More of those Texas cotton fields whirring by.
Friday, 8 April 2022
And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, Acts 7:2
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).
At the beginning of Chapter 7, as seen in the last verse, the high priest asked if the charges against Stephen were true. Stephen now begins his response without even providing an answer to the charge. Instead, he dives right into giving a dissertation on the history of Israel. Luke records his words, beginning with, “And he said, ‘Brethren and fathers, listen.’”
The word “brethren” is stated as a general address. It is directed to all who hear as equal members of the society of those of Israel as far as cultural affiliation is concerned. The word “fathers” indicates the members of the council specifically, acknowledging that they are in authority positions, and thus it is an extra note of courtesy and honor.
The idea would be the same as addressing a church where all are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). And yet, the elders are to be given double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). Stephen is acknowledging both at the same time. He is noting that he is of Israel, just as they are, but they are also elders of the society and are due an additional mark of respect.
With this opening address complete, he begins his general discourse, saying, “The God of glory.” The phrase is a rare one in the way it is presented. The Greek has an article that is often left untranslated, but it should probably be rendered in this statement – “The God of the glory.” The same idea is expressed in Psalm 24:7 where the Hebrew also uses a definite article before the word “glory” –
“Lift up, gates, your heads
And be lifted up, doors, everlasting
And shall come in the King of the glory.” (CG)
Though the expression used by Stephen is unusual, the idea behind it is quite common. The glory of God is expressed throughout both testaments of Scripture in various ways. Some scholars explain the term as denoting the visible glory manifested at times by the Lord. There is no reason at all to assume this.
The word “glory” is from the Greek word “dóksa (from dokeō, ‘exercising personal opinion which determines value’) – glory. … dóksa (‘glory’) corresponds to the OT word, kabo (OT … ‘to be heavy’). Both terms convey God’s infinite, intrinsic worth (substance, essence)” (HELPS Word Studies).
Stephen is certainly referring to God’s state of worth, being the Creator of all things. Whether there is an outward expression of this or not at any given time, He remains of the same worth. The reason for Stephen stating the description of Him in this manner may be to alert the council that he regards the glory of God as something uniquely tied to Him. As such, he would not be one to blaspheme Him in any manner. Next, he says that God “appeared to our father Abraham.”
This is something that happened quite a few times in the life of Abraham. At key points in his life, the Bible records the visitations of the Lord to him. Sometimes, only a conversation is recorded. At other times, the Lord appeared in a human form (see Genesis 18:1, 2). In such an instance, it is surely a visit of the Lord by the eternal Christ, meaning Jesus.
However, until Stephen’s speech, this particular visitation now being noted by him has been left unstated. He says that God appeared to him “when he was in Mesopotamia.” That is seen in the words, “before he dwelt in Haran.”
The meaning then is that the Lord appeared to him in Ur of the Chaldeans, the place from which Abraham originally came. The only thing said of this in Genesis is recorded in a few passages, such as –
“And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” Genesis 11:31
“Then He said to him, ‘I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’” Genesis 15:7
“And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.’” Joshua 24:2, 3
Other such references are found in Scripture, but – like these – they do not explicitly speak of the Lord appearing to Abraham while in Mesopotamia. Instead, they only speak in a general way, without any note of a personal appearance, even if it may be implied.
Some will tie Stephen’s words into Genesis 12:1, but that is then explained in Genesis 12:4 as being a departure from Haran, not Ur. As such, Stephen’s words provide explicit details not previously seen. This is the first of several times that Stephen will give insights into the biblical narrative that are not explicitly stated elsewhere, thus making his speech a most important source for understanding some key things that would otherwise not be known.
Life application: There are times when we can make inferences about what is going on in Scripture, but unless something is explicitly stated, it is best to acknowledge our inference as such. In the case of the Lord appearing to Abraham, without Stephen’s words in Acts, such an inference would have to be stated in this way.
But because Stephen said what he said, we are no longer bound to a mere inference, and we can rightly state that the Lord explicitly appeared to Abraham even before the first recorded appearance in the book of Genesis. This then means that we must be familiar with all of Scripture in order to make such a statement.
Therefore, it is incumbent on us to check things out when they are presented to us by pastors, preachers, and teachers. It is also incumbent on us to read the word again and again, until we are familiar with it. And finally, it means that when we find that our initial analysis of something was wrong, we should go about correcting it in the future.
The Bible is a big and complicated book. Let us diligently study it each and every day of our lives. It is certain making His word a priority is pleasing to the Lord. Read and study it!
Glorious Heavenly Father, help us to be people of study, knowing that You have given us Your word so that we can know it and then act in accord with Your will. We can certainly see Your glorious hand at work in the pages of Scripture and as it is revealed in the ongoing movement of human history. Thank You for Your wonderful word! Amen.