Acts 7:15

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Thursday, 21 April 2022

So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers. Acts 7:15

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 Joseph’s call for Jacob and his relatives to come down to Egypt. With that said, Stephen continues with, “So Jacob went down to Egypt.”

That is recorded in Genesis 46 –

“So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob!’
And he said, ‘Here I am.’
So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.’
Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the carts which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. So they took their livestock and their goods, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him. His sons and his sons’ sons, his daughters and his sons’ daughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.” Genesis 46:1-7

Stephen’s words skip over a lot of the Genesis narrative by next stating, “and he died.” It is a simple statement of fact. Stephen’s main words are focused on several points. One is that there has always been strife coming from the people of Israel, especially against the leadership – be it the Lord, the law, or Moses who issued forth the law of the Lord.

The other is that God’s revelation of Himself is not confined to either the temple or the land of Israel, but that a great deal of what is recorded came outside of the land. The Lord is the God of the whole world. His word and His authority stretch out beyond mere physical borders. As the life of Jacob in Egypt has nothing to add to these concepts that Stephen is developing, he simply cites the fact that he went to Egypt. From there, he continues by saying, “he and our fathers.”

Again, it is a simple statement of fact to close the point he had made concerning the patriarchs’ time in Egypt. Who “he” is referring to here should be questioned. Is this referring to Jacob or Joseph? The previous verse says that Joseph sent and called Jacob and his relatives down to Egypt. It then said, “So Jacob went down to Egypt.” Then it says, “And he died, he and our fathers.” Jacob is the nearest antecedent, but the clause could also be parenthetical. Thus, Joseph would be the subject now, for example –

“Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people. (So Jacob went down to Egypt.) And he [Joseph] died, he and our fathers.”

This is quite possible, and it has an important bearing on what will be said in the next verse. As for now, the main focus has been Joseph’s not being recognized for who he was and that it was only on the second visit that he revealed himself to his brothers. Stephen is hinting to the council that they are no different than their fathers who could not perceive the truth of who was standing right in front of them when Jesus came.

As for the death of Jacob, that is recorded in Genesis 49:33, saying, “And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.” The note of the death of “the fathers” is found in Exodus 1:6, saying, “And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation.”

Life application: Stephen’s speech, like all of the Bible, focuses on that which is relevant to the narrative. Anything that is not relevant is overlooked. When Genesis 10 mentions a people group, there is a purpose for it. They may never be mentioned again in the Bible, or they may be referred to in a general sense, but that people group’s overall history will be irrelevant to the immediate plan of redemption and so nothing more is detailed about them.

The Chinese people, for example, are one of the most populous people groups on earth. But other than listing their first father in Genesis 10:17, they are only possibly referred to again in the all-inclusive statement “the kings of the east” mentioned in Revelation 16:12. And that verse may not be referring to them at all.

This doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about the Chinese people. They are certainly to be included in John 3:16, Matthew 28:19, and so on. But their history is otherwise irrelevant to the redemptive narrative. And so, they are not mentioned. Stephen’s speech follows this idea. What is necessary to make his point is stated. That which is not is simply closed out with a few simple words or it is completely ignored.

Keeping our focus on what is primary as we read the Bible will help us to keep from getting into strange teachings that profit nothing. For example, the Bible is not about the redemption of angels. And yet, there are teachers that spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with exactly that subject. In the process, and certainly because of their skewed focus, they make wild speculation and come to incorrect conclusions about what God is doing.

Keep the main narrative in mind. Focus on what God is revealing. In doing this, a lot of time that may be wasted will instead be productive. Above all, keep asking, “How does this point to Jesus.” God is revealing Himself in Christ for the reconciliation of the world. Keep that in mind as you read this treasure.

Yes, Lord God! It is so wonderful to contemplate Your word and to think about what You are telling us in it. Help us to keep our focus in line with what You want us to see. Help us to understand the glory of what You are doing in the stream of human existence to bring us back to Yourself. Amen.