1. Indeed, O lover of Elohim, I authored the first account of all that Yeshua began not only to do but to explain
Lover of Elohim: possibly a proper name, Theophilus. James Trimm writes, “Theophilus… served as High Priest from 37 to 42 C.E. Theophilus was both a priest and a Sadducee. It would appear that the Gospel [of Luke] was intended to be used by others as well and was likely targeted at Sadducee [Tzaduqim] readers. Theophilus was the son of Annas and the brother-in-law of Caiaphas; as a result he grew up in the Temple.” Apparently he was very interested in knowing the history of Yeshua and his disciples. I: Luke, or Lucas. Authored the first: or, began by writing. Account: the Gospel of Luke. Began: He said he had finished the work the Father had given him (Yoch. 17:4), so the continuation is up to us (see v. 8), just as the first Y’hoshua, his namesake, finished Moshe’s work.
2. until the day he was taken up, having given orders, on account of the spirit of being set-apart, to the delegates whom he had chosen for himself,
3. to whom, after [having undergone] his suffering, he had presented himself to be among the living through many indisputable proofs, being seen by them over the course of forty days and discussing the things concerning the Kingdom of YHWH.
4. And, meeting together with them, he gave them orders not to leave Yerushalayim, but to wait [there] for [what] the Father had promised, “which you have learned about from me,
This is part of what being set apart (v. 2) meant at that time. We need to use what he taught to determine what it means for us where we are now.
5. “because Yochanan indeed immersed in water; you will also be immersed by the spirit of being set-apart after not many of these days.”
These days: the Counting of the Omer between the Firstfruits of the Barley Harvest and Shavuoth. (See note on v. 26.) Spirit of being set-apart: Heb., Ruakh haQodesh. HaQodesh is the proper name for the outer sanctuary in the Temple. It contained the menorah (a picture of Yeshua and His disciples, the vine and the branches), the Table of the Bread of the Faces (a picture of the twelve tribes of Israel in unity), and the altar of incense (a picture of prayers rising as a refreshment to YHWH). The priest would go there for the purpose of trimming the wicks, maintaining the coals on the altar, or changing out the old bread for the new. In short, it was a place for working. The overall picture is of Israel back in unity again, tending to the things of YHWH in His presence, with a Mediator interceding where needed. It is a picture of the Kingdom that Yeshua was discussing with his disciples. The word for spirit, in both Greek and Hebrew, also means “breath” or “wind”. Yeshua went on ahead of us to establish the Kingdom, and blew its aroma back to draw us toward the Kingdom. We need to ride it into the Kingdom by taking the steps he reveals to us each day:
6. So indeed, those who had come together were confronting him with a question, saying, “Master, is this the time when you will restore the kingship to Israel [just as it was]?”
Why would they ask this? They knew this was one of the tasks Messiah had to fulfill. Indeed, one reason today's Jews by and large have rejected Yeshua is because he did not bring the Lost Tribes back. Or did he?? He had just spent 3 years teaching these men, and this was the foremost question in their minds. Almost every time he mentioned the Gospel, he associated it with the Kingdom. Some say the Kingdom simply means "YHWH's rule in the hearts and minds of men." While it is certainly that, there is much more to it than that. Who is the Israel spoken of here? The Jews? Not directly. YHWH said He would choose one place in the Land of Israel to establish such a "habitation". (Deut. 12:5) When King Shlomo built the Temple, he recognized that this is what YHWH had promised. (2 Chron. 6:2) His reign was a foretaste of the Kingdom! But Solomon allowed his foreign wives to bring idolatry into Israel. YHWH split Israel into two kingdoms. David's throne remained with Judah, but the name "Israel" stayed with the ten tribes given to Jeroboam, who had tried to persuade Solomon's son Rehoboam to lighten their burdens. But Jeroboam took the liberty of setting up alternatives to the dwelling place YHWH had selected. The Northern Kingdom also kept mixing religions, and walked more and more "in the laws of the Gentiles" (2 Kings 17:8; Hos. 7:8; 8:8). They wanted to be just like the others, so they were taken from the Land and BECAME Gentiles! Remember the prodigal's father, who had one son still at home, looking expectantly for his other son to return? At this time, Judah was still at home, safe in the sheepfold, and though YHWH had forsaken Efrayim "for a moment", His heart longed to have His firstborn back! "How can I give up you up, my son?" (Hos. 11:8) Despite a long estrangement, Israel's calling was still irrevocable. (Rom. 11:29) Now that Messiah’s work of being a Kinsman-Redeemer was completed, the Kingdom was indeed to be restored to Israel. He was the one who had set them thinking this way. (v. 3) But it had to all be done in the right order:
7. So he told them, “It is not yours to have knowledge of the chronology or the critical epochs which the Father has established for Himself as His own prerogative,
Established: We cannot alter the fact that they are going to take place. However, if He had told them there were some 2,000 years left, it might have drained their motivation and tended to sidetrack them, as indeed took place when it became evident that the Master had “delayed”. (Compare Luke 12:45; Ex. 32:1) But notice that there are plural epochs; it may be that He established that these events had to take place on a particular feast day that He had appointed in the Torah, but left it up to us to determine which year they would come about. It will not take place by magic or instantaneously. The Kingdom is “at hand”; we have to do something to bring it about. If we had retained the focus they had, though, it might not have taken so long. Like a bridegroom awaiting his father’s approval, even Yeshua did not know when it would be ready (Mat. 11:27); it depends on how well we carry out our part:
8. “but you will receive [effective] power [as] the Spirit of Holiness arrives upon [and becomes operative in] you, and you will be witnesses for me, not only in Yerushalayim, [but] also in all of Yehudah, Shomron, and up to the farthest extremity of the earth.”
You: They had asked him in v. 6 if he would bring about the Kingdom; he shifts the burden to us. He essentially said, “Yes, I have come to restore the Kingdom; now go do it.” Shomron: Samaria, the nearest area where there was a substantial number of "Lost Sheep of the House of Israel" (Yochanan 4), and the former capital of the Northern Kingdom, and thus a “shorthand” for all the House of Yosef. Farthest extremity: He told His disciples to do what YHWH had said: “Declare it to the far-off coastlands that He who scattered Israel will regather him and keep watch over him like a shepherd." (Yirmiyahu 31:10) An integral part of restoring the Kingdom is to provide a population for the King to rule over, and their job was to make them into citizens worthy of his Kingdom. (Compare Mat. 28:19-20.) As Y’hoshua and Kalev, having seen the Land, gave a favorable report and said it could be taken, those who saw a man succeed in loving YHWH and his brothers perfectly could with confidence testify that someone had already arrived in the Kingdom and that the rest of us could attain it as well. Restoring the Kingdom begins with living as Israelites where we are.
9. Then [upon] saying these things, while they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.
Lifted up: taken up, hoisted, elevated. The Most High is above the clouds, for haSatan wanted to ascend there to take His place. (Yeshayahu 14:14) Yeshua did not presume to try to do this (Phil. 2:6), but YHWH exalted him above every other man. (Phil. 2:9; contrast Gen. 11:4 with 12:2) Took him out of their sight: literally, separated him from their eyes.
10. And while they had their eyes fixed on the sky while He was departing, lo and behold, two men in white clothing presented themselves beside them,
11. who also said, “Galilean men, why are you standing [there] with your eyes turned toward the sky? This [same] Yeshua, who is being taken up away from you into Heaven, will likewise come in the same way you have seen Him being transferred into Heaven.”
Will come the same way: with clouds (v. 9), an allusion to Daniel 7:13. One of the titles the Messiah is known by is “the Master of Clouds”. Clouds are often an idiom for large crowds of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) or an army with which He will return. (Yirmeyahu 4:13; Y’hezq’el 38:9, 16; Rev. 1:7) But if we are looking up, we will not see one another, and we will be “so heavenly-minded” that we will not bring the Kingdom “on earth as it is in Heaven”.
12. Then they went back into Yerushalayim from the Mountain called “Olives”, which is near Yerushalayim, a Sabbath’s holding away.
Sabbath’s holding: by tradition, if someone feels he needs to be in a different location from his home on the Sabbath, he establishes a temporary “base” within a short distance of that location, staying there so he can consider it his “home” during that Sabbath and avoid breaking the Sabbath by going further, which would constitute work. A Sabbath day’s journey outside a walled city, according to rabbinical regulations (which follow those of the P’rushim), was 2,000 cubits (about .57 mile, a little less than one kilometer). This allowed one to walk far enough from the city to eliminate waste in compliance with Deut. 23:12-14 but not violate Ex. 16:29, which forbids leaving one’s “place” on the Sabbath. These measurements are not specifically a Torah concept, but are based on the regulations for the Levitical cities (Num. 35:2-5), which specified a band of 2,000 cubits from the city’s center as the zone in which animals (which also are not permitted to work on the Sabbath) are kept. The next zone was for crops; we do not go out that far lest we be tempted to tend to any problems we might see with them. Yet while we are in exile, if we have to travel miles to be in community and light the fire of our automobile ignition in order to join with others from Israel on the Sabbath, that is the lesser of two evils, so that we can bring the day closer when we are no longer forced to make such a choice.
13. As soon as they entered, they went up into the upper-story room where they had been staying—not only Kefa, Yaaqov, and Yochanan, but also Andreos, Filippos, Th’oma, Matithyahu, Bar-Talmai, Yaaqov son of Chalfai, Shim’on the Zealot, and Yehudah son of Yaaqov.
Upper-story room: possibly the royal stoa in the Temple, based on the events in the next chapter, though others place it in what was then in the Essene quarter on the western hill, now erroneously called Mt. Tzion.
14. All of these were continuing together with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary the mother of Yeshua and with his brothers.
One mind: Heb., one heart. The women: possibly the wives of the disciples, or simply those who had come to Yeshua’s tomb on the day of his resurrection. His brothers: one of whom was Yaaqov, who in Yeshua’s absence inherited the position of king of Yehudah. This is why he rose to prominence so quickly after being among Yeshua’s skeptics only a few months or years prior to this. (Yochanan 7:3-5)
15. And during those days, Shim’on Kefa stood up among the disciples (there being a congregation of about 120 names upon the same) and said,
How did one who had failed Yeshua so miserably less than two months before come to be a leader? Partly because Yeshua had foreordained this (Mat. 16:18), and allotted him three occasions to repent (Yoch. 21:15-17), but also possibly because one who had been through the fearful experience of being out of favor and the deep regret of having seen the other side would be better able to direct others away from it. “He who is forgiven much loves much” (Luke 7:47) and those who are lifted from the heaps of broken pottery (see note on v. 18) and seated with nobles (Psalm 113:7) are often appreciative than those who were always nobles.
16. “Men of our brothers, it became apparent that the ancient writing that was spoken by the mouth of David concerning Yehudah (who became a guide to those who captured Yeshua) had to be fulfilled,
This Yehudah was the man often known as “Judas”.
17. “because he had been numbered among us and had a share in this service.
18. “This one purchased a field with the recompense of sin, and fell on his face upon the earth, he split in half and all his intestines poured out,
Z’kharyah 11:12-13 prophesies that the Potter’s Field would be purchased in the Temple of YHWH, and the following verse speaks of the dividing of Yehudah from Israel. This man by the name of Yehudah cut himself off from Israel by executing himself in this manner (by hanging). Interestingly, the Potter’s Field was the place where broken potsherds that had already been through the fire and had burst, being thus no longer able to be reworked into something useful were discarded. (Compare Heb. 10:26-31) Yehudah apparently put himself in this category of having no hope of repentance, unlike Kefa, who went out and wept bitterly over his sin on the same night.
