Summary: By beginning with God’s appearance to Abraham he indicates that he doesn’t disagree with the fathers on what constitutes true religion—the religion of the Jews. For them, all religion, the worship of God, the doctrine of the law, all prophecies....

The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham.

The God of glory is a Hebrew form of expression denoting "the glorious God." It expresses His "majesty, or splendor, or magnificence"; and the word "glory" is often used to describe the marvelous appearances in which God has shown Himself to people, (Deuteronomy 5:24[8]—also see Exodus 33:18; Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:23; Numbers 14:10). Perhaps Stephen meant to assert that God appeared to Abraham in some glorious manifestation, so that there would be no doubt that he was being addressed by Almighty God. Furthermore, the word "glory" may have been meant to ward off the charge of "blasphemy" against God, and to show that he regarded Him as being worthy of honor and praise.

By beginning with God’s appearance to Abraham he indicates that he doesn’t disagree with the fathers on what constitutes true religion—the religion of the Jews. For them, all religion, the worship of God, the doctrine of the law, all prophecies, depended upon that covenant which God made with Abraham; therefore, when Stephen declared that God appeared to Abraham, he embraced the law and the prophets, which stem from that first revelation.The God of Glory would also serve to distinguish Him from the false gods worshipped by the heathens.

The first call that Abraham received from God is not expressly recorded in Genesis, however, it is clearly implied in Genesis 15:7: “He also said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it’” and Nehemiah 9:7; “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham.” The God of glory appeared to Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia. Abraham's childhood home was at Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia, the country between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The second call is recorded in Genesis 12:1[9], but it doesn’t say specifically that God appeared to him, only that “The LORD had said to Abram.” He gave Abraham this second call at Haran, or Charran (the same), but Stephen declares that the family had gone from Ur to Charran, because of an earlier call (Acts 7:3, 4). Charran was on the route to Canaan, and Abraham made a stop there of five years, until his father died (Genesis 11:31, 32[10]).

When he was in Mesopotamia.

God appeared to Abraham "when he was in Mesopotamia", a country that lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Scriptures are silent on this appearance of God to Abraham, which Stephen has mentioned here, and the Jewish writers seem to hint at it, when they say, "thus said the holy blessed God to Abraham, as thou hast enlightened for me Mesopotamia and its companions, come and give light before me in the land of Israel.'' When Abram was in Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:3110), it is said that Abraham dwelt "in Ur of the Chaldees." The word "Mesopotamia" is the name given to the region between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. The name is Greek, and the region had other names before the Greek name was given to it. In Genesis 11:3110 and Genesis 15:7[11], 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. Its precise location is unknown, but one theory says Ur of the Chaldees was situated near to Babel, and among the rivers, (Tigris and Euphrates), which gave the name of Mesopotamia to the country. When Steven says in Acts 7:4 that Abraham came out of Chaldea, it is evident that Mesopotamia contained Chaldea. After Abram left Ur he went Haran, or Charran where he received a second call (the same), but Stephen declares that the family had gone from Ur to Charran, because of an earlier call (Ac 7:3, 4). Charran was on the route to Canaan, and Abraham made a stop there of five years, until his father died (Ge 11:31, 3210).

Before he dwelt in Charan.

Stephen relates Abraham’s journey from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran (or Charan, as it is called here), and then from Haran to Canaan, which amounts to a somewhat roundabout obedience to God’s command. God had commanded Abraham “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you,” and Stephen makes it clear that this command came to Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia—this was the second time he received this command. The first time he was living in Ur of the Chaldees; and he did not immediately obey. First, he did not immediately “go to a land that I will show you.” Second, he did not leave his relatives, but took with him his father (who died in Haran) and his nephew Lot. Abraham’s partial obedience did not take God’s promise away. Instead, it meant the promise was on “hold” until Abram was ready to do what the Lord said. The promise didn’t “progress” until Abraham left Haran and his father behind and went to the place God wanted him to go. This shows that Abraham had two calls, one in Ur, and the other in Haran. He left Ur at the first call, and came to Haran; he left Haran at the second call, and came into the Promised Land. Abraham will certainly become a giant of faith, even being the father of the believing (Galatians 3:7[12]); yet he does not start there, we will see Abraham as an example of one who grows in faith and obedience.

