Acts. 7:43

Memorial to the 36th Infantry Division

Thursday, 19 May 2022

You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch,
And the star of your god Remphan,
Images which you made to worship;
And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.’ Acts 7:43

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).

Stephen had just begun to quote Amos 5 in the previous verse. He now continues with that here. His citation does not completely match the Hebrew, which says –

“‘You also carried Sikkuth your king
And Chiun, your idols,
The star of your gods,
Which you made for yourselves.
27 Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,’
Says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.”

Noting these differences, Stephen begins with, “You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch.” A tabernacle is a tent in which an entity dwells. This would have been carried by the people in a procession as was common among the pagans, and which is seen even in parts of the world today. Moloch is the god of the Ammonites. In the Old Testament, he is noted as Molech.

Worship of Molech was expressly forbidden five times in the book of Leviticus. Solomon made a high place to Molech in 1 Kings 11:7. Also, in Jeremiah 32:35, it says –

“And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”

Despite the differences in the English, the translation of the Hebrew is exceedingly close to Stephen’s words. The name Sikkuth is spelled similarly to Succoth, or “tabernacle.” And the words “your king” are closely associated with Molech, which comes from the Hebrew word meaning “king.”

The reason for saying “tabernacle” here is certainly because he is making a play on words, connecting the thought to what is coming in verse 44. There, he will refer to the “tabernacle in the wilderness,” showing a contrast between this tabernacle and that one.

Stephen next says, “And the star of your god Remphan.” This clause can be seen to be quite different from the Hebrew. The explanation for the difference is provided by the Pulpit Commentary –

“Rephan, or Raiphan, or Remphan, as it is variously written, is the LXX. translation of the Hebrew Chiun in Amos 5:26. The best explanation of this is that Rephan is the Coptic name of the planet Saturn, well-known of course to the LXX., and that Chiun is the Hebrew and Arabic name of the same star, which they therefore translated by Rephan.”

Stephen next says, “Images which you made to worship.” Stephen returns to the thought of verse 7:41 which referred to the golden calf and which said, “and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.” Israel had a proclivity to fashioning gods instead of trusting in the uncreated God. In this, they were completely disobedient to Moses, and thus to the Lord.

Stephen finishes with, “And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.” Although this seems completely contradictory to the Hebrew that reads “Damascus,” it is evident that if one is carried beyond Babylon, he has been carried beyond Damascus. John Gill provides a thorough account of this –

“…in Amos it is beyond Damascus, and so some copies read here, which was in Babylon; and explains the sense of the prophet more fully, that they should not only be carried for their idolatry beyond Damascus, and into the furthermost parts of Babylon, but beyond it, even into the cities of the Medea, Halah, and Habor, by the river Gozan; and here is no contradiction: how far beyond Damascus, the prophet does not say; and if they were carried beyond Babylon, they must be carried beyond Damascus, and so the words of the prophet were fulfilled; and Stephen living after the fulfilment of the prophecy, by which it appeared that they were carried into Media, could say how far they were carried; wherefore the Jew (i) has no reason to cavil at Stephen, as if he misrepresented the words of the prophet, and related things otherwise than they were.”

Life application: Stephen is talking to the lead council of Israel, and he is citing things that are a part of their history. Though the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament do not appear to match, the differences are settled by including both the Greek Old Testament and analysis of the customs, cultures, and languages of the surrounding countries that the people of Israel were fully aware of.

Throughout Acts 7, the council is not seen to stop Stephen and correct him. This would have occurred if what he said was not considered acceptable. Luke is simply chronicling what was said and what happened. And more, if the record of what Luke had said was not compatible with what was considered a reasonable understanding of the citation of the Old Testament, such as that found here, there would have been countless critiques of it throughout the years, starting immediately after Acts was published.

On the other hand, scholars have analyzed every word of the book of Acts and have been able to reasonably settle any difficulties. As this is so, we can be content that we have a reliable record of what was said, and that it is fully in accord with an acceptable interpretation of the passages set before the council.

When people attempt to disparage your faith by disparaging the Bible – and they will – be ready to defend it. There are difficulties in it, but there are reasonable explanations for each of them if you are willing to put in the time and effort to understand them. Don’t be shy about this. Stand up for the word. It is the basis for our faith in the Lord. As Paul says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Lord God, thank You for those scholars who have come before us, and who have carefully analyzed the Bible, seeking out its mysteries and finding reasonable solutions to very difficult passages that arise at times. Their work helps us to have greater confidence when we speak to others, and it helps us to want to go further in opening up the treasures that are still awaiting us in Your word. We are surely blessed as this stream of effort continues, even to this day. Amen.