19. “and this became known to all the inhabitants of Yerushalayim, so that field came to be called, in the local dialect, ‘Haqal-Dama’, which is translated, ‘field of blood’,
20. “since it was written in the scroll of the psalms, ‘Let his encampment be made desolate; let no one inhabit his tents’ [Ps. 69:26], and ‘let another take his office’. [Ps. 109:8]
His: in the first-cited verse, the original Hebrew says “their”. Kefa numbered Yehudah as one example of this curse, which is spoken in the context of the enemies of David, Yeshua’s own ancestor. One need not be maliciously-motivated to function in the role of enemy. (Compare Mat. 16:23.) It seems Yehudah was not (but as a zealot was simply trying push Yeshua to stand up and defeat the Romans and take his place as King). The end result was the same.
21. “So we need one of these men who have been with us this whole time that our Master Yeshua was going in and out among us--
22. “[from] back at the immersing of Yochanan up to the day he was taken up in himself from among us—[who] was a witness to his resurrection along with us.”
He had to be someone who had known Yeshua prior to his death and seen him after his resurrection to be a valid witness verifying that He was the same person.
23. So they set [before them] Yosef who was called Bar-saba, and given the respectful surname “the just one”, and Matithyah.
Bar-saba: an Aramaic name, probably “Son of His will”, but possibly from the Hebrew “son of Sh’va (the ancestor of the Sabeans). Matithyah: not the same Matithyahu who was a tax collector (the author of the Gospel of Matthew) and had already become one of Yeshua’s twelve chief disciples.
24. And when they prayed, they said, “You, O Master, know what is in the hearts of all; show us which of these two You have chosen
Note that though they had only recently been with Yeshua, they did not pray to him as some do today. They never got this idea from what he taught.
25. “that he should receive the share of service and the office of Delegate [from] which Yehudah turned from among us to walk to his own place.”
26. When they hurled lots, it came up for Mathiyah, so he was counted [in] with the eleven Delegates.
As Yeshua had risen up to fill the void that Adam had left, it was important symbolically to have twelve again since their task was to restore all the tribes of Israel. (vv. 6-8) Delegates: specifically those “sent” by Yeshua as the Father had sent Him. (Yoch. 20:21) Counted in: This took place during the “Counting of the Omer”—a word play that ties in well with the next verse.
1. Now when the day of Shavuoth was completely filled up, they were all together with one passion in the same [place],
Completely filled up: Shavuoth is the “feast of weeks”, the day after the counting of a “week of weeks” (49 days) reaches its culmination, not at evening as the day begins, but in the morning when it has fully arrived. It is the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and so symbolizes a completion of the maturing process of a crop that is used for many of the secondary sacrifices in the Temple. On this feast alone, leavened loaves are brought to the Temple as an offering. For this reason, it is only waved before the altar, not burned thereon. And indeed we see a harvest on this day. (v. 41) There is another festival of firstfruits—that of the barley harvest. It is the day in which Pharaoh was killed in the Red Sea and the Israelites escaped on the other side. It is also the day Yeshua rose from the dead. He was called the "firstfruits of those who rise from the dead." (I Cor. 15:23) Starting that day, we are instructed to count the days (the omer: the measure) until Shavuoth. (Lev. 23) It is noteworthy that those with the “keys to the kingdom” are keeping the Feast. With one passion: according to Strong, “a compound of two words meaning to ‘rush along’ and ‘in unison’. The image is almost musical; a number of notes are sounded which, while different, harmonize in pitch and tone. As the instruments of a great concert under the direction of a concert master”, all their gifts (see Eph. 4) were working together to bring the entire Body to readiness. When they were in such agreement, YHWH acted:
2. when, suddenly there came a [roaring] sound out of the heavens as if being carried along by a forceful wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Suddenly: yet not totally unexpectedly. Most Christians believe that this was the first Pentecost, and that the church (ekklesia--"called-out community") was born on that day. Actually, this was not as unique as it would seem; the first Shavuoth (of which Pentecost is loosely a Greek translation, meaning “50th”) was at Mt. Sinai, and 7:38 speaks of the ekklesia that was in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai, so this was, if anything, a “reboot” of that. Jewish tradition says it was on this day that YHWH gave the Ten Commandments. Scripture does not state this explicitly, but we know from contextual clues that it had to at least be very close to this date. The story is in Exodus 19:14ff, and we will see many parallels here that lend credibility to this tradition. Like Moshe, the disciples had just come down off a mountain to be together with all Israel. The ram's horn grew louder and louder, like the sound mentioned here. The mountain was set ablaze. Everything that was done historically had a fulfillment in Yeshua's day. As they sat in the Temple on “Pentecost”, there was a rushing, roaring wind, like that ram’s horn, and again there were tongues of flame. The Hertz Authorized Prayer Book says, in a section on Shavuoth (p. 790), that the desert of Sinai (now in northwestern Saudi Arabia near the eastern fork of the Reed Sea) belonged to no one nation exclusively. The shofar blast was heard, not by Israel alone, but by the inhabitants of all the earth. When Yeshua said to wait until they were endowed with power from above, they would have recognize that it would most likely be on Shavuoth, which was only ten days away. House: Tradition says it was the upper-story room where they had met in 1:13 for a private conference. But since there were 120 of them, it may have been The House, i.e., the Temple (reminiscent of Yeshayahu 6), where they continued to meet thereafter. (v. 46) Danny Litvin corroborates this, saying the Temple was the only place in the city where 3,000 or more people (v. 41) could hear what was going on within a singular house (as this verse says), and would be able to Assemblein one place (v. 6) to listen to them, and besides, where would Torah-observant Jewish males be gathered on Shavuoth but the Temple? But they had also been built together into one house of living stones as a dwelling place fit for YHWH’s Spirit. Sitting: another allusion to Psalm 133: “Behold, how appropriate and how pleasant it is when brothers sit together in unity.”
3. And there appeared to them tongues as if [made] of fire being divided [and distributed], and each sat on one of them,
They were able to see these tongues as if they were of fire. Their ancestors at Sinai "saw no form, but only a voice". (Deut. 4:11) They saw the voice! This one fire was distributed among them all, instead of on the mountain this time. (Ex. 19:18) The first time, the people feared it; this time they were waiting for it. This is one way in which the “glory of the latter house” would be greater than the former Temple’s. (Haggai 2:9)
4. and they were all filled with the Spirit of Holiness, and began to speak in various languages, as the Spirit gave them [the ability] to be eloquent.
Yeshua prophesied this in a general sense in Mark 16:17. The tongues of flame and the gift of tongues here were the fulfillment of that initial outpouring at Sinai. History repeated itself. Ecclesiastes says, "That which took place before will take place again." By tradition, the voice of YHWH at Sinai divided itself into the 70 tongues then spoken on earth, so that all of mankind might understand the Torah’s redemptive message, but only Israel responded. As Yeshua’s students were counting the days leading up to Shavuoth, the liturgy included a blessing each day, then Psalm 67 is read: "YHWH, be merciful to us and bless us. Cause Your face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O YHWH; let all the peoples praise You, and let the nations be glad, for You shall judge the people righteously, and govern the nations on the earth...Then the earth shall yield her increase. YHWH, our own Elohim, shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him." This was the goal being aimed at during the Counting of the Omer. To be eloquent: Heb., what the Spirit gave them to say. These were not “tongues of angels”, but, as we will see, real languages spoken by the hearers. (v. 6, 8)
5. And there were present in Yerushalayim Jews, devout men out of every nation that was under heaven.
Jews: The Glad News was to go “to the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16; 2:10), partly because there had to be a repentance (vv. 38-39) so that the blessing that would then extend to every nation could come upon them and start this process. (Psalm 67; see note on v. 4.) Devout men: Heb., fearers of Elohim. Sometimes this was actually a special term for Gentiles who had a basic faith and wanted to learn more about YHWH. Out of every nation: that is, living abroad. They were in Yerushalayim for this second of the pilgrimage festivals to which every able-bodied Israelite was commanded to come.
6. But when this sound began, [that] whole multitude assembled and were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own dialect!
7. And they were all thrown into wonderment and expressed admiration, saying to each other, “Aren’t all of these who are speaking indeed Galileans?
Galileans: considered uneducated by Judean standards (though largely because they generally followed the simple Torah rather than the embellishments many rabbis had added to it), yet here they were fluently speaking numerous foreign languages. YHWH uses the foolish to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27), since it was obvious that these men were not capable of bringing this forth themselves. It clearly had to be YHWH’s doing.
8. “How is it, then, that we are each hearing in our own native dialect--
9. “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, both Yehudah and Kappadokia, Pontos and Asia,
Steve Collins has filled a whole book with documentation of how the Parthians originated from a mingling of a few of the “lost” tribes of Israel, so Jews would have been welcome there.
10. “both Frugia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Qurenia, and the sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
Parts of Libya: certain enclaves in which these Jews lived, not every part of Libya.
11. “Cretans and Arabians—[that] we hear them recounting the excellencies of YHWH in our own languages?”
Our own: though they were Jews, they had assimilated to their places of residence and no longer knew Hebrew. But YHWH graciously clarified the message for them through this event. The “tongues” were spread out in order to call them all back to the Torah. Excellencies: great deeds or works. The message was the same as that given at Mt. Sinai—the Torah (Ex. 20), now heard clearly no matter where its recipients lived. Of course, Yeshua was the “great work” (masterpiece) that they were emphasizing on this occasion.
12. And they were all beside themselves and utterly at a loss, saying to one another, “Whatever can the purpose of this be?”
13. Others said jeeringly, “They are full of sweet wine!”
Many devout Jews did not even eat until they were finished with morning prayers, which would often extend well beyond this, especially on a high day.
14. But standing up with the eleven [delegates], Shim’on Kefa lifted up his voice and said to them, “Jewish men and all those staying in Yerushalayim, let this be known to you, and pay attention to what I am going to speak [about]!
15. “Because these [people] are not drunk, as you [have voiced your] supposition, since it is [only] the third hour!
The third hour: halfway between sunrise and noon. But even this bit of information is profitable because it tells us that this event occurred just after the Torah (Exodus 19-20 and Num. 28:26-31) was read and at the time the follow-up passage from Y’hezq’el (Ezekiel) 1:1-28 and 3:12 were read. (Litvin) The former refers to a man on a throne whose appearance was like fire, the likeness of YHWH’s sh’kinah (dwelling presence), and the latter reads, “Then the Spirit (or wind) lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound; may YHWH’s authority be knelt to from His own place!”
16. “But this is that which was spoken through the prophet Yoel:
17. “‘And what will take place in the latter days,’ declares Elohim, ‘is that I will pour out My spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your choice young men will see ecstatic visions, and your old men will dream dreams;
18. “‘and I will even pour out My spirit on the slaves and maid-servants in those days’, and they will prophesy.
19. “‘and I will appoint conspicuous signs in the skies and on the land—blood and fire and columns of smoke.
This would remind them of the thick clouds and fire that accompanied the giving of the Torah the first time at Sinai, also on Shavuoth by ttradition, and since what most people studied at that time was man-made doctrine that had accumulated over it, and were more concerned about following the doctrines of their sects than with actually studying the Torah, it was as if He was offering it again for the first time. What Yeshua called us to do was to return to it and build our traditions for the sake of loving YHWH and loving our fellows as ourselves.
20. “‘The sun will be transformed into darkness, and the moon into blood before the great and terrifying Day of YHWH arrives.
21. “‘And what will take place [is that] any who may call on the name of YHWH will be rescued.’