The word "Charran" is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Haran" (Genesis 11:3111). This place and Ur of the Chaldees were both in Mesopotamia, and said by one commentator to be located at 36 degrees 52 minutes north latitude and 39 degrees 5 minutes east longitude. Here is where Terah died (Genesis 11:3210); and Jacob went to live there when he fled from his brother Esau (Genesis 27:43[13]). It is situated "in a flat and sandy plain, and is inhabited by a few wandering Arabs, who choose to live there for the delicious water which it provides." (Robinson's Calmet). It is called"Charan" in the Septuagint, as it is here; and Herodish says it is where Antoninus was killed; Pliny and Stephanus called it "Carra"; Ptolomy called it "Carroe"; it was famous for the slaughter of M. Crassus, by the Parthians. R. Benjamin provided this account of it: "In two days I came to ancient Haran, and in it were about twenty Jews, and there was as it were a synagogue of Ezra; but in the place where was the house of Abraham our father, there was no building upon it; but the Ishmaelites (or Mahometans) honour that place, and come thither to pray.''

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.

And said unto him.

This was said to Abraham while he was still living in his childhood home in Ur of the Chaldees. He did not leave in obedience to God’s command, since when he left he did not get away from his kindred; because his kindred went along with him, or rather he went with them from Mesopotamia to Haran. We are not told how long it was after this was said until he actually went. Moses simply says that God had commanded him to go.

Get thee out of thy country.

Leave Ur of the Chaldees, where he was born.

And from thy kindred.

Thy kindred means his relatives, or family that lived in the same place. He did leave most of them behind, but "Terah" went with him as far as Haran. Once again, he doesn’t entirely comply with God’s command.

And come into the land which I shall show thee.

His destination was unknown; the place was to be shown him. This is represented in the New Testament as an example of strong faith (Hebrews 11:8-9[14]). It was an act of "simple confidence" in God. And to leave his country and home, not knowing where he was going, and once there to be a stranger in the land, required strong confidence in God. It is a simple illustration of what a man may have to do at the command of God. For example, the gospel requires him to commit himself entirely to God; to yield body and soul to Him and His care; to be ready at His command to forsake father, and mother, and friends, and houses, and lands, for the sake of the Lord Jesus (Luke 14:33[15]; Matthew 19:27[16], Matthew 19:29[17]). The trials and troubles which Abraham might have face may be easily envisioned. He was going at a time when the world was dangerous and barbarous, into a land of strangers. He was without the protection of weapons or armed men, and was practically alone. He did not even know the nature or location or condition of the land, or the character of its inhabitants. This may be seen as being similar to how the saints are called out of the world, from their former way of life, and from among their old companions and friends, to follow Christ to wherever he desires to lead them; and who at last will bring them safely to “that land that is fairer than day,” which God has prepared for those who love His Son.

He had no title to it; no claim to urge him on his way; and he went depending on the simple promise of God that he would give it to him. He went, therefore, trusting simply in the promise of God. Thus, his conduct illustrates precisely what we are to do all of our life, and on to the eternity before us: We are to trust simply in the promises of God, and do what he says. This is faith. In Abraham’s case it was as simple and clear as any operation of mind that has ever occurred in any instance. Faith in the Scriptures is no more mysterious than any other mental operation. If Abraham could have foreseen all that was to result from his going into that land, it would have been a sufficient reason to induce him to go there. But God saw it; and Abraham was required to act just as if he had seen it too, as well as all the reasons why he was called. Upon the strength of God's promises, Abraham was called to act. This was faith. It did not require him to act where there was "no reason" for him to do so, but to act where he did not see the reason. That’s how it is in all cases of faith. If man could see all that God sees, he would recognize the reasons for acting as God requires. But the reasons for things are often hidden or obscured, and man is required to act on the belief that God has good reasons for why he should do a certain thing. To act under the impression that whatever God says is truth and proper is faith; as simple and intelligible as any other act or operation of the mind (Mark 16:16[18]).

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 .

Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans.

The land of the Chaldeans is the same as Mesopotamia, since it was a country within Mesopotamia. Babylon, the head of the Chaldean nation, was also there in the other part of Mesopotamia; and Assyria was called Babylonia. It was out of Ur, in the land of the Chaldeans, that Abraham came, upon receiving his first call.

As strange as the command which was given him might seem, he, with all submission, readily obeyed it.

And dwelt in Charan.

According to the Jewish writers, he dwelt there for five years, since during that period he didn’t receive a signal to proceed any further.

And from thence, when his father was dead.

His father died in Haran, or Charan, as it says here (Genesis 11:31, 3210). It was after the death of Terah his father, that Abraham received another call, and left Charan for the land of promise.

He removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.

