the high priest: That is, Caiaphas.—See study note on Ac 4:6.
Go out from your land: When speaking to the Sanhedrin, Stephen says that Abraham was given this command when “the God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia, before he took up residence in Haran.” (Ac 7:2) Abraham (first known as Abram) was originally from the Chaldean city of Ur. As Stephen indicated, that was apparently where Abraham was first told to go out from his land. (Ge 11:28, 29, 31; 15:7; 17:5; Ne 9:7) The account at Ge 11:31–12:3 may give the impression that this command was first given after the death of Abraham’s father, Terah, when Abraham had temporarily settled in Haran. However, in view of that account, taken together with Stephen’s comment here, it is reasonable to conclude that Jehovah gave Abraham this command when he was still in Ur and then repeated the command while Abraham was living in Haran.
God: Lit., “He,” referring to “the God of glory” in verse 2.
offspring: Lit., “seed.”—See App. A2.
offspring: Lit., “seed.”—See App. A2.
afflict them for 400 years: At Ge 15:13, which is quoted here, God told Abram (Abraham) that his descendants would be enslaved and afflicted for 400 years. This period ended when Jehovah freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt on Nisan 14, 1513 B.C.E., so it must have begun in 1913 B.C.E. Bible chronology indicates that in that year, Abraham’s offspring Isaac—who was about five years old at the time—began to be mocked and mistreated by Ishmael, his half brother. Ishmael was born some 19 years earlier to Sarai’s (Sarah’s) Egyptian servant Hagar. Ishmael may have taunted his younger brother because Isaac was to receive the firstborn’s inheritance even though Ishmael was born first. (Ge 16:1-4; 21:8-10) Paul later described Ishmael’s treatment of Isaac as persecution. (Ga 4:29) Apparently, it was severe enough for Jehovah to approve of Sarah’s demand that Abraham drive Ishmael and his mother away. (Ge 21:11-13) So Isaac was the first of Abraham’s offspring to experience the foretold affliction. Therefore, this incident, recorded in detail in the divine record, apparently marks the commencement of the prophesied 400-year period of affliction that would not end until the Exodus.
offer sacred service to me: Or “worship me.” The Greek verb la·treuʹo basically denotes serving but in some contexts may be rendered “to worship.” The second part of the verse alludes to Ex 3:12, where the corresponding Hebrew verb can be rendered “serve” or “worship.” (Ex 3:12; ftn.) In Scriptural usage, the Greek word la·treuʹo generally refers to serving God or to service connected with worship of God (Mt 4:10; Lu 1:74; 2:37; 4:8; Ro 1:9; Php 3:3; 2Ti 1:3; Heb 9:14; 12:28; Re 7:15; 22:3), including service at the sanctuary or temple (Heb 8:5; 9:9; 10:2; 13:10). In a few cases, it refers to false worship—rendering service to, or worshipping, created things.—Ac 7:42; Ro 1:25.
and Isaac became the father of Jacob: The Greek text does not repeat either of the two preceding verbs “became the father of” and “circumcised.” Therefore, either or both of these verbs could be implied in the last part of the verse. Thus, it is also possible to render that part of the verse: “And Isaac did the same with [that is, circumcised] Jacob, and Jacob with the 12 family heads.”
family heads: Or “patriarchs.” The Greek word pa·tri·arʹkhes occurs four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Here it refers to Jacob’s 12 sons (Ge 35:23-26), and it is also used with regard to David (Ac 2:29) and Abraham (Heb 7:4).