Call on the name of YHWH: Not just a magical formula for salvation. In the context of Shavuoth, which on its first occurrence was a betrothal ceremony, YHWH is offering a renewal of vows. Calling on His name (especially as used in Yeshayahu 64:7) is to say “I do”, to eagerly take what He is offering and express a strong desire for Him. We must not understand this outside of a Shavuoth context. If we change the context, we change the entire message. Rescued: At that time, this would be understood as from Rome or from not having a king of their own. The more specific context in the disciples’ minds, as taught by Yeshua in the last fifty days, is the return of the scattered captives of Yehudah and Israel. The quote is from nearly the whole of chapter 3 of Yoel in Hebrew (the end of chapter 2 in English). He stops the quote in mid-verse of the original. What follows (and what it would remind them of) says, “for in Mt. Tzion and Yerushalayim, there will be deliverance, as YHWH has said, as well as in the remnant whom YHWH will call.” That is where this did take place, so this event is the foreshadowing of that larger one that is yet to come. The context is Israel, not some new entity called the “church”. The point of this event is not to encourage others to “speak in tongues”; it is about restoring Israel, most of whom are now held captive in the church, which has made this feast or the day’s events into sometimes entirely different. Yoel says YHWH will judge all nations for this. (3:2; 4:2) There is no spiritual-only salvation. If Iusrael accepts the Torah again, YHWH will bring us home. We must not wait for miracles; the miracles are waiting until we act on His word and take all the steps we can first.
22. “Men—descendants of Israel—listen to these words! Yeshua the Notzri, a man who was from Elohim, pointed out to you with forceful [deeds] and signs and wonders, which Elohim did upon His hands among you, just as you yourselves know.
Listen, Israel: This is how the “Sh’ma”, the cornerstone of Hebraic faith, begins. (Deut. 6:4ff) This would have caught their attention. It continues by saying that “YHWH is one”. Kefa’s description of Yeshua is “a man from Elohim”. He has an audience of probably a million people at this feast. If he wanted to tell them that Yeshua was Elohim in the flesh, and that they had killed YHWH, this would certainly have been the time to do it! By this would conflict with the Sh’ma. That is not the Gospel. It is that Yeshua has come as a very unique, chosen vessel to restore the lost Kingdom to Israel. He begins with scattered Yehudah, because they are the easiest to recognize, having preserved the knowledge of their identity and heritage better than the rest of Israel. Pointed out: literally, made seen; Greek, exhibited, shown, proven, demonstrated.
23. “This one, being appointed for these by His knowledge beforehand and in the will of Elohim—Him you turned over to the hands of wicked men, and you crucified and murdered!
24. “But Elohim raised Him up and spared Him from the pangs of the grave, because the grave came to be without the opening to [have power to] retain Him.
25. “Indeed, David said about Him, ‘I have set YHWH constantly before me; since [He is not far] from my right hand, I will not be overthrown.
David is saying that Yeshua has set YHWH before Him at all times. Because He never sinned, He had a special unbroken connection with YHWH, but if He were YHWH, why would He have to keep YHWH in mind?
26. “‘For this reason my heart is glad, and my reputation rejoices; my flesh will also settle down in [secure] trustfulness,
27. “‘because you will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will you permit Your pious one to gaze at the pit [of destruction],
The pit: Greek, see decay. He only stayed dead three days, not four, at which time El’azar was said to be dead long enough to begin to stink. (Yoch. 11:39) But also, Custance points out that in Yeshua’s body “there was none of the poison which brings us to the grave and returns our bodies to the dust by a process which usually involves putrefaction. Scripture simply tells us, regarding the Second Adam's body, that he died in a state of sinlessness and that his body did not see corruption at all.”
28. “‘You will make me to know the pathway of life; abundance of joys [come] with Your presence.’ [Psalm 16:8-11a]
29. “Men of our brothers! By your leave I will say unreservedly concerning David, head of the patriarchs, that he is both dead and buried, and the place of his tomb can be found with us to this day.
By your leave: a common Jewish introduction to an important utterance. Unreservedly: boldly, freely, without ambiguity. By tradition, Shavuoth was actually the anniversary (jahrzeit in Yiddish) of David’s death! David’s flesh did see corruption, but through David’s seed—His descendant Yeshua, who continued his line and thus “kept him alive”, this does indirectly apply to David as well. In one sense YHWH does not distinguish descendants from ancestors, unless the ancestors hate Him and a descendant breaks away from that and begins to follow Him. He looks on us as Avraham, so the promises to him apply to us. The promises to David’s son (e.g., 1 Chron. 17:11-12; Psalm 2; Psalm 110) could apply to Shlomo if he met the conditions; if not, they had to wait for a later descendant. But what Yeshua accomplished for David’s household then applied to anyone in that household either before or after Him.
30. “Since he was a prophet, he knew that Elohim was swearing an oath to him, ‘From the fruit [that comes] from within your body I will seat [the Messiah] upon your throne.’ [Psalm 132:11]
Compare 2 Shmu’el 7:12-13. The Messiah: this explanatory remark is in the Greek text, but not the Aramaic, but it is a correct inference that is upheld by verse 31, though it has wider applications as well:
31. “When foreseeing this in a vision, he spoke of His resurrection—that of the Messiah—that He would not be abandoned in the grave and that His body also would not see decay.
Yeshua’s time in the grave (Heb., She’ol) was only so that the leaven collected on the wooden stake on which He died (as in the Passover ritual) might be burned up. Not see decay: He was dead only three days, while tradition said one’s soul remained near his body for three and a half days before finally departing, and we see in the account of El’azar that one would certainly begin to decay by the fourth day. (Yochanan 11:39) So the chosen One had to die in order to prove He was the one who would not undergo decay. Even the Romans recognized that if He was the one, there would be a resurrection, so they posted guards, assumedly to kill Him again if He should rise from the dead!
32. “This [same] Yeshua, Elohim raised up--and all of us are His witnesses!
33. “It is He who is raised up at the right hand of Elohim, and having received from the Father the promise concerning the Spirit of Holiness, and has poured out this gift that you, lo and behold, [both] see and hear!
At the right hand: or, by the right hand. This gift: the sign of the tongues of fire and the sound of the wind.
34. “Indeed, David did not ascend into the Heavens, as he himself says: ‘YHWH has declared to my Master, seat Yourself from My right hand
35. “‘until I put Your enemies in place as a footstool for Your feet.’ [Psalm 110:1]
36. “Therefore let the whole House of Israel know with assurance that Elohim has made this [same] Yeshua whom you crucified, both Master and Messiah!”
Whole House: while Yehudah was responsible for killing Him, and the House of David needed someone to restore it to its lost estate, it was also because the Northern Kingdom needed redemption that He had to die. Now the promise had been fulfilled that if a man from David’s lineage would walk before YHWH in truth and with His whole heart, the Kingdom would continue on (1 Kings 2:4), so the Kingdom had now been restored!
37. And when they heard these words, they were grieved in their hearts, and said to Shim’on and the rest of the Delegates, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Grieved: or distressed.
38. Shim’on said to them, “Each one of you must repent and be immersed in the name of the master Yeshua for the forgiveness of sins so that you may receive the gift of the Spirit of Holiness,
Be immersed: a ritual statement of intention and commitment to follow not only YHWH but also the King that He has established. (Psalm 2:6)
39. “because the promise can be for you and your children and to any who are far off ‘whom Elohim may call’.
Who are far off: a specific allusion to Daniel’s prayer (in 9:7) for the part of Israel that was driven into other lands by YHWH because of their sins—i.e., the Northern Kingdom, as well as these Jews who were not living in their proper Land. The idiom also shows up in Yeshayahu 66:19 and Yirmeyahu 31:10; 46:27; 51:50. “Whom Elohim may call”: Here Shim’on resumes his quote from Yoel 3:5 (2:32).
40. And with many other words he bore witness to them and sought a response from them as he said, “Snatch yourselves out of this perverse generation!”
41. Then, indeed, those who were gladly receiving his teaching were immersed, and that same day there were added [to their company] about three thousand souls,
About three thousand: the same number as those who fell in the wilderness on one day (during the golden calf incident, Ex. 32:28) This was a tikkun, or reparation, for what had been broken or torn on that day. The firstfruits of the what harvest was on Shavuoth, with the remainder of the harvest to follow. (v. 47) These people were the firstfruits of the harvest that continued in v. 47. So was this a “fulfillment” of what had begun at Sinai? Yes, but Danny Litvin reminds us that “the main point about the ‘fulfillment’ of anything is that there is more there once it is filled than there was before.” He also notes, “The Holy Spirit came to duplicate all that the Torah did for Israel. But … in a special way. Instead of having the Torah outside us on tablets of stone,… the Torah is now being written on our hearts.” (Compare Yirmeyahu/Jer. 31:33-34) Immersed: Roy Blizzard points out that “there were mikva’oth (immersion baths) in the Temple which could have processed three thousand immersions in fifteen minutes!”
42. and they were consistently devoted to the Delegates’ instruction, participation in the community, breaking of the bread, and prayers.
Those who had come up for the Feast stayed on in Yerushalayim! They did not go back to their other homes (the places mentioned in verses 9-11), but remained where YHWH was moving.
43. And reverence came upon every soul, and both many miracles and distinguishing signs came about through the Delegates.
44. And those who believed were together and had all things that they owned in common.
Believers: or, faithful ones. They all moved in together, a picture again of all Israel being reunited in Yerushalayim—a foreshadowing of the Messianic Kingdom. In common: collectively or in partnership.
45. And any among them who had amassed [wealth], sold it and distributed it to each one as they might have need.
46. And every day they continued in the Temple with one heart, and at home they were breaking bread and eating their food with joy and with integrity of heart.
At home: Greek, from house to house, i.e., in a different person’s home each time. This is not necessarily a basis for “house churches”, because their teaching was received in the Temple. But eating together strengthens the ties of covenant. Integrity: Gk., simplicity or singleness; in Hebrew, the same word used to describe Yaaqov in Gen. 25:27—complete, plain (straightforward), pure, innocent, lacking nothing.
47. They were worshipping Elohim and finding favor in the eyes of the whole People. And every day our Master added to the witness-group those who were being delivered.
Witness-group: assembly, company, congregation, or even family.
1. Now [Shim’on] Kefa and Yochanan were going up together to the Temple at the hour of prayer—the ninth [hour].
Together: Gk., on the same—i.e., either at the same time or for the same purpose. They did not just accidentally meet up with each other there. Ninth hour: that is, 3:00 p.m. by the sun, one of the three prayer times that come at three-hour intervals during the day. It is halfway between noon and sunset and coincides with the first evening oblation, an offering of an animal that is fully consumed. This was tradition, but one that was honored by YHWH. Daniel based his three prayer times per day on this Temple convention. Luke does not explain such things because he assumes his reader is familiar with the “comings and goings” of the Temple. (Y’hezq’el 43:11) This is necessary to avoid twisting the meaning of any part of the Renewed Covenant. This was not like a pagan temple.
2. And a certain man, being already lame from his mother’s womb, whom they set daily near the gateway to the Temple which is called Beautiful, was being carried [there] to beg charity from those who were entering the Temple.
Beautiful: flourishing or blooming, but from a word meaning timely, belonging to the right hour, or in season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, literally, that there is a time for everything to be a delight unto heaven. There are even proper seasons within the same day. He was at the right place at the right time, as were these two apostles. If either he or they had been late, he would not have been healed. Begging alms is a delight when done at the right time, for it affords the worshipper in YHWH’s house the privilege of doing a deed of righteousness (the same word in Hebrew which is still used for charitable giving of this type). The last vestige of the Temple, the Western (Wailing) Wall, is still a commonly haunt of those in Yerushalayim who need to beg alms. The smell of cooking lamb would have made the man all the hungrier. Since he could not stand, he could not enter the Temple courts, where no one but the king was permitted to sit. But he got as close as he could to gathering with the rest of Israel to honor YHWH.
