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Stephen Speaks to the Sanhedrin
1Then the high priest questioned Stephen. "Is what these people are saying true?" he asked.
2"Brothers and fathers, listen to me!" Stephen replied. "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham. At that time Abraham was still in Mesopotamia. He had not yet begun living in Haran. 3'Leave your country and your people,' God said. 'Go to the land I will show you.' (Genesis 12:1)
4"So Abraham left the land of Babylonia. He settled in Haran. After his father died, God sent Abraham to this land where you are now living. 5God didn't give him any property here. He didn't give him even a foot of land. But God made a promise to him and to all his family after him. He said they would possess the land. The promise was made even though at that time Abraham had no child.
6"Here is what God said to him. 'Your family after you will be strangers in a country that is not their own. They will be slaves and will be treated badly for 400 years. 7But I will punish the nation that makes them slaves,' God said. 'After that, they will leave that country and worship me here.' (Genesis 15:13,14)
8"Then God made a covenant with Abraham. God told him that circumcision would show who the members of the covenant were. Abraham became Isaac's father. He circumcised Isaac eight days after he was born. Later, Isaac became Jacob's father. Jacob had 12 sons. They became the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel.
9"Jacob's sons were jealous of their brother Joseph. So they sold him as a slave. He was taken to Egypt. But God was with him. 10He saved Joseph from all his troubles. God made Joseph wise. He helped him to become the friend of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made Joseph ruler over Egypt and his whole palace.
11"There was not enough food for all Egypt and Canaan. This brought great suffering. Jacob and his sons couldn't find food. 12But Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt. So he sent his sons on their first visit. 13On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was. Pharaoh learned about Joseph's family.
14"After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family. The total number of people was 75. 15Then Jacob went down to Egypt. There he and his family died. 16Some of their bodies were brought back to Shechem. They were placed in a tomb Abraham had bought. He had purchased it from Hamor's sons at Shechem for a certain amount of money.
17"In Egypt the number of our people grew and grew. It was nearly time for God to make his promise to Abraham come true. 18Another king became ruler of Egypt. He knew nothing about Joseph. 19He was very evil and dishonest with our people. He beat them down. He forced them to throw out their newborn babies to die.
20"At that time Moses was born. He was not an ordinary child. For three months he was taken care of by his family. 21Then he was placed outside. But Pharaoh's daughter took him home. She brought him up as her own son. 22Moses was taught all the knowledge of the people of Egypt. He became a powerful speaker and a man of action.
23"When Moses was 40 years old, he decided to visit the people of Israel. They were his own people. 24He saw one of them being treated badly by a man of Egypt. So he went to help him. He got even by killing the man. 25Moses thought his own people would realize that God was using him to save them. But they didn't.
26"The next day Moses saw two men of Israel fighting. He tried to make peace between them. 'Men, you are both of Israel,' he said. 'Why do you want to hurt each other?'
27"But the man who was treating the other one badly pushed Moses to one side. He said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' (Exodus 2:14) 29When Moses heard this, he escaped to Midian. He lived there as a stranger. He became the father of two sons there.
30"Forty years passed. Then an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush. This happened in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31When Moses saw the bush, he was amazed. He went over for a closer look. There he heard the Lord's voice. 32'I am the God of your fathers,' the Lord said. 'I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' (Exodus 3:6) Moses shook with fear. He didn't dare to look.
33"Then the Lord said to him, 'Take off your sandals. The place you are standing on is holy ground. 34I have seen my people beaten down in Egypt. I have heard their groans. I have come down to set them free. Now come. I will send you back to Egypt.' (Exodus 3:5,7,8,10)
35"This is the same Moses the two men of Israel would not accept. They had said, 'Who made you ruler and judge?' But God himself sent Moses to rule the people of Israel and set them free. He spoke to Moses through the angel who had appeared to him in the bush. 36So Moses led them out of Egypt. He did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and for 40 years in the desert.
37"This is the same Moses who spoke to the people of Israel. 'God will send you a prophet,' he said. 'He will be like me. He will come from your own people.' (Deuteronomy 18:15) 38Moses was with the Israelites in the desert. He was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai. Moses was with our people of long ago. He received living words to pass on to us.
39"But our people refused to obey Moses. They would not accept him. In their hearts, they wished they were back in Egypt. 40They told Aaron, 'Make us a god who will lead us. This fellow Moses led us out of Egypt. But we don't know what has happened to him!' (Exodus 32:1) 41That was the time they made a statue to be their god. It looked like a calf. They brought sacrifices to it. They were glad because of what they had made with their own hands. 42But God turned away from them. He left them to worship the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets. There it says, " 'People of Israel, did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
for 40 years in the desert?
