Acts 7:30–53 (NA28)
30Καὶ πληρωθέντων ἐτῶν τεσσεράκοντα ὤφθη αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τοῦ ὄρους Σινᾶ ἄγγελος ἐν φλογὶ πυρὸς βάτου.
And when forty years had been completed an angel appeart to him in the desert of Mount Sinai in the flame of a burning bush
- Sentence begins with genitive absolute again. In a flame of fire in a bush (ἐν φλογι πυρος βατου [en phlogi puros batou]). Horeb in Ex. 3:1; but Sinai and Horeb were “probably peaks of one mountain range” (Page), Horeb “the mountain of the dried-up ground,” Sinai “the mountain of the thorns.” Literally, “in the flame of fire of a bush” (two genitives, πυρος [puros] and βατου [batou] dependent on φλογι [phlogi], flame). Descriptive genitives as in 9:15; 2 Thess. 1:8. Βατος [Batos] (bush) is the wild acacia (mimosa nilotica). In Ex. 3:20 it is Jehovah who speaks. Hence “angel” here with Stephen is understood to be the Angel of the Presence, the Eternal Logos of the Father, the Angel of Jehovah.
- Stephen’s account of this is a rather straightforward presentation of the account in Exod 3:1–10, which quotes numerous portions of the Septuagint text directly and summarizes others.
31ὁ δὲ Μωϋσῆς ἰδὼν ἐθαύμαζεν τὸ ὅραμα, προσερχομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ κατανοῆσαι ἐγένετο φωνὴ κυρίου
And when Moses saw it he was astonished at the sight and he approached to look at it came the voice of the Lord
- Stephen reverses the order of the statements in Exodus 3:5f., so that the initial stress falls on the fact that it is the God of Moses’ ancestors who is revealing himself to him; the thought of God’s promises to the patriarchs is thus brought to mind. The story continues in the manner typical of a theophany; it describes the human reaction of fear and dread, and the divine reassurance which follows. 
32ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς τῶν πατέρων σου, ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ Ἰσαὰκ καὶ Ἰακώβ. ἔντρομος δὲ γενόμενος Μωϋσῆς οὐκ ἐτόλμα κατανοῆσαι.
I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. So Moses began trembling and did not dare to look at it.
33εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ κύριος· λῦσον τὸ ὑπόδημα τῶν ποδῶν σου, ὁ γὰρ τόπος ἐφʼ ᾧ ἕστηκας γῆ ἁγία ἐστίν.
And the Lord said to him, “untie the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
- Holy ground (γη ἁγια [gē hagia]). The priests were barefooted when they ministered in the temple. Moslems enter their mosques barefooted today. Cf. Josh. 5:15. Sandal (ὑποδημα [hupodēma], bound under) is here “a distributive singular” (Hackett). Even the ground near the bush was “holy,” a fine example for Stephen’s argument.
- To be sure, the element of fear is not wholly removed, since Stephen retains the command to Moses to treat the place as holy ground; here is perhaps another incidental reminder for Stephen’s hearers that God’s self-revelation is not confined to Jewish soil—the most important place of Old Testament revelation, Mount Sinai, was not in the promised land. 
- Stephen’s inclusion of this detail may have been a subtle reminder to his hearers that there was holy ground elsewhere, far from the temple in Jerusalem.
34ἰδὼν εἶδον τὴν κάκωσιν τοῦ λαοῦ μου τοῦ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ καὶ τοῦ στεναγμοῦ αὐτῶν ἤκουσα, καὶ κατέβην ἐξελέσθαι αὐτούς· καὶ νῦν δεῦρο ἀποστείλω σε εἰς Αἴγυπτον.
I have seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning and I have come down to deliver them and now come, I will send you to Egypt.”
- I have surely seen (ἰδων εἰδον [idōn eidon]). Imitation of the Hebrew infinitive absolute, (Ex. 3:7) “Seeing I saw” (cf. Heb. 6:14). The affliction (την κακωσιν [tēn kakōsin]). From κακοω [kakoō], to treat evilly (from κακος [kakos], evil). Old word, here only in the N. T. and from Ex. 3:7. Groaning (στεναγμου [stenagmou]). Old word from στεναζω [stenazō], to sigh, to groan. In the N. T. only here and Rom. 8:26. Root στεν [sten] in our word stentorian. I am come down (κατεβην [katebēn]). Second aorist active indicative of καταβαινω [katabainō], I came down. To deliver (ἐξελεσθαι [exelesthai]). Second aorist middle infinitive of ἐξαιρεω [exaireō], to take out for myself. I will send (ἀποστειλω [aposteilō]). First aorist active subjunctive (hortatory of ἀποστελλω [apostellō], “Let me send”).