He removed himself or as another version says, "God removed him"; or as we would say, he traveled from Charan to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:5[19]); and He went there by the order of God, and under His direction and protection. And yet, upon his arrival, he was not given his inheritance; he was a stranger and sojourner there. He did not receive the field mentioned in verse 16 by a divine donation, but bought it himself. Nevertheless, God promised that he would give it to him for a possession—a promise which Abraham firmly believed that God would fulfil for him and for his seed after him, even though he had no child, and, humanly speaking, it was not likely he ever would have one: but his faith triumphed over all these difficulties, and he confidently trusted in the power, and love, and faithfulness of God to make His word good.

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.

And he gave him none inheritance in it.

This was a great trial for Abraham's faith; to leave his home, family, friends, and his fields and vineyards and go to another land which was promised to him and his; but when he got there, none of it was his to enjoy, not a single part of it. Abraham led a wandering life; and this passage means that he did not receive a permanent possession or residence in that land. The only land which he owned was the field which he "purchased" from the children of Heth for a burial place, and since it was obtained by "purchase," and not by the direct gift of God, and since it was not used for a "residence," it is said that God gave him no "inheritance." It is mentioned in order to show his great faith, that he would remain there without having a permanent residence himself, with only the prospect that his children, at some distant period, would inherit it (see Hebrews 11:8-16).

Abraham and his seed would live in an unsettled state for many ages after he was called out of Ur of the Chaldees. God did indeed promise that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, but much must occur before the promise would come to fruition:

1. It would be many years before he would have a child by Sarah.

2. He was a stranger and a sojourner in that land, and God gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as a place to set his foot on; he was always on the move, and could call nothing his own.

3. His posterity did not come into the possession of it for a long time: After four hundred years they shall come and serve me in this place, and not till then (v. 7).

4. They must undergo a great deal of hardship and difficulty before they are put into possession of that land: they shall be brought into bondage, and poorly treated in a strange land; and this was not because they were being punished for any particular sin, as their wandering in the wilderness was; but God had appointed both the captivity in Egypt and the wandering in the wilderness, and so it must be. And at the end of four hundred years, counting from the birth of Isaac, that nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, saith God. Now this teaches us three things:

a. That God knows everything before it happens. When Abraham had neither an inheritance nor an heir, he was told he would have both, the one a land of promise, and the other a child of promise, which he received by faith.

b. That God’s promises, though they may be slow to follow, are sure to be fulfilled according to His timetable, though perhaps not as soon as we would prefer.

c. That though the people of God may be in distress and trouble for a time, God will at the exact right time both rescue them and deal with those who afflicted them; for there is a God that judgeth in the earth

No, not so much as to set his foot on.

None of this new land belonged to him, and that was never more evident than when Sarah his wife died, and he was forced to buy a piece of ground to bury her in. It could not be said to be given him by the Lord, since he bought it with his money.

Not so much as to set his foot on is a common expression, denoting in an emphatic manner that he had no land (Deuteronomy 2:5[20]). The promise of the possession was certain, and belonged to Abraham, although it was his posterity that enjoyed it a great while after his death.

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.

This was another test of Abraham's faith, that he would have a whole country promised to him and his seed, yet he had no seed given to him (Genesis 12:7[21]), and due to his and Sarah’s age there was no human probability that he would have any posterity Genesis 15:2, 3[22]; Genesis 18:11, 12[23]). This aspect of Abraham’s life is revealed to us for an example and pattern for our lives, and as a strong instance of his faith; "who against hope believed in hope" (Romans 4:18[24]).

Both Abraham and Jacob had small parcels of land in Canaan; but they had to purchase them. The promise is evidently equivalent to saying that it would be conferred on the family of Abraham, or the family of which he was the father, without affirming that "he" would himself personally possess it. It is true, however, that Abraham himself afterward dwelt many years in that land as his home (Genesis 13).

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.

And God spake on this wise.

“And God spake on this wise” or “And God said to Abraham” probably refers to that which is recorded in Genesis 15:13, 14—“. . . Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”

That his seed should sojourn in a strange land.

His seed is Abraham’s posterity; his descendants.

“Should sojourn” means that they would have a "temporary residence there," as opposed to having a fixed, permanent home, and the term is applied to travelers and foreigners.

“In a strange land” denotes a land belonging to someone else (Hebrews 11:9[25]); a land in which he had no inheritance, and had not yet become the possession of his seed; for as the writer to the Hebrews says, he dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob. Abraham and his descendents were strangers in a land that was not theirs; first in the land of Canaan, and then in Egypt (though the obvious reference here is to the latter); which was possessed by the native people of those lands.

