush. [Exodus 2:14.]
(36)  He it was who led them forth, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and during the forty years in the wilderness (desert). [Exodus 7:3; 14:21; Numbers 14:33.]



ISRAEL  REBELS  AGAINST  GOD

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Acts 7:37 & 38
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(37)  This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.'

This is the Moses who said to the children of Israel, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brethren; give heed to him.

(38)  This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,

It was he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him and to our fathers in mount Sinai. He is the one who received the living words to give to us.


Stephen introduced this to remind them of
the promise of a Messiah;
to show his faith in that promise;
and particularly to remind them of their obligation to hear and obey him.

A Prophet like me

Quoted from Deuteronomy 18:15 & 18
Deuteronomy 18:15-19
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. ... The LORD said to me: "What they say is good.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.

Lechler calls attention to the rhetorical emphasis unmistakably lying in the repeated and forcible way in which the person of Moses is here referred to - the 35th, 36th, 37th, and 38th verses all beginning with his person - thus:
(Acts 7:35) "This Moses"
(Acts 7:36) "He"  [houtos], or 'He it was that'
(Acts 7:37) "This is that Moses"
(Acts 7:38) "This is he"
The obvious design of this emphasis was to hold forth more vividly the contrast between God's choice of him and the nation's rejection of him,  as a mirror in which might be seen their recent treatment of the Greater than Moses,  followed up,  as it now was,  by their refusal of His messengers.
In the 37th verse Stephen reminds his hearers that,  blindly as they now set up Moses as the great object of a devout Israelite's regard,
Moses himself, in his grand testimony, had held himself forth, not as the last and great prophet of Israel,
but only as a humble precursor and small model of Him to whom absolute submission was due by all.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(37)  It was this [very] Moses who said to the children of Israel, God will raise up for you a Prophet from among your brethren as He raised me up. [Deuteronomy 18:15,18.]
(38)  This is he who in the assembly in the wilderness (desert) was the go-between for the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and our forefathers, and he received living oracles (words that still live) to be handed down to us. [Exodus 19.]

Acts 7:39-41
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(39)  whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt,

Yet our fathers would not listen to him, but they left him, and in their hearts turned towards Egypt.

(40)  saying to Aaron, 'Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'

They said to Aaron, Make us gods to go before us, for this very Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.

(41)  And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

And they made a calf for themselves in those days and offered sacrifices to idols and were pleased with the work of their hands.


Our fathers
As to Moses and the word of God
They would not obey
They rejected
As to the idolatry of Egypt
They turned back to it
The expression means, not that they desired literally to "return" to Egypt,  but that "their hearts inclined to the habits and morals of the Egyptians."  They forsook God, and imitated the idolatries of the Egyptians.

They longed for the idolatries of Egypt.

Numbers 14:2-4
All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! ... Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?"  And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt."     (NIV)

Gods to go before us

Yahweh had gone before them daily in the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day.
Now they would demand their own gods (idols) made by human hands that they would have to carry in front of them as they went.

Exodus 32:1
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."      (NIV)

They made a calf

This was made of the ear-rings and ornaments which they had brought from Egypt, Ex 32:2-4.  Stephen introduces this to remind them how prone their fathers had been to reject God, and to walk in the ways of sin.

Exodus 32:2-4
Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me."  So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.  He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."      (NIV)

Several of these animals were worshipped at different places in Egypt.
Apis was worshipped at Memphis.
Herodotus says: "Now this Apis, or Epaphus, is the calf of a cow which is never afterward able to bear young. The Egyptians say that fire comes down from heaven upon the cow, which thereupon conceives Apis.  The calf which is so called has the following marks: He is black, with a square spot of white upon his forehead, and on his back the figure of an eagle. The hairs in his tail are double, and there is a beetle upon his tongue" (iii., 28).
Another sacred bull was maintained at Heliopolis, in the great Temple of the Sun, under the name of Mnevis, and was honored with a reverence next to Apis.
Wilkinson thinks that it was from this, and not from Apis, that the Israelites borrowed their notions of the golden calf. "The offerings, dancing, and rejoicings practiced on the occasion, were doubtless in imitation of a ceremony they had witnessed in honor of Mnevis during their sojourn in Egypt" ("Ancient Egyptians," 2 ser., vol. ii., p. 197).
A third sacred bull, called Bacis, was maintained at Hermonthis, near Thebes.
It was a huge, black animal, and its hairs were said to grow the wrong way. Other bulls and cows did not hold the rank of gods, but were only sacred.
(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(39)  [And yet] our forefathers determined not to be subject to him [refusing to listen to or obey him]; but thrusting him aside they rejected him, and in their hearts yearned for and turned back to Egypt. [Numbers 14:3,4.]
(40)  And they said to Aaron, Make us gods who shall [be our leaders and] go before us; as for this Moses who led us forth from the land of Egypt — we have no knowledge of what has happened to him. [Exodus 32:1,23.]
(41)  And they [even] made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice to the idol and made merry and exulted in the work of their [own] hands. [Exodus 32:4,6.]