- Verse 34 concludes the account, giving God’s promise to deliver his people from their Egyptian bondage through the hand of Moses. Following Stephen’s treatment up to this point, the significance of this incident is clear. God remained true to his promises. He had looked upon their oppression and would deliver them. Moses was the one whom God had chosen as leader for Israel’s deliverance. But the Israelites had already rejected him; they would continue to reject him.
35Τοῦτον τὸν Μωϋσῆν ὃν ἠρνήσαντο εἰπόντες· τίς σε κατέστησεν ἄρχοντα καὶ δικαστήν; τοῦτον ὁ θεὸς [καὶ] ἄρχοντα καὶ λυτρωτὴν ἀπέσταλκεν σὺν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου τοῦ ὀφθέντος αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ βάτῳ.
This Moses whom they had repudiated saying, “who appointed you a ruler and a judge, this man God has sent as both ruler and reedemer with the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush
- This Moses (Τουτον τον Μωυσην [Touton ton Mōusēn]). Rhetorical repetition follows this description of Moses (five times, anaphora, besides the use here, six cases of οὑτος [houtos] here about Moses: verse 35 twice, 36, 37, 38, 40). Clearly Stephen means to draw a parallel between Moses and Jesus. They in Egypt denied (ἠρνησαντο [ērnēsanto]) Moses as now you the Jews denied (ἠρνησασθε [ērnēsasthe], 3:13) Jesus. Those in Egypt scouted Moses as “ruler and judge” (verses 27 and 35, ἀρχοντα και δικαστην [archonta kai dikastēn]) and God “hath sent” (ἀπεσταλκεν [apestalken], perfect active indicative, state of completion) Moses “both a ruler and a deliverer” (ἀρχοντα και λυτρωτην [archonta kai lutrōtēn]) as Jesus was to be (Luke 1:68; 2:38; Heb. 9:12; Tit. 2:14). “Ransomer” or “Redeemer” (λυτρωτης [lutrōtēs]) is not found elsewhere, λυτρον [lutron] (ransom), λυτροω [lutroō], to ransom, and λυτρωσις [lutrōsis], ransoming or redemption, are found often. In Acts 5:31 Christ is termed “Prince and Saviour.” With the hand (συν χειρι [sun cheiri]). So the correct text. The Pharisees had accused Stephen of blaspheming “against Moses and God” (6:11). Stephen here answers that slander by showing how Moses led the people out of Egypt in co-operation (συν [sun]) with the hand of the Angel of Jehovah.
- The narrative style is dropped at this point, and instead we have a series of statements about Moses, which are expressed somewhat rhetorically in the Greek text. Each statement begins with the demonstrative This (man) used four times over; verses 38b and 39 begin with relative pronouns. We are reminded of the similar way in which Peter speaks of ‘this Jesus’ in his speeches earlier in Acts (e.g. 2:23, 32, 36). The point of the device in the first of the statements is obvious: it was this very Moses whom the Israelites rejected in Egypt whom God appointed as a leader and redeemer. Then
- The comparison to Christ becomes even stronger in the reference to Moses as “deliverer/redeemer” of Israel. It is the only occurrence in Luke-Acts of the noun “redeemer” (lytrōtēs); but the verbal form, “the one who was going to redeem Israel,” is applied to Christ in Luke 24:21. The word “redeemer” is virtually equivalent to “Savior” (cf. 5:31), and the comparison to Christ is unmistakable. Moses was a type of Christ. Both were sent by God to deliver Israel. Both were denied, rejected by those they were sent to save.
36οὗτος ἐξήγαγεν αὐτοὺς ποιήσας τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα ἐν γῇ Αἰγύπτῳ καὶ ἐν ἐρυθρᾷ θαλάσσῃ καὶ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἔτη τεσσεράκοντα.
This man led them out performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and at the Red Sea and forty years in the wilderness
- Moses performed “wonders and miraculous signs” in Egypt, the Red Sea, and in the wilderness (v. 36). The reference is surely to the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the waters, and the many miracles in the wilderness; but one cannot fail to remember how Jesus also performed signs and wonders (cf. 2:22) and that he had granted the same power to his apostles through his name (2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8).
37οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Μωϋσῆς ὁ εἴπας τοῖς υἱοῖς Ἰσραήλ· προφήτην ὑμῖν ἀναστήσει ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τῶν ἀδελφῶν ὑμῶν ὡς ἐμέ.
This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, “for God will raise a prophet from among your brothers like me.”
- Like unto me (ὡς ἐμε [hōs eme]). This same passage Peter quoted to the crowd in Solomon’s Porch (Acts 3:22). Stephen undoubtedly means to argue that Moses was predicting the Messiah as a prophet like himself who is no other than Jesus so that these Pharisees are in reality opposing Moses. It was a neat turn.
- Now the typological point becomes even clearer. Stephen reminds his hearers that it was this man, Moses, who was responsible for the prophecy about the coming of a prophet like himself (Deut. 18:15) which the early Christians had already begun to see fulfilled in the coming of Jesus (3:22). This early Christian usage is probably sufficient to explain why the text is quoted here, but it may be noted that the verse was an important one in Samaritan theology, and its presence here could give some weight to the cumulative argument for Samaritan influence upon Stephen.
- More than a foreshadowing of Christ took place with Moses. He predicted the coming of Christ, the prophet like himself whom God would raise up (v. 37). This prophecy (Deut 18:1) has already served as a major Christological proof in Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Colonnade (3:22)
38οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ γενόμενος ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ μετὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου τοῦ λαλοῦντος αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ ὄρει Σινᾶ καὶ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν, ὃς ἐδέξατο λόγια ζῶντα δοῦναι ἡμῖν,
This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai and with our fathers, who received living oracles to give to us
- In the church in the wilderness (ἐν τῃ ἐκκλησιᾳ ἐν τῃ ἐρημῳ [en tēi ekklēsiāi en tēi erēmōi]). Better rendered “congregation” here as in Heb. 2:12 (Psa. 22:22), the people of Israel gathered at Mt. Sinai, the whole nation. Moses is here represented as receiving the law from an angel as in Heb. 2:2; Gal. 3:19 (Deut. 33:2, LXX) and so was a mediator (μεσιτης [mesitēs]) or middle man between the angel and the people whereas Jesus is the Mediator of a better covenant (Heb. 8:6). But Exodus does not speak of an angel. Living oracles (λογια ζωντα [logia zōnta]). A λογιον [logion] is a little word (diminutive of λογος [logos]). Common in the old Greek, LXX, Philo, in ecclesiastical writers for sayings of Christ, Papias (for instance) saying that Matthew wrote in Hebrew (Aramaic) “Logia of Jesus.” Oxyrhynchus papyri fragments called “Logia of Jesus” are of much interest though only fragments. The Greeks used it of the “oracles” or brief sayings from Delphi. In the N. T. the word occurs only four times (Acts 7:38; Rom. 3:2; Heb. 5:12; 1 Pet. 4:11). Here the participle ζωντα [zōnta], living, is the same used by Peter (1 Peter 2:4f.), stone (λιθος [lithos]) of Christ and Christians. The words from God to Moses are still “living” today. In 1 Peter 4:11 the word is applied to one who speaks λογια θεου [logia theou] (oracles of God). In Rom. 3:2 Paul refers to the substance of the law and of prophecy. In Heb. 5:12 the writer means the substance of the Christian religious teaching.
- The point is rather that at this assembly of the people Moses received the law, the living words of God (Rom. 3:2). This was the mark of the high privilege of Israel. The giving of the law was the sign of the covenant which God had made with them, and it was by obedience to the law that they would continue to be God’s covenant people. Stephen implicitly shared this belief.
- The role of Moses was strictly positive. He was the God-sent redeemer for Israel, the worker of signs and wonders, the one who transmitted the living words of God. As such he was a type of Christ. Also like Christ, he was rejected by his people.
39ᾧ οὐκ ἠθέλησαν ὑπήκοοι γενέσθαι οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, ἀλλʼ ἀπώσαντο καὶ ἐστράφησαν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν εἰς Αἴγυπτον
To whom were not willing and obedient to become our fathers but rejected him and turned back in the hearts to Egypt,
- Turned back (ἐστραφησαν [estraphēsan]). Second aorist passive indicative of στρεφω [strephō], to turn. They yearned after the fleshpots of Egypt and even the gods of Egypt. It is easy now to see why Stephen has patiently led his hearers through this story. He is getting ready for the home-thrust.
