Stephen speaks to the Jewish leaders
1 The most important priest said to Stephen, ‘These men are saying things against you. Are these things true?’
2 Stephen said, ‘Men of Israel, my friends and leaders. Listen to what I say. Our great God appeared to our ancestor, Abraham, when he was still living in Mesopotamia. This happened before he went to Haran. 3 God said to Abraham, “Leave your own country and your own family and go to a different country. I will show you where that will be.”
7:3Abraham lived with his father in a city called Ur. Ur was in a country called Babylonia, which is now part of Iraq. Abraham moved with his father from Ur to live in Haran.
4 So Abraham left his country where the Chaldean people lived. He went to Haran and he stayed there. While he was there, his father died. Then God said to him, “Leave this place.” God then sent him to live in Canaan. This is where we are living now.
7:4The country that God led Abraham to was called Canaan. This country is now called Israel. Jerusalem city is also there.
5 At that time, God did not give Abraham any part of Canaan for his own family. He did not give Abraham even a very small piece of ground. But God made a promise to Abraham. He said, “This land will become your own country. It will also be your children's country.” When God said this to him, Abraham did not yet have any children. 6 This is what God said to him: “Your family must live in a foreign country for 400 years. The people in that country will cause your family to be slaves. They will give them much pain. 7 But I will punish those people who cause your family to work as slaves for them. After I have done that, your family will leave that country. They will come to this place and worship me here.” That is what God said to Abraham.
7:7We can read about God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. Abraham's family worked in Egypt for 400 years. Then Moses led them out of that country to the country which became Israel. Moses was standing on Sinai mountain when God spoke to him. We can read about this in Exodus 3.
8 Then God made an agreement with Abraham that his family would become his special people. God said, “You must circumcise all your baby boys.”
Later, Abraham became the father of Isaac. After Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him when he was eight days old. Then Isaac became the father of Jacob. Jacob himself had 12 sons. These sons became the 12 ancestors of the families of Israel.
7:8Jacob is also sometimes called Israel. We can read the names of Jacob's 12 sons in Genesis 35:23-26.
9 One of Jacob's sons was called Joseph. Jacob was more kind to Joseph than to his other sons. For this reason, Joseph's brothers did not like him. So one day they took Joseph and they sold him as a slave. The men that bought Joseph took him to Egypt. There he became the slave of an important man. All this time, God took care of Joseph. 10 God saved him from all his troubles and he helped him to live in a wise way. At that time, God helped Joseph so that Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, liked him. He saw that Joseph was very wise. Pharaoh gave Joseph authority to rule Egypt and everyone in the king's own house.
11 Then one year food plants did not grow in Egypt or in Canaan. Everyone was very hungry and in much pain. Our ancestors also had no food to eat. 12 Jacob heard news that Pharaoh had stored a lot of wheat in Egypt. So he sent his sons there to buy food from Pharaoh. This was the first time that they went to Egypt.
7:12Wheat is a plant for food. People use wheat seeds to make bread.
13 Later, Jacob sent his sons back to Egypt for a second time. This time, Joseph told his brothers who he really was. As a result, Pharaoh came to know about Joseph's family. 14 After this, Joseph sent a message to his father, that he should also come to Egypt with the whole family. At that time, there were 75 people in Jacob's family.
15 So Jacob went to Egypt with all his family. Jacob and his 12 sons, our ancestors, lived there until they died.
7:15The kings of the country of Egypt were always called Pharaoh. We can read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50.
16 When the people of Israel left Egypt, they carried with them the dead bodies of Joseph and his family. They took them back to Shechem and they buried them in a hole for dead people there. Abraham had bought that ground in Shechem from the family of a man called Hamor. He had paid Hamor the right money for it.’
7:16Shechem was the place in Canaan where Jacob and his family had lived. Jacob and Joseph knew that one day their families would return to Shechem. So Jacob asked his family to take his dead body back to Shechem. We can read about this in Genesis 49:29-33. Much later, Joseph also asked his family to take his dead body back to Shechem. We can read about this in Genesis 50:25 and Joshua 24:32.
