1 Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?”
2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran,
3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’
4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.
5 And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him.
6 But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.
7 ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’
fathers (v.2) — officials and senior members of the Sanhedrin
brethren (v.2) — the rest of the audience
The God of glory (v.2) — should be “the God of the glory” Psalm 29:3
appeared to Abraham (v.2) — see footnote * below
Mesopotamia (v.2) — east of the Euphrates
get out (v.3) — Genesis 12:1
when his father was dead (v.4) — see footnote ** below
moved (v.4) = caused to migrate
Stephen was quoting from the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which accounts for many of the seeming differences between his account and that in the Old Testament.
gave him no inheritance (v.5) — Stephen was pointing out that the land of promise was God’s free gift and not theirs by right.
God spoke (v.6) — quote from Genesis 15:13-14
foreign land (v.6) — Egypt
four hundred years (v.6) — see footnote *** below
said God (v.7) — quote from Exodus 3:12 — Mount Sinai
Stephen’s address as it is given here is a remarkably comprehensive synopsis of Israel’s history. Doubtless it was designed to show 1) that Christ’s rejection was no proof that He was not the Messiah, for Israel’s outstanding heroes had frequently been accepted only after having first been violently rejected, and 2) that the Mosaic Covenant was not a permanent institution, for Abraham had enjoyed a close relationship with God long before the Mosaic law had been given, and Moses himself had promised another Leader, saying of Him: “Him shall ye hear” (v.37). — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 218.
Stephen had been specifically, though falsely, charged with speaking against the sacred law and the holy temple of the Jews (vs. 13-14), which, to their minds, were indissolubly bound up with the chosen race and the promised land. In his defense, the preacher takes up these points and speaks, in a truly patriotic spirit, as well of the election and history of the Hebrew race as of their possession of the land of promise (vs. 2-16; 45). He also deals with the giving of the law and the building of the temple (vs. 17-41; 44-45). In so doing, he lays stress upon certain important facts which bore directly upon the points at issue between himself and his accusers.
- Their own history proves abundantly that God’s presence and glory cannot be confined to any place, however sacred (vs. 2, 9, 16, 29, 38, 44).
- It proves, also, that, as a race, they had constantly resisted god’s chosen messengers, just as they were now resisting and rejecting the last and greatest of those messengers, the Christ Himself (vs. 9; 22-29; 35-40; 51-53).
- It demonstrates the fact, again, that law and temple and every sacred institution are capable of abuse, and may become, by such abuse, worse than useless; spirit and truth being infinitely more important than external rites and ordinances (vs. 42-43; 48-50).
- It makes it quite clear, once more, that Christ, the Messiah, is the goal of the law and the prophets, and that, in accepting Him, the true Jew fulfills the purpose of the God of his fathers and the sacred destiny of his race (Vs. 5, 37, 52).
— The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker page 152
- We read here that the appearance of God to Abraham was prior to his removal to Haran, and this accords well with the notices contained in Genesis 15:7; Joshua 24:3; Nehemiah 9:7 …
- In Genesis 12:1-5, however, it seems to be implied, following as it does on 11:31-32, that God appeared to him in Haran.
- There can scarcely be any doubt that Abraham’s departure from his original home was the result, as here stated, of a divine communication (Genesis 11:31: “to go into the land of Canaan”). It would seem, therefore, from Genesis 12:1-4, that the original communication was renewed in Haran. God’s later promises and blessings to Abraham were similarly reduplicated and renewed (see Genesis 12:7; 13:14-17; 17:15-16; 18:10). We note that this divine revelation was given in Mesopotamia, a heathen land, not in the land of promise.
— The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 153
- When Terah died at the age of 205 (Genesis 11:32), his son Abraham was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4). This would make him 130 years of age when Abraham was born.
- But we read, “Terah lived 70 years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran (Genesis 11:26). If these words denote the order of birth, then Abraham was the eldest son, born when his father was 70 years old. Since 70 and 75 make 145 only, there are then 60 years of Terah’s life left unaccounted for; and from this many have concluded that he lived still 60 years after the departure of his son from Haran to Canaan, a conclusion which is clearly at variance with our text.
- It is possible, however, that Abraham was really the youngest son of Terah, though his name is placed first in the list because of the precedence of fame and honor, and that he was not born till Terah was 130 years of age or thereabouts. In this case, the apparent difficulty would disappear. There are other instances of such an order of precedence in names in the Old Testament.
— The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, pages 154-155
*** A period [400 years] given, probably, in round numbers. In Exodus 12:40, we find the duration of Israel’s sojourning stated to be 430 years (Galatians 3:17). Josephus mentions both these numbers. Possibly both may be correct, as reckoned from different initial dates; but, in any case, we shall not be far wrong if we regard 430 as the exact figure and 400 as a round number.
Philo, like Stephen gives the latter total, 400.
The period of 430 years may be computed as follows:
- 25 years — Abraham’s arrival in Canaan to birth of Isaac
- 60 years — Isaac’s age at the birth of Jacob
- 130 years — Jacob’s age on going to Egypt
- 71 years — Jacob’s arrival in Egypt to the death of Joseph
- 64 years — Joseph’s death to the birth of Moses
- 80 years — Birth of Moses to the Exodus
- 430 years total
— The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 156