Summary: This chapter contains Stephen's reply to the high priest and others who charged and questioned him (see chapter 6). Even though Stephen was martyred for his faith, his testimony still lives on.
Introduction: Acts 7 begins with a question from the High Priest to Stephen, one of the original seven men sometimes called deacons. The rest of the chapter contains Stephen’s review of Israel’s history and his reply to the charge/s against him (see Acts 6) and the response of those who heard him. Stephen was the first acknowledged martyr of the Christian Church.
The question by the high priest, verse 1
Text, Acts 7:1, KJV: 1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
--Compare this “trial” with what had happened to Jesus Himself not long before.
--Did this sequence of events even follow the protocol or Jewish laws about trials?
We also don’t know the high priest’s attitude here. Stephen had been doing nothing but good; logically there was no reason for him to blaspheme or speak evil of anything.
The review of Israel’s history, verses 2-50
--From Abraham’s calling to Jacob’s sons, verses 2-8
2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, 3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. 4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. 5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. 6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. 7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
Most of this is familiar to those of us who know Israel’s history as recorded in the Old Testament. One of the most important days in history was the day God called Abram when Abram was living in Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 12).
Abram’s stop at Haran (“Charran”, verse 2) is noted in Genesis 11:31. Stephen does not mention that Terah, Abram’s father, died in Haran.
No mention of Abram’s time in Egypt. The covenant between God and Abram is found in Genesis 17. Circumcision and the promise of an heir were included in that covenant.
Isaac’s birth and circumcision are mentioned in Genesis 21:1-5.
Jacob’s birth—and Esau’s (his twin brother, not mentioned here)—are mentioned in Genesis 25:19-26. The births of Jacob’s sons, called patriarchs in Stephen’s message, are recorded in Genesis 29:31-35, 30:1-24, and 35:16-20.
--From the birth of Jacob’s sons to Israel moving to Egypt, verses 9-16
9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, 10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. 11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. 13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. 14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. 15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, 16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
Joseph’s promotion from prisoner to prime minister, second only in power to Pharaoh, is recorded in Genesis 41.
Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s double dreams about the 7 years each of plenty and of famine in Genesis 41. The two journeys of Jacob’s sons to buy grain are found in Genesis 42-45, and the relocation of Jacob and the rest of his family is in Genesis 46. The last chapters of Genesis give information about Jacob and his family in Egypt, plus the account of Jacob’s death and burial. Joseph did indeed have Jacob’s body buried in the same tomb where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah were already buried (compare Genesis 23:17-19, 25:9-10