The Scripture Summation of Stephan, Part One; Abraham to Egypt

Acts 7:1-20

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘DEPART FROM YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.’ “Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, God removed him into this country in which you are now living. “And He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground; and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS OFFSPRING AFTER HIM. “But God spoke to this effect, that his OFFSPRING WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. “ ‘AND WHATEVER NATION TO WHICH THEY SHALL BE IN BONDAGE I MYSELF WILL JUDGE,’ said God, ‘AND AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.’ “And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. “And the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. And yet God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. “Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it; and our fathers could find no food. “But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. “And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. “And Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. “And Jacob went down to Egypt and there passed away, he and our fathers. “And from there they were removed to Shechem, and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. “But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, until THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH. “It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive.

Stopping there for time’s sake, we already see that Stephan spoke a superb summary of the Scriptures, so far. Beginning with Abraham, Stephan is laying down a foundation for his faith. And even after all of the lies hurled at him, it appears that the people let him speak. And why not, he has not said anything of which they don’t believe? This is why I prefer the NASB, we notice the all-caps, denoting direct, Old Testament quotes.

One could and should, in their own quite time, search the Scriptures to see the context of all these Old Testament quotes, doing an expository exegesis of examples by considering their context. However, there are many, we will hit the highlights. The people present seem to be satisfied so far with Stephan’s summary of the Scriptures, we should be as well. Nevertheless, we want to have a fuller, broader picture to see what Stephan is speaking. Not only through our Old Testament tutor, but through the New Testament fulfilment. We live in the best of times because we have that luxury.

Let’s start where Stephan started, with Abraham, whom Paul calls, “the father of us all.” Abraham’s name was originally Abram, he lived east of present day Israel, in Ur–present day Iraq. Yes, our faith father was not native to Palestine but Iraq. “And Terah lived seventy years, and became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. And Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. And Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there.”

Abraham settled in  Haran. Nevertheless, God promised to Abraham and his offspring, better translated, “seed,” the land of Canaan. But notice how Stephen said that Abraham had no inheritance in the land, not even a foot. Also notice both contexts, Sarah, formerly known as Sarai, was barren. Abraham had no offspring and no land. Yet he believed God.

Paul also writes about Abraham and his faith in the promises of God in Romans 4; “And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore also IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

As Stephan explains, Abraham is the father of Israel, though he was not a part of Israel. Abraham believed in the promises. Look at the context again; “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘DEPART FROM YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.’ Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, God removed him into this country in which you are now living. And He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground; and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS OFFSPRING AFTER HIM.”

Stephan is making a case for, and building towards, something. But he does it with heavy doses of Scripture. We remember from last time that he was full of the Spirit and even his face was like that of an angel. So far, so good. Using their sacred Scripture, Stephan is showing them something. As of this point in Stephan’s Scriptural-sourced, Spirit-spoken, superb, Scripture Summation, everyone is in agreement, they had to be because Stephan is not stating anything new but masterfully summing up the story of the people present. Stephan is orally recapping the history of Israel, starting with Father Abraham.

Remember that song? I remember two versions of that song, both theologically questionable. The one we sang was as follows: Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham. And they never laughed and they never cried, all they did was go like this…(shake your right arm, and so forth). Abraham did have 8 sons, I believe. Ishmael from Hagar, Isaac from Sarah and 6 more from Keturah. That would be considered “many” in modern times but average for his time. And of course, they all laughed and cried and didn’t stand in a circle shaking their money makers. Well, maybe they did. Nevertheless, the other version of the song is slightly more Scriptural. Father Abraham, had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord. Paul writes as much in Romans 4 and Stephan alludes to this heavily by his quotes, but never actually says it. That is, Abraham is the Father of many nations, all who have the faith of Abraham. Super-short-summary: Abraham is the father of faith. Nevertheless, he is not the father of an arm-swinging, circle dance. Actually, I am being dogmatic–he very well could be. These are the things that the Bible should be more specific about. Either way, the meaning of the song is simple, all who believe, from any nation, in Jesus, are offspring of Abraham figuratively as Jesus was an offspring, physically. But we are getting way ahead of Stephan. While hinting at and alluding to Abraham being the faith father, Stephan is keeping it real towards Israel for the moment.

“But God spoke to this effect, that his OFFSPRING WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. ‘AND WHATEVER NATION TO WHICH THEY SHALL BE IN BONDAGE I MYSELF WILL JUDGE,’ said God, ‘AND AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.’ And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.”

Notice how incredibly Jewish this statement is; “And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day.” Yet also notice what is missing. There is no Law of Moses. Moses is 5 generations removed from Abraham who was over one hundred years old on Isaac’s 8th day and Moses was 80something years old when he received the Law. In other words, remember that the Law was given some six hundred years after Abram’s call. Also, remember that Isaac was no spring chicken when he had children. Also remember that Jacob labored many years to get his wives, then had 12 sons, plus daughters.

“Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. And the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. And yet God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it; and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time.”

In what genre is Stephan speaking? I know, I am always pushing the context and genre but with good reason. To my first time readers; here, we use the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; Context is king Aspirations of author are apex, Genre is the general, Expository exegesis of examples enlightens and Dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. To returning readers, I do it for the sake of reminder. However, I do have an ulterior motive today. Stephan is speaking in a historical narrative–he is telling the summarized story of the semitic people, the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to be precise. This will become extremely important as we continue. Yet it is important to see it developing as we walk through the text, which is why I mention it now.

Luke, in his historical narrative, retells the reader of Stephan’s historical narrative–understanding the context is crucial. Chronologically Stephan retells the story of his people group, the blood descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Notice the masterful way in which he retells the Scripture in a sublimely simple summary, showing the unfolding of God’s plan and promise to Abraham. Context is king, let’s highlight one piece of the context to understand the unfolding of the rest.

“DEPART FROM YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.” Show him, not give to him; remember that Abraham had no inheritance in the land–not even a foot. And God also said, your “OFFSPRING WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. AND WHATEVER NATION TO WHICH THEY SHALL BE IN BONDAGE I MYSELF WILL JUDGE, AND AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.’”

And sure enough, the Israelites were eventually enslaved in Egypt, exactly as the Lord had predicted. Nevertheless, God never told Abraham the specifics. I know what you are thinking; “boring! Pedestrian! Obvious! Give us something to sink our teeth into!” I am willing to bet that the people present were thinking the same thing. “Get to the point!” We all want quick answers but quick answers were what led to the downfall of Israel and also the western, evangelical church.

This seems like a horrible place to end this missive. Nevertheless, for time and attention Span’s sake, we will end with the following, remembering the historical narrative, sublime string of prophecy and considering the context: “And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. And Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. And Jacob went down to Egypt and there passed away, he and our fathers. And from there they were removed to Shechem, and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, until THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH. It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive.”

We just covered over 600 years in about 10 minutes. Read the text again,  noticing the regression and oppression in the midst of progression. Notice the jealousy over Joseph. Notice the lack of Law and of land but fervent faith. I can’t wait until next time.

 

 

 

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