17 Stephen went on to say, ‘After many years, the time arrived for God to make his promise to Abraham become true. By this time, Jacob's family who still lived in Egypt had become very many. 18 Now, a different king ruled Egypt. This new king did not know anything about Joseph and what he had done. 19 He was very cruel to our ancestors. He did a clever thing to them. When new babies were born, he said that our people must put them outside. He said that because he wanted the babies to die.
20 It was at this time that Moses was born. He was a very beautiful baby. His parents took care of him for three months in their own home. 21 Then they had to put him outside. But Pharaoh's daughter found him and she took him to her home. She took care of him as if he was her own son. 22 Moses had teachers who taught him all the wise things that the Egyptians knew. He learned how to speak well. He could also do powerful things.
23 When Moses was 40 years old, one day he went to see his own people, the people of Israel. 24 He saw that an Egyptian man was being cruel to one of the Israelite men. So he went to help the Israelite man. He killed the Egyptian man to punish him. 25 Moses thought that his own people would understand him. They would know that God was using him to save them. They would no longer be slaves to work for the Egyptians. But his people did not understand all this. 26 On the next day, Moses saw two Israelite men. They were fighting each other. He tried to make them become friends. He said to them, “Listen to me, men. You are both in the family of Israel. You should not hurt each other.”
27 The man who was being cruel to the other man pushed Moses away. He said to Moses, “You have no authority to rule us. You are not our judge. 28 I know that yesterday you killed an Egyptian man. So, do you want to kill me too?”
29 Moses heard what the man said. So he decided to run away. He went to the country called Midian and he lived there. He married a wife and they had two sons.
30 Moses lived in Midian for 40 years. Then, one day, he was in the wilderness near Sinai mountain. He saw a bush there that was burning. An angel appeared to him in the fire. 31 Moses was very surprised by what he saw. He went near to the bush so that he could see it better. Then he heard the Lord God speak to him from the bush. 32 God said, “I am the God of your ancestors. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Moses was very frightened. He was too afraid to look at the bush any more.
7:30A wilderness is a very dry place. There is not much water there and often there is a lot of sand and stones. There are not many plants, and people do not live there.
33 Then the Lord God said to Moses, “Remove your shoes from your feet, because you are standing in a very special place. This is my own place. 34 I have seen that the Egyptians are being cruel to my people. My people are crying with pain and I have heard them. Now I have come down to save them. So, come here and listen to me. I will send you back to Egypt.” ’
7:34We can read this story about Moses in Exodus 3.
35 Then Stephen said, ‘Moses is the man that the people of Israel would not accept. They had said to him, “You have no authority to rule us. You are not our judge.” But God did send Moses to rule them. God himself did send Moses to save them from the Egyptians. God spoke to Moses through the angel that appeared to him in the bush. 36 So, it was Moses who led the people of Israel out of Egypt. He did some powerful things before the people left Egypt. This showed that God was with him. He did more miracles at the Red Sea. Then he led the people through the wilderness for 40 years. He also did more miracles there.
37 It was Moses who said to the people of Israel, “God will send you a prophet. He will be one of your own people. He will speak God's message as I have done.” 38 This is the same Moses who was leader of our people in the wilderness. He was there with our ancestors when the angel spoke to him on Sinai mountain. He received the message from God to give to us. Those words from God bring life to us.
39 But our ancestors would not obey Moses. They did not accept him as their leader. They wanted to go back to Egypt. 40 So the people said to Aaron, “Please make us some gods that we can carry in front of us. Yes, that man Moses brought us out of Egypt. But now we do not know what has happened to him.”
7:40Aaron was the brother of Moses.
41 It was then that the people made something that would be an idol for them. They made it from gold with the shape of a young bull. They killed some animals and they burned them as a gift for their idol. The people then had a big meal together because they were very happy. They thought that they had made something that was very good.
