Acts 7

Stephen’s Defense

1Now the high priest asked [Stephen], “Are these charges true?”

2And he answered, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory [the Shekinah, the radiance of God] appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3and He said to him, ‘LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME TO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.’ 4Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, God sent him to this country in which you now live. 5But He did not give him inheritable property, not even enough ground to take a step on, yet He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM. 6And this is, in effect, what God spoke [to him]: That his DESCENDANTS WOULD BE ALIENS (strangers) IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. 7‘AND I WILL JUDGE ANY NATION TO WHOM THEY WILL BE IN BONDAGE,’ said God, ‘AND AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME [in worship] IN THIS PLACE.’ 8And God gave Abraham a covenant [a formal agreement to be strictly observed] of [which] circumcision [was the sign]; and so [under these circumstances] Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac [became the father] of Jacob, and Jacob [became the father] of the twelve patriarchs.

9“The [ten elder] patriarchs, overwhelmed with jealousy, sold [their younger brother] Joseph into [slavery in] Egypt; but God was with him, 10and He rescued him from all his suffering, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made Joseph governor over Egypt and over his entire household.

11“Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great distress and our fathers could not find food [for their households and livestock]. 12But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. 13And on the second visit Joseph identified himself to his brothers, and Joseph’s family and background were revealed to Pharaoh. 14Then Joseph sent and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. 15And Jacob (Israel) went down into Egypt, and there he died, as did our fathers; 16and [from Egypt] their bodies were taken back to Shechem and placed in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

17“But as the time [for the fulfillment] of the promise which God had made to Abraham was approaching, the [Hebrew] people increased and multiplied in Egypt, 18until [the time when] THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO DID NOT KNOW JOSEPH [nor his history and the merit of his service to Egypt]. 19He shrewdly exploited our race and mistreated our fathers, forcing them to expose their [male] babies so that they would die. 20It was at this [critical] time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and for three months he was nourished in his father’s house. 21Then when he was set outside [to die], Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him and claimed him for herself, and cared for him as her own son. 22So Moses was educated in all the wisdom and culture of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. 23But when he reached the age of forty, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the sons of Israel. 24And when he saw one [of them] being treated unfairly, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking and killing the Egyptian. 25He expected his countrymen to understand that God was granting them freedom through him [assuming that they would accept him], but they did not understand. 26Then on the next day he suddenly appeared to two of them as they were fighting, and he tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong one another?’ 27But the man who was injuring his neighbor pushed Moses away, saying, ‘WHO APPOINTED YOU RULER AND JUDGE OVER US? 28‘DO YOU INTEND TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY?’ 29At this remark MOSES FLED AND BECAME AN EXILE IN THE LAND OF MIDIAN, where he fathered two sons.

30“After forty years had passed, AN ANGEL APPEARED TO HIM IN THE WILDERNESS OF MOUNT Sinai, IN THE FLAME OF A BURNING THORN BUSH. 31When Moses saw it, he was astonished at the sight; but as he went near to look more closely, the voice of the Lord came [to him, saying]: 32‘I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND OF ISAAC AND OF JACOB.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. 33THEN THE LORD SAID TO HIM, ‘REMOVE THE SANDALS FROM YOUR FEET, FOR THE PLACE WHERE YOU ARE STANDING IS HOLY GROUND [worthy of reverence and respect]. 34‘I HAVE MOST CERTAINLY SEEN THE OPPRESSION OF MY PEOPLE IN EGYPT AND HAVE HEARD THEIR GROANING, AND I HAVE COME DOWN TO RESCUE THEM. NOW COME, AND I WILL SEND YOU TO EGYPT [as My messenger].’

35“This Moses whom they rejected, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND A JUDGE?’ is the very one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer, with the [protecting and helping] hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush. 36This man led them out [of Egypt] after performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37This is the Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR COUNTRYMEN.’ 38This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles [divine words that still live] to be handed down to you. 39Our fathers were unwilling to be subject to him [and refused to listen to him]. They rejected him, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40THEY SAID TO AARON, ‘MAKE FOR US GODS WHO WILL GO BEFORE US; FOR THIS MOSES WHO LED US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HIM.’ 41In those days they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced and celebrated over the works of their hands. 42But God turned away [from them] and handed them over to serve the host of heaven. As it is written and forever remains written in the book of the prophets, ‘IT WAS NOT [really] TO ME THAT YOU OFFERED VICTIMS AND SACRIFICES FOR FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS, WAS IT, O HOUSE OF ISRAEL? 43‘YOU ALSO TOOK ALONG THE TABERNACLE (portable temple) OF MOLOCH AND THE STAR OF THE GOD ROMPHA, THE IMAGES WHICH YOU MADE TO WORSHIP; AND I WILL REMOVE YOU BEYOND BABYLON [carrying you away into exile].’

44“Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as God directed Moses to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. 45Our fathers also brought it in [with them into the land] with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, [and so it remained here] until the time of David, 46who found favor (grace, spiritual blessing) in the sight of God and asked that he might [be allowed to] find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. 48However, the Most High [the One infinitely exalted above humanity] does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet [Isaiah] says, 49‘HEAVEN IS MY THRONE,

51“You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did. 52Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53you who received the law as ordained and delivered to you by angels, and yet you did not obey it!”

Stephen Put to Death 54Now when they heard this [accusation and understood its implication], they were cut to the heart, and they began grinding their teeth [in rage] at him. 55But he, being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57But they shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and together rushed at him [considering him guilty of blasphemy]. 58Then they drove him out of the city and began stoning him; and the witnesses placed their outer robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59They continued stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!” 60Then falling on his knees [in worship], he cried out loudly, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them [do not charge them]!” When he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].