Stephen reminds the religious rulers of the miserable and reproachful state of their fathers while in bondage in Egypt; and explained from their own Scriptures that their servitude and oppression at the hand of the Egyptians didn’t happen by chance; because it was predicted long before by the prophet of God. This lesson in Jewish history should have had a greater impact on the council than it did; to curb their arrogance, and to teach them modesty, and to express the grace of God, because God had always cared for that nation. This is a remarkable benefit of the Jewish nation, that God wonderfully restored them after four Hundred years in captivity. And they were kept safe under the guardianship of God, before the temple was built, or the external ceremonies of the law were instituted.

And that they should bring them into bondage.

The seed of Abraham went into bondage (were slaves) in Egypt; and it was a very hard bondage, at least most of it was. Bondage is of itself hard and bitter; but when the taskmasters are cruel, it seems almost intolerable. Therefore, the mind of the godly man must have been severely wound, when he heard that his seed would serve men who would treat them cruelly. Moreover, this was no small trial; because a people who had been promised the inheritance of the land of Canaan were now in bondage in a strange country. The must have thought that God had forgotten his former promise, when He tells Abraham that his seed shall endure miserable bondage? He said, at first, that he will give his seed the land. But as of yet he had no seed; and he was too old and no longer hoped for children. But when does He promise that he will give the land? After his death. And by the way, He says, that seed must first be carried away to another place, where they will serve strangers. And for how long? Four hundred years. Doesn’t it seem like He had changed His mind and may not do what he had promised?

And entreat them evil four hundred years.

“And entreat them evil” means “And oppress or afflict them.”

There has been a great deal of confusion over what is meant by this four hundred years, because some say that is how long they were in Egypt; but the actual time from their going down into Egypt to their coming up out of it was two hundred and ten years. The four hundred years should be calculated as follows:

• From the birth of Isaac to the birth of Jacob, sixty years, Genesis 25:26[26].

• From the birth of Jacob to his entering into Egypt, one hundred and thirty years, Genesis 47:9[27].

• from Jacob entering into Egypt to the children of Israel coming out of Egypt, two hundred and ten years

• 60 + 130 + 210 = 400 years.

This calculation shows that the sojourning and evil treatment of Abraham's seed are not to be confined to land of Egypt, but must include the time they spent in other lands, where they were during this time frame, though their sojourn in Egypt was the longest and most severe, and is what is especially spoken of in the Scripture. All this period was a period of "promise," not of "possession."

Notice that Exodus 12:40 adds to the confusion: “Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years.” Paul also says in Galatians 3:17[28] that it was 430 years from the time when the promise was given to Abraham to the time when the Law was given on Mount Sinai (which was the same year they left Egypt). But the additional 30 years is easily explained once you know that there was 30 years between the time the promise (or calling of Abraham) was given to Abraham to the birth of Isaac. Notice also what it says in Genesis 15:13: “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.’” God did not say this while they were down in Egypt, but 220 years before they went into Egypt; and he didn’t say they would be “enslaved and mistreated” in Egypt,” but “in a country not their own.” And when Isaac was born, Abraham was a sojourner in the land of the Philistines.

Abraham was a wanderer, moving from place to place and he was occasionally in Egypt; and since Egypt was so pre-eminent in all their troubles, it was natural to speak of all their oppressions as having occurred in that country. They would speak of their sufferings as having been endured in Egypt, because their afflictions there were so much more prominent than before.

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.

And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage.

“And the nation” refers to Egypt, to whom they were in bondage for four hundred years.

Will I judge, said God.

The word "judge," in the Bible, often means to "execute judgment (that is, to punish)" as well as to pronounce it (John 18:31[29]; Also see John 3:17; John 8:50; John 12:47; Acts 24:6; 1 Corinthians 5:13). It has this meaning here. God considered their oppressive acts deserving of His indignation, and He made that clear in the ten plagues (described in Exodus 7:19-12:30) which He placed upon them, and in their drowning in the Red Sea. This judgment is connected with the deliverance of the people. God does punish the wicked Egyptians for their cruelty and tyranny, but He does it for His people's sake, whom He took into His guardianship, so that it may be seen that He is the deliverer of His Church. Therefore, whenever we are mistreated by the wicked, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God is the Judge of the world, and He will not let our injuries go unpunished. Every man may think to himself, “Since I am under God’s care and protection, who is the Judge of the world, and has the right and authority to punish those who injure me, those who trouble me now, shall not escape his hand of reckoning. Didn’t God say that vengeance is His (Romans 12:19[30])? God promises that he will take revenge for us; therefore, when we take revenge ourselves we are putting ourselves in His place. And let us never forget that God is moved by love to revenge injuries done to His children, as it says in the Psalm, "Hurt not mine anointed, and be not troublesome to my prophets."