43You lifted up the place where Molech was worshiped.
You lifted up the star of your god Rephan.
You made statues of them to worship.
So I will send you away from your country.' (Amos 5:25-27)
God sent them to Babylon and even farther.
44"Long ago our people had with them in the desert the holy tent where the tablets of the covenant were kept. Moses had made the holy tent as God had commanded him. It was made like the pattern he had seen. 45Our people received the tent from God. They brought it with them when they took the land of Canaan. God drove out the nations that were in their way. At that time Joshua was Israel's leader.
"The tent remained in the land until David's time. 46David was blessed by God. So David asked if he could build a house for the God of Jacob. 47Instead, it was Solomon who built it for him.
48"But the Most High God does not live in houses made by human hands. As God says through the prophet,
49" 'Heaven is my throne.
The earth is under my control.
What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord.
Where will my resting place be?
50Didn't my hand make all these things?' (Isaiah 66:1,2)
51"You people! You won't obey! You are stubborn! You won't listen! You are just like your people of long ago! You always oppose the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a prophet your people didn't try to hurt? They even killed those who told about the coming of the Blameless One. And now you have handed him over to his enemies. You have murdered him. 53The law you received was brought by angels. But you haven't obeyed it."
Stephen Is Killed
54When the Sanhedrin heard this, they became very angry. They ground their teeth at Stephen. 55But he was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked up to heaven and saw God's glory. He saw Jesus standing at God's right hand. 56"Look!" he said. "I see heaven open. The Son of Man is standing at God's right hand."
57When the Sanhedrin heard this, they covered their ears. They yelled at the top of their voices. They all rushed at him. 58They dragged him out of the city. They began to throw stones at him to kill him. The witnesses took off their coats. They placed them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59While the members of the Sanhedrin were throwing stones at Stephen, he prayed. "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," he said. 60Then he fell on his knees. He cried out, "Lord! Don't hold this sin against them!" When he had said this, he died.
Stephen’s Discourses.
1Then the high priest asked, “Is this so?” 2#a. [7:2] Gn 11:31; 12:1; Ps 29:3. And he replied,#Stephen’s speech represents Luke’s description of Christianity’s break from its Jewish matrix. Two motifs become prominent in the speech: (Acts 7:1) Israel’s reaction to God’s chosen leaders in the past reveals that the people have consistently rejected them; and (Acts 7:2) Israel has misunderstood God’s choice of the Jerusalem temple as the place where he is to be worshiped. “My brothers and fathers, listen. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia,#God…appeared to our father Abraham…in Mesopotamia: the first of a number of minor discrepancies between the data of the Old Testament and the data of Stephen’s discourse. According to Gn 12:1, God first spoke to Abraham in Haran. The main discrepancies are these: in Acts 7:16 it is said that Jacob was buried in Shechem, whereas Gn 50:13 says he was buried at Hebron; in the same verse it is said that the tomb was purchased by Abraham, but in Gn 33:19 and Jos 24:32 the purchase is attributed to Jacob himself. before he had settled in Haran, 3and said to him, ‘Go forth from your land and [from] your kinsfolk to the land that I will show you.’#b. [7:3] Gn 12:1. 4So he went forth from the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, he made him migrate to this land where you now dwell.#c. [7:4] Gn 12:5; 15:7. 5Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but he did promise to give it to him and his descendants as a possession, even though he was childless.#d. [7:5] Gn 12:7; 13:15; 15:2; 16:1; Dt 2:5. 6And God spoke thus,#e. [7:6–7] Gn 15:13–14. ‘His descendants shall be aliens in a land not their own, where they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years; 7but I will bring judgment on the nation they serve,’ God said, ‘and after that they will come out and worship me in this place.’#f. [7:7] Ex 3:12. 8Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision, and so he became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, as Isaac did Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs.#g. [7:8] Gn 17:10–14; 21:2–4.
9“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into slavery in Egypt; but God was with him#h. [7:9] Gn 37:11, 28; 39:2, 3, 21, 23. 10and rescued him from all his afflictions. He granted him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, who put him in charge of Egypt and [of] his entire household.#i. [7:10] Gn 41:37–43; Ps 105:21; Wis 10:13–14. 11Then a famine and great affliction struck all Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find no food;#j. [7:11] Gn 41:54–57; 42:5. 12but when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there a first time.#k. [7:12] Gn 42:1–2. 13The second time, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh.#l. [7:13] Gn 45:3–4, 16. 14Then Joseph sent for his father Jacob, inviting him and his whole clan, seventy-five persons;#m. [7:14] Gn 45:9–11, 18–19; 46:27; Ex 1:5 LXX; Dt 10:22. 15and Jacob went down to Egypt. And he and our ancestors died#n. [7:15] Gn 46:5–6; 49:33. 16and were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor at Shechem.#o. [7:16] Gn 23:3–20; 33:19; 49:29–30; 50:13; Jos 24:32.
