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Bible Commentaries
Acts 7

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-7


1-7. Despite the awful doom of the antediluvians, the people after the flood soon became terribly wicked. While they constantly ploughed up the bones of their antediluvian predecessors, fear and trembling appalled them so they were constantly resolving to be good. Ah! the road to hell is strewn with good resolutions. The postdiluvians had inherited evil hearts from their predecessors. Hence a wicked life inevitably followed, as it always will unless we go to God and receive a new heart. Despite the grand boom given to holiness in the flood, when all of the wicked were taken out of the world and righteousness ruled the only surviving home, yet wickedness so increased that God found it necessary in the third postdiluvian century to begin de novo, calling Abraham to leave the world and identify himself with God alone. In the home of his childhood, in the beautiful alluvial plains of Mesopotamia, that delightful rich, level country between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the cradle of the postdiluvian world, first settled by the sons of Noah after the deluge, where at a later date Nimrod gave himself imperishable notoriety by attempting to found a human government independently of the Almighty (though nowadays all the governments on the globe are Nimrodic without a blush). Such was the wickedness of his native land that God required Abraham to leave his kindred and country and follow whither He led. This is now and has ever been the first step in a true heavenly pilgrimage. A prophet is without honor in his own country. Expatriation as a rule is a sine qua non in a really fruitful ministry for God and souls.

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene, The dark unfathomed caves of Ocean bear; Full many a flower is born to blush unseen And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

As a rule, you must leave your native land if you would be eminently useful.

Verse 8


8. While the physical birth emblematizes regeneration, it is equally true that physical circumcision typifies sanctification. The Jewish law was to circumcise eight days after birth, illustrating the fact that we should get sanctified about eight days after conversion, thus giving a little time to receive light on inbred sin and intelligently seek its removal. John Wesley has a powerful sermon on the Circumcision of the heart, preached from

Deuteronomy 30:6: “I will circumcise thy heart, so as to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength, that thou mayest live.”

Here we see that the circumcision of the heart is necessary to perfect love, which is the condition of spiritual life and admission into heaven.

Verses 9-16


9-16. The symbolism of Joseph is entirely in the royal line of Jesus. In his deep disgrace and humiliation, slavery and imprisonment, he emblematizes Christ in His first advent; while crowned with gold, mounted on a golden chariot, ruling over all the land, he typifies Christ in His second advent Jacob loved Joseph more than his ten older brothers, because he was the son of his beloved Rachel, for whom he toiled fourteen years. Then she lived but a little while. I saw her tomb on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where she died, leaving a broken-hearted husband to transfer his love to her two little boys. Hence the ardent love of Jacob for Joseph, manifested in the royal robe of many colors, such as kings wore. Though Jacob knew it not, he was even then verifying the regal character of Joseph, the brilliant type of King Jesus, by dressing him in a kingly robe. When Joseph dreamed those wonderful, prophetic dreams, he was only twelve years old, too young to have any idea about their meaning. Yet they so vividly impressed his infantile mind that he could not forbear telling them. So he told his harvest dream: All binding sheaves in the field, and the bundles stood up, and those of the other ten all fell down before his. When a beardless boy I used to preach to the toiling slaves, delighted to hear them shout and sing their homespun Ethiopian songs. Here I remember one about this Scripture:

1. “Joseph had a vision; Joseph had a vision;

The sun and moon and eleven stars fell down obeisance to him.

Chorus: Shine, shine like a star, Shine, shine around the throne of God.

2. “His brothers’ wrath was kindled; His brothers’ wrath was kindled;

They sold him to the Ishmaelites and had him carried to Egypt.

Chorus: Shine, shine, etc.

3. “They brought him unto Pharaoh; They brought him unto Pharaoh;

And there they laid the corner-stone on which to build Salvation

Chorus: Shine, shine,” etc.

When the little fellow told his dream about the sun, moon and eleven stars falling down before him, his father chided him:

“Why, my son, are you so vain as to think you will be king over your father, mother and brothers?”

When his angry brothers sell him to the Ishmaelites for ten dollars, the price of a young slave, typical of Jesus sold for fifteen dollars, the price of a grown slave, he was only twelve years old, too little to know anything about the wonderful meaning of his dreams. How vividly Joseph, in the purity of his youth, triumphing over all the temptations in the house of Potiphar, and even submitting to the lying persecution which consigned him to a loathsome dungeon seven weary years, emblematizes our Jesus in the purity of His youth. Finally the chief butler and baker are cast into the same dismal, dark, imperial prison. They both dream dreams. The former dreams that he saw three luxuriant vines bearing luscious grapes, which he expresses, bearing the wine to Pharaoh’s table. He tells Joseph, who interprets:

“The three vines are three days, at the expiration of which Pharaoh will take you out of this prison and restore you to your butlership again.”

The interpretation is so good the chief baker is encouraged to try him on his dream.

“I dreamed that I had three baskets on my head, containing all kinds of sweet cakes used on the royal table. But the fowls of the air lighted down and ate the bread out of the baskets on my head.”

Joseph responds:

“The three baskets are three days, after which Pharaoh will send and take you out of this prison, hang you on a tree, and the fowls of the air will eat your flesh off your bones.”

Sure enough, in three days the chief baker is taken out and hung and the chief butler restored to his butlership. While the latter is going out Joseph says:

“When it goes well with you, remember me.”