Acts 7:42 & 43
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(42)  Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets:  'Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?

Then God turned and gave them up that they might worship the host of heaven as it is written in the book of the prophets, O Israelites, why have you offered me slain animals or sacrifices during the period of forty years in the wilderness?

(43)  You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch,
And the star of your god Remphan, images which you made to worship; and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.'

Indeed you have borne the tabernacle of Malcom and the star of the god Derphan; and you have made images to worship them; therefore I will remove you beyond Babylon.


Then God turned

That is, turned away from them; abandoned them to their own desires.

Gave them up
He left them to themselves - allowed them to follow their own desires.

The host of heaven
The stars or heavenly bodies.  The word "host" means "armies."  It is applied to the heavenly bodies because they are very numerous,  and appear to be "marshaled" or arrayed in military order.  It is from this that God is called "Yahweh of hosts,"  as being the ruler of these well-arranged heavenly bodies. 

This tendency toward idolatry,  reflected throughout the entire course of Israel's history,  came to its climax with the Babylonian captivity,  when Israel imitated her neighbors by worshiping the planets of the heavens as though they were deities.  (Deuteronomy 4:19; 2 Kings 21:3; Jeremiah 8:2; Zephaniah 1:5)
Deuteronomy 4:19
And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.
2 Kings 21:3
For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.
Jeremiah 8:2
They shall spread them before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served and after which they have walked, which they have sought and which they have worshiped.
Zephaniah 1:4-5
I will stretch out My hand against Judah,  and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, the names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests — those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops;
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1962 by Moody Press. All rights reserved.)

In the book of the prophets
The twelve minor prophets were commonly written in one volume , and were called the Book of the Prophets.  They were small "tracts" separately,  and were bound up together to preserve them from being lost.
The Jews classified the
Major Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
Book of the Prophets Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Daniel, since the majority of his prophecy was concerning Gentile nations, was classified with the Writings.

Stephen quoted Amos 5:25 & 26 from the LXX.

You took up
That is, you bore, or you carried with you, for purposes of idolatrous worship.

Moloch
Moloch was the Canaanite god of sun and sky.
The sun god of the Canaanites (Ammonites?) in old Palestine and sometimes associated with the Sumerian Baal, although Moloch (or Molekh) was entirely malevolent.  In the 8th-6th century BCE,  firstborn children were sacrificed to him by the Israelites in the Valley of Hinnom, south-east of Jerusalem. These sacrifices to the sun god were made to renew the strength of the sun fire.  This ritual was probably borrowed from surrounding nations,  and was also popular in ancient Carthage.
Moloch was represented as a huge bronze statue with the head of a bull.  The statue was hollow,  and inside there burned a fire which colored the Moloch a glowing red.  Children were placed on the hands of the statue.  Through an ingenious system the hands were raised to the mouth (as if Moloch were eating) and the children fell into the fire where they were consumed by the flames.  The people gathered before the Moloch were dancing on the sounds of flutes and tambourines to drown out the screams of the victims.
("Moloch." Encyclopedia Mythica from Encyclopedia Mythica Online. [Accessed February 04, 2006].)
1 Kings 11:7
Then Solomon built a high place for ... Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon.

Rephan

Some think Remphan signifies the moon,  as Moloch does the sun.
Others take it for Saturn, for that planet is called Remphan in the Syriac and Persian languages.  The Septuagint puts it for Chiun,  as being a name more commonly known.  They had images representing the star, like the silver shrines for Diana,  here called the figures which they made to worship.
Dr. Lightfoot thinks they had figures representing the whole starry firmament, with all the constellations, and the planets, and these are called Remphan - "the high representation,"  like the celestial globe.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Moloch and Rephan were two deities associated with the stars. The idolatry of the Jews' worship of the calf at Sinai and their formal, unspiritual worship of God through sacrifices in the wilderness led finally to their worship of pagan star deities. Because of this apostasy, God brought upon them the judgment of captivity beyond Babylon.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1962 by Moody Press. All rights reserved.)