And after that they shall come forth, and serve me in this place.

“After that” refers to the four hundred years of being in a strange land and a long time in bondage. After that they will come out of the land of Egypt, and their hard bondage there; and they will come out due to the judgments executed upon the Egyptians. And they will come out to serve God. Here, the promise to Abraham (Ge 15:16[31]), and the promise made to Moses (Ex 3:12[32]), are combined; Stephen's object being merely to give a rapid summary of the principal facts.

“Shall serve me” means “shall worship me, or be regarded as my people.”

“In this place” means “in the land of Canaan”; though these words are not to be found in Genesis 15:13, what comes closest to them is in Exodus 3:12: "Ye shall serve God upon this mountain"; meaning Mount Horeb, where Moses was then, and from where the law was given afterwards. When making quotations, the practice was to quote the sense only, or to connect two or more promises relating to the same thing.

With this brief history, Stephen shows that their deliverance came before the temple and the worship of the law; and so it follows, that the grace of God was not tied to ceremonies. Nevertheless, Stephen notes that with their deliverance, that God chose both a peculiar people and a peculiar place for the true worship of his name.

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.

And he gave him the covenant of circumcision.

“And he gave him” means that God appointed or commanded this—thecovenant of circumcision (Genesis 17:9-13[33]). It was after his call and the promise of Christ. (See Ge 17:1-14) The covenant of Christ was for everyone; circumcision was only for the Jews.

The word "covenant" signifies "a compact or agreement between two or more persons," usually associated with seals, pledges, or sanctions. In Genesis 17:7[34], and elsewhere, it is said that God would establish his "covenant" with Abraham; that is, he made him certain definite promises, joined with pledges and seals, etc. 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; and,

2. A "promise," which is to be fulfilled only upon the other party or parties meeting 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 was appointed as the mark or indication that Abraham and those others having this mark 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."

It says, “He gave him the covenant of circumcision” means He instituted the rite of circumcision, as a sign of that covenant which He had made with him and his posterity.

When Stephen confessed that circumcision is the covenant of God, he cleared himself of the crime of which he was accused; but, in addition, he showed that the Jews were wrong if they placed the beginning of their salvation in the "covenant of circumcision." Because, if Abraham was called, and the land and redemption promised to his seed before he was circumcised, it appears that the promise does not depend upon circumcision. Paul used the same argument in the 4th chapter to the Romans (Romans 4:11[35]). Since Abraham obtained righteousness, and pleased God before he was circumcised, Paul established as a fact that circumcision is not the cause of righteousness. Therefore we see that Stephen framed his argument very well, showing that although circumcision was given by God, so that it might be a sign of grace, yet the adoption was before it both in order and in time. But we don’t need to spend any more time on this subject. The main thing to take from this discussion of circumcision is that God promised those things to Abraham before He confirmed them by circumcision, so that we may know that the signs are vain and worthless, unless they are preceded by the Word of God. Let us also note, that there is a profitable doctrine contained in the word covenant, which is, that God makes His covenant with us in the sacraments, in order that He may declare His love for us; which if it is true, they are not only works of external profession among men, but inwardly they gave great force before God, to confirm the faith.

"When Joseph died, the "covenant of circumcision" was made void.

And so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day.

Abraham begat Isaac, and as a proof that he was born under this covenant, was a true son of Abraham and inheritor of the promises, he circumcised him the eighth day; according to the express command in Genesis 17:12[36]. This rite was observed in the family of Isaac; Jacob and his twelve sons were born under the covenant; and thus their descendants, the twelve tribes, were born under the same covenant, and practiced the same rite. They were, by the ordinance of God, legal inheritors of the Promised Land, and all the secular and spiritual advantages connected with it.

And Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.

The word "patriarch" denotes "the father and ruler of a family." But it is commonly applied, by way of eminence (importance), to "the ancestors and originators" of the Jewish race, particularly to "the twelve sons of Jacob."

9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,

And the patriarchs, moved with envy.

“And the patriarchs” refers to the twelve sons of Jacob, calledpatriarchs because each was chief or head of his respective family or tribe.