3. who, [seeing] Shim’on Kefa and Yochanan about to enter the Temple, called out to them, asking him to give them alms.
4. And Shim’on and Yochanan, fixing their eyes intently on him, said to him, “Look at us!”
5. So he paid them attention, expecting to receive something from them.
6. [But] Shim’on said to him, “I don’t even have the beginnings of gold or silver, but what I [do] have I will give you: In the name of our Master Yeshua the Notzri, the Messiah, get up and walk!”
This was a much more valuable gift—a permanent one, if he would accept the open door. Though he was eager to do so (v. 8), he may have hesitated because he thought it impossible, so Kefa encouraged him further:
7. So he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and in a moment his feet and ankle bones were made strong.
8. And he was willing [to do so] and stood up and walked, and started going into the Temple, walking and springing up, and praising Elohim.
Was willing: or delighted; Greek, leaping up. He had waited all his life for this, and now he was able, so it was the right time, and the first place he went was the Temple.
9. And when all the people saw him leaping and praising Elohim,
10. they recognized that he was the beggar who had been sitting every day and asking for alms near the gate that is called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at how it had turned out for him.
Beggar: Heb., collector.
11. And while he was holding fast to Shim’on and Yochanan, all the people, being amazed, ran to them at the porch that is called Shlomo’s Portico.
He embraced his healers as his brothers. Shlomo’s Portico is still the common area of the Temple, not the holiest area.
12. And when Shim’on saw, he answered and said to them, “Men—descendants of Israel! Why are you amazed at this? Or why are you staring at us as if [it was] by our own force or our own ability that we had accomplished this—that this one walks?
Why are you amazed? Had they not heard of YHWH doing the same kind of thing through many of His prophets throughout history? This was nothing unique. Everything Yeshua did had been done by others before Him, only not on as grand a scale. Ability: from a word meaning to support, uphold, or sustain. He may be suggesting that they thought he was commanding magical forces and suspending them in balance until the operation was complete. But it was not everyone’s time to be healed, so, like Yeshua on many occasions, they took people’s focus off the instruments YHWH had used and back onto YHWH Himself:
13. “The Elohim of Avraham, Yitzhaq, and Yaaqov—the Elohim of our ancestors—has glorified His Son Yeshua, whom you dared to avert [justice for] before Pilatus, when he intended to arrange for His release!
Glorified: adorned, vaunted, beautified, made to shine, enriched. Son: the Greek interprets this with a word for “child” that has the sense of a young attendant or servant—his “errand-boy”, so to speak, as Y’hoshua was to Moshe until Moshe’s death.
14. “But you obliterated the holy and righteous one and demanded for yourselves that a murderous man be granted to you,
He did not try to flatter his audience into listening to him!
15. “and you killed the Leader of Life, whom Elohim has raised up from among the dead, and all of us are His witnesses.
Leader: author (in the sense of an absolute expert—the one who “wrote the book” on the way life is to be lived), pioneer (one who goes before us, making a way for us to walk where He walked), example (showing us what it means to be an overcomer); Heb., prince.
16. “And by confidence in His Name, this one whom you see and are acquainted with has been strengthened and healed. And the confidence in Him has given him this robustness in the sight of all of you.
Robustness: from a word for fatness or richness and related to the word for newness or (re-) creation; Greek, complete soundness, unimpaired health. It was as if he had been created again!
17. “However, now, my brothers, I know that you did this by mistake, just as the heads of you did.
By mistake: They thought they were punishing someone who had overstepped His rights. But this had to take place, so YHWH let their ignorance remain until this time.
18. “And Elohim, as He caused to be proclaimed since the beginning through the mouth of all the prophets that His anointed One would bear chastisement, has thus fulfilled [it].
Bear: or be burdened or laden with. The great news is that the King they had killed was not dead anymore. They could now change their views about Him and acknowledge His authority, which the prophets had foretold. This is how YHWH did what He had said He would do. He points them back to the prophets who had all taught about who Yeshua would be. They did not have a “New Testament” to teach anything about Him, but the Hebraic context told them enough: the prophets say a king will come who will bring the whole nation back to the Torah, resurrecting the part of it that had died. We today are witnesses to the fact that the next stage of this accomplishment is in progress!
19. “Therefore chisel out your [mistakes] and turn back in order that what you got out of line may be wiped clean [from memory] and coated back over and seasons of refreshment may come upon you from before YHWH,
Chisel: dig, hollow, scrape as an engraving scribe does. Turn back: reverse, restore, refresh, in the same imagery of the engraver obliterating his mistake and going back over it to fill it in with new mortar so it can be re-wrtitten correctly:
20. “and that He may send to you the One He has established [as correct]—Yeshua the Messiah,
21. “whom it is necessary that the heavens receive until the times of the restoration of all the things that Elohim has said through His set-apart prophets that have been since antiquity.
22. “Indeed, as Moshe said, ‘A prophet will YHWH raise up for you from the midst of your brothers like myself; to him you must listen in everything that he may tell you,
The word order of Deut. 18:15 is changed here, but the components are all the same. Again, He is not trying to present Yeshua as being Elohim.
23. “‘and it must be that every soul who does not obey that prophet, that soul must then be cut off from her people.’
This is a paraphrased summary of Deut. 18:18-20.
24. “Also the prophets—all of them, from Shmu’el and successively those who came after him spoke and announced about those days.
25. “You are those who are the sons of the prophets and sons of the covenant which Elohim appointed for our ancestors when He said to Avraham, ‘In your seed will all the families of the ground be blessed.’
Or, into your seed will all the families of the earth be grafted. Sons: i.e., beneficiaries.
26. “To you first Elohim raised up and sent His Son to bless you, if you turn around and walk away from your wrongdoings!”
1. And as they were saying these words to the people, the priests, the Tz’doqim, and the heads of the Temple rose up over them,
2. full of anger at them over [the fact] that they were teaching the people and making proclamation about resurrection from among the dead in the Messiah.
Anger: heat, excitement, or poison; Greek, being worked up, displeased, offended, troubled, distressed. This was because some of the Tz’doqim (the Boethusians) did not believe in the resurrection (Mat. 22:23), or anything else supernatural, for that matter, which would include this type of healing. Therefore this event was proving their doctrine wrong. It was also the job of the priests to teach Israel (Mal. 2:7), and the delegates (apostles) were doing the job that they had been failing to do well.
3. So they laid their hands on them and detained them until daylight the next day, because it was nearing the evening.
They could not legally make a ruling, especially a death sentence (which they were probably contemplating) anywhere but on the Temple Mount, where their council-chamber was located, and the gates to the Temple would be closed at sundown. The Temple was an extremely divided politically-charged place during this time. The P’rushim knew that those in authority at the Temple were the wrong ones. (More about this below.) Those in power still felt themselves in a very precarious position. There were many divisions even among the P’rushim and Tz’doqim, and all were vying for the support of the people, to the point of hating one another. On the national level, they had nearly reached the state the earth was in just before the Deluge in Noakh’s day. They were ruled by a pagan power, and governed by those who were either crooked or compromised. People did the math based on Daniel’s prophecies of when the Messiah would come, and expectations were high. All the factionalism made it quite obvious to the people that none of the major options had the answer. Yeshua is called the “sprout” (Yeshayahu 11:1), and all this ferment acted like fertilizer. Indeed, Y’hoshua brought Israel across the Yarden when the river looked most impossible to cross.
4. But many who had heard the word believed, and their number came to about 5,000 men.
This would represent the increase of nearly 2,000 in one day. (2:41, 47)
5. Now the next day, the drivers, the elders, and the scribes gathered,
Drivers: possibly those who evicted from the Temple precincts any whom they thought should not be there. Greek, rulers or leaders.
6. as well as Chanan the high priest, and Qayafa, Yochanan, Alexandros, and these who were from the high priestly family.
Though these men bore the name Tz’doqim, these were not the properly-constituted Tzadoqite priesthood, but illegal usurpers who bought their office from Rome as the highest bidders. From the Temple Scroll (found at Qumran) we know that the true Tzadoqite priests had left Yerushalayim to protest the fact that those holding the priesthood were illegitimate. They were legitimately priests, but not of the true high priestly family, which probably was actually that of Z’kharyah and Yochanan the Immerser, both of whom had been murdered. (Phrases Yochanan used, such as “brood of vipers”, correlate well with those found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they placed a great deal of emphasis on the one who was coming, whom they called the Teacher of Righteousness.) By waiting until the next day, the council also had time to call together their most skilled minds so they could better manipulate the trial to their advantage.
7. And after they had stood them in their midst, they asked them, “By what means or in what name are you doing this?”
They knew that it could not be simply their own. The Talmud is full of things said in the name of another rabbi, and this is a valid concept. YHWH looks favorably on the names and of the righteous, and upholds those who are associated with them as worthy of the same merit. But it goes both ways; if we do not walk the same walk as the one whose authority we claim, the name we use means nothing. (19:12-17)
8. At that time Shim’on Kefa was filled with the spirit of holiness, and said to them, “Drivers of the People and elders of the House of Israel, listen!
Kefa had been known for his bravery, even daring to try to cut off the head of the priest’s servant. But his denial of Yeshua sobered him immensely, and made him realize that only Yeshua was worth living for, and this was part of his repentance.
9. “If we are being judged today at your hands in regard to the benefit that was brought about for this sick man—by whom this one was healed--
10. “know this, for yourselves and for all the people of Israel, that in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, the Notzri, whom you crucified, whom Elohim raised from among the dead—take note! Through Him, this man stands before you, restored to health!
11. “He is ‘the stone that’ you, ‘the builders rejected’, and He ‘has become the head of the corner’.
This is a quote from Psalm 118:22, personalized to Kefa’s audience. That Psalm is used at Passover, when the epitome of Yeshua’s rejection took place, and also in the liturgy for the New Moon, a time that is tied to the healing of the tribes. (Rev. 22:2) His use of the psalms, which in this day were popularly seen as prophetic, he is again mocking those who do not believe in miraculous prophecy.
12. “And there is no deliverance in any other man, because there is no other name under the heavens that is given to the descendants of Adam by which there is [power] to be delivered.”
The heavens: often a Hebraic euphemism for YHWH’s Name. Thus he is reminding us that Yeshua’s name, though higher than any other (Phil. 2:9), is still lower than YHWH’s. Delivered: or saved, another allusion to Psalm 118 (verses 14 and 15).
13. Now when they heard these words spoken to them boldly by Shim’on and of Yochanan, it was clear to them that they were not familiar with a book and that they were unlearned, and they were amazed about them, and they recognized that they had walked with Yeshua.
Boldly: being uncovered, by revelation, without protection. Clear: proven by trial or investigation, the same Hebrew term used for the “tried cornerstone” of Yeshayahu 28:16, which also alludes to Psalm 118. They apparently thought they would have an easy time discrediting these Galileans, known by their accent which was known for dropping the last vowels in most words. They had not studied rabbinic arguments in a yeshiva, so they were considered as illiterate, though nearly any Jew at that time would have been raised to be able to read the Torah, and Kefa is known to have come from a wealthy family. Because these men had now “tied them in knots” so easily, they recognized Yeshua’s teaching method in them, and realized that Kefa had been lying when he told the same group that he did not know Him. They learned Yeshua’s method by sitting around campfires with Him and watching Him interact with His enemies. When one immerses himself in Torah, he learns how to argue a case like a lawyer, and will be considered very wise by those who observe. (Deut. 4:6) There is enough ambiguity in the text to read this as also saying these rulers recognized that they were the ones who really knew nothing, once they saw the resurrection which proved their doctrines wrong and the skill with which these men from whom they anticipated no challenge ended up making them look like fools.
14. And they saw that the cripple who had been healed was standing with them, and they were not able to say a word against them.
A tree is known by its fruit; how could they argue with this? And Kefa had stated things carefully with the art that a trained P’rush would use, setting these men up to have to admit that they had said and done nothing that contradicted the Scriptures that they claimed as their authority.
15. Then they gave orders that they should leave the gathering, and they said to one another,
Gathering: Greek, Sanhedrin. They used a bullying technique of excluding them and whispering privately, probably casting glances in their direction, with the intent of striking fear in them.
16. “What can we do to these men? Because look! The sign that has been done openly on their hands is known by all the inhabitants of Yerushalayim, and we are not able to conceal it [by deceit].
Conceal: Greek, refute.
17. “But in order that this word does not get out again to be heard any further by the people, let’s alarm them [with a threat] that they should not speak to any man of the sons of Adam in this name again!”
18. And they called them in and ordered them not to speak or teach in Yeshua’s name at all.
They did not forbid them from teaching, but only that they not attribute the ideas to their master. But to thus steal credit from the one who had taught them this path was unthinkable:
19. Shim’on Kefa and Yochanan answered and told them, “Whether it is correct before Elohim that we should listen to you more than to Elohim, you judge!
Such wisdom! Psalm 118 also gave him the background to say this: “It is better to trust in YHWH than to put your confidence in nobles.” (vv. 8-9) More than: Greek, rather than.
20. “Because we do not have the ability to not speak [of] what we have seen and heard!”
When Efrayimites are asked why we are more orthodox than most of Yehudah, we should not only say, “Because we are simply obeying the Torah”, but unequivocally give credit to Yeshua, who alone taught us how and why.
21. So they threatened them and released them, because they could not find grounds to have them punished on account of the people, because every one was loudly praising Elohim on account of what had been done.
All they could do was try to intimidate them by making themselves look more fearsome than they really were. Their obsession with remaining in power was leverage for the delegates, because they knew that Rome would remove their position from them if they failed to prevent an uprising among the people. But the delegates no longer feared these men, having been eyewitnesses of the resurrection. What did it matter now if they were killed? The context of Psalm 118, quoted above, also says, “YHWH is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (v. 6) Punished: or constrained.
22. The man in which this miracle of healing was done had sat [there regularly] for upward of forty years.
Or possibly, was more than forty years old. In either case, he was well-known and unmistakable, and this in itself begged an explanation. The people who saw him beg so many times were glad for him now that he no longer needed to do so. Forty is the number of transition in Scripture, and what a change came over this man!
23. And when they had been released, they came to their brothers and recounted to them all that the priests and elders had said.
24. And they, when they heard, lifted their voices together to Elohim, and said, “Adonai, You are the one [who is] the Elohim who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and everything that is in them!
Adonai: majestic plural of “Master”; Aramaic, Marya’, undoubtedly substituted for YHWH in the later written versions. This is the way a traditional Jewish prayer begins. Jews who knew Yeshua did not forsake the way they had learned to pray corporately.
25. “And You are the one who said on the hands of the spirit of holiness through the mouth of David Your servant, “Why are nations in a commotion, and peoples devising [a plan that is] in vain?
26. “‘The kings of the earth take their stations, and the heavily-honored ones sit together in conclave in regard to YHWH and in regard to His Anointed One.’ [Psalm 2:1-2]
Sit in conclave: or take counsel, from a root meaning to lay a foundation, appoint, ordain, or establish. In other words, they were trying to found a different “house” than the one YHWH was building. Today we see different ideas of how peace on earth will be established: through humanism, which accepts every way as equally valid, though they all contradict one another, or through a rod of iron. The cornerstone YHWH lays is in Tzion (Yeshayahu/Isa. 28:16); His foundation must include the cornerstone, or the building cannot stand. (1 Cor. 3:11)
27. “Because certainly [to that extent] in this [very] city they have congregated in regard to Your set-apart Son Yeshua whom You Yourself anointed—Herodos and Pilatus along with the Gentiles and the congregation of Israel
Herodos and Pilatus: representatives of the “kings of the earth” in his quote from Psalm 2.
28. “to do all that which Your hand and Your will had since ancient times determined should come about.
Again they quote the psalms as their authority to ask YHWH to deal with the crux of issue at hand: the fact that they need boldness to keep dealing with the same type of threats. They do not ask to be spared from further persecution, but they have made bold claims, and ask YHWH not to let their words fall to the ground:
29. “And also and so forth, Adonai, look and see their threats, and grant that Your servants may proclaim Your word with boldness
30. “when extending Your hand for healings and wonders and signs that will be done in the name of Your set-apart Son Yeshua.”
31. And when they had prayed and sought [His] favor, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the spirit of holiness, and boldly spoke the word of Elohim.
They had been filled once; now they were being filled again, so this was clearly not a one-time event. They had a new task to fulfill. It was much easier to be a witness for Yeshua than to be part of a community. “Spirit” is the same term as “breath”, so it was as if they needed a larger dose of oxygen to get them accustomed to the next level where the air was thinner.
32. And the congregation of people who had believed came to [have] one heart and one spirit, and not one man of them said that the amassed resources that he owned was his own, but rather all that they had came to be [held in] partnership.
Partnership: i.e., in common, as owned by the entire community. This was never directly commanded, but was the natural outflow of the need to assimilate so many from out of the country and confirmed by the fact that they had seen so much miraculous provision. They were already living the Kingdom as already present, never imagining the awful setback on these gains that would take place later and last so long. But we have another open door to pick up where they left off. In fact, Yirmeyahu 31 does prophesy, in the context of asking why we backslide (v. 22), that one day the land of Efrayim (Shomron) will be planted with vines that we will count as common. As we still see today in the stock-vines of Italy, they are prized possessions, very important to those who plant them. Priceless strains are even brought across oceans to start new vineyards with. And wine in Scripture is symbolic of joy. So a sign of the Kingdom is when what we treasure most and what brings us the most joy is held as common. In the Torah, we are told to leave the corners of our vineyards for the stranger (Ex. 23:11), but now the whole vineyard was for whomever needed it, though many of them had only known each other for a few days.
33. And with great power the delegates bore witness about Yeshua the Messiah’s resurrection, and great favor came to be with them all.
In whatever way they could, each added to the well-being and joy of the whole community. Note that the main thrust of their message here was not personal salvation, but the fact of Yeshua’s having overcome death. Thus they were all able to overcome the type of fears Gentiles cringe before (Mat. 6:31-32):
34. And there was not a needy man among them, because those who had become owners of fields and houses were selling them and bringing the proceeds of what had been sold
35. and laying it at the delegates’ feet, and they bestowed on each according to the mouth of his need.
They submitted it to those who knew where the greatest priorities lay, and who could also screen out any who might be tagging along just for the sake of a handout, determining with their wisdom who was most worthy of assistance. Mouth: a Hebraic idiom, but it highlights that the pooling of resources was mainly for the sake of all having enough to eat. The same type of terminology is used here as of the manna in the wilderness (“according to his eating”): what was gathered was pooled and then distributed to each. No one ate until they had prepared for everyone to eat. (Ex. 16:17-18) Those who gathered more did not eat more than they needed, and those who could not gather much still had enough.
36. And to Yosef, who was given the honorific title “Bar-naba’”, which is translated, “son of consolation”, a Levite man from the land of Cyprus,
Bar-naba’ is an Aramaic name. Consolation: comfort or encouragement; in Hebrew naba’ means “to be moved by prophetic impulse”. Levite: one who would be honored as nobility in a Hebraic context. He is mentioned here as background to his later role and as a stark contrast to the events in chapter 5.
37. had a field, and he sold it and brought the proceeds and deposited it at the delegates’ feet.
Proceeds: literally, exchange. In this we see a new authority established right under the noses of those who thought they had the right to stop it. Yeshua had prophesied this to those very authorities when He said that YHWH would take the Kingdom from them and give it to a nation that would bring forth its fruit. (Mat. 21:43) This nation—none other than the revival of the true Israel—was being brought right out of that which was then called Israel. Those who did not bear the fruit by caring for one another, YHWH would no longer consider to be Israel. At this point it was still only comprised of Yehudah, but would soon encompass those called out from the other tribes as well.
1. But one man, his name Chananyah, along with his wife, whose name was Shapirah, sold his field
His name means “YHWH has shown favor” or “to whom YHWH has given graciously”; one would expect that he would give freely in return. (Mat. 10:8) Her name means “sapphire”, and tradition says this is the stone that the Torah was carved on. One would expect people with such names to enhance the community.
2. and took some of the price and hid it away, with his wife’s knowledge, and brought some of the money and laid it at the delegates’ feet.
Feet: an idiom for placing it at their disposal. All control over what is done with it is surrendered to them. Took: The Greek version means kept back, withdrew privately, appropriated for one’s own use, embezzled.
3. But Shim’on said to him, “Chananyah, how is this that haSatan fills your heart like this to misrepresent the spirit of being set apart and hide away some of the silver from the sale of the field?
Misrepresent: or falsify, pretend or play falsely, fabricate a lie about. He wanted to look holy without paying the price. He was ensuring his own security at the expense of the community’s. This is one of the things that separates the sheep from the goats. In contrast with the end of the previous chapter, these are the type of people who would be called least in the Kingdom. They were trying to create a nest egg in the other society in case this new community should fall through. They could no longer say, “We’re all in this together.”
4. “Wasn’t it yours before it was sold? And from the time it was sold you had authority over the wealth. Why did you put it in your heart to do this thing? You have not lied to the sons of Adam, but to Elohim!”
Notice that in v. 3 this perverse idea was credited to haSatan, and here it is credited to Chananyah himself. This is because in Hebrew satan simply means “adversary”. Self is the greatest enemy of the one who wants to rise higher and be part of Israel. It was not in itself a sin to not give them all his money. No one said he had to give anything. But the standard for those who did give had already been set; it was to give all. If it is not whole-hearted, YHWH does not want any of it. Lukewarm is only acceptable if that is the only option. Otherwise it only makes Him sick. (Rev. 3:16) He deserves better. Chananyah might as well have gone and lived for self in a more obvious way; why waste anyone’s time? He only stood in the way of those who would be fully committed. So YHWH took him out of the way:
5. And when Chananyah heard these words, he fell down and died, and great fear took hold on all those who heard [it],
6. and the youngest who were among them got up and picked him up, took him out, and buried him.
Youngest: or, smallest, lowest, least valued. They were people who could become ritually defiled by a dead body without as much consequence to the rest of the group, because they were not the ones teaching. It would not affect the others as much if they could not come back into the Temple for seven days. (Num. 19:11)
7. Then, after three hours had passed, his wife also came in, without knowing what had taken place.
8. Shim’on said to her, “Tell me if you sold the field for this price.” And she said, “Yes, for this price.”
They presented a portion of the price as if it were the full price of the sale, probably in order to elevate their reputation and get in on the esteem other donors were receiving. They pretended to be one of the great ones who gave all, on the same level as Bar-Naba’ (4:36-37), when they were not. YHWH gave her the option of making reparation for what her husband had done, but she proved that they had agreed to give the same lie. Lev. 19:11 forbids lying to one another, and Colossians 3:9 reiterates this, saying this is an aspect of the “old self” that we are to take off like a discarded garment.
9. Shim’on told her, “Since you have allied yourselves to test the spirit of the Master, look, the feet of those who buried your husband are at the door, and they will take you out.”
YHWH did not need their money; total commitment was what He was looking for. Clearly, none of us is all the way “there” yet in every area, but the choices we make with what we can do will set the pattern for the direction our lives take. What we trust is what we will serve, and we cannot serve both YHWH and wealth. (Mat. 6:24)
10. And within a moment she fell at their feet and died, and the [choice] young men came in and found her dead, and they hoisted her up and carried her away and buried her near her husband.