In this day of  "pluralism"  of religions and an emphasis on  "toleration,"  we must understand why God hated the pagan religions and instructed Israel to destroy them.  To begin with,  these religions were unspeakably obscene in their worship of sex and their use of religious prostitutes.  Their practices were also brutal,  even to the point of offering children as sacrifices to their gods.  It was basically demon worship,  and it opened the way for all kinds of godless living on the part of the Jews.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(42)  But God turned [away from them] and delivered them up to worship and serve the host (stars) of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: Did you [really] offer to Me slain beasts and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness (desert), O house of Israel? [Jeremiah 19:13.]
(43)  [No!] You took up the tent (the portable temple) of Moloch and carried it [with you], and the star of the god Rephan, the images which you [yourselves] made that you might worship them; and I will remove you [carrying you away into exile] beyond Babylon. [Amos 5:25-27.]



GOD'S  TRUE  TABERNACLE

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Acts 7:44-47
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(44)  Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen,

Behold the tabernacle of the testimony of our fathers was in the wilderness just as the Lord, who spoke to Moses, had commanded him to make it after the pattern which he had shown him.

(45)  which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David,

And this very tabernacle, our fathers, together with Joshua,  brought into the land which God took away from the peoples whom he drove out before them and gave it to them for an inheritance, and it was handed down until the days of David,

(46)  who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob.

Who found favor  before God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob;

(47)  But Solomon built Him a house.

But Solomon built God a house.


The tabernacle of witness

The "tent" or "tabernacle" which Moses was commanded to make. It was called a tabernacle of  "witness,"  or of  "testimony,"  because it was the visible witness or proof of God's presence with them;  the evidence that He to whom it was devoted was their protector and guide.  The name is given either to the "tent,"  to the two tables of stone,  or to the ark;  all of which were  "witnesses,"  or  "evidences"  of God's relation to them as their Lawgiver and guide.

The tabernacle in which the two tables of stone written by the finger of God were laid up,  as a testimony that He had delivered these laws to the people,  and that they had promised to obey them.  As one great design of Stephen was to show the laws that they placed too much dependence on outward privileges,  and
had not used the law, the tabernacle, the temple, nor the temple service, for the purpose of their institution,
he labors to bring them to a due sense of this,  that conviction might lead to repentance and conversion.
And he further shows that God did not confine his worship to one place,  or form.
He was worshipped without any shrine in the times of the patriarchs,  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.  He was worshipped with a tabernacle, or portable temple, in the wilderness. He was worshipped also in the fixed temple projected by David,  but built by Solomon.  He asserts further that his infinite majesty cannot be confined to temples,  made by human hands;  and where there is neither tabernacle nor temple (in any part of His vast dominions),  He may be worshipped acceptably by the upright in heart.  Thus
he proves that neither tabernacle nor temple are essentially requisite for the true worship of the true God.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The two charges against Stephen were that
he had spoken blasphemy against Moses or his Law
and against the temple, Acts 6:13-14.

In the previous part of this defense he had shown his respect for Moses and his Law.  He now proceeds to show that he did not design to speak with disrespect of the temple, or the holy places of their worship.  He therefore expresses his belief in the divine appointment of both the tabernacle (Acts 7:44-46) and of the temple (Acts 7:47).

Our fathers

Eight times in his sermon Steven refers to "our fathers.
verse 11 Our Fathers Sons of Jacob suffered the famine that affected Egypt and Canaan
verse 12 Our Fathers Sons of Jacob went to Egypt for grain
verse 15 Our Fathers Sons of Jacob died in Egypt
verse 38 Our Fathers Israelites with Moses received the living oracles
verse 39 Our Fathers Israelites with Moses refused to obey, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt
verse 44 Our Fathers Israelites with Moses had the tabernacle of witness
verse 45 Our Fathers Israelites with Jacob brought the tabernacle into the promised land
verse 45 Our Fathers Israelites with Jacob God drove the Gentiles out of the land for them
The witnesses accused Stephen of seeking to destroy the temple,  but that was exactly what the Jewish nation did! 

