Acts 7:38 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 7:38, NIV: He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

Acts 7:38, ESV: This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.

Acts 7:38, KJV: This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

Acts 7:38, NASB: This is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him at length on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to you.

Acts 7:38, NLT: Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God's people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us.

Acts 7:38, CSB: He is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us.

What does Acts 7:38 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jews from outside Judea have accused Stephen of disrespecting Moses and the Law. Stephen is explaining exactly what he thinks about Moses: he was sent by God as a ruler and redeemer, given authority by God, performed wonders and signs in Egypt and for forty years in the wilderness acted as a liaison between the Israelites and God, and received the Law from God that made the descendants of Jacob into a nation (Acts 7:35–37).

Shortly after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they camped around Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). Moses climbed the mountain and spent forty days with God, receiving the Law that would take Moses' name. "Congregation" means a group with a common identity, in this case the Israelites. The "wilderness" is the Sinai Peninsula.

When the Israelites first came to Mount Sinai, Moses and Aaron climbed the mountain while the people stood around the base. Although the people had consecrated themselves, they could not touch the mountain. But they witnessed "thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled" (Exodus 19:16). These "fathers" of Stephen's audience insisted that they would listen to Moses, but they did not want to hear from God directly (Exodus 20:18–19).

Exodus doesn't mention an angel on Mount Sinai, but it does say that God spoke to Moses directly. In the Old Testament, when "the angel of the LORD" is mentioned in the text, scholars think the "angel" is actually Jesus before He received His human body. It's possible this is what Stephen means.

An "oracle" is a spoken revelation. "Living" means that they offer life. The Mosaic law was words that brought physical and spiritual life to the Israelites, if they followed it. Today, Jesus is the living Word that brings us life (John 1:1–5).

Stephen is going over Moses' history because Jews have accused him of disrespecting Moses, the Law, and "this place," or the temple (Acts 6:11–14). Here, he proves that the Israelites received their national independence, the Law, and God's presence in the wilderness, far in time and place from the temple and Jerusalem. God does not need the temple to meet His people, and the Israelites of Moses' time didn't follow the law, anyway (Acts 7:39–41, 49–50).