- But now comes a turning point. Still continuing the Greek sentence begun in verse 38, Stephen comments how the original recipients of the law had failed to keep it. They had rejected Moses in his capacity as the law-giver, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt (cf. Num. 14:3f.). Worse
40εἰπόντες τῷ Ἀαρών· ποίησον ἡμῖν θεοὺς οἳ προπορεύσονται ἡμῶν· ὁ γὰρ Μωϋσῆς οὗτος, ὃς ἐξήγαγεν ἡμᾶς ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου, οὐκ οἴδαμεν τί ἐγένετο αὐτῷ.
Saying to Aaron, “make us gods who will go on before us for this Moses, who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.”
- How quickly they had forgotten both God and Moses while Moses was absent in the mount with God. Become of him (ἐγενετο αὐτῳ [egeneto autōi]). Happened to him. “This” (οὑτος [houtos]) here is a contemptuous allusion to Moses by the people.
- For all their protestations of loyalty to the law and the temple and their accusations against Stephen (6:11, 13f.), his hearers belonged to a nation which right from the outset had rejected the law and the true worship of God.
- Stephen directly quoted Exod 32:1, where the people asked Aaron to make them gods. As for Moses, they did not know what happened to him (v. 40). Compare v. 25, where the Israelites are said not to have understood that God was using Moses to rescue them. They committed the same sin of ignorance in the wilderness: To reject God’s messenger is to reject God. It was ultimately a lack of faith. So they made a golden calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in this work of their own hands.
41καὶ ἐμοσχοποίησαν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις καὶ ἀνήγαγον θυσίαν τῷ εἰδώλῳ καὶ εὐφραίνοντο ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν χειρῶν αὐτῶν.
And they manufactured a calf in those days and offered up a sacrifice to the idol and began rejoicing in the works of their hands
- In summarizing the text of Exod 32:4–6, Stephen emphasized certain points. The calf is described as an “idol” and as something made with their own hands. Here he was being faithful to the prophetic tradition that often criticized idolatry as the work of human hands. The term will recur with reference to the temple in v. 48. Here Stephen already was moving in the direction of his temple critique. Already in the wilderness the people along with Aaron the priest were moving in the direction of the distortion of the pure worship of God, which marked the temple of Stephen’s day.
42ἔστρεψεν δὲ ὁ θεὸς καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς λατρεύειν τῇ στρατιᾷ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν βίβλῳ τῶν προφητῶν· μὴ σφάγια καὶ θυσίας προσηνέγκατέ μοι ἔτη τεσσεράκοντα ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οἶκος Ἰσραήλ;
But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven just as it is written in the book of the prophets. You did not bring to me offerings and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness house of Israel.
- Verse 42 describes how God handled the apostasy in the wilderness. God “gave them over” to their own desires. In Rom 1:24–28 Paul used the same word in a similar context of idolatry to describe how God “gave over” the Gentiles to such works of their hands and how this led to all kinds of sinful distortions. It is perhaps the most fearful judgment of all when God turns us over to ourselves and lets our own rebellious ways take their destructive natural course.
43καὶ ἀνελάβετε τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ Μόλοχ καὶ τὸ ἄστρον τοῦ θεοῦ [ὑμῶν] Ῥαιφάν, τοὺς τύπους οὓς ἐποιήσατε προσκυνεῖν αὐτοῖς, καὶ μετοικιῶ ὑμᾶς ἐπέκεινα Βαβυλῶνος.
And you took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rephan, the images that you made to worship them and I will deport you beyond Babylon
- The tabernacle of Moloch (την σκηνην του Μολοχ [tēn skēnēn tou Moloch]). Or tent of Moloch which they took up after each halt instead of the tabernacle of Jehovah. Moloch was the god of the Amorites to whom children were offered as live sacrifices, an ox-headed image with arms outstretched in which children were placed and hollow underneath so that fire could burn underneath. The star of the god Rephan (το ἀστρον του θεου Ρομφα [to astron tou theou Rompha]). Spelled also Romphan and Remphan. Supposed to be Coptic for the star Saturn to which the Egyptians, Arabs, and Phoenicians gave worship. But some scholars take the Hebrew Kiyyoon [kiyyûn; כִּיּוּן] to mean statues and not a proper name at all, “statues of your gods” carried in procession, making “figures” (τυπους [tupous]) with both “tabernacle” and “star” which they carried in procession. I will carry (μετοικιω [metoikiō]). Attic future of μετοικισω [metoikisō] from μετοικιζω [metoikizō]. Beyond Babylon (ἐπεκεινα Βαβυλωνος [epekeina Babulōnos]). The Hebrew and the LXX have “beyond Damascus.” An adverbial preposition (ἐπʼ ἐκεινα [ep’ ekeina] with μερη [merē] understood) used in the old Greek and the LXX with the ablative case and meaning “beyond.” Here only in the N. T. in quotation from Amos 5:27.