In his royal splendor he forgets all about the humble request of the poor Hebrew boy. Pharaoh dreams that he sees seven of the finest cattle he ever beheld come up out of the Nile and graze in a meadow; then seven of the poorest stunted dwarfs. But the latter devoured the former, exhibiting no change. Again in his dream he saw seven stalks of the finest corn lie ever beheld growing on the banks of the Nile. Then seven of the most worthless, withered and blasted by the east wind. But the latter devoured the former and showed no change. He calls in all the magicians and astrologers and wise men of Egypt. They are utterly dumfounded. Then says the chief butler:

“Now I confess my sin. There is a Hebrew boy in that dungeon who beats all creation to interpret dreams and evolve dark sayings.”

Pharaoh orders: “Bring him straight.” In one short hour Joseph stands before the king, hears his wonderful dreams and proceeds to interpret:

“O king, the dream is double, because it is sure to come to pass. The seven fat cattle and fine ears of corn are seven years of plenty, such as have never been known in the land of Egypt. The seven lean kine and the seven blasted ears of corn are seven years of famine, which shall consume all the substance of the first seven years of plenty, depopulating the nations with general starvation. Now, O king, look out some man of wisdom who shall take this matter into his hands, build storehouses and lay up a supply of corn during the seven years of plenty for the seven years of famine which shall come upon all the earth, so that no life will survive unless this matter shall receive diligent attention.” “Why,”

says the Pharaoh,

“who in all the world is so wise as yourself, the man to whom God has given wisdom beyond that of any other man in all the earth?”

Forthwith, Joseph is washed, dressed in the royal robes, a great chain of gold put around his neck, a crown of gold on his head, mounted on a golden chariot, fifty royal couriers run before him, shouting to all they meet, “Bow the knee, the king cometh.” What a wonderful emblem of regeneration in which the sinner is elevated from the doom of hell to the palace of heaven. Here Joseph, in one short hour, passes from the filthy dungeon to the proudest throne beneath the skies. Sure enough, the land teems with plenty; such crops were never before seen in the valley of the Nile. Joseph has granaries built in all the land to store the surplus corn.

Everything full and running over. The seven years of plenty have come and gone. The seven years of famine set in. Dearth prevails, nothing is raised. The people all come to Joseph for bread. He has plenty. What a glorious emblem of Christ, dispensing the bread of life! There is famine in the land of Canaan. Jacob hears there is corn in Egypt. Sends his ten sons. Joseph meets them. It has been twenty years since they sold him to the Ishmaelites. He is so covered with the royal robes and the beard on his face, as to preclude all possible recognition; meanwhile he recognizes his older brothers, several of whom were grown when they sold him. He feigns incognito. Speaking to them through an interpreter, though he understood the Hebrew which they spoke, he asks about their family and country. They say, We are all the sons of one old man living in the land of Canaan; we also have a little brother at home and one dead (having lied so much about Joseph, they think it is true). The Latin history I read when a boy says they were unutterably surprised at the gushing tears flowing from the eyes of the king as they spoke of their father and little brother. He accused them of coming to spot out the land, detained Simeon, and exacted from them a promise to bring Benjamin, certifying they never shall see his face unless they bring Benjamin. They all find their money in their sack’s mouth, on the road home. Jesus gives us the bread of life like Joseph, his type, without money and without price. The old man is awfully shocked when he hears that the king of Egypt arrested and detained Simeon.

“Thus I am deprived of my children. Joseph is dead, and now Simeon is gone.”

When they tell that Benjamin must go if they get any more bread, he positively refuses. Time rolls on! The bread is out and famine stares them all in the face. Oh, how reluctantly the old man consents for Benjamin to go! but concludes he would better lose Simeon and Benjamin along with Joseph, already dead, than for them all to starve to death in a pile. So they all go again. On arrival they meet Simeon, looking better than they ever saw him. They wonder again why the king of Egypt cries so when he sees their little brother. The king entertains them with a rich feast. To their unutterable surprise he sits them down in the order of their ages. He puts on Benjamin’s plate five times the usual amount. God grant to you, reader, a Benjamin mess while you read this book. After dinner Joseph puts all of the Egyptians out of the room and now speaks in the Hebrew language, which they thought lie did not know, as he spake to them through an interpreter:

“I am Joseph, whom you sold to the Ishmaelites twenty-two years ago.”

They are all stunned, appalled and panic-stricken. They all fall down before him and beg his pardon.

“Oh,” says he, “no need of that. God sent me before you to Provide bread and keep you all from starving to death.”

He goes around, embraces and kisses each one of them. They almost swoon away under the shock. Old Pharaoh in his palace hears the loud crying, sends for Joseph, who confesses his brethren have come. Pharaoh nobly says:

“The best of the land is at your option; send wagons and bring them all down. Regard not their stuff, for I will supply them.”

When they return with Simeon and Benjamin and tell Jacob that Joseph is still alive and ruler over the land of Egypt, he faints and can’t believe it. Finally when he sees the wagon his spirit revives and he ventures to believe it. Convalescing finally from the shock, he says:

“Then my Joseph is yet alive;

I will go down and see him before I die.”