These are the same people seen in verse 6, so apparently the “hoisting” was done in such a way as to avoid contact with the corpse.
11. And great fear fell on the whole congregation and on all those who heard [it].
The fear of YHWH is clean. (Psalm 19:9) This demonstration early on showed the direction YHWH did not want His grace to take, and was a deterrent to anyone else who was not whole-hearted. In Psalm 52, lying is contrasted directly with speaking righteously, and says YHWH would remove those who love this lifestyle from the land of the living, causing the righteous, who remain in the House of Elohim, to fear. Their response would be to point out that this was the consequence of trusting wealth rather than YHWH. Could anything better summarize this chapter thus far?
12. And many signs and wonders were done upon the hands of the delegates in the midst of the people, and they all assembled together in Shlomo’s Portico.
Shlomo’s Portico: The easternmost part of Shlomo’s original Temple complex, which had been left intact by the Babylonians and lasted until the time of Agrippa. When the rest of the Temple was deconstructed and rebuilt, it was left as it was due to its antiquity. So it represented the pristine purity of the Temple as the most ancient remaining symbol of the continuity of YHWH’s sanctuary, much like the Western wall of today. Yeshua identified the Temple that was standing in His day with His body, for its physical aspects teach about what His mystical Body is meant to be. So this was the main place His disciples taught. What better place could there be to teach what the Body of Messiah—which the community was becoming—was meant to be like? All the pictures were right there; they did not have to make charts or drawings to explain the structure as we do today. They could point right to them and say, “See that? That is what we are to be like.”
13. And of the other people, not a man dared to bring himself near them, but the people esteemed them as highly prized.
People recognized what YHWH was doing through them, but recognized that they themselves were not ready for such a level of commitment, and so they admired them from a distance.
14. And more were being added who trusted in YHWH—a congregation of [both] men and women--
15. to the point that they brought the infirm out into the streets when they laid them on their sleeping-mats as Shim’on was coming so that even just his shadow might fall on them.
Yeshua said His followers would do greater works than He. (Yoch. 14:12) People had to touch His tzitziyoth to be healed (Mat. 14:36), but here they only had to cross the path of his shadow!
16. And many came to them from other cities that were around Yerushalayim so they could bring them the sick and those with unclean spirits within them, and they were all being re-created.
17. Then the high priest was filled with jealousy, and all those who were with him who were from the party of the Tz’doqim,
Jealousy: because their “clientele” were all leaving them behind for something better. They were teaching a different “life” (v. 20).
18. and they laid their hands on the delegates and held them and confined them in the round-house.
Round-house: a fortified prison, as in Gen. 39:20.
19. But then, at night, a messenger of YHWH opened the gate of the round-house and let them out, and said to them,
Messenger: Like Lot (Gen. 19), they were delivered from an impossible situation by angels.
20. “Go, take your stand in the Temple and tell the people all the words of this life.”
Nothing could stop these people, not even locked prison doors, if YHWH did not want them to. He “set a table for them” in the presence of their enemies. (Psalm 23:5)
21. So they went out with the daybreak and went into the Temple and taught. Now the high priest and those who were with him summoned their associates and the elders of Israel and sent to the round-house to bring the delegates,
Daybreak: when the gates of the Temple complex would first open.
22. but when those deputies they had sent arrived, they did not find them in the round-house, so they went back. And when they arrived,
Deputies: those “from the decree/edict”.
23. they said, “We found the round-house tightly shut and the guards standing by the gates, but when we opened it we didn’t find a man there!”
This was very similar to Yeshua’s resurrection from a guarded tomb, and must have painfully reminded these people who tried not to believe in a resurrection of that event. They were really becoming nervous now:
24. And when the heads of the priests and the Temple overseers heard these words, their [eyes] popped open and they thought, “What is this?!”
25. And a man came and made it known to them, “The men who you confined to the round-house—look! They’re standing in the Temple and teaching the people!”
26. Then the overseers went with the magistrates to bring them—without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them!
Magistrates: literally, writers or engravers.
27. And when they had brought them, they stood them before the whole convocation, and the high priest began to say to them,
28. “Didn’t we strictly command you not to teach a man in this name? Yet, lo and behold, you are filling Yerushalayim with your teaching, and you want to bring this Man’s blood upon us!”
They wanted them silenced, because their own guilt would be too obvious when people knew the facts.
29. Shim’on, along with the delegates, answered and told them, “We need to obey Elohim more than what the sons of Adam [say].
Obey: Aramaic, be persuaded by. This time they do not say, “You be the judge of whether it is right”; by virtue of their bringing up the subject again, they showed that they had already judged their own commands to take precedence over YHWH’s. Compare Psalm 118:8-9, which was quoted in the Temple on numerous liturgical occasions.
30. “The Elohim of our ancestors raised up Yeshua, whom you murdered when you hung him up on a tree.
Hung up: the term implies a slow process of executing someone through exposure.
31. “This one Elohim raised up to [the position of] prince and deliverer, and exalted him by His right hand so as to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
Israel: not just the Jews, but the Northern Kingdom as well. Note how they describe Him: not as the Creator who had been killed and who resurrected Himself, but rather as one who did not get to His present position on His own, but because YHWH put Him there.
32. “And we are witnesses of these things, as is the spirit of holiness which Elohim has given to those who have trusted in Him.”
They were essentially saying to these people, “Israel has a king; why are you still making rulings?” As enough people speak of the King who is returning to set up a physical throne, the Kingdom will again run headlong into politics once those in power realize that there position is at stake and try to hold onto it.
33. And when they heard these words, they were inflamed from rage, and had a mind to murder them.
Were inflamed: or, heated, boiling, in ferment.
34. But one of the P’rushim, whose name was Gamli’el, a teacher of the Torah and considered authoritative in the eyes of the people, arose and ordered that they have the delegates go outside for a short while,
Gamli’el means “El is my recompense” or “He is my El also”. He was the grandson of Hillel, one of the two greatest teachers among the P’rushim of all time, whose views become more dominant than those of the other, Shammai, who was much stricter in his interpretation. So when he stood up to speak, the whole room would have gone silent. People said that Hillel’s views were for this age, while Shammai’s were for the age to come, when the Messiah would rule with a rod of iron.
35. and he told them, “Men, sons of Israel, beware for your souls and consider what you need to do to these men,
36. “because prior to this time Thoda arose and said in regard to himself that he was somebody great, and something like 400 men went after him, but he was murdered, and those who followed him were dispersed and became as if they had never been anything.
37. “After him there arose Yehudah the Galilean, in the days when the people were mustered for the tribute per head, and he persuaded many to people to follow him, but he died and all who walked after him were dispersed.
Tribute per head: i.e., the census.
38. “So at this time I tell you, quit bothering these people and let them rest; remain quiet. If this is the invention of the sons of Adam, then it will be frustrated and wither away.
39. “But if this is from Elohim, there is nothing you can put your hand to that can hinder it, lest you be found rising up against Elohim.”
He was not necessarily on their side, for we know that Paul (Sha’ul), who was his student, became one of the Way’s greatest persecutors. But anyone teaching resurrection would tip the scales to the advantage of the P’rushim over the Tz’doqim, so YHWH utilized the political situation to take the heat off his people. But being a teacher of the Torah, Gamli’el would remember Moshe’s response when the people rioted: to fall on their faces and let YHWH’s wrath “blow over”, since it was not him they were really taking issue with, but YHWH.
40. And they listened to him, and summoned the delegates and flogged them, and ordered them not to speak in the name of Yeshua, and released them.
The Tz’doqim would not publicly speak against this respected teacher, though he was of the rival party, because the people respected him so highly. Flogged: or whipped; Greek, beat. They still got their “pot shot” in just to let them know that they were still in charge and so they would feel a taste pf the pain they really wanted to inflict on them.
41. And they went out from before them rejoicing over the fact that they were [counted] worthy to bear disgrace for the sake of the name,
Worthy: or suitable. In their eyes, the very fact that it took place was evidence that they were doing things rightly. They did not even consider another interpretation, possibly because Yeshua had said this would take place, and that it was a mark of being blessed. (Mat. 5:11)
42. and they did not stop teaching every day in the Temple and at home and spreading the glad news about our Master Yeshua the Messiah.
This first persecution did not even make them miss a step.
1. But in those days, while the disciples were increasing [in number], the Hellenistic disciples grumbled about the Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the day-to-day support.
Hebrews: either those who spoke Hebrew as opposed to Greek as their first language, owing to having been born in the Land, or those more in line with Hebraic culture. We know that thus far they were all Jews, but that many spoke the native languages of the places to which they had moved (chapter 2). Though they were not pagans, their lifestyle would undoubtedly have assimilated to some extent to that of the rest of the Mediterranean world, where the lingua franca was Greek, and where Greek culture had permeated much more fully than in Judea, which deliberately tried harder to avoid such influence. Those who had managed to keep their language and culture purer may have been guilty of unintentionally despising these disadvantaged believers, and so the latter may have been looking for any excuse to find a complaint against them. Support: or aid; Greek, serving. At least part of what the delegates used the money laid at their feet for was to support those who had no means of supporting themselves. This was a legitimate concern; every time YHWH addresses justice, He seems to begin with the widows and orphans—those who are truly needy, having no covering of a household. They were carrying on the Torah’s requirement that provision be made for them. This involved the equivalent of “soup kitchens”:
2. So the twelve delegates summoned the whole congregation of the disciples and told them, “It is not appropriate that we abandon the word of Elohim and serve tables.
All of the burdens should not fall on a few. The original twelve could not stop teaching—a job only they were qualified to do at this point—to take on a task it would seem anyone could do—that this was a case of “the dead burying their dead”. Yet this was not exactly accurate either:
3. “Therefore, my brothers, search hard and choose from among yourselves seven men about whom there is testimony and who are filled with the spirit of YHWH and wisdom, and we will appoint them over this matter,
Yourselves: that is, from among the Hellenists, so their particular issues would be properly understood. Also, those who raised the issue were given the responsibility of doing something about it. They would have actually been overseeing the table service rather than carrying it out themselves, but turning someone from a complainer into a servant does the entire community a service. As we likewise return from being assimilated among the nations, we will be less likely to “worship” the Jews (bowing to their authority in areas where they have exalted tradition over Scripture) if we take up the responsibility to provide for the needy among Efrayim rather than considering ourselves to still be of lower status when YHWH has made promises to us as well.
4. “so we can continue in prayer and attending to the Word.”
Prayer: not hiding away in their own closets like monks, because the Greek term actually means leading a prayer service, i.e., presiding over a liturgical prayer, and teaching others to pray as Yeshua had. (See 4:24ff for an example. Yeshua had told them to teach repentance, so they used the Torah to do so rather than the traditions of men.)
5. And this word was found [to be] pleasing in the eyes of all the people, so they chose Stefanos, a man full of trust and the spirit of holiness, and Filippos, Prokhoros, Nikanor, Timona, Parmena, and Nikolaos, a proselyte from Antiokhea.
Stefanos: Aramaic, Istafanos. This Greek name means crown or garland such as worn by emperors or winners of athletic contests. It also encompasses the crown of thorns made for Yeshua at His crucifixion. Filippos means “one who likes horses”. Prokhoros means “(leader) over the dance”. Nikanor means “conqueror”. Timona means “honorable”. Parmena means “remaining near”. Nikolaos means “who vanquishes the people” or “the people’s victor”.
6. These were stood before the delegates, and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
Laid their hands on: “conferring the duties and privileges of their office”. (Stern)
7. So the Word of Elohim was hedged about, and the number of disciples in Yerushalayim [became] very great, and many from the Yehudim became obedient to the firmness.