75 persons in all: Stephen may not be quoting a particular verse from the Hebrew Scriptures when he gives the total number of Jacob’s family in Egypt as 75. This figure is not found in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Scriptures. Ge 46:26 says: “All those who descended from Jacob and went into Egypt with him, aside from the wives of Jacob’s sons, were 66.” Verse 27 continues: “All the people of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were 70.” Here the people are counted in two different ways, the first figure apparently including only his natural descendants and the second figure giving the total of those who came into Egypt. The number of Jacob’s descendants is also mentioned at Ex 1:5 and De 10:22, where the figure “70” is given. Stephen apparently gives a third figure that includes more of Jacob’s extended family. Some suggest that it includes sons and grandsons of Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, who are mentioned in the Septuagint translation of Ge 46:20. Others suggest that it includes the wives of Jacob’s sons, who are specifically excluded from the figure given at Ge 46:26. So the figure “75” may be a grand total. This figure, though, may have a basis in copies of the Hebrew Scriptures circulating in the first century C.E. For years, scholars have known that “75” was the figure given at Ge 46:27 and Ex 1:5 in the Greek Septuagint. Additionally, in the 20th century, two Dead Sea Scroll fragments of Ex 1:5 in Hebrew were discovered, and they also use the figure “75.” Stephen’s figure may be based on one of those ancient texts. Regardless of which idea is correct, Stephen’s figure simply reflects a different way of counting the total number of Jacob’s descendants.
divinely beautiful: The Greek expression used here literally means “beautiful to God.” This phrase reflects a Semitic idiom used to refer to what is superlative. In this context, it may convey a dual idea of being “extremely beautiful” and of being “beautiful in the sight of God.” (Compare Ex 2:2.) Some scholars suggest that the expression could refer not only to a person’s physical attributes but also to the inner qualities that God sees in a person. A similar construction occurs at Jon 3:3 where, according to a literal rendering of the Hebrew text, Nineveh is described as “a city great to God,” conveying the idea of “a very large city.”—For other examples, see Ge 23:6; ftn.; Ps 36:6; ftn.
instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians: Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin includes a number of facts of Jewish history that are not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, Stephen alone speaks of Moses’ Egyptian education. For other details in Stephen’s talk that are not included in the Hebrew Scriptures, see study notes on Ac 7:23, 30, 53.
reached the age of 40: Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin includes a number of facts concerning Jewish history that are not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, Stephen reveals that Moses was 40 years of age when he fled Egypt. For other details in Stephen’s speech that are not included in the Hebrew Scriptures, see study notes on Ac 7:22, 30, 53.
the sons of Israel: Or “people of Israel; the Israelites.”—See Glossary, “Israel.”
40 years: The Hebrew Scriptures do not explicitly state how many years Moses stayed in Midian. But here Stephen reveals facts of Jewish history not previously recorded in the Scriptures. He states that Moses was 40 years of age when he fled to Midian (Ex 2:11; Ac 7:23) and that he stayed there until an additional 40 years had passed or were near completion. So the period referred to here apparently runs from 1553 to 1513 B.C.E. Stephen’s account agrees with the statement that Moses was 80 years old when he spoke to Pharaoh (Ex 7:7) and led the people of Israel out of Egypt. It also harmonizes with the statement that Moses was 120 years old when he died after spending 40 years in the wilderness.—De 34:7; Ac 7:36.
an angel: Stephen is here referring to the account at Ex 3:2, where the original Hebrew text says “Jehovah’s angel.” Most Greek manuscripts read “an angel” here, but a few manuscripts and a few ancient translations into other languages have a reading that can be rendered “an angel of [the] Lord [or, “of Jehovah”].” A number of translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J7, 8, 10-12, 14-17, 28 in App. C4) use the Tetragrammaton here and read “Jehovah’s angel.”
Jehovah’s voice: This part of Stephen’s speech (Ac 7:30-33) refers to the account at Ex 3:2-10. In verse 4, “Jehovah” calls out to Moses by means of His angel, and in verse 6, “Jehovah” tells him what is quoted at Ac 7:32. The phrase “the voice of Jehovah” is often found in the Hebrew Scriptures as a combination of the Hebrew word for “voice” and the Tetragrammaton. (Some examples are Ge 3:8; Ex 15:26; De 5:25; 8:20; 15:5; 18:16; 26:14; 27:10; 28:1, 62; Jos 5:6; 1Sa 12:15; 1Ki 20:36; Ps 106:25; Isa 30:31; Jer 3:25; Da 9:10; Zec 6:15.) It is worth noting that when the expression “voice of Jehovah” occurs at De 26:14; 27:10; 28:1, 62 in a first-century B.C.E. fragment of the Septuagint (in the collection Papyrus Fouad Inv. 266), the divine name is written in square Hebrew characters within the Greek text. The reasons why the New World Translation uses the expression “Jehovah’s voice” in the main text, although available Greek manuscripts of Ac 7:31 read “Lord’s voice,” are explained in App. C1 and C3 introduction; Ac 7:31.
