Acts 7:58 MEANING

Acts 7:58
(58) And stoned him.--Literally, were stoning him. The verb is repeated in Acts 7:59, as if to show that the shower of stones went on even during the martyr's prayers.

The witnesses laid down their clothes.--The Law required, as if to impress on witnesses their solemn responsibility, that they should be the first, if the accused were condemned to death, to take part in his execution (Deuteronomy 17:7). Our Lord, it will be remembered, had applied the rule in the case of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:7). The loose, flowing cloak, which was worn as an outer garment, would have impeded the free action of their arms, and had therefore to be laid on one side.

A young man's feet, whose name was Saul.--As defined by Philo, on the authority of medical writers, the term thus used extended from twenty-one to twenty-eight years of age. Looking to the prominent position taken by Saul in this matter, and to his description of himself as "Paul the aged," A.D. 64 (Philemon 1:9), it will be safe to assume that he had nearly attained the later limit. It will be convenient on this his first appearance to put together the chief facts of his life up to this period. He was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5), and had been named after its great hero-king. His father had obtained, perhaps as a freed-man, after a time of slavery at Rome, the privilege of Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28). He had settled at Tarsus. The absence of any reference to him or to the Apostle's mother makes it probable that they were both dead before he appears on the scene. The son of a married sister is found, apparently residing in Jerusalem, in Acts 23:16. At Tarsus the boy would probably receive a two-fold education, instructed at home in the Holy Scriptures daily, and in Greek literature and philosophy in the schools for which the city was famous. Traces of the knowledge thus acquired are found in his quotations from the Cilician poet Aratus (see Note on Acts 17:28), Menander (see 1 Corinthians 15:33), Epimenides (see Titus 1:12), and the Festival Hymn quoted by him at Lystra (see Note on Acts 14:17). At twelve he would become a child of the Law (see Note on Luke 2:42); and showing great devotion to the studies which thus opened on him, was probably dedicated by his parents to the calling of a scribe. This, however, did not involve the abandonment of secular occupation; and after some years spent in Jerusalem, studying under Gamaliel (we may say, with almost absolute certainty, before the commencement of our Lord's ministry), he returned to his native city, and became a "tent-maker" (Acts 18:3)--a manufacturer, i.e., of the coarse goats' hair sail-cloth, for which Cilicia was famous. There seems reason to believe that somewhere about this time he became acquainted with Barnabas (see Note on Acts 4:36), and possibly also with St. Luke (see Note on Acts 13:1; Acts 16:10, and Introduction to St. Luke's Gospel). In the interval between the Ascension and the appointment of the Seven Deacons, he came up to Jerusalem. He finds a new sect, as it would seem, added to the three--the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes--whom he had known before. In some respects their teaching is such as Hillel, the grandfather of Gamaliel, would have approved. They pray and fast, and give alms. They proclaim a resurrection and a judgment after death. They connect that proclamation with the belief that a teacher of Nazareth, who had died a malefactor's death, was the long-expected Messiah. What is he to think of these startling claims? What were others thinking? Gamaliel, his master, counselled caution and a policy of expectation (Acts 5:35-39); Barnabas, his early friend, had joined the new society (Acts 4:36); Andronicus and Junias, his kinsmen, had followed the example (Romans 16:7). But Saul had a zeal which was more fiery than theirs. He was a Pharisee after the straitest sect, and the teaching of Stephen, more conspicuously, it would seem, than that of Peter, was a protest against Pharisaism, and told of its coming downfall. He, therefore, could make no truce with that teaching, and burst impatiently from the cautions of his master. For good or for evil, he was at least "thorough," and had the courage of his convictions. Even the face as of an angel and the words of ecstatic joy did but kindle in him the fire of a burning indignation.