Yehudim: thus in the Aramaic Peshitta, but the Greek text has “priests”. If that is the correct reading, it may be that they had been moved to jealousy by these Greek-speaking Jews who were doing their job of providing for widows. It may be that the Tz’doqim were not interested in allowing Greek-speakers to partake of the Levitical storehouses. Firmness: or faith, trust, faithfulness. Those who did not believe in the resurrection were now changing their minds, for while they may not have directly seen someone rise from the dead, they were witnessing a resurrection of what Israel used to be, as these believers set aside their own agendas and served one another. When we keep kosher and follow Torah, the Jews today also take notice and ask us why we are doing what we do not need to do. But the Torah does not say that; their tradition does. When we live by the standards YHWH set, it provokes them to jealousy, and is meant to be a catalyst to unite the two Houses of Israel under one King. Christians also will be moved to jealousy as we become what these ancient people were, and the Torah is lived out in front of them instead of just being about “those people back then”, and they may find their true calling as Israel rather than an extra-scriptural entity called the “church”.
8. And Stefanos came to be filled with kindness and valor, and carried out signs and miraculous proofs among the people.
“The people” here mainly seem to be limited to those who spoke Greek, who could not properly understand everything in Hebrew, and thus the apostles had translated for them in chapter 2. Now Stefanos seems to be carrying what he has learned from them in the Temple out into the streets. Teaching in Greek would not have been tolerated in the Temple. The events that followed suggest that he might have prematurely gone out into the lions’ den where the apostles, who were more respected by the people than these “outsiders”, could not defend him. But he kept the fresh teaching flowing and gave what he had; no one could accuse him saying, “You should have been a teacher by now” as Paul later said of some. But we could speculate that he might have fared better if the Greek-speaking community of believers had not remained a separate subgroup, though they did need some time to transition into full use of Hebrew, and the enemy took advantage of this lag time:
9. But there arose some men from the Synagogue which is called that of the Libertines—Kurenes as well as Alexandrians and those from Kilikia and Asiya, and were debating with Stefanos,
Libertines: or, freedmen. Philo explains that they were Jews who had been captured and enslaved by the Romans, then freed, as Pompey later did in 63 C.E. to a greater degree. But they were already in existence in substantial numbers. Stern speculates that some may have been proselytes, whose zeal often exceeds that of those born with the same position they have entered by means of many sacrifices. Kurenes: inhabitants of the large and flourishing city of Libya Kurenaika (also called Pentapolitana), about 11 miles (17 km) from the sea in north Africa west of Egypt. Ptolemy I had brought a large number of Jews there, and invested them with the right of citizens. Alexandrians: from the most important city of Egypt in that period, which again had a large expatriate Jewish population. Kilikia: a maritime province in the southeast of Asia Minor, bordering on Pamphylia in the west, Lukaonia and Kappadokia to the north, and Syria on the east. Its capital, Tarsus, was the birthplace of Paul. Asiya: or Asia, but this was then the name for western Turkey, not the huge continent to the east of Israel. The Libertines walked according to Torah, but, like the Hellenistic believers in Yeshua, were still considered of lower status than those born and raised in Israel. Therefore, they were in a sense competing for the same audience as Stefanos—the Greek-speaking Jews who wanted to live by the Torah.
10. but they could not stand in opposition to the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
11. At that time they sent [some] men and secretly induced them to say, “We heard him saying insulting things about Moshe and about Elohim!”
12. And they stirred up the people as well as the elders and scribes, and they came in and rose up against him and seized him and brought him to the midst of the assembly,
The Libertines were looking for a way to raise their status in the Torah-observant community. Since the Temple leaders were already looking for a weak link by which to attack the believers in Yeshua, they found it in one who was not as well-respected by the Jewish community at large, which in fact would be glad to see one of these outsiders discredited in order to strengthen their advantage. His weaker position in society gave them their excuse to persecute. HaSatan prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour. (1 Kefa 5:8) Lions, like Amaleq, pick out the weakest prey. (Deut. 25:17-18) The very one who had been fortifying the weak spot (the widows, keeping them attached to Yeshua’s community where they could be strong), was now a scapegoat because those who might stand up for the delegates were not going to stick their necks out for him. The fickle will of the people, which had served to their advantage during the initial season, now tilted to the other side as the delicate political situation wavered under a new factor. Yeshua had said they would drag us before courts (Luke 21:12ff), for the powers that be will never be friendly toward those who walk in belief in YHWH’s true power; they will only temporarily tolerate them when it is to their advantage. Thus Yeshua told us to look beyond the cross he promised we would have to carry, to the Kingdom that lies beyond it.
13. and brought forward false witnesses who said, “This man does not stop saying things in opposition to the Torah and against this holy place,
How ironic that it is the Torah itself that forbids bringing false witness against one of the same flock! This is exactly what Yizevel did to Naboth. (1 Kings 21)
14. “because we have heard him say that this Yeshua, the Notzri, would tear down this place, and change the customs that Moshe transmitted to you!”
Transmitted: delivered, handed over; Greek, handed down. To you: they appeal to the people’s sense of ownership of these practices, but ironically do not include themselves as among the owners! They misquote something Yeshua had said, for He had said “this temple” in reference to His body, not the buildings they were among (Yoch. 2:19-22). They then jump to a false conclusion. Yes, the believers in Yeshua would change some customs, but not the ones Moshe had given; they wrongly credited some of their own traditions to Moshe—a common practice still today among Rabbinic scholars. When Yeshua said, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” (Mat. 5-7), He did not contradict anything in the Torah, but put it on firmer footing, and this is all Stefanos was doing, as he would prove by his forthcoming answer. To you: the Levites, from whom the priests and scribes would come. But were they thus excluding themselves from obligation?
15. But all who sat on the Sanhedrin looked intently at him, and perceived his face [to be] like the face of an angel.
Angel: or simply, messenger, for which of them had seen an angel? His face may have shone like the messenger Moshe’s had (though he may not have known it), giving a vivid indication of his innocence.
1. And the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?”
2. So he said, “Men! Our brothers and our fathers, listen! The Elohim of authority was manifested to our ancestor Avraham while he was in Aram of the Two Rivers before he came into Charan to sojourn,
Aram of the Two Rivers: that is, Mesopotamia. Stefanos is answering the charges brought in 6:13-14, and will address most of their accusations directly and one indirectly.
3. “and said to him, ‘Leave your country and the sons of your clan, and go to the Land that I will show you.’
4. “Then Avraham went out from the land of the Khasdim and came and sojourned in Charan, and from there, after the death of his father, Elohim had him cross over to this Land in which you dwell today.
Dwell: the same root word as sojourn, hinting at the fact that though it was their own Land, they still lived there as outsiders since another nation was occupying it. After the death of his father: According to Genesis 11:26-32, Avram was born when his father Terakh was 70 years of age, and his father did not die until he was 205, that is, when Avram was 135 years old--well after he entered Kanaan at age 75 years old (Gen. 12:4). David Stern points out that the Samaritan text of the Torah says Terakh died at the age of 145. Philo, an Alexandrian Jew who was Stefanos’ contemporary, in De Migratione Abrahami, also says Avraham left Charan after his father’s death. Stefanos may be alluding to this partly to show his familiarity with the various versions to demonstrate that he, too, was a learned scholar, or making the point that his audience has changed the Torah just as the copyist of one of these versions had to have done.
5. “But He gave him no property there—not even [enough space for a] foot [to] tread! But He gave him [a promise to] trust that He would give it to him to pass on as an inheritance for himself and for his seed, when he did not yet have a son.
6. “And Elohim spoke to him by telling him, ‘Your seed will become a sojourner in a foreign land (and they will enslave and mistreat them) four hundred years.
The four hundred years of being foreigners in a land not their own would include the time of slavery, but the slavery would not last the entire time.
7. “‘But the nation that enslaves it, I [Myself] will judge,’ said Elohim. ‘And afterward they will indeed come out and serve Me in this place.’
I will judge: Heb., adon, a homophone with the word for “Master” which is often applied to YHWH.
8. “Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision. Then he begot Yitzhaq and circumcised him on the eighth day. Then Yitzhaq fathered Yaaqov, and Yaaqov fathered our twelve ancestors.
9. “And they, our ancestors, were jealous of Yosef, and sold him to Egypt, but Elohim was with him
He is drawing a subtle parallel with those to whom he is speaking, who treated Yeshua in a similar way.
10. “and rescued him from his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he appointed him overseer above Egypt and over his whole household.
11. “Then there was a famine and great distress in all of Egypt and in the Land of Kanaan, and our ancestors had no satisfying food.
12. “So when Yaaqov heard that there was produce in Egypt, he sent our ancestors the first [time],
13. “and when they went for the second time, Yosef made himself known to his brothers, and Yosef’s lineage became known to Pharaoh.
14. “Then Yosef sent and had his father Yaaqov and his whole family come, and they were seventy-five souls by count.
Seventy-five: Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5 say there were seventy. But the Greek Septuagint (LXX), with which Stefanos, being a Greek-speaker, was probably more conversant, does say 75, and in Gen. 46:20 names three grandsons and two great-grandsons of Yosef which the more commonly-used Masoretic text does not include. So though Stefanos may not have chosen the most accurate record, he is not simply forgetful of details. It should be noted that some details were deliberately changed in the LXX so that Alexander the Great, who desired all the knowledge of the nations he conquered, could not have the fullness of the Torah in a language other than Hebrew.
15. “So Yaaqov came down to Mitzrayim and died there—he and our fathers--
Down: that is, away from the Land of Israel, which is always described as higher than any place one could go from there.
16. “and he was brought over to Sh’khem and was laid to rest in the burial-place that Avraham had bought with silver from the sons of Chamor.
Sh’khem: another apparent inaccuracy on Stefanos’ part, for the grave where Yaaqov was buried and which Avraham purchased was at Hevron. (Gen. 23:19) He may be alluding to the extra “portion” of land (Heb.,shakhem) that Yaaqov had deeded to Yosef. (Gen. 48:22) Yaaqov is the one who had bought land in Sh’khem from the sons of Chamor. (Gen. 33:19) Yosef was the one buried in Sh’khem. (Y’hoshua 24:32) But again, the Samaritan text of the Torah places the patriarchs’ burial site in Sh’khem, which is where Sanballat had built a replica of the Temple in Yerushalayim and emplaced his own son-in-law (mentioned in Nekhemyah 13:28) as high priest there. It became the center of Samaritan worship thereafter, explaining why they would alter this text in their tradition, why Sanballat opposed the reconstruction of the Yerushalayim Temple, and why Jews hated Samaritans (Shomronites) as alluded to in Yochanan chapter 4. By this time also, Herod had already built the great edifice that still stands over the Cave of Makhpelah and is the best extant example of the type of architecture he utilized in his additions to the Temple complex. Many of those to whom Stefanos was speaking would probably have visited this site. Stefanos may be deliberately bringing up points of contention because the whole reason for their argument was contention over the way things are viewed.
17. “And when the appointed time had arrived which Elohim had guaranteed to Avraham with an oath, the people had grown numerous and mighty in Egypt,
Guaranteed: literally, caused to trust, secured.
18. “until there arose another king over Egypt who did not know Yosef,
He would have been from another dynasty that conquered and took over Egypt.
19. “and he dealt craftily with our family and mistreated our ancestors and commanded that our nursing infants be cast away so that they would not survive.
20. “At that time Moshe was born, and he was loved by Elohim, and he grew up for three months in his father’s household,
21. “but when he was sent away upon his mother’s hands, Pharaoh’s daughter found him, and she raised him for herself as a son.
22. “And Moshe was well-taught in all the wisdom of Egypt, and he became established in his words as well as his deeds.