Moses built the tabernacle and God's glory graciously dwelt in the holy of holies (Exodus 40:34-38).
Exodus 40:34-35
Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Solomon built the temple, and once again God's glory came in (1 Kings 8:10-11).
1 Kings 8:10-11
When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD.  And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.
But over the years, the worship at the temple degenerated into mere religious formality and eventually there were idols placed in the temple (2 Kings 21:1-9; Ezekiel 8:7-12).
2 Kings 21:1-4
Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king ... he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole ... He built altars in the temple of the LORD.
Ezekiel 8:7-12
Then he brought me to the entrance to the court.  I looked, and I saw a hole in the wall.  He said to me, "Son of man, now dig into the wall."  So I dug into the wall and saw a doorway there.
And he said to me, "Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing here." ... He said to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol?"
Jeremiah warned people against their superstitious faith in the temple and told them that they had turned God's house into a den of thieves (Jeremiah 7:1-16).
Jeremiah 7:1-4
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, ... Do not trust in these lying words, saying,  'The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.' ... Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes?  Behold, I, even I, have seen it," says the LORD. ... "But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because you have done all these works," says the LORD, "and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh."
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(44)  Our forefathers had the tent (tabernacle) of witness in the wilderness, even as He Who directed Moses to make it had ordered, according to the pattern and model he had seen. [Exodus 25:9-40.]
(45)  Our forefathers in turn brought it [this tent of witness] in [with them into the land] with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations which God drove out before the face of our forefathers. [So it remained here] until the time of David, [Deuteronomy 32:49; Joshua 3:14-17.]
(46)  Who found grace (favor and spiritual blessing) in the sight of God and prayed that he might be allowed to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. [2 Samuel 7:8-16; Psalms 132:1-5.]
(47)  But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. [1 Kings 6.]

Acts 7:48-50
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(48)  However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:

Yet the Most High did not dwell in temples made with hands for as the prophet had said,

(49)  'Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool.  What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, or what is the place of My rest?

Heaven is my throne and earth is the footstool under my feet. What kind of house will you build me? says the Lord, or where is the place of my rest?

(50)  Has My hand not made all these things?'

Behold, has not my hand made all these things?


The Most High does not dwell in temples

In contrast with pagan gods, who were confined to their temples.

Stephen was charged with speaking against the temple.
He had now shown that he had due veneration for it,  by his declaring that it had been built by the command of God.  But he now adds that God does not need such a temple.  Heaven is his throne;  the universe his dwelling-place;  and  "therefore"  this temple might be destroyed.  A new,  glorious truth was to be revealed to mankind,
that God was not  "confined"  in his worship to any age,  or people,  or nation.
In entire consistency,  therefore,  with all proper respect for the temple at Jerusalem,  it might be maintained that the time would come when that temple would be destroyed,  and when God might be worshipped by all nations.

Solomon himself sublimely expresses this in his prayer at the consecration of the temple
2 Chronicles 6:18
"But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!"

As the prophet says

Verse 49 and 50 are quoted from  Isaiah 66:1-2  and follows the Septuagint closely.

The Jews thought that because they had their temple,  they were safe from harm,  and God had to bless them.
The prophets all warned them that the temple would not assure them of blessing if their hearts were not right.  How can God,  who fills all heaven and earth,  be confined to a temple made with hands?  Israel's religious life was a formality;  they had the outward forms of religion but their hearts were not right with God.  They rejected the voice of the prophets,  even persecuting and killing them  (Matthew 23:29-39);  and when The Prophet (Christ) appeared (v. 37),  they rejected His Words and crucified Him!
(from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(48)  However, the Most High does not dwell in houses and temples made with hands; as the prophet says, [Isaiah 66:1,2.]
(49)  Heaven [is] My throne, and earth the footstool for My feet. What [kind of] house can you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place in which I can rest?
(50)  Was it not My hand that made all these things? [Isaiah 66:1,2.]



ISRAEL  RESISTS  THE  HOLY  SPIRIT

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Acts 7:51-53
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(51)  "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.

O you stubborn and insincere in heart and hearing, you always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.

(52)  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted and murdered? Especially have they slain those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One whom you betrayed and murdered.

(53)  who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it."

You received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.


Stephen has completed his survey of Jewish history -
He has shown how the Jews have consistently rebelled against God and rejected those whom he had sent to them.
Now he points out that the present generation of Jews have behaved in the same fashion by their rejection of the one whom God sent to them.
This paragraph (vv. 51-53) begins with a general statement how stubborn you are and then illustrates or amplifies the statement.
(from the UBS Handbook Series. Copyright (c) 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies)

Stiff-necked
Sklerotrachelos  (NT:4644)  obstinate, stubborn, completely unyielding.
The idea is taken from a stubborn ox that cannot be broken into the yoke and whose neck is so strong that it is hard to turn him to the right or the left in driving.