Jehovah said to him: The context of the original account referred to by Stephen is Ex 3:2-10, where it is clear that Jehovah is the one speaking by means of His angel. Although most of the content of this verse is taken from Ex 3:5, an equivalent of the introductory phrase can be found in the original Hebrew text at Ex 3:7, literally reading: “And Jehovah said.”—See App. C3 introduction; Ac 7:33.
deliverer: Or “redeemer; liberator.” The Greek word ly·tro·tesʹ comes from the verb ly·troʹo·mai, meaning “to set free; to deliver.” It is also related to the noun lyʹtron, meaning “ransom.” (See study note on Mt 20:28.) The verb form is used with regard to the deliverance granted through Jesus Christ (Lu 24:21; Tit 2:14, ftn.; 1Pe 1:18, ftn.), who was foretold to be a prophet like Moses (De 18:15; Ac 7:37). Just as Moses was the deliverer of the Israelites from Egypt, so Jesus Christ is the Deliverer of all mankind by means of his ransom sacrifice.
wonders: Or “portents.”—See study note on Ac 2:19.
for 40 years: These 40 years run from 1513 B.C.E., the time of the Exodus, to 1473 B.C.E. when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Before and during these 40 years, Moses performed wonders and signs. For example, when Moses returned to Egypt, he first performed signs before all the Israelite elders. (Ex 4:30, 31) Then, in the time leading up to the Exodus, Moses was instrumental in performing great wonders and signs before Pharaoh and all the people of Egypt. Later, he played a role when Pharaoh and his army were destroyed in the Red Sea. (Ex 14:21-31; 15:4; De 11:2-4) One of the most remarkable signs associated with Moses was the daily provision of manna in the wilderness. This miracle continued for 40 years until the people began eating some of the produce of the land of Canaan, early in the year 1473 B.C.E.—Ex 16:35; Jos 5:10-12.
the sons of Israel: Or “the people of Israel; the Israelites.”—See Glossary, “Israel.”
God: In this quote from De 18:15, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text, which reads “Jehovah your God.” Stephen’s quote is slightly abbreviated; he uses only the word for “God.” Peter quotes the same verse at Ac 3:22, using the whole expression “Jehovah your God.” (See study note on Ac 3:22.) Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew use the divine name here and read “Jehovah your God” (J7, 8, 10-17) or “Jehovah God” (J28). (See App. C4.) A few Greek manuscripts also have readings that can be rendered “the Lord God” or, for the same reasons as presented in App. C, “Jehovah God.” However, the vast majority of Greek manuscripts and ancient translations into other languages simply read “God.”
the congregation in the wilderness: Here the Israelites who were called out of Egypt are referred to as a “congregation.” In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew word qa·halʹ, usually rendered “congregation” in the New World Translation, is from a root word meaning “to call together; to congregate.” (Nu 20:8; De 4:10) The word is frequently used to describe the Israelites as an organized body, in such expressions as “congregation of Israel” (Le 16:17; Jos 8:35; 1Ki 8:14), “congregation of the true God” (Ne 13:1), “congregation of Jehovah” (De 23:2, 3; Mic 2:5), and “Jehovah’s congregation” (Nu 20:4; 1Ch 28:8). In the Septuagint, the Hebrew word qa·halʹ is often rendered by the Greek word ek·kle·siʹa (as at Ps 22:22 [21:23, LXX]), which is the expression used in the Christian Greek Scriptures for “congregation.”—See study notes on Mt 16:18; Ac 5:11.
the tent of the witness: Or “the tabernacle of the testimony.” In the Septuagint, which may have influenced Luke’s wording of this verse, this expression is used to render the Hebrew term for “the tent of meeting.” (Ex 27:21; 28:43; Nu 1:1) During Israel’s wilderness trek, this tent was where the ark of the covenant, with its principal contents, the “two tablets of the Testimony,” was kept. In these contexts, the term “Testimony” usually refers to the Ten Commandments as written on stone tablets. (Ex 25:16, 21, 22; 31:18; 32:15) The Hebrew term for “testimony” could also be rendered “reminder.” The ark served as a holy archive for the safekeeping of sacred reminders or testimony.—See Glossary, “Ark of the covenant” and “Most Holy, the.”