17“When the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God pledged to Abraham, the people had increased and become very numerous in Egypt,#p. [7:17] Ex 1:7. 18until another king who knew nothing of Joseph came to power [in Egypt].#q. [7:18] Ex 1:8. 19He dealt shrewdly with our people and oppressed [our] ancestors by forcing them to expose their infants, that they might not survive. 20At this time Moses was born, and he was extremely beautiful. For three months he was nursed in his father’s house;#r. [7:20] Ex 2:2; Heb 11:23. 21but when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son.#s. [7:21] Ex 2:3–10. 22Moses was educated [in] all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.
23#t. [7:23–24] Ex 2:11–12. “When he was forty years old, he decided to visit his kinsfolk, the Israelites. 24When he saw one of them treated unjustly, he defended and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian. 25He assumed [his] kinsfolk would understand that God was offering them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. 26#u. [7:26–28] Ex 2:13–14. The next day he appeared to them as they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why are you harming one another?’ 27Then the one who was harming his neighbor pushed him aside, saying, ‘Who appointed you ruler and judge over us? 28Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29Moses fled when he heard this and settled as an alien in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.#v. [7:29] Ex 2:15, 21–22; 18:3–4.
30#w. [7:30–34] Ex 3:2–3. “Forty years later, an angel appeared to him in the desert near Mount Sinai in the flame of a burning bush. 31When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look at it, the voice of the Lord came, 32‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ Then Moses, trembling, did not dare to look at it. 33But the Lord said to him, ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’ 35This Moses, whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who appointed you ruler and judge?’ God sent as [both] ruler and deliverer, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.#x. [7:35] Ex 2:14. 36This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the desert for forty years.#y. [7:36] Ex 7:3, 10; 14:21; Nm 14:33. 37It was this Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you, from among your own kinsfolk, a prophet like me.’#z. [7:37] Dt 18:15; Acts 3:22. 38It was he who, in the assembly in the desert, was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our ancestors, and he received living utterances to hand on to us.#a. [7:38] Ex 19:3; 20:1–17; Dt 5:4–22; 6:4–25.
39“Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside and in their hearts turned back to Egypt,#b. [7:39] Nm 14:3. 40saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will be our leaders. As for that Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’#c. [7:40] Ex 32:1, 23. 41#d. [7:41] Ex 32:4–6. So they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. 42Then God turned and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:#e. [7:42–43] Am 5:25–27.
‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
for forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?#f. [7:42] Jer 7:18; 8:2; 19:13.
43No, you took up the tent of Moloch
and the star of (your) god Rephan,
the images that you made to worship.
So I shall take you into exile beyond Babylon.’
44“Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the desert just as the One who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern he had seen.#g. [7:44] Ex 25:9, 40. 45Our ancestors who inherited it brought it with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out from before our ancestors, up to the time of David,#h. [7:45] Jos 3:14–17; 18:1; 2 Sm 7:5–7. 46who found favor in the sight of God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob.#i. [7:46] 2 Sm 7:1–2; 1 Kgs 8:17; Ps 132:1–5. 47But Solomon built a house for him.#j. [7:47] 1 Kgs 6:1; 1 Chr 17:12. 48Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:#k. [7:48] 17:24.
49‘The heavens are my throne,
the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house can you build for me?
says the Lord,
or what is to be my resting place?#l. [7:49] Is 66:1–2.
50Did not my hand make all these things?’
51“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. 52Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.#m. [7:52] 2 Chr 36:16; Mt 23:31, 34. 53You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”#n. [7:53] Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2.
Stephen’s Martyrdom.
54When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. 55#o. [7:55–56] Mt 26:64; Mk 14:62; Lk 22:69; Acts 2:34. But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,#He…saw…Jesus standing at the right hand of God: Stephen affirms to the Sanhedrin that the prophecy Jesus made before them has been fulfilled (Mk 14:62). 56and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,#Covered their ears: Stephen’s declaration, like that of Jesus, is a scandal to the court, which regards it as blasphemy. and rushed upon him together. 58They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.#p. [7:58] 22:20. 59As they were stoning Stephen,#q. [7:59] Ps 31:6; Lk 23:46. he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”#Compare Lk 23:34, 46. 60Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.#r. [7:60] Mt 27:46, 50; Mk 15:34; Lk 23:46.