Acts 7:8-16

8 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs.

9 “And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him

10 and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.

11 Now a famine and great trouble came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and our fathers found no sustenance.

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

13 And the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to the Pharaoh.

14 Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people.

15 So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers.

16 And they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.

circumcision (v.8) — marked Israel’s special relationship to God but later (v.51), Stephen calls the leaders uncircumcised in heart and ears

envious (v.9) — the same verb is used in Acts 17:5 to explain the Jews’ antagonism toward Paul in Thessolonica

favor (v.10) = grace

seventy five people (v.14) — See note * below.

carried back to Shechem (v.16) — See note ** below.

Abraham bought (v. 16) — See note *** below.

Note the growing power of Stephen’s skillful argument. He had not even mentioned Christ yet, for that would only have enraged them so that he would not have been heard, but every Jew in the Sanhedrin knew what he meant. By the mere repetition of this familiar history he was saying: “Do not be too sure that you have disposed of Christ by nailing Him to a tree. Joseph’s brothers thought they had disposed of him when they threw him into the pit. but they were wrong, and after a time they were made to face him whom they had rejected.” — Stam, page 222 (Stam also notes: “There is no discrepancy between Acts 7:14 and Genesis 46:27, for in the Genesis passage those of “the house of Jacob” are referred to, that is, those who “came out of his loins,” while in Acts 7:14 it is his “kindred.”)


* The number is given as 70 in Genesis 46:27; Exodus 1:5; Deuteronomy 10:22, inclusive of Jacob and Joseph. In the LXX version of Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5, however, the total is stated at 75, though it remains 70 in the LXX of Deuteronomy 10:22. The total is made up to 75 in the LXX by the addition of the names, in the list of Genesis 46:8-27, of Manasseh’s son Machir and grandson Gilead (Machir’s son), with Ephraim’s sons Soutalaam and Taam, and his grandson Edom (Soutalaam’s son). Stephen, as  Hellanistic Jew, of course quoted the LXX, as his vernacular version of the Scriptures … — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 158


** Jacob was buried not in Shechem but in the cave of Macpelah at Hebron (Genesis 50:13).

Joseph, however, was interred at Shechem, according to the statement of this verse (Joshua 24:32); and we must remember that it is more especially Joseph that Stephen is speaking at the time.

We have no account in the Bible of the burying place of the other sons of Jacob, and too much reliance cannot be places on the statement of Josephus that it was at Hebron, as it may only represent an unfounded tradition. If their bones were carried, like Joseph’s, from Egypt, it would be natural for them to be laid with his at Shechem. Jerome tells us that, in his time, the reputed “Tombs of the Twelve Patriarchs” were shown in Shechem. Be this as it may, Joseph at least was interred in Shechem, and it is his figure which, for the moment, fills Stephen’s field of vision. Shechem, being in Samaria, and so distasteful to the Jews, would remind them once more that the sacred places of their race were by no means confined to Jerusalem. — Walker, page 159


*** Here two different transactions appear to be run together, so to speak.

Abraham, we read, bought a piece of ground in Hebron, containing the cave of Macpelah, from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23:14-20).

Jacob, at a later period, purchased a parcel of ground at Shechem, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father (Genesis 33:18-20). This latter purchase may have had reference to the fact that Abraham had built his first altar there on first entering Canaan (Genesis 12:6-7), a fact which would make the place seem sacred in the eyes of his descendants.

It would seem that our verse, as it stands, gives a sort of “composite photograph” of these two distinct events. The most natural explanation is that, in speaking of two purchase transactions and two places of burial, the speaker, perhaps in the very rapidity of his historical review, blended them into one. His mind was set on great issues rather than on little details. Most of his hearers, we must remember, were fully conversant with all the facts of their natural history. From Stephen’s point of view at the moment, the real stress is to be laid on Jospeh and Shechem. — Walker, pages 159-1

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