Joshua: Here referring to the leader of Israel who brought the Israelites into the Promised Land. (De 3:28; 31:7; Jos 1:1, 2) The Hebrew name Jehoshua and its shortened form Joshua mean “Jehovah Is Salvation.” Luke here uses its Greek equivalent, I·e·sousʹ. The Latin form of the same name is Jesus (Iesus). (See App. A4.) This was a common name among Jews in Bible times. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, four people referred to by the Greek name I·e·sousʹ are mentioned: Joshua, the son of Nun, the successor of Moses (Ac 7:45; Heb 4:8); an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Lu 3:29); Jesus Christ himself (Mt 1:21); and a Christian, evidently Jewish, who was one of Paul’s fellow workers (Col 4:11). Josephus mentions several others, besides those in the Bible record, bearing that name.
Jehovah: In this quote from Isa 66:1, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text. The phrase rendered Jehovah says corresponds to a phrase at the beginning of Isa 66:1 (“This is what Jehovah says”) and also to a phrase in the middle of the next verse (“declares Jehovah”).—Isa 66:2; see App. C.
Obstinate: Lit., “Stiff-necked.” The Greek word used here occurs only once in the Christian Greek Scriptures but is used a few times in the Septuagint to render a Hebrew expression with a similar meaning.—Ex 33:3, 5, ftns.; 34:9, ftn.; De 9:6, ftn.; Pr 29:1, ftn.
uncircumcised in hearts and ears: This figurative expression for being stubborn and unresponsive has its background in the Hebrew Scriptures. (Le 26:41, ftn.; Jer 9:25, 26; Eze 44:7, 9) At Jer 6:10 (ftn.), the literal phrase “their ear is uncircumcised” is rendered “their ears are closed.” So hearts and ears that are not sensitive to or responsive to God’s direction are spoken of as being uncircumcised.
as transmitted by angels: Stephen’s account delivered before the Sanhedrin includes a number of facts concerning Jewish history that are not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. One example is the role of angels in giving the Mosaic Law. (Ga 3:19; Heb 2:1, 2) For other details in Stephen’s speech that cannot be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, see study notes on Ac 7:22, 23, 30.
they were infuriated: Or “they felt cut.” The Greek expression occurs only here and at Ac 5:33. It literally means “to be sawn through” but is used figuratively in both occurrences to describe a strong emotional response.
grind their teeth: Or “gnash (clench) their teeth.” The expression can include the idea of anguish, despair, or anger, possibly accompanied by bitter words and violent action. In this context, it obviously refers to furious rage.—Job 16:9; see study note on Mt 8:12.
Jesus standing at God’s right hand: Stephen was the first to bear witness that he had seen Jesus in heaven and standing at the right hand of God, as prophesied at Ps 110:1. The right hand was considered to be of great importance symbolically. To be on the right hand of a ruler was to have the second most important position, next to the ruler himself (Ro 8:34; 1Pe 3:22), or to have a position in his favor.—See study notes on Mt 25:33; Mr 10:37; Lu 22:69.
Saul: Meaning “Asked [of God]; Inquired [of God].” Saul, also known by his Roman name Paul, was “of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born from Hebrews.” (Php 3:5) Since Saul was born a Roman citizen (Ac 22:28), it is logical that his Jewish parents may have given him the Roman name Paulus, or Paul, meaning “Little; Small.” From childhood, he likely had both names. His parents may have named him Saul for a number of reasons. Saul was a traditional name of importance among Benjaminites because the first king over all Israel, a Benjaminite, was named Saul. (1Sa 9:2; 10:1; Ac 13:21) Or his parents might have given him the name because of its meaning. Another possibility is that his father’s name was Saul, and according to custom, the son was named after the father. (Compare Lu 1:59.) Whatever the reason, when among fellow Jews—and especially when studying to be a Pharisee and living as one—he would have used his Hebrew name, Saul. (Ac 22:3) And for over a decade after becoming a Christian, he seemed to have been known mostly by his Hebrew name.—Ac 11:25, 30; 12:25; 13:1, 2, 9.