Eight times in the Old Testament the Israelites are referred to as stiff-necked:
1. Exodus 32:9 I have seen these people,...and they are a stiff-necked people.
2. Exodus 33:3 But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people
3. Exodus 33:5 Tell the Israelites, 'You are a stiff-necked people.'
4. Exodus 34:9 Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin
5. Deuteronomy 9:6 For you are a stiff-necked people.
6. Deuteronomy 9:13 I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed!
7. Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.
8. 2 Chronicles 30:8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were.

Uncircumcised in heart and ears

Circumcision was a sign of being a Jew - of acknowledging the authority of the laws of Moses.  It was also emblematic of purity,  and of submission to the Law of God.
"uncircumcised in heart"
Denotes those who were not willing to acknowledge that Law,  and submit to it.  They had hearts filled with vicious and unsubdued affections and desires.
"uncircumcised in ears"
That is, they are unwilling to "hear" what God says.
In Pirkey Eliezer, chap. 29, "Rabbi Seira said, There are five species of uncircumcision in the world;  four in man,  and one in trees.  Those in man are the following:
1. Uncircumcision of the EAR
Behold, their EAR is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken,  Jeremiah 6:10.
2. Uncircumcision of LIPS
HOW shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised LIPS? Exodus 6:12.
3. Uncircumcision of HEART
If then their uncircumcised HEARTS be humbled, Leviticus 26:41.
Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your HEART, Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4.
For all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the HEART, Jeremiah 9:26.
4. Uncircumcision of FLESH
Ye shall circumcise the FLESH of your foreskin, etc., Genesis 17:11.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Romans 2:28-29
A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.    (NIV)

You always resist the Holy Spirit
Resist = antipiptete  (NT:496).   It is a very strong expression,  implying active resistance.
Literally, "to fall against or upon."  Used of  falling upon an enemy.
(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
 
1. Because they were uncircumcised in heart,
they always resisted the influences of the Holy Spirit,  bringing light and conviction to their minds;
in consequence of which they became hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,  and neither repented at the preaching of John,  nor credited the glad tidings told them by Christ and the apostles.
2. Because they were uncircumcised in ears,
they would neither hear nor obey Moses, the prophets, Christ, nor the apostles.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

As your fathers did
As he had specified in Acts 7:27, 35, 39-43.
 
2 Chronicles 36:15 & 16
And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place.  But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy.
Luke 11:47-51
Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.   Therefore the wisdom of God also said,
'I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,'
that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation,  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple.  Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.
Matthew 23:29-36
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,  and say,
'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.'
Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt.
Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?
Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,  that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.   Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Rebellious children of rebellious parents of many generations.  The Holy Spirit deals with rational souls and works upon the intellectual and moral faculties in order to enlighten, convince, and persuade.  If man closes his mind to light,  his will to reproof,  his conscience to righteousness,  and his emotions to his best good,  then he reverts to total rebellion and must face the harvest of eternal hardness.
(Dake's Annotated Reverence Bible, Finis Jennings Dake, Dake Publishing, Lawrenceville, GA)

The Just One
Literally, the Righteous One.  The Messiah.   Acts 3:14
Isaiah 53:11
By His knowledge My Righteous Servant shall justify many.
Jeremiah 23:5-6
"Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.   In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Their crime was consummated by the betrayal and murder of Messiah Himself by their own hands.

Three main ideas were addressed by Stephen.
1. First was the Jewish reverence for the "holy land."
Most Jews were convinced that the land was God's greatest gift to them,  and they considered Palestine to be the place where God lived and worked.
Stephen denied that God was tied to the land,  recounting the history of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel) and showing that God worked in their lives much more outside the promised land than within.
2. Stephen showed that Moses,  the one venerated by the Jews as the great giver of the law,  had been constantly disobeyed by the Jews.  Stephen cited the idol worship of the Israelites at Mount Sinai as proof.
3. Stephen noted that God allowed Solomon to build the temple because the Jews demanded it;  God Himself was satisfied with the nomadic life of the tabernacle.
Stephen's speech climaxed in strong words toward the Jews.  He termed them  "stiff-necked" (a common Old Testament reference to stubbornness)  and accused them of denying God's prophets, Spirit, and Messiah.  In response to the charge that he had blasphemed against God,  Moses,  and the temple,  Stephen accused the Jews of failing to obey the law of which they were so proud.
(from Holman Bible Handbook. (c) Copyright 1992 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(51)  You stubborn and stiff-necked people, still heathen and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. As your forefathers [were], so you [are and so you do]! [Exodus 33:3,5; Numbers 27:14; Isaiah 63:10; Jeremiah 6:10; 9:26.]
(52)  Which of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute? And they slew those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, Whom you now have betrayed and murdered —
(53)  You who received the Law as it was ordained and set in order and delivered by angels, and [yet] you did not obey it!



