Acts 7:14

Rising Star.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people. Acts 7:14

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse noted that, in the second meeting between Joseph and his brothers, he was made known to them. Further, it said, “and Joseph’s family became known to the Pharaoh.” With that come words that are at first perplexing based on a reading of the Hebrew Scriptures. That begins with, “Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob.”

This part of the verse is without complication. It is found recorded in Genesis 45 –

“And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: Load your animals and depart; go to the land of Canaan. 18 Bring your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land. 19 Now you are commanded—do this: Take carts out of the land of Egypt for your little ones and your wives; bring your father and come. 20 Also do not be concerned about your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”’” Genesis 45:17-20

With that, and according to the word of Pharaoh, Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan to gather the family and bring them to reside in Egypt. From there, Stephen continues, saying, “and all his relatives to him.”

This was included in the words of Pharaoh. Not only was Jacob called to come, but everyone directly related to him as well was welcomed. With this detail given, Stephen then speaks forth words that complicate the narrative, “seventy-five people.”

The Bible often gives specific details, and they are provided for a reason. In the Hebrew text, the account says –

“All the persons who went with Jacob to Egypt, who came from his body, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. 27 And the sons of Joseph who were born to him in Egypt were two persons. All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.” Genesis 46:26, 27

There is a five-person discrepancy between the two. However, this is not an impossible-to-solve dilemma. First, the Greek reads, “in souls seventy-five.” The preposition “in” expresses a sum total of all who are included in the family. In the Greek translation of Genesis 46:27, it reads, “And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in the land of Egypt, were nine souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob who came with Joseph into Egypt, were seventy-five souls.” Of this, Albert Barnes notes –

“This number is made out by adding these nine souls to the 66 mentioned in Genesis 46:26. The difference between the Septuagint and Moses is, that the former mentions five descendants of Joseph who are not recorded by the latter. The ‘names’ of the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh are recorded in 1 Chronicles 7:14-21. Their names were Ashriel, Machir, Zelophehad, Peresh, sons of Manasseh; and Shuthelah, son of Ephraim. Why the Septuagint inserted these, it may not be easy to see. But such was evidently the fact; and the fact accords accurately with the historic record, though Moses did not insert their names. The solution of difficulties in regard to chronology is always difficult; and what might be entirely apparent to a Jew in the time of Stephen, may be wholly inexplicable to us.”

Stephen, being a Grecian Jew, would have used the Septuagint, thus following that reckoning. This is often the main text cited by Jesus and the apostles elsewhere as well. Despite deviating from the Hebrew Text, the Septuagint was translated by scholars who had suitable information at hand to make a determination at the time of their translation to note what was not yet fully recorded at the time of Moses. The original rendering may have been included as a margin note that does not exist in subsequent copies, or there may be some other reason for the diversion.

No matter what, there is a reliable source for Stephen’s words, and it goes unchallenged as he continues his discourse. As such, it was considered an accepted statement at the time he stood before the council. By using the term “in souls seventy-five,” it certainly allows for the inclusion of those grandsons of Jacob mentioned above in Barnes’ commentary.

The number five is the number of grace. It may be, and this is mere supposition, that the additional five being included in the latter genealogical record is a note of grace that their birth in Egypt, having never even been to the land of Canaan, does not dismiss them from the rights of membership into the family.

Life application: Throughout Scripture, there are issues that are often quite complicated. The easy path is to dismiss such things as scribal errors, later insertions, or outright misstatements. However, that does not necessarily have to be so. We have to consider what is going on in the word from a global perspective. It is true that, at the time of Moses, seventy souls were recorded. But the adoption of Manasseh and Ephraim by Jacob, would bring their sons directly into the immediate family of Jacob, as accepted grandsons.

To just jump ahead and call out, “Error!” without checking the details may show a lack of contemplation on our part. Even the clear text is often extremely complicated. How much more when we come to things that are not so clear. In the end, the record of Stephen’s words is in accord with Scripture that precedes the coming of Christ, and what he says goes unchallenged by the highest religious council in Israel. As such, what he says must be considered acceptable – both to that council at the time and to us in our studies today.

Be confident of the word! It is given to us as a story of loving redemption, and it stands as a witness against those who shun it, as well as a witness of faithfulness to those who hold fast to it.

Heavenly Father, the Bible stands as a witness both for and against those who interact with it. Help us to be faithful in our consideration of it. Likewise, help us to cherish it always. May it be a witness for us on the day when we stand before You that we faithfully held to its words. Thank You, O God, for this precious word of life. Amen.