“Moved with envy,” or “filled with jealousy” describes the feelings of the sons of Jacob and brethren of Joseph who were enraged at him, because of the evil report of them he brought to his father; and because he had a greater share in his father's love than they had; and because of his dreams, which indicated that he would have dominion over them, and they would have to be obedient to him (Genesis 37:11[37]).

Steven reminds them of the horrible misdeeds of some of the patriarchs, to teach the Jews that they should not impulsively follow their examples—they rejected Jesus in the same way his brothers rejected Joseph. Stephen's argument went on to show how the Israelites had always mistreated their greatest benefactors, and resisted the leaders sent to them by God.

Sold Joseph into Egypt.

They “sold” him to the Ishmaelites, who were going to Egypt, for twenty pieces of silver, and they took him with them. The Jews tell a story about those twenty pieces of silver: “The ten brethren of Joseph,” they say, “divided the price of Joseph among themselves; everyone took two shekels, and bought shoes for his feet”; to which they relate the passage in Amos 2:6 "they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes,” and they suggest, that the redemption of the firstborn among the Israelites was on account of the selling of Joseph. They say, "because they sold the firstborn of Rachel for twenty pieces of silver, let everyone redeem his son, his firstborn, with twenty pieces of silver; because they sold the firstborn of Rachel for twenty pieces of silver, and there fell to each of them a piece of coined money (the value of half a shekel), therefore let everyone pay his shekel coined.'' They also say that the selling of Joseph was not atoned for by the tribes until all the sons of Jacob were dead, according to Isaiah 22:14[38], and that on the account of it, there was a famine in the land of Israel for seven years.

There is definitely some similarity between the treatment of Joseph and Jesus Christ, which Stephen may have intended to show here:

1. Joseph was sold by his brethren for twenty pieces of silver, Christ was betrayed by one of his disciples that ate bread with him, for thirty pieces of silver.

2. The brethren of Joseph mistreated him and sold him out of envy; it was through envy that the Jews delivered Jesus Christ to Pontius Pilate, to be condemned to death.

They boasted proudly of their fathers; but Stephen showed them (the Sanhedrin) the type of men their ancient fathers really were; namely, murderers of their brother; because we know that slavery was a kind of death and his brethren were also guilty of the cruel punishments Joseph suffered. It appears then, that God was merciful to these men who desired to destroy the one person that would eventually become the author of their help. Therefore they did what they could to renounce all the benefits of God. Later Stephen will declare that Moses was rejected when he was offered by God to be a redeemer of his people. Therefore, the Jews have very little to brag about, as far as their patriarchs is concerned; but they can brag about their God, confess their sins, ask for mercy, and receive His forgiveness and blessings. What was true then is still true today; God loves a humble and contrite heart; He delights in those who repent and find salvation through faith in his Son.

But God was with him.

“God was with him,” and he prospered in Potiphar's house; he was with him, and kept him from the temptations of Potiphar’s wife; he was with him in prison, and supported and comforted him, and eventually delivered him from it, and promoted him in the land of Egypt—God protected him, and overruled all the evil that befell him and caused it to work for good, so that he was raised to royal honors in the house of Pharaoh.

“God was with him,” but perhaps Joseph didn’t always believe He was, since his Help was long in coming. Surely, he must have been discouraged and depressed when there was no help, and he was alone, in bonds, and suffering punishment at the hands of an ungodly and wicked man; but God is always with His people, though He may lie hidden at times like these. In the end Joseph realized that God had never left him. Furthermore, we ought to remember this; Joseph was not delivered because he had called upon God in the temple, but far away in Egypt. Stephen is emphasizing that the spiritual presence of God was with Joseph all the time. Joseph did not need to go to the temple to be close to God. There was no temple! Instead, God was with him all the time. Stephen mentions the story of Joseph, because he is a picture of Jesus, in that the sons of Israel rejected Joseph, who later became a “savior” (and the only possible savior) for them. Stephen’s message is plain: “You people have a habit of rejecting the saviors God sends to you. Why don’t you wake up and stop rejecting Jesus?”

God preserved Joseph in his troubles, and was with him by the influence of His Spirit, both on his mind, by giving him comfort, and on the minds of those he was involved with, by giving him favour in their eyes. And thus at length He delivered him out of his afflictions, and Pharaoh made him the second man in the kingdom (Ps. 105:20–22[39]). He was not only great among the Egyptians, but became the shepherd and stone of Israel (Gen. 49:24[40]).