Jacob lived seventeen years after the migration into Egypt. The old Pharaoh who had made Joseph his prime minister, committing to him the burdens and responsibilities of the kingdom, soon passed away, leaving the sole incumbent of the throne to reign over Egypt sixty-one years, precisely the period of Queen Victoria at the present date. The striking conservatism of Pharaoh and Egypt to Joseph and Israel vividly symbolizes the glorious millennial reign of our Lord, when all the kings of the earth shall submit obsequiously and co-operate conservatively in the mighty theocracy. Though Joseph died one hundred and fifty years before the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, pursuant to his predictions of the coming exodus and return to Canaan, they embalmed his body in a stone coffin, kept it through all those years, and finally, as history says, carried it on a wagon drawn by twelve oxen, heading the procession out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, forty years in the wilderness, then through the rifted waters of Jordan’s swelling flood into the Promised Land, where they buried him in the sepulcher which Abraham bought from the sons of Emmor in Sychem, the remains of Jacob having been carried up by Joseph in person and buried with Abraham and Isaac in the sepulcher of Machpelah.

Verses 17-40


17-40. While Joseph so beautifully and vividly emblematizes King Jesus, both in His humiliation and in His glory, Moses equally grandly emblematizes the mediatorial Christ, himself not only the prophet and legislator of Israel and the world, but the mediator of the old covenant, as Christ is of the new. As the royal generations quickly come and go after the death of Joseph, they soon not only forget his brilliant and beneficent reign, but alarmed at the rapid multiplication of Israel [providentially enjoying the protection of the greatest military power on earth, during their national minority], lest in process of time becoming greater than the Egyptians, and joining their enemies in time of war, they may actually subjugate them. Therefore the king resorts to the stratagem of infanticide to arrest the alarming rapidity of Israel’s multiplication.

Verse 20

20. “At which time Moses was born, and was beautiful unto God.” The E. V. does not give you the clear translation of this beautiful passage, which reveals that Moses was beautiful in the divine estimation, being doubtless the finest looking baby the world had ever seen. [Of course, Adam and Eve were perfect specimens of humanity, but they never were babies.] Amram and Jochebed are not only charmed with the transcendent beauty of their baby, but divinely impressed that he is a messenger sent of God. Therefore, having faith in God, they manage to hide him in their home three months.

Now the imperial soldiers have become so rampant searching the Hebrew premises and killing the boy babies, they see to their sorrow they can hide him no longer. Trusting God, they resort to a stratagem, manufacture the ark of bulrushes, water-proof with the wonderful Egyptian cement, deposit their precious baby in it and commit him to the dubious waves of the Nile, about two hours before day, thus turning him over to the providence of God. His unsuspected little sister Miriam, who afterward became a flaming holiness evangelist, now only seven years old, follows along the bank, keeping her young eagle eye on the floating ark.

Verse 21

21. “He having been deposited, the daughter of Pharaoh took him and adopted him unto herself for a son.” Contemporary Egyptian history says that this daughter of Pharaoh, the heir to the throne in the blood-royal, her father now very old, was then a widow without an heir, her husband having fallen on the battlefield of Thebes, while leading the Egyptian armies against the Ethiopians, during that long and exterminating war of several generations, in which the Egyptians and Ethiopians, the two greatest nations on the earth, desperately contested the metropolitanship of the globe, Egypt finally triumphing. Such was the anxiety of the young queen to transmit the kingdom in her own family, that seeing the foundling, charmed by his beauty and smitten with most profound sympathy by his crying, she at once conceives the idea of his adoption to herself for a son, and thus feigned maternity, circulating the report and sending away her two maid-servants, who alone knew to the contrary, to regions unknown, never again to be seen; receiving the baby in her arms, calling a nurse through the loving little sister, Miriam, who proved to be none other than the loving mother of the dear little foundling, now, with her husband and four-years- old Aaron and first-born Miriam, moving at once into a tenement house on the royal premises; Amram receiving the appointment of horticultural superintendent.

Verse 22

22. “Indeed Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians: and was mighty in his words and deeds.” God needed in Moses the highest scholarship in the world to reveal the Bible, write the Pentateuch and legislate for all mankind. Therefore He avails Himself of the Egyptians, whose philosophers and magicians stood at the head of the world’s learning and became the educators of Moses, believing him to be the son of their queen, the heir of the blood-royal and their future king. Of course, they lay under contribution all the scholarship of the age to educate their bright and promising young king, flattering themselves that in Moses Egypt would have a Pharaoh eclipsing all his illustrious predecessors of the royal line. To be “mighty in his words,” or as the Greek says, “in sciences,” was to be a great intellectualist and scholar, such as Moses doubtless was, reaching the very acme of the world, and little dreaming that God in His wonderful providence was preparing him to be prophet, legislator, leader and mediator of Israel, thus treading an apex hitherto reached by no human being. To be “mighty in his works” in that age meant to be a great military man. This is abundantly corroborated by Egyptian history, which certifies that Moses led the Egyptian armies in the Ethiopian wars, rising to pre-eminence as a military chieftain. Thus the statement in the Pentateuch that he received “an Ethiopian woman for a wife” is accounted for. During the memorable siege of Thebes, the beautiful and magnificent Ethiopian capital, the rival of Memphis, the capital of Egypt, the daughter of the Ethiopian king ever and anon gazed from the high towers of the royal palace far out over the wall, beholding with admiration the military evolutions of the Egyptian army. Recognizing their grand, beautiful and majestic leader, she falls in love with him at a distance, sends him a messenger, proposing to maneuver the opening of the gates and the admission of his army into the city, on condition that she receive his hand in wedlock. It works out to a charm; magnificent Thebes is captured by the Egyptian army, and the long war winds up with victory perched on the banner of the Pharaohs. Of course she becomes the wife of Moses. Having either passed away by death or returned to her own country, she was not his wife at the time of the above quotation, as he was then the husband of Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro.