- It was so for the Israelites in the wilderness, said Stephen. Their idolatrous calf led to the worship of the heavenly bodies, the gods of sun and moon and stars. The reference to such astral worship may not have been the main subject Stephen wished to treat, but it was part of the text from Amos which he wanted to cite, a text which established the idolatrous practices of Israel in the wilderness. The text is that of Amos 5:25–27, which is quoted from the Septuagint version and is introduced as coming from “the book of the prophets,” the customary Jewish designation for the twelve Minor Prophets, who are collected together in a single book in the Hebrew Bible. The Septuagintal version of Amos 5:25–27 differs considerably from the Hebrew version, and the references to the “shrine of Moloch” and the “star of your god Rephan” are difficult. However, the main point Stephen wished to draw from the passage is clear: “Did you bring me sacrifices … in the desert, O house of Israel?” (v. 42, italics mine). Stephen’s implication was that they made sacrifices all right, to golden calves and heavenly bodies and the like, but not to God. Their wilderness days were days of apostasy. The result of the original apostasy of Israel was ultimately exile. God sent them “beyond Babylon.” Is there an implicit suggestion that his contemporaries could expect little better themselves if they did not turn from the same apostasy and rejection of God’s appointed Christ?
- The second part of the quotation (verse 43) describes how the Israelites proceeded to take up the tent in which Moloch was worshipped and the star or emblem of Rephan; these (gods) were (represented by) images which the Israelites made in order to worship them. Moloch is the god who required child-sacrifice, and Rephan appears to be the name of an Egyptian god associated with Saturn. The lxx here differs markedly from the Hebrew text of Amos which refers to taking up ‘Sakkuth your king and Kaiwan your star-god’, these probably being the names of Assyrian deities. The relation of the lxx to the Hebrew text of Amos need not concern us here (the lxx is paraphrasing a difficult Hebrew text). All that needs to be said is that the Hebrew text would have made Stephen’s point as effectively as the lxx; whatever version Stephen may have used, Luke has here followed his normal practice and cited the lxx. Idolatory found its due reward in exile to a land of false gods.
44Ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἦν τοῖς πατράσιν ἡμῶν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καθὼς διετάξατο ὁ λαλῶν τῷ Μωϋσῇ ποιῆσαι αὐτὴν κατὰ τὸν τύπον ὃν ἑωράκει·
The tabernacle of the testimony was to our fathers in the wilderness, just as directed him, the one who spoke to Moses, to make it according to the design that he had seen.
- The tabernacle of the testimony (ἡ σκηνη του μαρτυριου [hē skēnē tou marturiou]). Probably suggested by the mention of “the tabernacle of Moloch” (verse 43). See on Matt. 17:4 for discussion of σκηνη [skēnē] (from σκια [skia], shadow, root σκα [ska], to cover). This first sanctuary was not the temple, but the tent in the wilderness. “Stephen passes on from the conduct of the Israelites to his other argument that God is not necessarily worshipped in a particular spot” (Page). According to the figure (κατα τον τυπον [kata ton tupon]). According to the type or pattern. Τυπος [Tupos] is from τυπτω [tuptō], to strike, to smite, and is the print of the blow (John 20:25), then the figure formed by a blow or impression like our type, a model or example. Quoted from Ex. 25:40. Common word in the old Greek. That he had seen (ὁν ἑωρακει [hon heōrakei]). Past perfect active of ὁραω [horaō], to see (double reduplication).
- The final segment of Stephen’s argument section begins with a reference to the “tabernacle of the Testimony,” which seems to have little connection with the preceding, except for the words “tent” and “type” of v. 44 also being found in the preceding quote from Amos. A much closer connection, however, revolves around the emphasis on rejection, idolatry, and false worship, which were the main subjects of the wilderness section of the speech. They are still the subject in this section, but here the focus begins to narrow to a particular object of the false worship and rejection: namely, on the temple.
