What does Acts 7:42 mean?
ESV: But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: “‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices, during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
NIV: But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: ''Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
NASB: But God turned away and gave them over to serve the heavenly lights; as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘YOU DID NOT OFFER ME VICTIMS AND SACRIFICES FOR FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS, DID YOU, HOUSE OF ISRAEL?
CSB: God turned away and gave them up to worship the stars of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:House of Israel, did you bring me offerings and sacrificesfor forty years in the wilderness?
NLT: Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! In the book of the prophets it is written, ‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel?
KJV: Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
NKJV: Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets: ‘Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
Verse Commentary:
The Jewish Jesus-follower Stephen continues his comparison of the Jews who accuse him of disrespecting Moses and the Law to the Israelites who truly rejected Moses and his Law. He has reminded his accusers of the golden calf the Israelites worshiped at the base of Mount Sinai (Acts 7:39–41; Exodus 32), and now mentions the further idolatry Israel as a nation willingly adopted.

The claim in this verse is a bit confusing. The "host of heaven" means foreign gods. After the account with the golden calf, the next major idolatry mentioned is the Baal worship at Peor, not long before the Israelites were to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 25).

At Mount Sinai, in the first year of the forty-year trek through the wilderness, God gave the Israelites specific instructions about how and when to offer sacrifices. However, there is no record of sacrifices or festivals being performed—other than the consecration ritual of Aaron and his sons—until Passover after the Israelites crossed the Jordan into Israel (Joshua 5:10–12).

Verse 42 and 43 from this chapter are a quote of Amos 5:25–27. The NET Bible commentary explains that Acts 7:42 and Amos 5:25 are rhetorical questions which expect a negative reply, but that the question and reply are probably hyperbole. The point isn't that not one Israelite, ever, in any way sacrificed to God during the forty years. Rather, it's that the sacrifices were of negligible importance compared to God's expectation that they wouldn't sacrifice to false gods. In fact, scholars posit that many of the strict regulations about sacrifices were aimed at that goal: requiring that all sheep, goats, and oxen were sacrificed by the priests at the tabernacle would ensure the Israelites didn't sacrifice to goat demons (Leviticus 17:7).

In one of his last addresses to the Israelites, Moses told them that idolatry would lead to exile where they would have little choice but to worship foreign gods, but God would always rescue His people if they truly repented (Deuteronomy 4:25–31). The people were taken into exile, first to Assyria and then to Babylon. It is the bitter memory of exile that led the Jews of Stephen's time to so revere the Law and the temple. But their reverence turned to idolatry.
Verse Context:
Acts 7:39–43 records Stephen reminding his accusers that the Jews they claim to follow have a long history of idolatry. Stephen, a Jewish deacon of the early church in Jerusalem, is defending himself against false charges that he disrespects Moses, the Mosaic law, and the temple (Acts 6:8–15). He shows that throughout history, God has met the Jews without the Law, which the Israelites never satisfactorily followed, or the temple, which God allowed but never requested. Like those long-ago Israelites, Stephen's accusers have fallen into idolatry, although instead of foreign gods, they worship Moses, the Law, and the temple.
Chapter Summary:
Stephen is a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian and one of the first deacons in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1–7). He's also a skilled apologist and has been debating Jews from outside Judea about the proper place of the Mosaic law and the temple (Acts 6:8–15). His opponents cannot counter his arguments so they resort to lies. They tell the Sanhedrin that Stephen wants to destroy the temple and repeal the Mosaic law. Stephen counters that his accusers don't respect Moses or the Law, and the temple isn't necessary to worship God. This enrages the mob, and Stephen is stoned, becoming the first Christian martyr.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 7 is one of the pivot points of the book of Acts. Until recently, the early church has seen favor from the people and indifference from the Sanhedrin. Now, the Sanhedrin has beaten the apostles and ordered them not to preach about Jesus (Acts 5:40), and the people are starting to realize how different Christianity is. In Jerusalem, a Hellenist Jewish Jesus-follower named Stephen has been in a debate with other foreign Jews who finally accuse him of wishing to destroy the temple, like Jesus (Acts 6:8–15). This is Stephen's defense, which leads to his death and the introduction of Paul.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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