Stephen's Sermon Part 1e of 7

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

"When Joseph died, the "covenant of circumcision" was made void.

And so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day.
Abraham begat Isaac, and as a proof that he was born under this covenant, was a true son of Abraham and inheritor of the promises, he circumcised him the eighth day; according to the express command in Genesis 17:1236. This rite was observed in the family of Isaac; Jacob and his twelve sons were born under the covenant; and thus their descendants, the twelve tribes, were born under the same covenant, and practiced the same rite. They were, by the ordinance of God, legal inheritors of the Promised Land, and all the secular and spiritual advantages connected with it.

And Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
The word "patriarch" denotes "the father and ruler of a family." But it is commonly applied, by way of eminence (importance), to "the ancestors and originators" of the Jewish race, particularly to "the twelve sons of Jacob."

9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,

And the patriarchs, moved with envy.
“And the patriarchs” refers to the twelve sons of Jacob, called patriarchs because each was chief or head of his respective family or tribe.

“Moved with envy,” or “filled with jealousy” describes the feelings of the sons of Jacob and brethren of Joseph who were enraged at him, because of the evil report of them he brought to his father; and because he had a greater share in his father's love than they had; and because of his dreams, which indicated that he would have dominion over them, and they would have to be obedient to him (Genesis 37:1137).

Steven reminds them of the horrible misdeeds of some of the patriarchs, to teach the Jews that they should not impulsively follow their examples—they rejected Jesus in the same way his brothers rejected Joseph. Stephen's argument went on to show how the Israelites had always mistreated their greatest benefactors, and resisted the leaders sent to them by God.

Sold Joseph into Egypt.
They “sold” him to the Ishmaelites, who were going to Egypt, for twenty pieces of silver, and they took him with them. The Jews tell a story about those twenty pieces of silver: “The ten brethren of Joseph,” they say, “divided the price of Joseph among themselves; everyone took two shekels, and bought shoes for his feet”; to which they relate the passage in Amos 2:6 "they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes,” and they suggest, that the redemption of the firstborn among the Israelites was on account of the selling of Joseph. They say, "because they sold the firstborn of Rachel for twenty pieces of silver, let everyone redeem his son, his firstborn, with twenty pieces of silver; because they sold the firstborn of Rachel for twenty pieces of silver, and there fell to each of them a piece of coined money (the value of half a shekel), therefore let everyone pay his shekel coined.'' They also say that the selling of Joseph was not atoned for by the tribes until all the sons of Jacob were dead, according to Isaiah 22:1438, and that on the account of it, there was a famine in the land of Israel for seven years.

There is definitely some similarity between the treatment of Joseph and Jesus Christ, which Stephen may have intended to show here:
1. Joseph was sold by his brethren for twenty pieces of silver, Christ was betrayed by one of his disciples that ate bread with him, for thirty pieces of silver.
2. The brethren of Joseph mistreated him and sold him out of envy; it was through envy that the Jews delivered Jesus Christ to Pontius Pilate, to be condemned to death.

They boasted proudly of their fathers; but Stephen showed them (the Sanhedrin) the type of men their ancient fathers really were; namely, murderers of their brother; because we know that slavery was a kind of death and his brethren were also guilty of the cruel punishments Joseph suffered. It appears then, that God was merciful to these men who desired to destroy the one person that would eventually become the author of their help. Therefore they did what they could to renounce all the benefits of God. Later Stephen will declare that Moses was rejected when he was offered by God to be a redeemer of his people. Therefore, the Jews have very little to brag about, as far as their patriarchs is concerned; but they can brag about their God, confess their sins, ask for mercy, and receive His forgiveness and blessings. What was true then is still true today; God loves a humble and contrite heart; He delights in those who repent and find salvation through faith in his Son.

But God was with him.
“God was with him,” and he prospered in Potiphar's house; he was with him, and kept him from the temptations of Potiphar’s wife; he was with him in prison, and supported and comforted him, and eventually delivered him from it, and promoted him in the land of Egypt—God protected him, and overruled all the evil that befell him and caused it to work for good, so that he was raised to royal honors in the house of Pharaoh.

“God was with him,” but perhaps Joseph didn’t always believe He was, since his Help was long in coming. Surely, he must have been discouraged and depressed when there was no help, and he was alone, in bonds, and suffering punishment at the hands of an ungodly and wicked man; but God is always with His people, though He may lie hidden at times like these. In the end, Joseph realized that God had never left him. Furthermore, we ought to remember this; Joseph was not delivered because he had called upon God in the temple, but far away in Egypt. Stephen is emphasizing that the spiritual presence of God was with Joseph all the time. Joseph did not need to go to the temple to be close to God. There was no temple! Instead, God was with him all the time. Stephen mentions the story of Joseph, because he is a picture of Jesus, in that the sons of Israel rejected Joseph, who later became a “savior” (and the only possible savior) for them. Stephen’s message is plain: “You people have a habit of rejecting the saviors God sends to you. Why don’t you wake up and stop rejecting Jesus?”

God preserved Joseph in his troubles, and was with him by the influence of His Spirit, both on his mind, by giving him comfort, and on the minds of those he was involved with, by giving him favour in their eyes. And thus at length He delivered him out of his afflictions, and Pharaoh made him the second man in the kingdom (Ps. 105:20–2239). He was not only great among the Egyptians, but became the shepherd and stone of Israel (Gen. 49:2440).

10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.

And delivered him out of all his afflictions.
God delivered Joseph from the evil plans of his mistress (Potiphar’s wife), and from all the miseries and humiliation of his years in an Egyptian prison; and raised him up to high honors and offices in Egypt. And He even delivered his servant Jesus from the grave, and raised him to eternal life.

And gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Joseph was very dear to the king; but unlike the king’s other advisors it was not through his knowledge of magic arts, but on account of the wisdom which God gave him; because when he is said to have “favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh,” the favor was the result of his wisdom. His wisdom was particularly manifested in his interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh (Genesis 41). Wisdom does not only signify the gift of prophecy in interpreting dreams, but good judgment in giving counsel. The name of this Pharaoh was Misphragmuthosis; but the Jews called him Rian ben Walid. God could have delivered him by some other means, but He looked into the future and envisioned that Joseph, might save the lives of his father and all his family if he were ruler of the kingdom. Yet, he was a very humble and modest man, which is evident from how he speaks of himself in Genesis 41:16: “‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’” Read the whole remarkable history of Joseph in Genesis 41:1-45:28.

The wisdom with which Joseph was endowed was the cause of him finding favor; although I admit they were two distinct benefits or helps. It is true that Joseph was an authentic interpreter of dreams, and he did excel in divine wisdom, and yet, the proud tyrant would never have given him such great honor, if God had not put it in the mind of Pharaoh to do so; even creating there an uncharacteristic love for this Jewish man who had no family or property.

And he made him governor over Egypt.
Actually, Joseph was the deputy governor under Pharaoh; because Pharaoh kept the throne, and had authority over Joseph, and had the other symbols of royalty, and Joseph rode behind him, in the second chariot.

And all his house.
He put Joseph in charge of the affairs of the kingdom, and as Genesis 41:4041 shows he also committed to him “all of his house”—he was steward of his household, in charge of all the family, all the court and the palace.

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