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.

And delivered him out of all his afflictions.

God delivered Joseph from the evil plans of his mistress (Potiphar’s wife), and from all the miseries and humiliation of his years in an Egyptian prison;and raised him up to high honors and offices in Egypt. And He even delivered his servant Jesus from the grave, and raised him to eternal life.

And gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Joseph was very dear to the king; but unlike the king’s other advisors it was not through his knowledge of magic arts, but on account of the wisdom which God gave him; because when he is said to have “favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh,” the favor was the result of his wisdom. His wisdom was particularly manifested in his interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh (Genesis 41). Wisdom does not only signify the gift of prophecy in interpreting dreams, but good judgment in giving counsel. The name of this Pharaoh was Misphragmuthosis; but the Jews called him Rian ben Walid. God could have delivered him by some other means, but He looked into the future and envisioned that Joseph, might save the lives of his father and all his family if he were ruler of the kingdom. Yet, he was a very humble and modest man, which is evident from how he speaks of himself in Genesis 41:16: “‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’” Read the whole remarkable history of Joseph in Genesis 41:1-45:28.

The wisdom with which Joseph was endowed was the cause of him finding favor; although I admit they were two distinct benefits or helps. It is true that Joseph was an authentic interpreter of dreams, and he did excel in divine wisdom, and yet, the proud tyrant would never have given him such great honor, if God had not put it in the mind of Pharaoh to do so; even creating there an uncharacteristic love for this Jewish man who had no family or property.

And he made him governor over Egypt.

Actually, Joseph was the deputy governor under Pharaoh; because Pharaoh kept the throne, and had authority over Joseph, and had the other symbols of royalty, and Joseph rode behind him, in the second chariot.

And all his house.

He put Joseph in charge of the affairs of the kingdom, and as Genesis 41:40[41] shows he also committed to him “all of his house”—he was steward of his household, in charge of all the family, all the court and the palace.

11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.

Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt, and Canaan.

Famine should be used for dearth; Egypt for the land of Egypt, andCanaan for Chanaan. Jacob was living in Canaan at that time.

This dearth, or famine, was widespread (Genesis 41:54[42]) though only Egypt and Canaan are mentioned here—probably because we are concerned with the family line of Abraham and none other. The Jewish writers speak of three lands in particular, which were affected with famine—Phoenicia, Arabia, and Palestine—and this famine in the land of Israel, they say, which lasted seven years, was on account of the selling of Joseph into Egypt, as we observed before. The Heathen writers also make mention of this famine, particularly Justin, who speaking of Joseph says that he foresaw many years before the barrenness of the fields; and all Egypt would have perished with famine, had not the king, through his advice, ordered by an edict, that corn should be laid up for many years: this was the fifth of the ten famines, the Jews say have been, or shall be in the world.

The goodness of God can plainly be seen in the person of Joseph. The Lord seeing the famine approaching, sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of it to provide sustenance to feed the hungry; which Joseph himself acknowledges. He is appointed to nourish and feed his brethren, who had sold him, and thought he was dead. But Joseph put meat in the mouths of those who had thrown him into a pit.

Stephen used this narration to point out that the patriarchs were forced to leave the land which was given them for an inheritance, and that they died in another land. They were banished from the land they were promised, after never being any more than sojourners in it.

For the account of the famine and the visit to Egypt of the ten brethren, see Ge 42:1-43:34.

And great affliction.

“Affliction” refers to the famine, which was very severe, and lasted a long time, for seven years. Not eating is called "affliction", by the Jews, by which they mean fasting, which is a voluntary act of self-denial, and if that is an “affliction,” then how much worse is it to have nothing at all to eat, with no prospect of getting something in the future. That is the situation the brethren of Joseph faced.

And our fathers found not sustenance.

Jacob and his family could not get sufficient provision (no food, and no means of making a living) in the land of Canaan, where they were living at that time, therefore, they had to go to Egypt, where they heard that there was corn (stored up by the wisdom of his own son); and Jacob sent his sons there to fetch corn.

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

But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt.

The word "corn" is used here to denote "wheat." It does not mean that grain was growing, or being harvested in Egypt, or even that it was that year's produce; because the famine was also great in the land of Egypt, as well as in Canaan. But wheat had been stored in barns, and preserved during the seven years of plenty, by the order and supervision of Joseph; which in some way or another, Jacob had become aware of (Genesis 42:1-2[43]). The Jews suggest that it was by divine revelation.

He sent out our fathers first.

