“But as the time drew near for God to fulfill the promise he had declared to Abraham, the people increased greatly in number in Egypt, until another king who did not know about Joseph ruled over Egypt. This was the one who exploited our people and was cruel to our ancestors, forcing them to abandon their infants so they would die. At that time Moses was born, and he was beautiful to God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house, and when he had been abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds. But when he was about forty years old, it entered his mind to visit his fellow countrymen the Israelites.”
Acts 7:17–23 NET Read More
Stephen is in the middle of one of the 24 speeches given in the book of Acts. The great thing about the first half of the book of Acts is that we get to see how The Church started. Jesus was Jewish. He was born and lived under the Jewish Law, or the Torah. We translate it “Law” and talk of the laws, but it is better to think of it as a complete way of life and a government system.
It’s way more than the 10 commandments. It’s a system of living and interacting with one another and all of creation.
But here is Stephen, who by name shows that he was not completely Jewish. He has a Greek name and probably had some Greek appearance to him. He was not what people sometimes today call an “ethnic Jew.” He was in some way Jewish, however, like most of the early church.
When they give a speech like this in Acts, it’s super-helpful in giving us a picture of what they believed about the Old Testament at that time. (Of course they didn’t call it the ‘Old Testament’)
In the context of Stephen’s life, look at how he frames the birth story of Moses. There were thousands of Jews in Egypt, but the king of Egypt didn’t remember the good that Joseph had done. At this time, also, there is a king over Israel who doesn’t remember anything good that the Jewish people ever did.
Basically, there was a Gentile ruler over all of God’s people, oppressing them. It was so in 35 AD and in 1406 BC. Slavery looked different to them. Instead of whips and bricks it was 80–90% taxation. Instead of oppression by Egyptians, it was oppression by Romans. Stephen can’t say that outright because he’d be arrested for treason. But the Jewish leaders that are questioning him know their history.
And with that hint, Stephen nudges them all closer to seeing that just like Moses, one Man has now come out of their midst, sent by God, to deliver them. The deliverance is as different as Egypt is from the Promised Land, but only if you see and believe God’s new and final Deliverer.