Verse 23

23. “And when the time of the fortieth year was being fulfilled to him, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.” Here culminates a crisis, more copiously revealed in Hebrews 11:24-28, where it is said that he

“refused to be called the son of Pharaoh, preferring to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.”

This clearly confirms and corroborates the preceding. As Egypt was an absolute monarchy, the king owned the country, all the people and all the money. Thus, in the capacity of king, Moses had it in his power to own all the “treasures of Egypt.” History says that after be had passed his thirty- fifth year, having for many years, in the capacity of royal regent, relieved his queenly mother of governmental burden and responsibility, now that she is venerable with years, knowing the political intrigue on all sides among the consanguinity of the blood-royal, and so anxious to carry out the cherished enterprise of her life, i. e., to transmit the kingdom to her son Moses, at the same time in constant fear lest something might happen and prevent his receiving the crown, she resolves, though out of harmony with royal precedent, to have Moses crowned king before she passes out of life. With great reluctance he finally yields to her importunity, and, pursuant to Egyptian custom, is passing through a whole lunar month of preparatory disciplines and vigils, conducted by the magicians in the secret orgies of their subterranean chambers, beneath the great pyramids. The time of inauguration is drawing nigh, he sees a vision at the third watch of the night, in the subterranean chamber of the magician; behold! he sees the soldiers dashing hither and thither ransacking the mud-tenements of the Hebrew slaves, hunting up every boy baby and knocking his brains out. He sees a father and mother with all expedition fixing up a bulrush ark, putting their baby in it, committing it to the waves. It floats down the Nile, pursued by the little sister on the bank, is picked up by the maid-servants at day- dawn, brought to the queen in her bathing-house, adopted, mother and father called to nurse. Then it is revealed to him that he is that baby.

Besides, a supernatural voice rings out, “Thou art not an Egyptian; thou art a Hebrew, a son of the despised race of slaves.” Then Moses, responsive to the heavenly vision and the divine voice, to his unutterable surprise for the first time in life finds out his mistake, that he is not the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, but the son of his faithful Hebrew nurse and the pious old gardener, who all their lives had showed him so much kindness, but of course never intimating to him his Hebrew origen, as this would have blighted all the hope of his future kingdom. Now arriving at day-dawn, entering the royal palace he runs to his venerable queenly mother: “Oh, mother; though you are not my mother, yet I love you with all the possible love of a mother’s son; yet you are not my mother, but I am the son of that Hebrew nurse and belong to that race of slaves.” This to his royal mother is a thunderbolt from a cloudless sky crushing all her hopes. Verily, the trouble she had feared all her life has come like a flood. Now arises the crisis mentioned in the above quotation. She importunes him to keep the whole matter thus revealed in the heavenly vision a secret, with her and him alone, go on with the inauguration and be crowned king. “Oh, mother, in that case I would reign under a falsehood, as you know that the Egyptians would never tolerate a Hebrew on the throne. They would hurl me down and elevate the nearest of the blood-royal.” “Why? Joseph, the Hebrew, was king of Egypt.” “Yes, but he reigned as a Hebrew and not as an Egyptian, which will never again be tolerated since the degradation of the Hebrews in disgraceful bondage. Oh, mother, you know I can never reign under a falsehood. I must be true and cast my fortunes with those despised slaves.” History says when Moses thus refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, receive the crown of Egypt, bade his royal mother adieu and hastened away to join the toiling slaves, that she quickly died of a broken heart, succeeded in the throne by the nearest of the blood-royal, unfortunately very profligate. How wonderfully God maketh the wrath of man to praise Him! While Pharaoh was doing his utmost to prevent the insurgency of Israel by killing their leader, of course making sure of it by killing all the boy babies, behold! the very one he was ransacking all the land to kill he is keeping in his own palace, feeding him on the fat of the land, paying his own father and mother enormous wages to nurse him, and bestowing a million of dollars on the magicians, priests and philosophers to give him the finest education ever received by a mortal man, thus conferring on him every qualification needed for the very work he had turned loose his whole army to prevent by killing the babies. We have myriads of historic repetitions of this same folly this day. The very sons and daughters cultured by the opposition to fight the holiness movement are everywhere getting sanctified and leading the embattled host to victory. The life of Moses, one hundred and twenty years, is divided into three periods of forty years each, so wonderfully contrastive either with other. The first forty years in the royal palace of the proudest kingdom beneath the skies, actually living at the top of creation, emblemating the mediatorial Christ on the throne of heaven before He condescended to become “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” to redeem the world from sin, death and hell. We now reach the second period of Moses’ wonderful life.