he made this appeal: “Lord Jesus”: As mentioned in verses 55 and 56, Stephen had a vision in which he saw “the heavens opened up and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand.” So Stephen clearly distinguished Jesus from Jehovah. Stephen was aware that Jehovah had given Jesus the power to resurrect the dead. It would therefore have been natural for Stephen to speak directly to Jesus, whom he had seen in the vision, and to ask Jesus to safeguard his spirit, or life force. (Joh 5:27-29) Stephen addressed Jesus by using the expression “Lord Jesus [Greek, Kyʹri·e I·e·souʹ].” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, Kyʹri·os can refer to Jehovah God or to Jesus Christ, but here the context clarifies that Kyʹri·os refers to Jesus. The Greek word here rendered “he made this appeal” is not the usual word for “praying” in the Christian Greek Scriptures, but it is rendered “prayed” in many Bible translations, giving the impression that Stephen prayed directly to Jesus. However, reliable reference works state that the Greek word used here (e·pi·ka·leʹo) means “to call on; to invoke; to appeal to an authority,” and it is often rendered that way. (Ac 2:21; 9:14; Ro 10:13; 2Ti 2:22) The same word is used in rendering Paul’s words: “I appeal to Caesar!” (Ac 25:11) Therefore, there is no reason for concluding that Stephen was praying directly to Jesus. Rather, because of this vision, Stephen felt free to make this plea to him.—See study note on Ac 7:60.
Jehovah: Available Greek manuscripts use the term “Lord” (Kyʹri·os) here. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this title often refers to Jehovah God or to Jesus Christ, depending on the context. In this case, the reference is apparently to Jehovah God for the following reasons: Stephen here echoes Jesus’ words to his Father at Lu 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” In Luke’s account of Stephen’s speech, recorded at Ac 7:2-53, the term Kyʹri·os is used three times. All three are quotes from or allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures that clearly refer to God. (See study notes on Ac 7:31, 33, 49.) Many commentators and translators support the view that in these contexts, Kyʹri·os refers to Jehovah. (See App. C.) While the term Kyʹri·os also occurs at Ac 7:59, there Stephen specifically says “Lord Jesus.” However, this statement does not mean, as some claim, that Jesus is the one addressed as Kyʹri·os at Ac 7:60. There is a natural break between Stephen’s words in verse 59 and his words in verse 60. Stephen had been standing, so when he knelt in front of his enemies, it was likely in order to address Jehovah in prayer. (Compare Lu 22:41; Ac 9:40; 20:36; 21:5, where kneeling is connected with prayer to God.) Therefore, it seems that Stephen’s last words were a prayer to the almighty God, Jehovah. In addition, Ac 7:56 says that Stephen saw “the heavens opened up and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand,” so it is understandable that he would address Jesus in verse 59 and then Jehovah in verse 60. A number of translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J17, 18, 22, 23 in App. C4) use the Tetragrammaton here in verse 60 but not in verse 59 when rendering the expression “Lord Jesus.”—See App. C3 introduction; Ac 7:60.
he fell asleep in death: The Scriptures use the expressions “sleep” and “fall asleep” to refer both to physical sleep (Mt 28:13; Lu 22:45; Joh 11:12; Ac 12:6) and to the sleep of death (Joh 11:11; Ac 7:60; 13:36; 1Co 7:39; 15:6, 51; 2Pe 3:4). When these expressions are used in contexts that refer to death, Bible translators often use such wording as “fall asleep in death” or simply “died,” which helps the reader avoid confusion. In the figurative sense, the term “asleep” is applied in the Scriptures to those who have died because of the sin and death passed on from Adam.—See study notes on Mr 5:39; Joh 11:11.