Verse 58. - They cast for cast, A.V. ; garments for clothes, A.V.; the feet of a young man for a young man's feet, A.V.; named Saul for whose name was Saul, A.V. They cast. We have here the identical phrase of Luke 4:29. The witness. According to Deuteronomy 17:7, "the hands of the witnesses were to be first upon" the idolater "to put him to death." They took off their clothes, their outer garments, so as to be free to hurl the stones at their victim with greater force. The feet of a young man. The word νεανίας is found only here and in Acts 20:9; Acts 23:17, 18, 22; and frequently in the LXX. for the Hebrew נַעִר. A man might be called a νεανίας probably to the age of thirty. This appearance of Saul upon the stage of St. Luke's narrative is an element which will soon change the whole current of the narrative, and divert it from Jerusalem to the whole earth. Nothing can be more striking than this introduction of the young man Saul to our view as an accomplice (albeit "ignorantly in unbelief") in the martyrdom of Stephen. Who that stood there and saw him keeping the clothes of the witnesses would have imagined that he would become the foremost apostle of the faith which he sought to destroy from off the face of the earth?

7:54-60 Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there. Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. Our Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die. Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was very great, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would not lay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as ever any man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fell asleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as much composure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake again in the morning of the resurrection, to be received into the presence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share the pleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.And cast him out of the city,.... Of Jerusalem; for the place of stoning was without the city. The process, when regular, according to the sentence of the court, was after this manner (p);

"judgment being finished, (or the trial over,) they brought him out (the person condemned) to stone him; the place of stoning was without the sanhedrim, as it is said, Leviticus 24:14 "bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp", when he was ten cubits distant from the place of stoning, they order him to confess and when four cubits from it, they take off his garments--the place of stoning was twice a man's height.''

And elsewhere (q) it is said, that the place of stoning was without three camps (the camp of the Shekinah, the camp of the Levites, and the camp of the Israelites): upon which the gloss has these words;

"the court is the camp of the Shekinah, and the mountain of the house the camp of the Levites, and every city the camp of the Israelites; and in the sanhedrim in every city, the place of stoning was without the city like to Jerusalem.''

And these men, though transported with rage and fury, yet were so far mindful of rule, as to have him out of the city before they stoned him:

and they stoned him; which was done after this manner, when in form (r):

"the wise men say, a man was stoned naked, but not a woman; and there was a place four cubits from the house of stoning, where they plucked off his clothes, only they covered his nakedness before. The place of stoning was two men's heights, and there he went up with his hands bound, and one of the witnesses thrust him on his loins, that he might fall upon the earth; and if he died not at that push, the witnesses lifted up a stone, which lay there, the weight of two men, and one cast it with all his strength upon him; and if he died not, he was stoned by all Israel.''

And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul; for the witnesses, according to the above account, were first concerned in the stoning; and this was agreeably to the rule in Deuteronomy 17:7 and which they seem to have observed amidst all their hurry and fury: and that they might perform their work with more ease and expedition, they plucked off their upper garments, and committed them to the care of Saul of Tarsus; who was now at Jerusalem, and belonged to the synagogue of the Cilicians, that disputed with Stephen, and suborned false witnesses against him. He is called a young man; not that he was properly a youth, for he must be thirty years of age, or more; since about thirty years after this he calls himself Paul the aged, Plm 1:9 when he must be at least sixty years of age, if not more; besides, Ananias calls him a "man", Acts 9:13 nor would the high priests have given letters to a mere youth, investing him with so much power and authority as they did; but he is so called, because he was in the prime of his days, hale, strong, and active. The learned Alting has taken a great deal of pains to show, that this Saul, who was afterwards Paul the apostle, is the same with Samuel the little, who is frequently mentioned in the Talmud; he living at this time, and being a disciple of Rabban Gamaliel, and a bitter enemy of the heretics, or Christians; and who, at the instigation of his master, composed a prayer against them; and his name and character agreeing with him: but it is not likely that the Jews would have retained so high an opinion of him to the last, had he been the same person: for they say (s),

"that as the elders were sitting in Jabneh, Bath Kol came forth, and said, there is one among you fit to have the Holy Ghost, or the Shekinah, dwell upon him; and they set their eyes on Samuel the little; and when he died, they said, ah the holy, ah the meek disciple of Hillell!''

(p) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4. (q) T. Bab Sanhedrin, fol. 42. 2.((r) Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. Affirm. 99. Vid. Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 4. & Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 15. sect. 1.((s) Shilo, l. 4. c. 26, 27, 28.

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