- Verse 44 continues in the historical framework of the wilderness period. In the wilderness Israel’s house of worship was a tent, the tent of the testimony. “Testimony” referred to the stone tablets of the law that were kept in the ark in the tabernacle. Now the tabernacle was provided by God. It was made precisely according to his guidelines, according to the pattern he laid down for Moses. 
- The quotation from Amos has taken Stephen forward in time from Moses to the later period of idolatry. Now he retraces his steps back to the time of Moses. Although the Israelites were later to take up the tent of Moloch, it was the tent of witness which they had in the wilderness, made according to the instructions and pattern which had been given to Moses (Exod. 25:40). This was a portable place of worship which the Israelites carried through the wilderness. 
45ἣν καὶ εἰσήγαγον διαδεξάμενοι οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῇ κατασχέσει τῶν ἐθνῶν, ὧν ἐξῶσεν ὁ θεὸς ἀπὸ προσώπου τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν ἕως τῶν ἡμερῶν Δαυίδ,
And which brought in after receiving in turn our fathers with Joshua in the possession of the nations that drove out God from the presence of our fathers until the days of David
- The tabernacle remained the place of worship after the conquest under Joshua, and it remained in the land, passed down from generation to generation until the time of David (v. 45).
- It was taken over by the next generation of Israelites, the fathers who entered Canaan under Joshua and took possession of the land which had been held by the nations whom God enabled them to drive out.
46ὃς εὗρεν χάριν ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ᾐτήσατο εὑρεῖν σκήνωμα τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰακώβ.
Who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a habitation for the God of Jacob
- Asked (ᾐτησατο [ēitēsato]). Aorist middle (indirect) indicative, asked for himself (as a favour to himself). Cf. 2 Sam. 7:2f. A habitation (σκηνωμα [skēnōma]). Like Psa. 132:5, but it was a house that David proposed to build (2 Sam. 7:2), not a tent (σκηνη [skēnē]) which already existed. Σκηνωμα [Skēnōma] here means a more permanent abode (οἰκον [oikon], house, in verse 47), though from the same root as σκηνη [skēnē].
- Everything seems to have been well as long as the tabernacle existed. A shift seems to have taken place with the mention of David’s desire to build a “dwelling place” in v. 46. Who was this dwelling place for? A major textual problem occurs at this point, some manuscripts reading “a dwelling place for the house of Jacob,” others, “a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.” The NIV has chosen to follow the latter reading, but even the reading “house of Jacob” probably implies the same thing—a dwelling place (for God) for the house of Jacob (to worship him in). David only made the request. He did not build a temple. Second Samuel 7:1–17 tells the story of how God answered David’s request through the prophet Nathan: God was perfectly content with the tabernacle; he did not want a house of cedar from David, but he would raise up a successor to David who would build such a house.
- So things continued until the time of David. He enjoyed the favour of God in that he became the ruler of a united nation enjoying secure possession of the land. David, therefore, asked if he might find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. The unusual wording is based on Psalm 132:4f. where David says that he will not rest until ‘I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob’ (for the prose version of the story see 2 Sam. 7). There is a textual problem in that for the God of Jacob is not as well attested as ‘for the house of Jacob’ and we should perhaps adopt the latter reading; in this case the word translated ‘dwelling’ probably means ‘a place of worship’. Whether it means a tent, such as David did provide for the ark of the covenant (2 Sam. 6:17) or a more permanent building is not absolutely clear. The reply of Nathan to David’s inquiry about building a temple was to affirm strongly that God had never asked for a house to dwell in, but to say that David’s son would build a house for him (2 Sam. 7:5–16).
47Σολομὼν δὲ οἰκοδόμησεν αὐτῷ οἶκον.