“Our fathers” are his ten sons; all his sons except Joseph and Benjamin, because he kept Benjamin at home. Stephen does not give a great deal of detail on this part of Jewish history, since the men he addressed were well acquainted with the Scriptures.

Sent forth is better than “sent out.” Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain in order to save the family from starving, and they did as He commended—“Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt” (Genesis 42:3).

The word “first” as used here means the first time, or the first year of the famine.

13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.

And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren.

When Joseph’s brethren went to Egypt for the second time to buy wheat, Joseph made himself known to them. The Bible describes a very emotional scene: “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Have everyone leave my presence!’ So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh's household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still living?’ But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!’” (Genesis 45:1-4).

And Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.

The Egyptians were well aware that Joseph was a Hebrew (Genesis 39:17[44]; Genesis 41:12[45]); yet they did not know anything about his family, his father or his brethren. But now they at least knew his brethren: “When the news reached Pharaoh's palace that Joseph's brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased” (Genesis 45:16).

14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.

Then sent Joseph.

Joseph sent his brothers home with gifts, and with presents for their father, and with wagons to carry Jacob and his family back to Egypt: “So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey” (Genesis 45:21-23). He gave them these instructions: “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, 'This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don't delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute” (Genesis 45:9-11). Joseph, rejected and given a death sentence by his brothers has become a prince and savior of all Israel.

And called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.

“All his kindred” means his father and family.

“Threescore and fifteen souls” is seventy-five people (one score being 20). This seems to disagree with the account given by Moses, who says that “the members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all” (Genesis 46:27[46]). But there is no contradiction because Moses and Stephen are speaking of different things. Moses speaks of the seed of Jacob, which came out of his loins, and who went into Egypt with him, and so he excludes his sons' wives. On the other hand, Stephen speaks of Jacob and all his kindred, among whom his sons' wives must be counted, and whom Joseph summoned to him. According to Moses's account, the persons that came with Jacob into Egypt, who came out o to which if we add Jacob himself, and Joseph who was already in Egypt, and his two sons that were born there, the total number is threescore and ten (that is, seventy) (Genesis 46:26[47]). Now, if you take out of this number (70) the following six persons—Jacob, and Joseph and his two sons who were already in Egypt, who could not be said to be called by him, and Hezron and Hamul, the sons of Pharez who were not yet born—this will reduce Moses's number to sixty four; and if you add the eleven wives of Jacob's sons, who were certainly part of the kindred called and invited into Egypt (Genesis 45:10[48]) it will add up to threescore and fifteen persons (75). There is still another way to calculate the number of persons entering Egypt: his eleven brethren and sister Dinah, fifty two of his brother's children, and their eleven wives add up to threescore and fifteen (75). The Septuagint Version, which was quoted consistently by Christ and the apostles, as well as by Stephen here, after giving the sixty-six, adds: “And the sons of Joseph born in Egypt were nine souls.” The nine, added to the sixty-six, make the seventy-five that Stephen gives. Why this clause was omitted from the Hebrew text, is unknown. Stephen simply follows the text received by Christ, the apostles, and the Jews in general. Any way you look at it, the accounts of Moses and Stephen can be reconciled; therefore, the Jews have no ground on which to charge Stephen with an error, as they do; nor was there any need to alter and corrupt the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 10:22[49] to make it agree with Stephen's account. The number in the Septuagint is not wrong, just arrived at in a different way, specifically adding five more sons (or grandsons) of Joseph born in Egypt.

End of Part 1


[1] And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest

[2] And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?

[3] And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.

[4] And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

[5] And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

[6] And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.

[7] Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.

[8] And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth

[9] The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

[10] Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

[11] He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."

[12] Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.

[13] Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran.

[14] By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

[15] In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

[16] Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"

[17] And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

[18] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

[19] He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

[20] Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own.

[21] The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

[22] But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."

[23] Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"

[24] Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

[25] By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.

[26] After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

[27] And Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers."

[28] What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.

[29] Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected.

[30] Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

[31] But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

[32] And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

[33] And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

[34] And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

[35] And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.

[36] For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.

[37] His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

[38] The LORD Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: "Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for," says the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

[39] The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free. He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed, to instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom.

[40] But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,

[41] You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you."

[42] And the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food.

[43] When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you just keep looking at each other?" He continued, "I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die."

[44] Then she told him this story: "That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me.

[45] Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream.

[46] With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.

[47] All those who went to Egypt with Jacob--those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons' wives—numbered sixty-six persons.

[48] You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have.

[49] Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky