The Patriarchs and the Sanhedrin: Acts 7:9-16
““9) The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, 10) and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. 11) “Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it, and our fathers could find no food. 12) But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. 13) On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. 14) Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. 15) And Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. 16) From there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.” Acts‬ ‭7‬:‭9‬-‭16
The inclusion of Joseph in the message of Stephen to the Sanhedrin served two purposes. First, Joseph was a “type of Christ” in the Old Testament. He was hated by his ten brothers and because of jealousy they sold him as a slave into Egypt. In a sense, they put him to death.
Yet Joseph became as it were a prince and a savior to them. God had favor on him, rescued him from his afflictions and made him Governor over the land of Egypt. This served as a picture of the resurrection. He ended up saving his people from the famine.
Second, the Sanhedrin were filling the shoes of the ten brothers of Joseph. Because of jealousy, they united against Jesus Christ and had Him crucified. They rejected and killed the Messiah. Can you see the analogy?
In Genesis 37:8, after Joseph related his dream to his brothers, they responded; “8) Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you going to rule over us? So they hated him even more for his dream and for his words.” The chief priests and elders of the people took the same stance against Jesus.
As Stephen was sharing this part of his message, God was as ready pointing His finger at the religious leaders. They were being exposed. They were guilty of an even greater crime than the ten patriarchs (brothers of Joseph). The Sanhedrin (the religious leaders of the Jews) had crucified the Messiah, but God had favor on Him and raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, it can be intensely personal and very direct. You can either humble yourself and repent or you can harden your heart and resist God. The religious leaders rejected the gospel and opted to harden their hearts and resist the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 7:51)
I believe this message was a pivotal point for Israel and human history. There is a reason why God devoted Acts 6-7 to this message from Stephen. The chief priests, elders of the people and in a sense the entire nation of Israel were being put on trial.
From the onset of this message, the error of their actions in rejecting the Messiah was obvious. We are going to discover that the condemnation heaped upon them by the end of this message grows even greater.
It is impossible to second guess the Providence of God, but how different history would have unfolded had they humbled themselves, repented and embraced the Messiah.
The acceptance of the Messiah by Israel is one of the crucial factors in the second return of Jesus Christ to set up His earthly Kingdom. (Isaiah 60-65; Romans 11) What if they had repented and embraced Jesus Christ as their Messiah at the conclusion of Stephen’s message? We can only speculate.
In Stephen’s message, the full gospel was clearly laid out before them. Old Testament prophecy was developed in high definition right before their eyes. In this pivotal chapter, Stephen was calling for a verdict.
Tragically, they again rejected the grace of God and the Gospel. Here is an astounding observation; this is the last time the Sanhedrin is mentioned in the Bible. They sealed their own doom. They became irrelevant and were cast aside by God.
What happened next in the book of Acts? Don’t miss this, because it explains the rest of the New Testament and the past 2,000 years of history. Are you ready?
Their rejection of the Messiah turned the focus from Israel and opened the doors of the gospel to the Gentiles. The transition from Israel to the Gentiles starts immediately with the next chapter in the book of Acts.
There is so much more to Acts chapter seven and the message of Stephen than a casual reading can reveal. I believe the mantle of authority was forfeited by the Sanhedrin in Acts chapter seven and transferred to the Apostles by the time of the Jerusalem Council in Acts chapter fifteen.
From this point onward a new system of structure and authority takes over in the Bible. Jesus Christ begins reigning as head over His Church. The living mystery of the body and bride of Christ comes alive through His Spirit.
Understanding this transition of authority is vital in comprehending the current administration of God in the world. The book of Hebrews was written to color in this transition. Resist the temptation to skip quickly over this pivotal chapter in the Bible.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global