Men, brethren, and fathers - Rather, brethren and fathers, for ανδρες should not be translated separately from αδελφοι . Literally it is men-brethren, a very usual form in Greek; for every person knows that ανδρες Αθηναιοι and ανδρες Περσαι should not be translated men-Athenians and men-Persians, but simply Athenians and Persians. See Acts 17:22. So, in Luke 2:15, ανθρωποι ποιμενες should be translated shepherds, not men-shepherds. And ανθρωπος βασιλευς Matthew 18:23, should not be translated man-king, but king, simply. By translating as we do, men, brethren, and fathers, and putting a comma after men, we make Stephen address three classes, when in fact there were but two: the elders and scribes, whom he addressed as fathers; and the common people, whom he calls brethren. See Bp. Pearce, and see Acts 8:27.
The God of glory appeared, etc. - As Stephen was now vindicating himself from the false charges brought against him, he shows that he had uttered no blasphemy, either against God, Moses, or the temple; but states that his accusers, and the Jews in general, were guilty of the faults with which they charged him: that they had from the beginning rejected and despised Moses, and had always violated his laws. He proceeds to state that there is no blasphemy in saying that the temple shall be destroyed: they had been without a temple till the days of David; nor does God ever confine himself to temples built by hands, seeing he fills both heaven and earth; that Jesus is the prophet of whom Moses spoke, and whom they had persecuted, condemned, and at last put to death; that they were wicked and uncircumcised in heart and in ears, and always resisted the Holy Ghost as their fathers did. This is the substance of St. Stephen's defense as far as he was permitted to make it: a defense which they could not confute; containing charges which they most glaringly illustrated and confirmed, by adding the murder of this faithful disciple to that of his all-glorious Master.
Was in Mesopotamia - In that part of it where 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. See the note on Genesis 11:31.
Before he dwelt in Charran - This is called Haran in our translation of Genesis 11:31; this place also belonged to Mesopotamia, as well as Ur, but is placed west of it on the maps. It seems most probable 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. See these things more particularly stated in the notes on Genesis 12:1; (note).
Men, brethren, and fathers - These were the usual titles by which the Sanhedrin was addressed. In all this Stephen was perfectly respectful, and showed that he was disposed to render due honor to the institutions of the nation.
The God of glory - This is a Hebrew form of expression denoting “the glorious God.” It properly denotes His “majesty, or splendor, or magnificence”; and the word “glory” is often applied to the splendid appearances in which God has manifested Himself to people, Deuteronomy 5:24; Exodus 33:18; Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:23; Numbers 14:10. Perhaps Stephen meant to affirm that God appeared to Abraham in some such glorious or splendid manifestation, by which he would know that he was addressed by God. Stephen, moreover, evidently uses the word “glory” to repel the charge of “blasphemy” against God, and to show that he regarded him as worthy of honor and praise.
Appeared - In what manner he appeared is not said. In Genesis 12:1, it is simply recorded that God “had said” unto Abraham, etc.
Unto our father - The Jews valued themselves much on being the children of Abraham. See the notes on Matthew 3:9. The expression was therefore well calculated to conciliate their minds.
When he was in Mesopotamia - In Genesis 11:31, it is said that Abraham dwelt “in Ur of the Chaldees.” The word “Mesopotamia” properly denotes the region between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. See notes on Acts 2:9. The name is Greek, and the region had also other names before the Greek name was given to it. In Genesis 11:31; Genesis 15:7, 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 situation is unknown. A Persian fortress of this name is mentioned by Ammianus Genesis 25:8 between Nisibis and the Tigris.
Before he dwelt in Charran - From Genesis 11:31, it would seem that Terah took his son Abraham of his own accord, and removed to Haran. But from Genesis 12:1; Genesis 15:7, it appears that God had commanded “Abraham” to remove, and so he ordered it in his providence that “Terah” was disposed to remove his family with an intention of going into the land of Canaan. The word “Charran” is the Greek form of the Hebrew “Haran,” Genesis 11:31. This place was also in Mesopotamia, in 36 degrees 52 minutes north latitude and 39 degrees 5 minutes east longitude. Here Terah died Genesis 11:32; and to this place Jacob retired when he fled from his brother Esau, Genesis 27:43. It is situated “in a flat and sandy plain, and is inhabited by a few wandering Arabs, who select it for the delicious water which it contains” (Robinson‘s Calmet).
In how wide contrast to the life of Abraham was that of Lot! Once they had been companions, worshiping at one altar, dwelling side by side in their pilgrim tents; but how widely separated now! Lot had chosen Sodom for its pleasure and profit. Leaving Abraham's altar and its daily sacrifice to the living God, he had permitted his children to mingle with a corrupt and idolatrous people; yet he had retained in his heart the fear of God, for he is declared in the Scriptures to have been a “just” man; his righteous soul was vexed with the vile conversation that greeted his ears daily and the violence and crime he was powerless to prevent. He was saved at last as “a brand plucked out of the fire” (Zechariah 3:2), yet stripped of his possessions, bereaved of his wife and children, dwelling in caves, like the wild beasts, covered with infamy in his old age; and he gave to the world, not a race of righteous men, but two idolatrous nations, at enmity with God and warring upon His people, until, their cup of iniquity being full, they were appointed to destruction. How terrible were the results that followed one unwise step! PP 168.1
Says the wise man, “Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.” “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.” Proverbs 23:4; 15:27. And the apostle Paul declares, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” 1 Timothy 6:9. PP 168.2
When Lot entered Sodom he fully intended to keep himself free from iniquity and to command his household after him. But he signally failed. The corrupting influences about him had an effect upon his own faith, and his children's connection with the inhabitants of Sodom bound up his interest in a measure with theirs. The result is before us. PP 168.3Read in context »
This chapter is based on Acts 17:1-10.
After leaving Philippi, Paul and Silas made their way to Thessalonica. Here they were given the privilege of addressing large congregations in the Jewish synagogue. Their appearance bore evidence of the shameful treatment they had recently received, and necessitated an explanation of what had taken place. This they made without exalting themselves, but magnified the One who had wrought their deliverance. AA 221.1Read in context »
As Stephen stood face to face with his judges to answer to the charge of blasphemy, a holy radiance shone upon his countenance, and “all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Many who beheld this light trembled and veiled their faces, but the stubborn unbelief and prejudice of the rulers did not waver. AA 99.1
When Stephen was questioned as to the truth of the charges against him, he began his defense in a clear, thrilling voice, which rang through the council hall. In words that held the assembly spellbound, he proceeded to rehearse the history of the chosen people of God. He showed a thorough knowledge of the Jewish economy and the spiritual interpretation of it now made manifest through Christ. He repeated the words of Moses that foretold of the Messiah: “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear.” He made plain his own loyalty to God and to the Jewish faith, while he showed that the law in which the Jews trusted for salvation had not been able to save Israel from idolatry. He connected Jesus Christ with all the Jewish history. He referred to the building of the temple by Solomon, and to the words of both Solomon and Isaiah: “Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool: what house will ye build Me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of My rest? Hath not My hand made all these things?” AA 99.2
When Stephen reached this point, there was a tumult among the people. When he connected Christ with the prophecies and spoke as he did of the temple, the priest, pretending to be horror-stricken, rent his robe. To Stephen this act was a signal that his voice would soon be silenced forever. He saw the resistance that met his words and knew that he was giving his last testimony. Although in the midst of his sermon, he abruptly concluded it. AA 100.1Read in context »