What does Acts 7:44 mean?
ESV: “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen.
NIV: Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.
NASB: Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen.
CSB: "Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses commanded him to make it according to the pattern he had seen.
NLT: Our ancestors carried the Tabernacle with them through the wilderness. It was constructed according to the plan God had shown to Moses.
KJV: Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
NKJV: “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen,
Verse Commentary:
The "tent of witness," or tabernacle, was a large tent in a courtyard that housed the smaller items of worship, such as the lampstand, the holy bread, and the altar of incense, as well as the ark of the covenant. In front of the tent was the altar where the Israelites gave their sacrifices. When the Israelites were at Mount Sinai, shortly after their escape from Egypt, Moses would go to the top of the mountain and speak with God. God ordained that Moses would supervise the building of the tabernacle and gave him specific plans to follow (Exodus 25—27). The plans ensured the people only sacrificed to God and excluded worship of goat demons and other Egyptian gods. Moses built the tabernacle according to the plans (Exodus 38—40) and ordained his brother Aaron and Aaron's sons as the priests who performed the sacrifices and the rituals inside.

The tabernacle was a "tent of witness" or "testimony" because it provided proof God was with the Israelites. While at Mount Sinai, Moses spoke to God on Mount Sinai, but once the Israelites left, God spoke to him in the tent of meeting (Exodus 33:11). The tabernacle and its successors served as the legitimate home of the ark of the covenant and the sacrifices until Solomon built the temple, almost five hundred years later (1 Kings 6).

Stephen is laying down his defense against the Jews who claim he disrespects the temple: God didn't ask for the temple and He had no problem speaking to the priests in a tent. The building is not sacred unless God's presence is actually there.
Verse Context:
Acts 7:44–50 points out that while God accepted the temple, He never asked for it and it can't contain Him. Jews from northern Africa and modern Asia Minor have accused Jesus-follower Stephen of blaspheming Moses, the Mosaic law, and the temple (Acts 6:8–15). Stephen has already proved that the patriarchs worshiped God without a temple, the Law, or even a homeland (7:2–16). Even Solomon, who built the temple, knew it couldn't contain God. Moses, the Law, and the temple have effectively become idols to the Jews.
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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