Acts 7:6

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Tuesday, 12 April 2022

But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. Acts 7:6

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 spoke of God giving Abraham no inheritance despite the Lord promising him the land for a possession, even to his descendants after him. With that noted, words that are often completely misunderstood are presented by Stephen, beginning with, “But God spoke in this way.”

This is obviously referring to something already recorded in Scripture that must be cited in order to confirm what Stephen is saying. For now, Stephen continues with his words, saying, “that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land.”

This is still referring to Abraham. His descendants, specifically to be understood as the line of promise, would dwell in a foreign land. That this is specifically understood to be the line of promise, and not just any of his descendants, is based on what it said in the previous verse with the words, “He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him.” It refers to the inheritance, and only those who are of the line of promise were given the inheritance.

Ishmael was sent away from the inheritance in Genesis 21. Likewise, it says this of Abraham’s other children in Genesis 25 –

“And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.” Genesis 25:5, 6

As the other descendants have been removed from the inheritance, it is seen that this is only speaking of the chosen line, meaning through Isaac and then Jacob. Of this line, it next says, “and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them.”

Because of these words, it is often assumed that this is only speaking of the time in Egypt. It is an incorrect assumption. The descendants of Abraham would be brought into bondage and oppression. But even in Egypt that was not always the case. The first years of their stay in Egypt were under Joseph. Thus, the words “bondage” and “oppress” are not being used collectively, as if both were occurring at the same time and/or all of the time. They are words that indicate the state of things at any given time.

To further define this, Stephen finishes the verse with the words, “four hundred years.” It is a set time frame that is then assumed, incorrectly, as referring only to the time in Egypt. For example, Meyer’s NT Commentary not only erroneously evaluates this verse, but he ascribes error to Paul in Galatians 3:17 concerning his words. Rather, it is Meyers who is incorrect. He says –

“τετρακόσια] [tetrakousia means ‘four hundred’] Here, as in an oracle, the duration is given, as also at Gen. l.c., in round numbers; but in Exodus 12:40 this period of Egyptian sojourning and bondage (ἜΤΗ ΤΕΤΡΑΚ. belongs to the whole ἜΣΤΑΙ … ΚΑΚΏΣΟΥΣΙΝ) is historically specified exactly as 430 years. In Galatians 3:17 (see in loc.), Paul has inappropriately referred the chronological statement of Exodus 12:40 to the space of time from the promise made to Abraham down to the giving of the law.”

Meyers is completely wrong in this, and Paul’s note in Galatians 3:17 is exact. This is not solely referring to the “period of Egyptian sojourning and bondage.” Rather, it is referring to dwelling in Canaan and in Egypt. The “four hundred” years that Stephen is referring to are spoken of by the Lord in Genesis 15 –

“Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.’” Genesis 15:12-14

This is clearly referring to both Canaan and Egypt. By referring to the Acts 7:4 commentary Biblical Timeline of the World attachment (that you were admonished to print off and keep handy J), this can be seen. Isaac was born in 2109AM. Israel departed Egypt in 2514AM. Understanding these, one can then note that Genesis 21:8-10 is the beginning of the persecutions by other nations –

So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.
And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. 10 Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.’”

Even though this was only two young boys, it is one nation oppressing another. A child is normally weaned between two and four years old, and so one can see that the timeframe indicated by Stephen is right at four hundred years, (2514-2109 is approximately a four-hundred-year period) plus or minus a couple of years. This could even be exactly four hundred years if Isaac was weaned at the outside of the normal timeframe and the other events occurred at the time before or after the middle of the starting and ending years. Thus, the biblical timeline is exacting in what it states.

The extra thirty years Paul refers to in Galatians 3:17 is exactingly seen in the Biblical Timeline of the world where  Abram was called to move to Canaan in 2084AM. Israel departed Egypt in 2514AM. This is exactly 430 years. Paul’s words are vindicated by a correct reading of the biblical timeline.

Further, to confirm that the words, “dwell in a foreign land” refer to both Canaan and Egypt, Hebrews 11 uses the same word, allotrios, to describe the time Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwelt in the land of Canaan –

“By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:9, 10

The biblical timeline is exact, the words of Scripture – meaning that given in Genesis, Stephen in Acts, and Paul in Galatians – are all exact and without error. It just takes time and study to determine it is so.

Life application: In the Meyer’s NT Commentary cited above, there are evaluations of the biblical text and of the Greek words specifically. There are adamant stances taken, and there are accusations against the accuracy of the Bible being made. And yet, what is stated is completely inaccurate.

To trust someone simply because he is trained in Hebrew, Aramaic, and/or Greek is not smart. Many scholars are trained in any or all of these and they come to completely different conclusions. Sometimes their conclusions are like polar opposites.

Likewise, to follow a person simply because he is Jewish is not smart. Just because someone may live in the land of Israel and speak Hebrew, it conveys nothing about his understanding of Scripture. Similarly, to follow someone because he has a Doctorate in Theology, pastors a church, has written extensive commentaries, or so on, is not wise.

These are known as source fallacies. To accept someone’s opinion on a matter based on their source (knowledge of a language, race or culture, degree, and so on) says nothing of his actual knowledge of a subject. In biblical theology, the only thing that matters is if the person is properly analyzing the word. And that, for any given passage. Meyers certainly analyzed some things properly, and yet he completely botched his analysis cited above.

The only way for you to know if what he says is correct this time and wrong the next is to… is to… is to KNOW YOUR BIBLE and to study what is presented.

Read the word! Study it. Think about it. And trust no one until you have verified what that person has said. Study to show yourself approved!

Lord God Almighty, Your word is beautiful. Amen.