42 But God turned away from his people. He let them do what they wanted to do. He let them worship the stars in the sky.
One of God's prophets wrote about this long ago:
“God said, ‘People of Israel, listen!
When you were in the wilderness for 40 years,
you brought sacrifices and gifts to me.
But you did not really worship me when you did that.
43 No. You carried with you the idol of the god called Molech.
You also carried an idol with the shape of a star,
to be like your god, Rephan.
These were the idols which you worshipped in the wilderness.
So now I will send you away from your own country.
You will go to live in places beyond Babylon.’ ”
7:43We can read this in Amos 5:25-27. Amos spoke these words from God.
44 When our ancestors were in the wilderness, they carried a special tent with them. It showed that God was there with them and that is where they worshipped him. God had showed Moses how he should make that tent. The people made it in the way that God had said.
7:44A tent is a house that someone made from cloth or animal skins. When people travel, they can carry it from one place to the next. God told Moses how to make this special tent. It was the place where they should meet him. There were two flat stones inside a special box in this tent. God had told Moses about his Laws when he was on Sinai mountain. Moses wrote the Law of God on these two stones. The people of Israel carried the box with the stones all the time. We can read about this in Exodus 19.
45 Later, our ancestors received that special tent from their fathers. They brought it with them when they came to live in this land. God gave this land to our people. Joshua was their leader when they took the land from the people who were living here. God made those people leave. The tent remained in this place until David became the king of Israel.
7:45Many other people were already living in Canaan. But God had promised to give Canaan to the people of Israel. Joshua helped the people of Israel to fight the other people in Canaan. And God helped the people of Israel to win their fights. So the people who had lived there went away from Canaan.
46 God was happy with King David and he helped him very much. So David said to God, “Can I make a special house where you can live among your people? You are the God of our ancestor Jacob.” 47 But it was David's son, Solomon, who built a house for God.
7:47Solomon was the son of King David. God did not want David to build the house for him. But David brought together the materials to build it.
48 But we know that God does not live in a house that people have made. He is the powerful God who is over all. God's prophet Isaiah spoke these words:
49 The Lord God says,
“Heaven is the seat where I sit to rule.
The earth is the place where I put my feet.
You could not build a house for me where I could live.
You could not make a place for me to rest there.
50 I am the one who has made all these things myself.” ’
51 Then Stephen said, ‘You people do not want to obey God! You do not want to listen to God's true message. You are the same as your ancestors. Like them, you always fight against what the Holy Spirit says. 52 Your ancestors did bad things to every prophet that God sent to them. They even killed the prophets that told them about the completely good Man that God would send. Now you have given that special Man to his enemies. You have made them kill him. 53 You are the people who received God's Law. God caused his angels to give that Law to your ancestors But you have not obeyed it.’
The Jewish leaders kill Stephen
54 The group of Jewish leaders listened to Stephen. What he said made them very angry. They bit their teeth together because they were so angry. 55 But the Holy Spirit filled Stephen. He looked up to heaven and he saw a very bright light. He saw how great God is. He also saw Jesus, who was standing at the right side of God. 56 ‘Look!’ Stephen said. ‘I can see into heaven itself. It is open! I can see the Son of Man and he is standing at the right side of God!’
7:56The Son of Man is another name for Jesus. Jesus often called himself the Son of Man when he talked to people. Jesus was ready to receive Stephen into heaven.
57 When the Jewish leaders heard this, they put their hands over their ears. Then they shouted very loudly at Stephen and they all ran towards him. 58 They took hold of Stephen and they pulled him out of the city. They removed their coats. They gave them to a young man to keep them safe. This young man was called Saul. Then they began to throw stones at Stephen to kill him.
59 While the men were throwing stones at him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, please receive my spirit as I die.’ 60 Then he fell down on his knees. He shouted, ‘Lord, please forgive these men. Do not punish them because they are doing this to me.’ After Stephen said this, he died.