Stephen’s Defense - Early History of Israel
Text: Acts 7:1-19
I. The history of the Jewish Nation
A. It started when God appeared to a man in Mesopotamia when he still lived in Ur.
1. God told Abraham to leave his family behind to see a land God would give to him.
2. From Ur, he traveled to Haran where he temporarily settled until his father died.
a. This sometimes gives people difficulty because we know from the Genesis account that Terah did not die until 60 years after Abraham left home (Genesis 11:26, 32)
b. The best explanation is that a person can die physically and spiritually.
c. Joshua mentioned that Terah served other gods on the other side of the river (Joshua 24:2), thereby dying spiritually.
d. Perhaps this was the time Abraham left his father to follow God’s direction.
3. Though Abraham followed God, he did not personally receive the land.
a. It was promised to his offspring, even though he had no children.
b. In fact, it was foretold that his offspring would spend 400 years in slavery and oppression.
c. After this time, God would bring judgement on the enslaving nation and then they would come to the promised land.
4. As a sign of this promise, circumcision was given.
a. It was a witness to the covenant, to be performed on the eight day of a boy’s life.
b. Similar to the rainbow serving as a witness to God’s covenant to Noah.
B. Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, and Jacob had twelve sons
1. It was these sons who sold their brother into slavery because they were jealous of Joseph
2. Yet God remained with Joseph and rescued him by giving Pharaoh a dream.
a. Because he showed wisdom in interpreting the dream, Pharaoh made him Governor of Egypt.
3. The famine came as predicted in the dream.
a. It forced Jacob to go to Egypt to purchase grain.
b. On the second visit, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Pharaoh learns that Joseph has a family.
c. The family is invited to live in Egypt.
4. 75 people move into Egypt.
a. This appears to conflict with Genesis 46:27, but it is merely a difference in who was counted.
b. Stephen says 75 people entered Egypt, but they were not necessarily descendants of Jacob
c. The Genesis record numbers the specific individuals and only counts those who descended from Israel, it does not include the wives, Jacob, or his wives.
5. Jacob died in Egypt, but he was buried in Shechem in the same tomb that Abraham bought for his wife Sarah.
C. Meanwhile, the Israelites grew in number
1. Another Pharaoh arose who did not recognized Joseph.
2. The people of Israel were enslaved and children were killed by exposure in an attempt to decrease their population.
3. It was during this time that Moses was born