Stephens Sermon Part 2a of 7

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

January 15, 2014

Acts of the Apostles


Lesson II.E.1: Stephen’s Sermon (7:1-53)

Part 2: verses 15-36


Commentary

15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
So Jacob went down into Egypt.
He went into Egypt at the invitation of his son Joseph, traveling on the carts which he had provided for them.
And died, he, and our fathers.
Jacob and his twelve sons died in Egypt, though we have no account of the death of any of them, except for Jacob (Genesis 49:331) and Joseph (Genesis 50:262), though it does say in Exodus 1:6: “Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died.” The Israelites remained in Egypt for 215 years, so all the sons of Jacob died there before the Jews left there for the land of Canaan.
16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.

And were carried over into Sychem.
The bones of the fathers, the twelve patriarchs plus Jacob, were carried out of Egypt by the children of Israel when they left there to begin their forty year journey to the Promised Land. There is no doubt that Joseph was buried in Sychem, since it is expressly stated in Joshua 24:323. Sychem was a town or village near Samaria. It was also called Sichar, Sychar (John 4:54), "Shechem," and "Sychem." It is now called "Naplous" or "Napolose," and is ten miles from Shiloh, and about forty from Jerusalem, toward the north.

No mention is made in the Old Testament of the Israelites taking the bones of any of the other patriarchs with them, but it is highly probable they did. If the descendants of Joseph carried his bones, it would naturally occur to them to also take the bones of each of the patriarchs, and give them an honorable sepulcher together in the land of promise. Josephus stated that "the posterity and sons of these men (of the brethren of Joseph), after some time, carried their bodies and buried them in Hebron; but as to the bones of Joseph, they carried them into the land of Canaan afterward, when the Hebrews went out of Egypt." This is in accordance with the common opinion of the Jewish writers, that they were buried in Hebron. Yet the tradition is not uniform. Some of the Jews say that they were buried in Sychem. There is no concrete evidence either way for where they were buried, but Sychem appears to be the logical place, based upon the following:
1. The Jewish writers never mentioned anyone buried in the cave of Machpelah at Hebron other than these four couples; Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah; from which Hebron was called Kirjath Arba, the city of four.
2. It is natural to suppose, that the children of Israel brought the bones of all the patriarchs out of Egypt, along with Joseph's; and since they buried the bones of Joseph in Sichem, it is most reasonable to believe, that the rest were buried there too.
3. Since the books of the Old Testament say nothing about this, the endorsement of Stephen (or of Luke here) for their being buried in Sychem is at least as good as that of Josephus for their being buried in Hebron."
4. There is one circumstance of strong probability that suggests that Stephen was correct. At the time when this defense was delivered, "Sychem" was in the hands of the Samaritans, and there was a violent history between them and the Jews. Of course, the Jews would not be willing to concede that the Samaritans had the bones of their ancestors, and perhaps for that reason, they maintained the opinion that they were buried in Hebron. As for Jacob, we will see that he was not buried in Sichem, but in the cave of Machpelah.

And laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor, the father of Sichem.
This clause has created a great deal of confusion among Bible scholars by raising the question: “How can the sepulcher in which the fathers were laid at Sichem be said to be bought by Abraham from the sons of Emmor, when what Abraham bought was the field and cave of Machpelah; and it was purchased from the sons of Heth, and Ephron, the son of Zohar the Hitrite (Genesis 23:16-185), not from the sons of Emmor.” As for the parcel of ground in Sichem, it was purchased by Jacob from the sons of Emmor, the founder of Sichem (Genesis 33:196). There are several ways to reconcile this seeming discrepancy:
1. Some think the word Abraham is an interpolation, and that it should be read, “Which he (Jacob) bought”; but this explanation is not supported by any copies of scripture discovered thus far.
2. Others say that it may be read, “Which he bought for Abraham”; that is, which Jacob bought for Abraham and his seed, as a pledge of the inheritance of the whole land, promised unto him.
3. Another opinion is that by Abraham is meant a son of Abraham, that is, Jacob, since children are sometimes called by their father's name; for example, the Messiah is called David.
4. But the best explanation, which also seems to resolve the confusion over this point is that the words refer to both places and both purchases; to the field of Machpelah bought by Abraham, and to the plot of field at Sichem bought by Jacob from the sons of Emmor. This is the meaning obtained by repeating the phrase, "in the sepulcher", for then the clause would read thus; "and were laid in the sepulchre, that Abraham bought for a sum of money", and in the sepulcher (bought by Jacob) "of the sons of Emmor", the father of Sychem. Or the words may be stated thus, "they were carried over into Sichem, and laid in the sepulcher which Abraham bought for a sum of money, besides" that "of the sons of Emmor", the father "of Sichem"; specifically, which Jacob bought, and in which Joseph was laid, Genesis 33:196. And this agrees with Stephen's account in the preceding verse; he observes, that Jacob and all the twelve patriarchs died in Egypt, and here he tells us how they were disposed of, and where they were buried, both Jacob and his sons; they were removed from Egypt, and brought into the land of Canaan; Jacob was laid in the cave of Machpelah, in the sepulcher Abraham bought from the children of Heth; and Joseph and his brethren were laid in the sepulcher at Sichem, which Jacob bought from the sons of Emmor. From this explanation, the charge brought against Stephen by the Jews, that his speech contained several errors, appears to be groundless.

17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,

But when the time of the promise drew nigh.
“The time of the promise” refers to the passage of four hundred years from the day God gave the promise to Abraham until he delivered the seed of Abraham from their affliction and servitude in Egypt (Genesis 15:13-147), and later brought them into the land of Canaan to inherit it.

Which God had sworn to Abraham.
“Which God had sworn” means “solemnly promised.” There is no explicit mention made of an oath, however, there is a most solemn pronouncement (Genesis 15:137), which is equivalent to one.

The people grew and multiplied in Egypt.
The family of Jacob numbered seventy when they went into Egypt, and though the Egyptians used various methods to decrease their numbers (Exodus 1:7-118), in little more than two hundred years, their number was increased to 603,550 men, which did not include old men, women, and children, and 22,000 Levites, Numbers 1:46. And it seems that they increased more rapidly as the time for their promised delivery drew nearer. It was also the case that the intensity of their affliction increased at the same time (Exodus 1:129). The increase of the Israelites far exceeded what would be normal population growth for people living under such horrible conditions and over a span of 215 years. Moses pointed this out to show that it was a special gift of God and not the result natural reproduction. But, on the other hand, God seemed to take all hope away from the Jews, because Pharaoh grievously afflicted them, and their bondage grew harder to bear every day. Their lives became so bitter that you would think they would have wished to be childless; and yet they married, because they believed that God would rescue them at the proper time; and God blessed them, because they honored Him—times of Suffering have often been growing times for the church.

18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.

Till another king arose.
“Till another king arose” is quoted from Exodus 1:810. The "name" of this king is not known. The "common" name of all the kings of Egypt was "Pharaoh," just as "Caesar" became the common name of the emperors of Rome after the time of Julius Caesar: that’s why we say, Augustus Caesar, Tiberius Caesar, etc. So, who was this king who did not know Joseph? There are several theories:
1. The most commonly held opinion seems to be that this king was the renowned Rameses, the sixth king of the eighteenth dynasty, and it is supposed that he became king about 1559 years before the Christian era. One of the treasure cities built for him seems to have been named in honor of him (Exodus 1:1111). The Jews call him Talma.
2. Another notion is that his name was Mandonei, whose reign began in 1585 b.c., and ended 1565 years before Christ.
3. There is also the theory that he was Amosis, or Ames, the "first" king of the eighteenth dynasty.
The present knowledge of Egyptian history is too imperfect to enable us to determine his identity with any assurance of accuracy.

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