Verses 24-29

24-29. Cultured all his life in the Egyptian idolatry, flooded with all the learning of the world, the greatest military general on the globe, born with redoubtable physical courage, and a total stranger to fear, Moses unhesitatingly dashes away to the brick kilns and mortar-yards, quarries and mines of his toiling consanguinity, proclaiming his kinship, espousing their ruined estate and doubting not that they will rally around him by millions, fly to arms, rise unanimously in rebellion against their masters, and thus give him an opportunity, vi et armis, to lead them out of bondage back to their native land. In this he is utterly discomfited. Like the rest of us, having attempted to achieve victory by human power, he signally fails. Not only is his enterprise of Hebrew emancipation a hopeless failure, as they were then a race of cowards, utterly uncultured in military tactics, but the Pharaohs, looking upon him as a royal rival, and now even attempting an insurrection of the slaves, as they think in that way seeking a passport to the throne, the palace fulminates death and destruction for the vile insurgent; they are hot on his track, so that he narrowly and providentially escapes with his life. When I was there, I visited the scene of these stirring events so far as locations after thirty-five hundred years can be identified. I looked down into Jacob’s well in the citadel of Cairo, which tradition says Prince Joseph dug for his father, two hundred feet deep, the walls sixteen feet square at the top, each side a monolith, contracting slightly as it descends; the sparkling water in that deep well surviving to this day. At the location of the ancient city of Memphis, the capital and metropolis, in the alluvial valley of the Nile, the great eastern desert is very nigh, having no permanent habitations, always roamed over by the Bedouin Arabs and traversed by caravans of camels. Moses quickly dashes away into this desert, travels northward to the Isthmus of Suez, crosses out of Africa into Asia, doubles round the west end of the Red Sea, travels eastward into Arabia, enters the wild, rugged regions of Mt. Sinai, the hand of the Almighty leading him to the home of Jethro, the Midianitish priest and prophet of the Most High in the normal succession of Noah and Shem, a true preacher of righteousness, orthodox and faithful in his dispensation, i. e., the Patriarchal. He was the very man Moses needed to teach him the things of God. That he was a true and orthodox prophet of Jehovah, we see illustrated when in after years he visited Israel in the wilderness, spending a fortnight with his son-in-law; meanwhile God used him to institute the eldership of Israel, which the apostles transferred to the Christian dispensation, and this day under God is the custodian of the Church militant. This, to Moses, was like entering a new world, as he left all the people he had ever known and came to others whom he had never seen. Of course he was lonesome. Therefore, Jethro not only received him kindly into a shepherd’s tent, became his faithful teacher and spiritual father, but he comforted his bereavement by giving him his daughter Zipporah in wedlock. Thus Moses comes down from the top of royalty to the bottom of poverty and simplicity, beginning life de novo, like every newborn soul. Now he enjoys God’s theological college, that old burning desert, with the sheep to entertain him, the stars to watch him and the sand for a bed, forty years, while he gets down to the bottom-rock of humiliation, sitting meek and lowly at the feet of the prophet Jethro and taught of God the deep things of the kingdom. Thirty years have rolled away in this primitive prophetical school. He is now ready for that advanced work of grace, i. e., sanctification, putting him far out in advance of his dispensation, complimenting him with bona fide membership in the Pentecostal church many centuries in anticipation. Behold, he sees a thorn- bush enveloped in lambent flame, yet not consumed. It is the vivid symbol of the fiery baptism, then and there sanctifying and filling his own soul. After forty years, his elder brother Aaron, in a similar manner participant of God’s preparatory school, also joins Moses at the burning bush.

Verses 31-33

31-33. Out of the burning bush Jehovah now commissions the sons of Amram to go and preach to the Pharaohs and princes of Egypt. Even the earth in that august presence is so sacred that sandals must be removed from their feet. The Arabs in that country still adhere pertinaciously to that precept, positively requiring me to take off my shoes every time I entered the holy mosque.

Verse 34

34. “Seeing I have seen the affliction of my people, who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and come down to deliver them; now come hither, I will send thee into Egypt.” The divine economy, God’s method with man and the idiosyncrasies of salvation, is the same in all ages and dispensations. Why did not God deliver Israel out of bondage at an earlier date? Because they had not gotten so tired and sick of their bondage as to make them groan under the task-masters and cry to God for deliverance. The task-masters are evil habits. The reason why the people are not delivered from them is because they are not so sick and tired as to groan under the intolerable burden of sin and cry piteously for deliverance. Whenever you get so awfully tired of sin as to loathe and groan at its very mention and cry unto God for deliverance, He is sure to come down and deliver you. We live in an age characteristic of superficiality in every respect. This grievous superficialism has almost obliterated the very memory of the mourner’s cry and groan, and the wrestling altars, which in former years I everywhere saw and heard. Good Lord, bring back the old- time power.

Verses 36-38


36-38. “This is the one who is in the church in the wilderness along with the angel speaking to him in Mt. Sinai and with our fathers.” As ecclesia, the word constantly used by the Holy Ghost for church, from ek, “out,” and kaleoo, “call,” simply means “the called out,” i. e., all the people in all ages who have responded to the call of the Holy Ghost, come out of the world and separated themselves unto God, therefore we find the church in the world from the days of Abel. Dispensations have changed, but the church never. The birth of the Spirit per se takes you out of the world and makes you a member of the church, though in the middle of a desert, or tossed mid-ocean, a thousand miles from a church edifice, a preacher, or a baptismal font, none of which ever did have anything to do with church membership, being only symbolic, indicative and catechetical. Another work of grace, so prominent in the New Testament as well as the Old, is sanctification for every church member. For this work the Holy Ghost says hagiadzoo, from a, “not,” and gee, “the world.” Hence it means to take the world out of you. Therefore these two works so plain and clear, regeneration taking you out of the world and constituting you a true member of God’s church in spiritual infancy, and sanctification, taking the world out of you, promoting you out of spiritual infancy into spiritual adultage, thus qualifying you for every office of the church to which the Holy Ghost may call you. Good Lord, help us all to be satisfied with God’s Word, come back to New Testament simplicity, losing sight of those human ecclesiasticisms which through the chicanery of Satan and carnal leaders have so covered up the church in the rubbish of Ashdod and the superfluities of Babylon that the multitudes of so-called Christendom have actually lost sight of the amiable, simple, pure, humble Bride of Christ, the loving companion of her ascended Lord, still surviving upon the earth to prepare all nations for the coming kingdom.

