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Acts 7:17-19

17. And when the time of the promise drew near, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people increased, and was multiplied in Egypt, 18. Until another king arose, which knew not Joseph: 19. This man dealt subtilely with our kindred; he evil-entreated our fathers, that they might cast out their infants, lest they should be increased.


17. Stephen passeth over unto the deliverance of the people, before which 405405     “Cujus praeludium,” as a prelude to which. went that innumerable issue which had increased beyond the ordinary manner in no long space of time. Therefore, he setteth down this as a singular gift of God, that the people was increased, to the end we may know that that came not to pass according to the common or wonted custom of nature. But, on the other side, God seemeth to take from the Jews all hope, because Pharaoh doth tyrannously afflict them, and their bondage groweth greater daily. And when as they are commanded to cast out their male infants, it seemeth that the destruction of the whole nation was present. There is another token of deliverance given, when Moses cometh abroad; but because he is by and by refused and enforced to fly into exile, there remaineth nothing but mere despair. The sum is this; that God, being mindful of his promise, did increase the people in time, that he might perform that which he had sworn to Abraham; but the Jews (as they were unthankful and froward) did refuse the grace of God, so that they did what they could to shut up the way before themselves. Furthermore, we must note the providence of God in this place, whilst that he doth so order the course of times, that his works have always their opportunity. But men who make haste disorderly in their desires cannot hope patiently, and be at rest, until such time as God showeth forth his hand; for this cause, because they take no heed to that moderation whereof I have spoken. And to the end God may exercise the faith of his children so often as he appeareth with joyful tokens of grace, he setteth other things against those on the other side, which cut off suddenly the hope of salvation. For who would not have said of the Hebrews, that they were utterly undone, when as the king’s commandment appointed all the men children to be put to death? For which cause the meditating upon that doctrine is the most [more] necessary for us, that God doth kill and restore to life; he leadeth unto hell, and bringeth back again.

19. Dealt subtilely. The old interpreter did not translate this amiss, to deceive. 406406     “Circumvenire,” to circumvent. For Stephen meaneth that the king of Egypt did craftily invent new shifts and wicked pretenses, that he might every now and then lay heavier burdens upon the people, like as almost all tyrants do; for how unjustly soever they vex their subjects, they are [but] too witty to invent excuses. And it is not to be doubted but that Pharaoh abused this honest color, that it was not meet that the Jews, who were sojourners, should have a place of abode in his realm for nought, and that they should be free from all burthens, seeing they did enjoy great commodities. Therefore, he deceitfully made them vile bondslaves of free-men. When Stephen saith that this tyrant knew not Joseph, hereby it appeareth how soon the remembrance of benefits passeth away among men, For although we do all with one consent detest unthankfulness, yet is there no vice more common amongst us.

Lest they should be increased. Erasmus translateth this improperly, in my judgment. For [Ζωογονεισθαι] expresseth more than lest their children should live. For the word is fet [fetched] thence, because the people doth all always remain alive in the offspring. And, furthermore Stephen doth not reckon up all the parts of their evil-entreating, but putteth down one example of extreme cruelty. Whence we may easily gather how near the whole seed of Abraham was to destruction. For Pharaoh seemed to have murdered them all with that commandment as with one stroke of a sword. But such violent barbarism did the more set forth the unlooked-for and incredible power of God; because when Pharaoh hath, by all means possible, striven against God, yet all is in vain.

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