23. “And when he had reached forty years of age, it ascended upon his heart to visit his relatives, the descendants of Israel.
24. “But when he saw one of the sons of his people being driven by force, he avenged him and carried out justice and killed the Egyptian assailant.
Avenged: Greek, defended.
25. “Now he thought his brothers, the descendants of Israel, would discern that Elohim would grant them deliverance by his hand, but they did not understand.
Stefanos again subtly makes the point that those before whom he was speaking had treated Yeshua in exactly the same way, and that he was surprised by their inability to recognize what to him was obvious. Moshe thought his high position would automatically fit him to be the liberator of his people, and he apparently had a strong sense of calling already, but he had to be trained as a shepherd for forty years before he could effectively lead this particular people. It was not until his second appearance that his kinsmen would recognize his authority—again, a picture of Yeshua.
26. “Then the next day he was seen by them when they were quarreling one with another, and he persistently urged them to get hold of themselves, by saying, ‘Men! You are brothers! Why are you hitting each other?’
27. “But the one who had struck his associate pushed him away and said to him, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?
28. “‘Are you who are speaking [going] to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?!’
29. “So Moshe fled in haste since this word had gotten around, and he sojourned in the land of Midyan, and had two sons [there].
30. “Then when he had completed forty years there, the messenger of YHWH appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai in a fire that burned in the [thorn] bush.
The Torah does not specifically state that an angel was involved here as a mediator between YHWH and Moshe, but the apocryphal Book of Jubilees (1:27, 29; 2:1) does say “the angel of the Presence” was the one who spoke to Moshe at Sinai.
31. “And when Moshe saw it, he was inwardly amazed, and when he came close to look, YHWH spoke to him with a voice:
This was not a commonplace thing, even in his day!
32. “‘I am the Elohim of your ancestors—the Elohim of Avraham, Yitzhaq, and Yaaqov!” And Moshe became seized with terror and was not able to look at the spectacle [for long].
33. “Then YHWH said to him, ‘Take your shoes off your feet, because the ground on which you are standing is set apart.
34. “‘I have indeed seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt and I have hear their groaning, and I have come down to take them out. And now I am sending you to Egypt!’
35. “This Moshe, whom they denied, saying, ‘Who made you ruler or judge over us?’—Elohim sent him as ruler and redeemer through the hands of the messenger that appeared to him in the bush.
36. “He was the one who brought them out through deeds, signs, miracles, and wonders in the land of Egypt, at the Reed Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years.
37. “This is the Moshe who said to the descendants of Israel, ‘YHWH Elohim will raise up for you a prophet like me from the innermost part of your brothers; you must listen to him [and obey]!’
The earlier generation had refused to honor the one YHWH had sent, and Stefanos is making this point about his audience, who had refused to honor Yeshua.
38. “He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the messenger who spoke with him and with our ancestors at Mount Sinai, and he is the one who received the living words to give to us.
Living words: This should leave no question in the hearers’ minds about his position on Moshe or the Torah. (Refer to 6:13-14.)
39. “But our ancestors did not want to listen to him; these forsook him and in their hearts turned [back] to Egypt
40. “when they said to Aharon, ‘Make us elohim that can walk in front of us, because this Moshe, who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him!’
41. “So he made them a calf in these days, and slaughtered sacrifices to things that were nothing, and celebrated the work of their own hands.
42. “But Elohim turned and handed them over to serve the armies of the heavens, as [it is] written in the scroll of the prophets: ‘Is it true that for forty years in the wilderness you brought drawing-near offerings or slaughters to me, O sons of Israel?
Scroll of the prophets: The twelve “minor prophets” comprise one book in Jewish thought. The particular passage he refers to is in Amos 5:25-27, and in the Greek version of this chapter he follows the text of the LXX except for a few changes in word order.
43. “‘Rather, you carried the dwelling place of ‘Milkom’ and the star of the mighty one ‘Refan’, images that you made to worship. I will banish you and remove you to Bavel and beyond!’
Milkom means “their king” and Refan (Rhaifan in Greek and Rhemphan in the LXX) means “the great healer”. The Hebrew text has Kiyyun (”the firmly-established pillar”). The LXX says “made for yourselves to worship”. Bavel: as per the Aramaic text; Greek, Babylon. The LXX has Damascus (Damasek), following the Masoretic text in Hebrew. “Beyond Damasek” is where Bavel lies. Stern suggests that Stefanos is using a midrash here to make the point that if his present listeners continue to resist what YHWH has done through Yeshua, they will be carried even further into exile than the last time, which indeed turned out to be the case.
44. “Look here! The dwelling place of the testimony of our fathers was in the wilderness, just as the One speaking to Moshe commanded [him] to make it according to the model that He had shown him.
45. “And as for this dwelling place, our ancestors indeed brought it in with Y’hoshua to the Land which Elohim had given them as an inheritance [to take] from the nations that He would drive out from before their faces, and it was led about until the days of David,
46. “who found favor in the eyes of Elohim and sought to find a dwelling place for the Elohim of Yaaqov,
47. “but Shlomo built Him a house.
48. “Now for the Most High there is no dwelling in works of hands, as the prophets said,
49. “‘The heavens are My throne, and the earth is a footstool beneath My feet; what kind of house could you build for Me?,’ declares YHWH. ‘Or in what kind of place would I rest?’ [Yesh. 46:1-2]
50. “‘Hasn’t My hand made all these [things]?’
Stefanos answers the charge that he is saying things against the Temple by saying, “This is what I really said.” But he may not have chosen his words very wisely. He quotes Shlomoh, but by insinuating that the Temple was not really YHWH’s idea (while the Tabernacle was), it almost sounds like he is doing exactly what they accused him of in 6:13. He may be ignoring the fact that YHWH honored David’s wish to have a fixed house built for His worship, so the existence of a Temple is not in opposition to the Torah. In fact, He even gave David the pattern and David built a model of it for Shlomoh to work from. But the highest leaders of Israel were trying to maintain their position, which rests in the institution of the Temple, and thus they were over-emphasizing something YHWH had never actually commanded. By reminding them that it was not Moshe who commanded that there should be a Temple, he exposes the fact that they were wrongly appealing to Moshe’s name to protect their own interests. They knew he was right, but was this battle really necessary at this time in history? Was it worth endangering his life?
51. “Alas, you [who are] stiff-necked and uncircumcised of heart and ear! You always rise up against the spirit of being holy; you are just like your ancestors!
Stiff-necked: a term YHWH and Moshe used for Israel when conversing back and forth about them. (Ex. 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deut. 9:6, 13)
52. “Because which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute or murder, who showed from the beginning about the coming of the righteous one whom you handed over and murdered!
53. “Though you received the Torah through the oversight of messengers, you did not guard it!”
Messengers: Stern points out that the phrase eshdat lamo (“a fiery law for them”) in Deut. 33:2 is translated in the LXX as “His angels”, and Rashi says the “holy myriads” referred to in the same verse were angels. You did not guard it: This is what insults them the most and turns their hearts fully against Stefanos. They know the Torah, he says, but have neglected its true meaning by forcing it to say whatever they want it to say. What difference should it make to them that Yeshua should change the customs (which were not actually handed down all the way from Moshe, but from more recent interpreters), if they themselves were changing the Torah itself?
54. And when they heard these words, they were filled with rage in their hearts, and they ground their teeth over him.
Filled with rage: Aramaic; the Greek says “cut to the hearts” or “sawn asunder”, a similar phrase used in 2:37, where the effect was completely the opposite. While those Kefa had spoken to were not the perpetrators of the murder of Yeshua, these men were, and Psalm 69:26-27 prophesies that those who continue to mistreat the one YHWH has wounded (Yeshayahu 53:10) are to have iniquity added to their iniquity so they will never be able to repent. Ground (or gnashed) their teeth: Yeshua said this would be done by evil servants (Mat. 22:48-51) who offend and practice lawlessness (Mat. 13:41-42, 49-50), while they watched many whom they considered “outsiders” enjoying the very same privileges in the age to come that they had expected to enjoy. (Luke 13:28; Mat. 8:12)
55. But he, coming to be filled with confidence and the spirit of being set-apart, gazed into the heavens and saw the weightiness of Elohim and Yeshua standing at the right hand of Elohim,
56. and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Adam standing at the right hand of Elohim!”
This is an allusion to Dani’el 7:13. Standing: In Ephesians 1:20, He is described as having sat down at YHWH’s right hand after being raised from the dead, emphasizing the position of authority given to Him as under-regent. But now He stands, as if to honor His martyr and encourage him to remain faithful to the end. In Psalm 110, Yeshua is told to sit at YHWH’s right hand until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. That He now stands suggests that some aspect of this promise has already been fulfilled through Stefanos’ actions and words. Standing at one’s right hand also denotes assistance. (Psalm 109:6. 31) In any case, he is seeing ahead into the Kingdom and sees that the one whom they rejected is indeed the king, so they are wrong!
57. But they cried out [together] with a loud voice and stopped their ears, and all of them stormed upon him violently.
Loud: Aramaic, resounding. Stopped their ears: He may have actually said “YHWH Elohim”, for using the sacred Name was the only “crime” that the Romans allowed the Jews to execute someone for, and appears to have been the turning point in Yeshua’s trial, where Yeshua makes a very similar statement and the text uses a euphemism for the Name. (Luke 22:67-70)
58. And seizing him and taking him to the outside of the city, they stoned him. And those who were witnesses about him laid their outer garments at the feet of a certain young man who was called Sha’ul.
Stoned: one of the most common Hebrew forms of execution. The usual process was to throw him off a cliff at least the height of two men to knock one unconscious, and if he did not die, they would drop a stone on his chest, then, if still necessary, continue to pelt him with stones until he was dead and buried under them. (Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:4 on Deut. 17:7) Tradition says it was the very hill of Gulgol’thah, in front of which Yeshua was crucified, from which they threw Stefanos. The outer garment is where one is to put his tzitziyoth as a reminder to keep YHWH’s commandments. (Num. 15:38-39) Since he had said nothing worthy of death, it is significant that they laid aside these garments, for it symbolized the fact that they had to abandon the commandments to carry out this decision made during a fit of rage. The Hebrew term for “outer garment” also denotes a cloak of deceit, and indeed these honored men who appeared dignified above all others showed their true colors when pressed to acknowledge the truth. Stern brings out another interesting possibility: The Talmud (Sanhedrin 42b) says that the common practice was for a man to stand at the entrance to the court within sight of the stoning site with a sudarin to signal them to stop the stoning if someone still had something to say in his favor. Joseph Shulam noted that sudar in later Hebrew can also mean “coat”, and speculates that the Greek translator from an original Hebrew text that might have used this term, not understanding the context, said “laid their coats” when in fact it might have been meant to indicate that they had appointed Sha’ul to this post as the one who held the sudar. 8:1 and 26:10 strongly suggest that Sha’ul was a member of the Sanhedrin at this time. It seems the main reason for including the story of Stefanos is to introduce us to Sha’ul.
59. And they were stoning Stefanos as he was making his request—that is, he said, “Our Master Yeshua, receive my spirit!’
This is nearly the same as what Yeshua had said to His Father when He was about to die (Luke 23:46), and now Stefanos sees Yeshua as the mediator, the first step in the Father’s receiving his spirit.
60. And when he had bowed onto his knees, he cried out with a loud voice and said, “Our Master, do not fasten this sin onto them!” And as he said, he fell asleep. And Sha’ul was pleased with and participated in his murder.
Again he echoes what Yeshua said at the time of His death. (Luke 23:34) Luke, who recorded both of these sayings of Yeshua, would have been especially attentive to this parallel. It does not mean termination of what was half-full before, but a bringing to its maximum capacity.