But Solomon built a house for him
48ἀλλʼ οὐχ ὁ ὕψιστος ἐν χειροποιήτοις κατοικεῖ, καθὼς ὁ προφήτης λέγει·
But the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands just as the prophet says
- Howbeit (ἀλλʼ [all’]). By contrast with what Solomon did and David planned. Note emphatic position of “not” (ἀλλʼ οὐχ [all’ ouch]), “But not does the Most High dwell.” The presence of the Most High is not confined in any building, even one so splendid as Solomon’s Temple as Solomon himself foresaw and acknowledged in his prayer (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron. 6:18). In houses made with hands (ἐν χειροποιητοις [en cheiropoiētois]). No word here for “houses” or “temples” in correct text (ναοις [naois] temples in Textus Receptus). Literally, “In things made with hands” (χειρ [cheir], hand, ποιητος [poiētos], verbal adjective of ποιεω [poieō]). It occurs in Mark 14:58 of the temple and of the sanctuary of Moab (Isa. 16:12). It occurs also in Acts 17:24; Heb. 9:11, 24; Eph. 2:11. Common in the old Greek. The prophet (ὁ προφητης [ho prophētēs]). Isa. 66:1. Isaiah taught plainly that heaven is God’s throne.
- Solomon was that successor who built “a house” for God (v. 47). Stephen implied that all the trouble began here, for he immediately stated “the Most High does not live in houses made by men” (v. 48a) and backed this up with a quote from Isa 66:1f., which delineates the folly of building a house for the Creator-God who has all heaven and earth for his dwelling place (vv. 49–50)
- There seems in fact to be a contrast between the tent, of which God approved, and the permanent house built by Solomon. The latter was man-made (as admittedly was the tent), possibly according to human designs and not according to a divine plan, and it was easy to suppose that the transcendent God actually lived within the confines of a temple, like any idol.
49ὁ οὐρανός μοι θρόνος, ἡ δὲ γῆ ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν μου· ποῖον οἶκον οἰκοδομήσετέ μοι, λέγει κύριος, ἢ τίς τόπος τῆς καταπαύσεώς μου;
Heaven is my throne and the earth is the footstool for my feet, what kind of house will you build for me says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest?
- What manner of house (Ποιον οἰκον [Poion oikon]). What sort of a house? This interrogative is sometimes scornful as in 4:7 and Luke 6:32ff. (Page). So Stephen shows by Isaiah that Solomon was right that the temple was not meant to “confine” God’s presence and that Jesus had rightly shown that God is a spirit and can be worshipped anywhere by any individual of any race or land. It is a tremendous argument for the universality and spirituality of Christianity free from the shackles of Jewish racial and national limitations, but its very strength only angered the Sanhedrin to desperation.
50οὐχὶ ἡ χείρ μου ἐποίησεν ταῦτα πάντα;
Did not My hand make all these things?
- backed this up with a quote from Isa 66:1f., which delineates the folly of building a house for the Creator-God who has all heaven and earth for his dwelling place (vv. 49–50).
- To be sure, the Israelites should have known better than this, since the point was made clearly enough by Solomon himself (1 Kgs 8:27) and also by the prophet whom Stephen quotes (Isa. 66:1f.): the Creator of all things cannot be limited to a temple made with hands. Is the unspoken implication that God does dwell in a temple not made with hands, as Isa. 66:2b in effect declares? Yet, if this was Stephen’s thought, it is surprising that he did not go on to complete the quotation. It is tantalizing not to have the fuller information which would show clearly whether Stephen was thinking of the ‘new temple’ which is the Christian church. He rests on the negative point, that temple-worship imposes a false limit on the nature of God.
51Σκληροτράχηλοι καὶ ἀπερίτμητοι καρδίαις καὶ τοῖς ὠσίν, ὑμεῖς ἀεὶ τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ ἀντιπίπτετε ὡς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν καὶ ὑμεῖς.
And you stiff-necked people uncircumcised in your hearts and in your ears, you constantly resist the Holy Spirit, as did your fathers you do also
- No epithet could have been more galling to these Pharisees than to be turned “uncircumcised in heart” (Rom. 2:29). They had only the physical circumcision which was useless.
- Resist (ἀντιπιπτετε [antipiptete]). Old word to fall against, to rush against. Only here in the N. T., but used in the O. T. which is here quoted (Numb. 27:14). Their fathers had made “external worship a substitute for spiritual obedience” (Furneaux). Stephen has shown how God had revealed himself gradually, the revelation sloping upward to Christ Jesus. “And as he saw his countrymen repeating the old mistake—clinging to the present and the material, while God was calling them to higher spiritual levels—and still, as ever, resisting the Holy Spirit, treating the Messiah as the patriarchs had treated Joseph, and the Hebrews Moses—the pity of it overwhelmed him, and his mingled grief and indignation broke out in words of fire, such as burned of old on the lips of the prophets” (Furneaux). Stephen, the accused, is now the accuser, and the situation becomes intolerable to the Sanhedrin.