Verses 40-43


40-43. While Moses tarries forty days on the summit of Sinai, complimented as no other man with the very audience of Jehovah, revealing to him the wonderful truth which he wrote in the Bible, the apostatizing myriads of Israel, their faith faltering, turned back to the gods of Egypt, whom they had served in the days of their bondage, constraining Aaron to go back to his former lucrative mechanism and manufacture for them a small golden image of the Egyptian Apis, i. e., the sacred ox, copiously worshipped in Egypt as the representative of the divine attribute of power. This fact of Egyptian idolatry, I saw in the museum in Cairo in the many magnificent statues of the colossal ox.

Verse 42

42. “And God turned away and gave them up to worshipping the host of heaven,” i. e., the sun, moon, and stars. I do not wonder that they worshipped the unparalleled splendor of an Egyptian sky, where clouds are never seen, rain never falls, and the sun in his glory accumulates a splendor and grandeur inconceivable in these occidental lands of cloudy skies. Four thousand years ago Heliopolis, a compound word which means City of the Sun, stood on the banks of the Nile, literally constituted of palaces so gorgeous and monuments so splendid as to reflect the sunbeams in all directions from every conceivable point of the compass, so as to exhibit a splendor and glory as if a thousand meridian suns had evacuated Apollo’s chariot and come down to show the world their unearthly glory. The most of those gorgeous monuments and splendid statuary have been carried away. I saw a number of them in Rome. However, one majestic red granite monolith [ I. e., all one piece], too ponderous for manipulation and unsusceptible of disintegration, still stands in its majesty, a vivid reminder of their wonderful Heliopolis, and “monarch of all he surveys.” In Coptic language the sun is Osiris, and the moon is His, under which names they were extravagantly worshipped by the Egyptians in the days of Israel.

Verse 43

43. “You took up the statue of Moloch and the star of your god Remphan, images which you made, to worship them; and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.” Moloch is the Tyrian word and Remphan the Coptic for the Hebrew word Baal, all meaning the sun-god, which was so extensively and extravagantly worshipped by the polytheistic idolaters of that day. They would heat the hollow brazen image of Moloch and lay an infant in his arms, thus offering human sacrifices, which continued till the days of Josiah, during the periods of apostasy and idolatry in Israel. Here Stephen certifies that Israel practiced these idolatries, carrying with them the little images throughout all of their peregrinations in the wilderness. When they crossed the Jordan, Joshua required an abandonment of all this idolatry, administering to them the rite of circumcision, symbolical of their right to sanctification, during their great holiness campmeeting held at Gilgal, immediately after crossing and before they set upon the conquest of the land. Unfortunately, after arriving in Canaan they never did utterly expurgate the land of idolatry, hence the surviving Canaanites proved a snare to them, leading them into idolatry and superinducing the sad and mournful downward trend of four hundred and fifty years of backsliding, recorded in the book of Judges, developing long-established alienation from Jehovah and culminating in their awful Babylonian captivity. Nothing but entire sanctification saves people from idolatry. That is the distressing trouble in the churches of the present day; they are full of idolatry. They worship water-gods, day-gods, creed-gods, sect-gods, money-gods, gods of wood and stone in the form of a fine edifice, and gods of flesh and blood in the form of big preachers and other phases of human leadership. The Holiness Movement is God’s call to the people to forsake idolatry. Oh, how perniciously the popular clergy fight for their sectarian gods! As we see here in Israel the awful ultimatum of persistent idolatry was Babylonian captivity, even so this day the masses of Christendom are captured and enslaved in spiritual Babylon.

Verses 44-50


44-50. Here Stephen alludes to the grand spiritual meaning of the portable tabernacle which God dictated to Moses on Sinai and the beautiful symbolic significance of Solomon’s temple. As the great majority of the Christian church at the present day, preachers and people, are living in the old dispensation, three thousand years behind the age, they awfully grieve the Holy Spirit by wasting the Lord’s money in costly spires, Gothic domes, memorial windows and other needless expenditures connected with their church edifices; e. g., St. Peter’s church at Rome cost two hundred millions of dollars, money enough to put the Bible in every home on the earth. It is the greatest monument of idolatry beneath the skies. How strange that Protestants are all doing their best to imitate the Roman Catholics in their needless expenditure and ornamentation of fine edifices. John Wesley said, “Whenever the Methodists get to building fine houses they are a ruined people.” One hundred thousand dollars of the Lord’s money are spent on a church edifice, while ten thousand are all we could possibly need, if pride were dead [and it must die before we go to heaven], leaving ninety thousand which would build a hundred churches for the poor heathens. Oh! what a victory for Jesus! No wonder the Holy Spirit has left the fine edifices. How strange that leading preachers will allude to Solomon’s temple as an argument for expenditure and ornamentation in a church edifice. In so doing they betray their ignorance and attitude, demonstrating to all luminous people that they are not only living away back in the dispensation of Moses, but shamefully ignorant of the beautiful symbolic truth revealed in the Bible. The reason Solomon’s temple contains so much gold and artistic ornamentation was because, belonging to the symbolic dispensation, it typified the sanctified heart of the Pentecostal age. So all of that gold and splendor do not mean that we are to have it unless we are stupid enough, like the crab, to go backward instead of forward; but it does mean positively and unequivocally that our hearts, “the temple of the Holy Ghost,” shall be sanctified wholly, literally radiant with the beauty of holiness.

48. “But the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:

49. “Heaven is my throne, and earth is the footstool of my feet: what house will ye build unto me, saith the Lord, or what shall be the place of my rest?