STEPHEN,  THE  FIRST  MARTYR

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Acts 7:54
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(54)  When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.

When they heard these things, they were enraged, and gnashed their teeth at him.


Cut to the heart

They were exceedingly enraged and indignant.  The whole course of the speech had been such as to excite their anger,  and now they could restrain themselves no longer.

By this time the scene had ceased to resemble a trial. The crowd reacted to Stephen's words with hostility and anger.  They were filled with uncontrollable rage.

Cut - dieprionto  (NT:1282),  the same word that is used Hebrews 11:37, and translated they were sawn asunder. They were put to as much torture in their minds as ever the martyrs were put to in their bodies.  They were filled with indignation at the unanswerable arguments that Stephen urged for their conviction,  and that they could find nothing to say against them.  They were not pricked to the heart with sorrow, as those were Acts 2:37,  but cut to the heart with rage and fury,  as they themselves were,  Acts 5:33.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Gnashed at him
Imperfect (inchoative) active of bruchoo (NT:1031),  "to bite with loud noise, to grind or gnash the teeth."  Literally,  "They began to gnash their teeth at"  him  (just like a pack of hungry,  snarling wolves).
Stephen knew that it meant death for him.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

You wonder what land of a world we live in when good and godly men like Stephen can be murdered by religious bigots!  But we have similar problems in our "enlightened" age today - taking hostages,  bombings that kill or maim innocent people,  assassinations,  and all in the name of politics or religion.
The heart of man has not changed,  nor can it be changed apart from the grace of God.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(54)  Now upon hearing these things, they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen].

Acts 7:55 & 56
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(55)  But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,

But he, full of faith and Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

(56)  and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"

And he said, Behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.


Full of the Holy Spirit

When he was chosen to public service, he was described to be a man full of the Holy Ghost (Acts 6:5),  and now he is called out to martyrdom he has still the same character.
Note - Those that are full of the Holy Ghost are fit for any thing,  either to act for Christ or to suffer for him.  And those whom God calls out to difficult services for his name he will qualify for those services.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Gazed into heaven
Gazed - atenizo  (NT:816)  -  to gaze intently, to fix the eyes on
Fixed his eyes intently on heaven.
He saw:
Into Heaven
The heavens opened - dianoigo  (NT:1272)  to open thoroughly, to open completely
The Glory of God
The Shekinah - the Divine Presence - that which filled first the Tabernacle, and then the Temple.
This is rendered in some languages as  "the bright shining of God."
Jesus on the Right Hand of God
In his official character, as Mediator between God and man.
Exalted to a place of honor and power (Acts 2:33-35)
He saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God,  and being there clothed with a body,  might be seen with bodily eyes,  and so Stephen saw him.  When the Old Testament prophets saw the glory of God it was attended with angels.  The Shechinah or divine presence in Isaiah's vision was attended with seraphim,  in Ezekiel's vision with cherubim,  both signifying the angels,  the ministers of God's providence.  But here no mention is made of the angels,  though they surround the throne and the Lamb;  instead of them Stephen sees Jesus at the right hand of God,  the great Mediator of God's grace,  from whom more glory redounds to God than from all the ministration of the holy angels.  The glory of God shines brightest in the face of Jesus Christ;  for there shines the glory of his grace,  which is the most illustrious instance of his glory.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

The Son of Man
The name the Son of man does not designate Jesus' humanity;  it is a Messianic title,  based upon Daniel 7:13-1.
Daniel 7:13-14
I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,  and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.

Mark 14:61-62

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"
Jesus said,  "I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

From the Amplified Bible
(55)  But he, full of the Holy Spirit and controlled by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory (the splendor and majesty) of God, and Jesus standing at God's right hand;
(56)  And he said, Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at God's right hand!

Acts 7:57 & 58
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(57)  Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;

Then they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and with one accord shouted threats against Stephen.

(58)  and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

And they seized him and took him outside the city and began to stone him. Those who testified against him placed their clothes under the care of a young man called Saul.