- Circumcision was understood metaphorically as the cutting away of pride and sinfulness from the heart (Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4), and Jeremiah could describe people who were deaf to the call of God as having uncircumcised ears (Jer. 6:10). Such obstinacy was particularly seen in resisting the Holy Spirit (Isa. 63:10), who was regarded as speaking through the prophets and now through the Spirit-filled apostles and witnesses in the early church.
- The final portion of Stephen’s speech could be described in classical rhetorical terms as the “peroration,” where the speaker applies the lessons learned from the previous material in his speech in a direct, frequently emotional appeal to his hearers to act. The aim was to secure their awareness of their own culpability in these matters and motivate them to take remedial action. It is an ancient form of argumentation found in both Greek rhetoric and Hebrew prophecy. The function of the peroration of Stephen’s speech was not simply to malign his Jewish audience. In Christian terms his ultimate goal was their remedial action, their repentance.
52τίνα τῶν προφητῶν οὐκ ἐδίωξαν οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν; καὶ ἀπέκτειναν τοὺς προκαταγγείλαντας περὶ τῆς ἐλεύσεως τοῦ δικαίου, οὗ νῦν ὑμεῖς προδόται καὶ φονεῖς ἐγένεσθε,
Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand about the coming of the Righteous one who now you have become murderers and betrayers
- There was a well-established tradition in Judaism that the Jewish people had been responsible for the deaths of the prophets (1 Kgs 19:10, 14; Neh. 9:26; Jer. 26:20–24; Luke 6:23; 11:49; 13:34; 1 Thess. 2:15; Heb. 11:36–38); Stephen takes up this accusation and repeats it. But he makes it more specific. The prophets in question were those who had prophesied beforehand the coming of the Righteous One; here righteous will have the sense of ‘innocent’ (see 3:14), but the phrase is undoubtedly meant to refer to Jesus as the Messiah; there is some evidence that the noun coming was used to refer specifically to the advent of the Messiah. If the Jews of olden time had shown their opposition to God by slaying the prophets, those of Stephen’s own time had gone to the limit in handing over Jesus the Messiah to the Romans and so constituting themselves his murderers.
- The whole purpose of Stephen’s speech now becomes clear. His historical survey had illustrated Israel’s constant rejection of God’s chosen leaders. Moses, Joseph, the prophets are all types of and pointers to Christ; and Stephen pointed out to his hearers that they had already rejected and killed him. Is this a final condemnation? One is reminded of Peter’s temple sermon with all its resemblances to this portion of Stephen’s speech. For Peter it was not a final condemnation, but the door remained open to repent and receive the Christ at his second coming (3:19–21). Stephen already had shown how deliverance came for Israel on their second encounters with Joseph and Moses. Was there not an implicit second chance offered to his hearers here? Was Stephen making an appeal for them to take the needed remedial steps to their apostasy and repent?
53οἵτινες ἐλάβετε τὸν νόμον εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων καὶ οὐκ ἐφυλάξατε.
You who received the law by directions of angels and have not observed it
- Summary. It has often been stated that Stephen’s speech does not address the charge that had been leveled against him, that of blasphemy against the temple and the law. Already we have seen that Stephen gave considerable attention to the temple charge. In effect, he turned back that charge on his accusers. They were the guilty parties in turning the temple into an object for human manipulation and distorting its true purpose of prayer and worship. He did virtually the same with the charge of blasphemy against the law. In his speech he never once criticized the law. He gave only positive treatment of its provisions, such as circumcision (v. 8), and described it as “living words” (v. 38). No, it was not he but his Jewish accusers who were the real lawbreakers (v. 53). They were the apostates and idolaters who had constantly transgressed the first Commandments.
- And yet even this deed is not the climax of Stephen’s accusation. He reverts finally to the fact that his hearers had received the law of God given in the most impressive manner possible by angels as his intermediaries; although the presence of angels at Mount Sinai is not mentioned in the Old Testament (except in the lxx of Deut. 33:2), it was nevertheless a fixed part of Jewish tradition and was accepted by early Christians (Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). It was this divine law which they themselves had failed to keep; is the reference specifically to their transgression of the commandment against murder? So far from speaking against Moses, Stephen accuses his hearers of failing to obey the laws which God gave through him to Israel.