50. “Hath not my hand made all these things?” It is a historic fact that a hundred and fifty years of the Christian era had passed away, and all of the apostles long been playing on their golden harps, before a church edifice was ever built. We find Paul at Troas preaching in a third-story room. Like the holiness movement at the present day, the Apostolic churches used little rented rooms in garrets and cellars, private houses and green trees. An awful tide of idolatry is at the present day running in the line of church edifices. If the house should burn down and the preacher backslide a whole modern congregation would collapse spiritually in twenty-four hours and conclude they hadn’t a bit of religion. I am glad to see the holiness camps everywhere rendezvoused beneath the twinkling stars, amid the primeval forests, thus utilizing God’s primitive temples. How will we ever get the heathen saved if we do not quit sacrificing the Lord’s money to that hellish goddess, Pride, in needless expenditure on church edifices, thus using God’s money “to sacrifice to devils.” The whole compoodle is an insult to God, as Stephen here says. He does not want His money wasted in this way, thus mocking His majesty. When all of these fine edifices dwindle into insignificance and sink into total eclipse, contrasted with the broad temples of the firmament, roofed with the glittering constellations, lighted by the sun, moon and stars, floored with the beautiful green sward, jotted with Rocky Mountain pulpits, and ventilated by the salubrious breezes wafted from the saline billows of majestic oceans whose thundering waves respond to the music of roaring thunders enlivened by forked lightnings. Instead of settling down and going to sleep amid the idolatrous incantations of a fine edifice we are to utilize the meeting-house God has already built, which is the “whole world,” and our commission is “to every creature.”

Verse 45

45. Jesus, E. V., in this verse, should read Joshua, as in R. V. The solution consists in the fact that Joshua is a Hebrew word, which means Jesus in Greek. The great general reason why Moses could not lead Israel into the promised land was because of his symbolic character as the law-giver of Israel. [To be sure, he blurred his experience of sanctification by impatience at the waters of Meribah, but soon regained lost ground.] If Moses had led Israel into Canaan, it would typically involve the conclusion that we can be sanctified by good works, i. e., through the law, which is utterly impossible; hence it would not do for Moses to lead them in. As Aaron, the high priest stood at the head of the officiating clergy, he could not enter the land lest the dogma of sanctification by church rites, loyalty and obedience to the ruling ministers could not sanctify you. Miriam, the prophetess, represents the fire-baptized holiness evangelists. If she had entered the land, it would have involved the conclusion that red-hot holiness preachers can sanctify you, which is utterly untrue. As none but Joshua, which means Jesus, could lead them in, it settles the matter in the symbolic theology of the Old Testament, that none but Jesus can sanctify a soul.

Verses 51-53


51. “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in hearts and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.

52. “Which one of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they slew those proclaiming concerning the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers ye became,

53. “Who received the law in the administrations of angels and kept it not.” If Stephen had been a modest, prudent, courteous preacher, he might have saved his life. On the contrary, he looked the leading preachers of his own fallen church squarely in the face and told them of their pride, carnality and rebellion against the Holy Ghost. A modern wiseacre would say Stephen made a mistake and lost his life. Stephen was guided by the Infallible One. He made no mistake. But those seventy big preachers and church officers to whom he did this straight preaching made the mistake. It was really the opportunity of their lives to hear, receive and obey the truth straight from God. Saul of Tarsus, their heroic leader, was subsequently rescued by a miracle of grace. His comrades were only hardened, so that when he went back, five years subsequently, in the fullness of the Holy Ghost and faithfully preached to them the truth which Stephen had preached and sealed with his blood, he found them so hard and blinded by the devil that they not only rejected him, like Stephen, but determined to kill him, the brethren slipping him away, leading him to Caesarea and sending him off to Tarsus, his native city, and thus saving his life. The argument favors the conclusion that those strong - headed preachers and church officers to whom Stephen did this awful straight and plain preaching, for which they stoned him to death, never did receive the light, but doubtless died in their delusion, believing that they were the true preachers of the gospel, and making their bed in hell. Then was Stephen’s ministry in vain? Would he have better been prudent and saved his life? The truth is never told in vain, since God is preparing to judge the world. When the members of that fallen Sanhedrin, i. e., the preachers and elders, stand before the judgment-bar, God will put Stephen on the witness-block to testify against them. They will go down and he will go up. Behold Stephen standing here, friendless and alone, prosecuted by the preachers and officers of his own church for heresy and disloyalty! He is as bold as Napoleon on the battlefield. Looking them in the face, he tells them the awful truth of their apostasy, carnality, and disharmony with the Holy Ghost, though it costs him his life.

Verse 54


54. The officers of the Sanhedrin, clerical and laymen, are torn all to pieces by the straight, awful truth enunciated by Stephen. They get so mad that they grit their teeth. I witness to you that I have seen the same under similar circumstances, i. e., leading preachers so mad at the holiness people that they turned pale and gritted their teeth, only lacking the cooperation of the civil arm to do unto the Lord’s faithful witnesses just what these preachers and church officers did to Stephen.