Then they cried out....and stopped their ears

In order to avoid defilement by even hearing the blasphemous things that Stephen was saying,  the members of the Jewish Council do two things as they ran toward him,  they shout and cover their ears as do children when they don't want to hear what is being said.

Stoned him

The usual method of capital punishment in ancient Israel.  People who broke specific statutes of the law of Moses were put to death by stoning.  Stoning was usually carried out
by the men of the community (Deuteronomy 21:21)
upon the testimony of at least two witnesses, who would then cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:5-7)
outside the settlement or camp (Leviticus 24:14,23)
Acts punishable by stoning were
certain cases of disobedience (Joshua 7:25)
child sacrifice (Leviticus 20:2)
consultation with magicians (Leviticus 20:27)
blasphemy (John 10:31-32)
Sabbath-breaking (Numbers 15:32-36)
the worship of false gods (Deuteronomy 13:10)
rebellion against parents (Deuteronomy 21:20-21)
adultery (Ezekiel 16:40)
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The witnesses
That is,  the false witnesses who bore testimony against him, Acts 6:13.
It was directed in the Law (Deut 17:7) that the "witnesses" in the case should be first in executing the sentence of the Law.  This was done to prevent false accusations by the prospect that THEY must be employed as executioners. After THEY had commenced the process of execution,  all the people joined in it, Deut 17:7; Lev 24:16.

Laid down their clothes
Their "outer garments."  They were accustomed to lay these aside when they ran or worked.

A young man
Neanias  (NT:3494),  used of young men from 20 to 40 years of age.

Named Saul
Such is our historian's calm,  purely historical,  yet thrilling way of introducing his readers to one to whom Christianity - whether as unfolded in the New Testament or as established in the world,  and worked into the religious thinking and phraseology of Christendom - owes more,  perhaps,  than to all the other apostles together.  Here he is,  already in all likelihood having a seat in the Sanhedrim,  about 30 years of age,  an eager participator in the murder of one of the most distinguished witnesses for Christ.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

For the church in Jerusalem,  the death of Stephen meant liberation.
They had been witnessing  "to the Jew first"  ever since Pentecost,  but now they would be directed to take the message out of Jerusalem to the Samaritans and even to the Gentiles.
The opposition of the enemy helped prevent the church from becoming a Jewish "sect" and encouraged them to the commission of Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:18-20.
Finally,  as far as Saul was concerned,  the death of Stephen eventually meant salvation.  He never forgot the event (Acts 22:17-21),  and no doubt Stephen's message,  prayers,  and glorious death were used of the Spirit to prepare Saul for his own meeting with the Lord (Acts 9).  God never wastes the blood of His saints.  Saul would one day see the same glory that Stephen saw and would behold the Son of God and hear Him speak!
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(57)  But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him.
(58)  Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. [Acts 22:20.]

Acts 7:59 & 60
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(59)  And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

And they stoned Stephen as he prayed, saying, Our Lord Jesus, accept my spirit.

(60)  Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

And as he knelt down, he cried with a loud voice and said, Our Lord, do not hold this sin against them. When he had said this, he passed away.

They stoned Stephen
It is not altogether clear whether Stephen's martyrdom was the result of a formal execution or of a lynching.  A legal execution required the approval of the Roman governor,  and since this was not secured,  Stephen's death looks like a lynching.  However,  the mention of formal witnesses (Acts 6:13) as required by the Law  (Leviticus 24:14; Deuteronomy 17:7)  suggests a legal execution.  It is possible that the Sanhedrin executed Stephen without securing the official approval of Pilate.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1962 by Moody Press. All rights reserved.)

This was done in a rage and fury,   for at that time the Jews could put no man to death by law,  as they confessed before Pilate saying that it was no lawful for them to put any man to death,  and therefore it is reported by Josephus that Ananus,  a Sadducee,  slew James the brother of the Lord,  and for so doing was accused before Albinus,  the president of the country; lib. 20.
(from Geneva Notes, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The word "stoned" is in the imperfect tense - "they kept on stoning," -  they kept it up as he was calling upon the Lord Jesus and making direct prayer to him as "Lord Jesus"  (Kurie Ieesou).

Lord Jesus
That is, he was engaged  "in prayer"  to the Lord Jesus.
And this shows that it is RIGHT to worship the Lord Jesus,  and to pray to him.

