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Stephen Speaks in His Own Defense

Then the chief priest asked Stephen, “Is this true?”

Stephen answered, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God who reveals his glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia. This happened before Abraham lived in Haran. God told him, ‘Leave your land and your relatives. Go to the land that I will show you.’

“Then Abraham left the country of Chaldea and lived in the city of Haran. After his father died, God made him move from there to this land where we now live.

“Yet, God didn’t give Abraham anything in this land to call his own, not even a place to rest his feet. But God promised to give this land to him and to his descendants, even though Abraham didn’t have a child. God told Abraham that his descendants would be foreigners living in another country and that the people there would make them slaves and mistreat them for 400 years. God also told him, ‘I will punish the people whom they will serve. After that, they will leave that country and worship me here.’

“God gave Abraham circumcision to confirm his promise.[a] So when Abraham’s son Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him on the eighth day. Isaac did the same to his son Jacob, and Jacob did the same to his twelve sons (the ancestors of our tribes).

“Jacob’s sons were jealous of their brother Joseph. They sold him into slavery, and he was taken to Egypt. But God was with Joseph 10 and rescued him from all his suffering. When Joseph stood in the presence of Pharaoh (the king of Egypt), God gave Joseph divine favor [b] and wisdom so that he became ruler of Egypt and of Pharaoh’s whole palace. 11 Then a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan brought a lot of suffering. Our ancestors couldn’t find any food. 12 When Jacob heard that Egypt had food, he sent our ancestors there. That was their first trip. 13 On the second trip, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his relatives, 75 people in all. 15 So Jacob went to Egypt, and he and our ancestors died there. 16 They were taken to Shechem for burial in the tomb that Abraham purchased in Shechem from Hamor’s sons.

17 “When the time that God had promised to Abraham had almost come, the number of our people in Egypt had grown very large. 18 Then a different king, who knew nothing about Joseph, began to rule in Egypt. 19 This king was shrewd in the way he took advantage of our people. He mistreated our ancestors. He made them abandon their newborn babies outdoors, where they would die.

20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was a very beautiful child. His parents took care of him for three months. 21 When Moses was abandoned outdoors, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him as her son. 22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became a great man in what he said and did. 23 When he was 40 years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 When he saw an Israelite man being treated unfairly by an Egyptian, he defended the Israelite. He took revenge by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought his own people would understand that God was going to use him to give them freedom. But they didn’t understand. 26 The next day Moses saw two Israelites fighting, and he tried to make peace between them. He said to them, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why are you treating each other unfairly?’

27 “But one of the men pushed Moses aside. He asked Moses, ‘Who made you our ruler and judge? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 After he said that, Moses quickly left Egypt and lived in Midian as a foreigner. In Midian he fathered two sons.

30 “Forty years later, a Messenger appeared to him in the flames of a burning bush in the desert of Mount Sinai. 31 Moses was surprised when he saw this. As he went closer to look at the bush, the voice of the Lord said to him, 32 ‘I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and didn’t dare to look at the bush. 33 The Lord told him, ‘Take off your sandals. The place where you’re standing is holy ground. 34 I’ve seen how my people are mistreated in Egypt. I’ve heard their groaning and have come to rescue them. So now I’m sending you to Egypt.’

35 “This is the Moses whom the Israelites rejected by saying, ‘Who made you our ruler and judge?’ This is the one God sent to free them and to rule them with the help of the Messenger who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This is the man who led our ancestors out of Egypt. He is the person who did amazing things and worked miracles in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the desert for 40 years. 37 This is the same Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet, an Israelite like me.’ 38 This is the Moses who was in the assembly in the desert. Our ancestors and the Messenger who spoke to him on Mount Sinai were there with him. Moses received life-giving messages to give to us, 39 but our ancestors were not willing to obey him. Instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘We don’t know what has happened to this Moses, who led us out of Egypt. So make gods who will lead us.’ 41 That was the time they made a calf. They offered a sacrifice to that false god and delighted in what they had made.

42 “So God turned away from them and let them worship the sun, moon, and stars. This is written in the book of the prophets: ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and grain offerings in the desert for 40 years, nation of Israel? 43 You carried along the shrine of Moloch, the star of the god Rephan, and the statues you made for yourselves to worship. I will send you into exile beyond the city of Babylon.’

44 “In the desert our ancestors had the tent of God’s promise. Moses built this tent exactly as God had told him. He used the model he had seen. 45 After our ancestors received the tent, they brought it into this land. They did this with Joshua’s help when they took possession of the land from the nations that God forced out of our ancestors’ way. This tent remained here until the time of David, 46 who won God’s favor. David asked that he might provide a permanent place for the family of Jacob.[c] 47 But Solomon was the one who built a house for God.

48 “However, the Most High doesn’t live in a house built by humans, as the prophet says:

49 ‘The Lord says,
“Heaven is my throne.
The earth is my footstool.
What kind of house are you going to build for me?
Where will I rest?
50 Didn’t I make all these things?” ’

51 “How stubborn can you be? How can you be so heartless and disobedient? You’re just like your ancestors. They always opposed the Holy Spirit, and so do you! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute? They killed those who predicted that a man with God’s approval would come. You have now become the people who betrayed and murdered that man. 53 You are the people who received Moses’ Teachings, which were put into effect by angels. But you haven’t obeyed those teachings.”

Stephen Is Executed

54 As council members listened to Stephen, they became noticeably furious. 55 But Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked into heaven, saw God’s glory, and Jesus in the honored position—the one next to God the Father on the heavenly throne. 56 So Stephen said, “Look, I see heaven opened and the Son of Man in the honored position—the one next to God the Father on the throne!”

57 But the council members shouted and refused to listen. Then they rushed at Stephen with one purpose in mind, 58 and after they had thrown him out of the city, they began to stone him to death. The witnesses left their coats with a young man named Saul.

59 While council members were executing Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, welcome my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and shouted, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.” After he had said this, he died.


  1. 7:8 Or “covenant.”
  2. 7:10 Or “grace.”
  3. 7:46 Some manuscripts and translations read “God of Jacob.”

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