Verse 55

55. “And being full of the Holy Ghost and looking up to heaven, he saw the glory of heaven, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” The normal posture of Jesus in heaven is sitting on the mediatorial throne. This is an extraordinary occasion; heaven enjoys the exquisite privilege of witnessing the death of the first Christian martyr. Now see Jesus vacate the throne, walk out to the heavenly battlements, calling the attention of the enraptured hosts. Archangels ceased to play on their golden harps, the cherubim hushed their triumphant song, the seraphim paused amid the triumphant shouts, while all heaven with Jesus look down and see how His martyr can die. The judgment hall, where Jesus, the apostles and Stephen were tried for their lives, stands on Mt. Zion, about six hundred yards from the city wall on the mountain brow, which is there entered by David’s Gate. As a criminal must not die in the holy city, and they have condemned him unanimously, under charge of blasphemy, because he said he saw heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, which was true, but they did not believe it, in a similar manner the magnates of the fallen churches at the present day accuse the holiness people of blasphemy and are awfully shocked at our testimonies, and we would really fare like Stephen if the stars and stripes did not float over our heads, and gunboats roar from the seas. Therefore, laying violent hands on Stephen and dragging him out through the gate to the brow of Mt. Zion, beyond the wall, as the Greek says, “they continued to cast stones on him.” Pursuant to the law against blasphemers (Deuteronomy 17:0), the witnesses must testify against him and cast the first stones. Thereafter the people indiscriminately continued to cast stones on the poor victim. There is a striking double significance in the laying down of the clothes at the feet of this young man called Saul. They only saw in it the fact of his leadership in the martyrdom of Stephen, which was true, arising from the simple fact of his constitutional pre-eminence among men, since he was in every way an extraordinary character, born to rule, whether in the kingdom of Satan or God. We have a most striking secondary meaning, legitimately attachable to this notable transaction, i. e., the succession of the dying martyr, of which no one present had the slightest dream, Saul himself of all most alien from such a Conception. Oh, how strikingly prophetical was this laying down of their garments at the feet of Saul, destined in the miraculous providence of God to take the place of the dying martyr, receive the converting grace and sanctifying power which flooded Stephen’s countenance with an unearthly radiance, misunderstood and falsely interpreted by Saul and his clerical comrades as vile contrariness and devilish stubbornness; even to come back to Jerusalem, enter those Hellenistic synagogues, there preach and witness precisely as Stephen had done, and only escape the same bloody fate at the hands of that identical murderous rabble by providential intervention, which simply prolonged his life till he could finish his work and then die, like Stephen, a martyr for Jesus.

Verse 59

59. “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” This is another one of the innumerable Scriptures which knocks the bottom out of soul-sleeping, proposing to brutalize you by taking away your immortal soul and humbugging you with the silly delusion that you consist only of this material body, making even heathens blush for shame; for, walking in the light of nature and the Holy Spirit, without the precious Bible, even they believe in the soul’s immortality. Here we know that Stephen’s immortal spirit was a distinct unity, existing independently of his body, because it left his body under the rock-pile and went up to live with God in heaven, like the disembodied spirit of every dying saint.

Verse 60

60. “And putting down his knees he cried with a great voice, O Lord, charge not this sin to them.” Here we see that Stephen knelt among the stony shower and prayed for the preachers and church officers who killed him, thus illustrating the normal posture of prayer, i. e., on the knees. Heathens, Mohammedans and Roman Catholics all kneel It is awfully chilling and discouraging to see great Protestant congregations sitting up during prayers. I know nothing about such religion; the first touch of conviction I received from God brought me to my knees, and I have stayed there. They are the hardest part of my body. I realize no inconvenience in remaining on my knees while the hours glide away. The proud Protestant congregations should be rebuked by the poor Pagans, Moslems, and Romanists, all kneeling [though I fear in most cases actually worshipping devils], while they sit up during prayers. If the crowd is too dense to kneel, you certainly can get down some way and join in the prayer to God. Standing is a much more adoratory posture than sitting, and should be adopted when kneeling is impracticable. No wonder the Holy Ghost has forsaken the churches, when they throw into His face the wholesale insult of keeping their seats, gazing about and looking up like ducks at the rain during prayer. Kneeling or prostration is the Bible posture of worship. Here we see the spirit of true saintship manifested by Stephen, not only in forgiving, but praying for them with his dying breath. “And saying this, he fell asleep.” Our Savior said of Lazarus: “He is not dead, but sleepeth, and I go to awaken him.” From these Scriptures we find that the inspired phraseology as applied to God’s saints is not death, but sleep, clearly and conclusively revelatory of the fact that even the bodies of God’s children shall never die. Hence we should not talk about dying, but going to sleep in Jesus in case that He tarrieth. The Bible clearly reveals the significant fact that the body is as immortal as the soul, and will never die. If He tarrieth, my body, which, even now at the age of sixty-five, needs nearly twice the sleep requisite for nervous vigor twenty years ago [this the normal effect of mental and spiritual labor], will ere long become so sleepy that it will lie down in the grave and sleep so soundly that nothing but the archangel’s trumpet and the resurrection earthquakes can awaken it. Even bears, reptiles and many other animals go to sleep when winter comes on, and wake no more till spring, thus symbolizing the sleep of the body throughout the winter of death and the glorious waking on the resurrection morn. Hence it is impertinent to record the death of God’s saints. Under the glorious light of the gospel dispensation it is proper to say, as in case of Stephen, “they fell asleep.” If He tarrieth, soon the holiness papers will report that the author of these pages is dead. Reader, please correct the mistake. Even now I have in my soul the resurrection power, destined to reach this frail body, investing it with immortality. Hence if He tarrieth, I will soon like Stephen fall asleep in Jesus, enjoying a short though delectable nap on the bosom of Mother Earth, awaiting the resurrection trump which will awaken me from my slumber.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Acts 7". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/acts-7.html.
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