(1) The case is strikingly similar to that recorded in John 20:28,  where Thomas offered worship to the Lord Jesus  "as his God,"  without reproof.
(2) These examples were used to encourage Christians and Christian martyrs to offer homage to Jesus Christ.  Thus,  Pliny,  writing to the Emperor Trajan,  and giving an account of the Christians in Bithynia,  says that they were accustomed to meet and  "sing hymns to Christ as to God"  (Latriner).
(3) It is worthy of remark that Stephen,  in his death,  offered the same act of homage to Christ that Christ himself did to the Father when he died,  Luke 23:46.
From all these considerations, it follows that the Lord Jesus is a proper object of worship; that in most solemn circumstances it is right to call upon him, to worship him, and to commit our dearest interests to his hands. If this may be done, he is divine.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

He knelt down
This seems to have been a  "voluntary"  kneeling;  a placing himself in this position for the purpose of  "prayer," choosing to die in this attitude.

Forgive them
This passage strikingly resembles the dying prayer of the Lord Jesus,  Luke 23:34.  Nothing but the Christian faith will enable a man to utter such sentiments in his dying moments.

He fell asleep
Ekoimeethee  (NT:2837)  - Marking his calm and peaceful death.

This is the usual mode of describing the death of saints in the Bible. It is an expression indicating:
(1) The peacefulness of their death,  compared with the alarm of unbelievers.
(2) The hope of a resurrection;  as we retire to sleep with the hope of again awaking to the duties and enjoyments of life.  See John 11:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 5:10; Matt 9:24.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
 
1 Thessalonians 4:14-18
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,  even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,  that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,  with the voice of an archangel,  and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.     (NKJV)
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us,  that whether we wake or sleep,  we should live together with Him.      (NKJV)

When Christ said,  "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth (kekoimeetai),"  he used the word,  not as a figure,  but as the expression of a fact.  In that mystery of death,  in which the pagan saw only nothingness,  Jesus saw continued life,  rest,  waking - the elements which enter into sleep.  And thus,  in Christian speech and thought,  as the doctrine of the resurrection struck its roots deeper,  the word dead,  with its hopeless finality,  gave place to the more gracious and hopeful word sleep.
The pagan burying-place carried in its name no suggestion of hope or comfort.  It was a "burying-place,  a hiding-place,  a monumentum,"  a mere  "memorial"  of something gone.
But the Christian thought of death as sleep,  brought with it into Christian speech the kindred thought of a chamber of rest,  and embodied it in the word cemetery koimeeteerion - "the place to lie down to sleep."
(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Excerpts from The Bible Exposition Commentary
What were the results of Stephen's death?  For Stephen,  death meant coronation (Revelation 2:10).
Revelation 2:10
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
He saw the glory of God and the Son of God standing to receive him to heaven (Luke 22:69).  Our Lord sat down when He ascended to heaven  (Mark 16:19),  but He stood up to welcome to glory the first Christian martyr.
Stephen was not only tried in a manner similar to that of our Lord,  but he also died with similar prayers on his lips (Luke 23:34, 46).
For Israel,  Stephen's death meant condemnation.
This was their third murder:
John the Baptist
They had permitted John the Baptist to be killed.  When they allowed Herod to kill John,  the Jews sinned against God who had sent John (Matthew 21:32).
Jesus
When they asked Pilate to crucify Jesus,  they sinned against God (Matthew 21:42-44).
Stephen
When they stoned Stephen, Israel sinned against the Holy Spirit who was working in and through the Apostles (Acts 7:51).
Judgment finally came in A.D. 70 when Titus and the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
For the church in Jerusalem,  the death of Stephen meant liberation.
They had been witnessing  "to the Jew first"  ever since Pentecost,  but now they would be directed to take the message out of Jerusalem to the Samaritans (Acts 8) and even to the Gentiles (Acts 11:19-26).  The opposition of the enemy helped prevent the church from becoming a Jewish "sect" and encouraged them to the commission of Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19.
When Christians die,  they  "fall asleep."
The body sleeps and the spirit goes to be with the Lord in heaven; 2 Corinthians 5:6-9;  Philippians 1:23; Hebrews 12:22-23).  When Jesus returns,  He will bring with Him the spirits of those who have died  (1 Thessalonians 4:14),  their bodies will be raised and glorified,  and body and spirit will be united in glory to be  "forever with the Lord."  Even though we Christians weep at the death of a loved one (Acts 8:2),  we do not sorrow hopelessly,  for we know we shall meet again when we die or when the Lord returns.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Philippians 1:23-24
For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

2 Corinthians 5:6-9
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.  Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

From the Amplified Bible
(59)  And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!
(60)  And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]! And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].



(End of Chapter Seven)

 

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