A Study of Acts 7:15-16
In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 7, verses 15 and 16 God speaks about ONE land purchase, but in actuality there were two land purchases in view.
Jacob and his sons died in Egypt (Acts 7:15-16, Deuteronomy 5:6, John 8:34)
So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
There are many things that can be said about these two verses. Historically, Jacob and eleven of his sons went down into Egypt. Joseph was already in Egypt. Literally verse 15 says: “Jacob went down into Egypt and died, he and our fathers”. In other words, Jacob and his twelve sons died in Egypt. But then the next verse appears to say that Jacob and his twelve sons were buried in the land of Canaan. Verse 16 says: “And WERE carried over into Sychem”. We know that this cannot apply to Jacob and his twelve sons. We know, that only Jacob and Joseph were buried in the land of Canaan, because only Jacob and Joseph were embalmed. The other 11 brothers were not embalmed, so their bodies returned to dust during the 430 years that the children of Israel were in Egypt.
It means that God has another message in verse 15. The message is: “Jacob and our fathers went down into Egypt and died”, and that is when their bondage to Egypt, their slavery in Egypt began. Sin breeds Sin. You know that God uses bondage in Egypt as a picture of being in bondage to Sin and Satan.
I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
These words were not addressed to the former slaves, which came out of Egypt, because they had died in the wilderness. At the time Moses spoke these words, they were addressed to the second generation of whom most of them were born in the wilderness. And these words are also addressed to US. WE are the ones whom God has brought out from the house of bondage to Sin and Satan.
How did we end up in Egypt in the first place?
How did the children of Israel end up in Egypt?
The Lord Jesus articulated the answer to this question in a very profound way. He said in John 8:34,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant (slave) of sin.
The children of Israel ended up in Egypt because they had sold Joseph into Egypt. One sin breeds more sin. And now they were reaping the consequences of selling their brother into Egypt, and the sins of the fathers were visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those that despised the Law of God. And God was showing thereby a vivid application of the principle that:
Sin breeds more sin (Ephesians 2:1-3, Acts 7:15-16)
When we neglect to obey God’s word, then our sins will be magnified in the lives of our children and they will again be magnified in the lives of our children’s children.
And does that not explain how WE ended up in Egypt?
How did WE end up becoming slaves of Sin and Satan?
Well, just like the children of Israel: WE were born there!
When our forefather in the flesh, Adam, sinned against the Law of God, he showed by his actions that he despised the Law of God. Immediately the saying of Jesus was applied “Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin”, and through Adam’s sin the entire human race was plunged into sin. That is why we read in Ephesians 2:1-3,
And you (hath he quickened), who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
WE were by nature the children of wrath, even as others who never become saved. It takes an act of God to bring us out of the kingdom of Sin and Satan, just like it took an act of God to bring the children of Israel out of their bondage to the land of Egypt. That is the message of Acts 7:15,
So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
They died physically, but it is a picture of the spiritual death that is the consequence of sin.
Then God said something mysterious in Acts 7:16 that is understood by few people:
And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
It reads as if Jacob and his son Joseph were laid in a sepulchre, which means in a cave, which Abraham bought for a sum of money. Historically, we know that it was not Abraham but it was Jacob, who bought this field near Shechem from the sons of Hamor. And Jacob was not buried in this field, but he was buried in a cave that Abraham bought from the sons of Heth near Hebron, which was 50 miles south of Shechem. On the other hand Joseph, the son of Jacob, was buried in the field near Schechem, which his father Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor.
Why would I want to tangle with such a difficult verse?
It is because Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7 is a test from God. This is the Bible.
Do we believe God’s Word, or will we come up with our own devices to explain this apparent contradiction?
Some people say that Stephen was confused. Perish the thought. God wrote the Bible, and God was not confused.
Now let’s look at:
The second land purchase (Acts 7:16, Genesis 50:24-26)
In Acts 7:16 God is teaching us an old principle.
The principle is this: God may assign a name to someone if this person is representing another person whom God wants US to have in mind.
1) The Lord Jesus Christ is sometimes called David in the Bible, because David was called a man after God’s own heart.
2) John the Baptist was called Elijah the prophet, because the Bible says that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
3) When Jesus said to Peter: “Get thee behind me Satan”, Peter was not Satan, but Peter spoke of things that Satan would say, like “Don’t go to the Cross; You don’t have to go there”. And here in Acts 7:16, Jacob is called Abraham, because Jacob had the same characteristics as Abraham. Jacob is called Abraham, because he was typified by Abraham, and because both Jacob and Abraham are a representation of God.
Acts 7:16 speaks about two land purchases: Abraham bought the cave and the field of Machpelah near Hebron from the sons of Heth for a burial place.
The second land purchase was made 123 years later, when Jacob bought a field near Shechem. These were the only two land purchases made by the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob. Isaac never bought any land. Acts 7:16 says that the field near Shechem was also a burial place, but Jacob was not buried in this field, because Jacob did not intend to buy this field for a burial place.
Who was buried in this field?
It was Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel.
And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Joseph knew the promises God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Joseph knew that God could be depended on. He knew that our God is immutable.
Do you remember what immutable means?
It means that our God does not change. His Word abides forever. His promises are certain and sure!
What are God’s promises?
God promised to save everyone who has put his/her trust in the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But since we all were born in sin and we all were by nature the children of wrath and enemies of God, there will be NONE who puts his/her trust in the real Lord Jesus Christ (not a counterfeit). And that is indeed what the Bible says:
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
The Bible says that is the predicament that we are in: All mankind is on a slippery slope to Hell, and there is NO ONE who will repent and turn to God for help.
But God has promised to save some (John 6:44, Joshua 24:32)
God, in His great mercy, decided to save some of this rebellious mankind from their slippery
slope into Hell. But God stated only ONE Condition for salvation. Here is that Condition:
Salvation conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ ALONE!
Salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ ALONE!
Salvation must be a FREE Gift from God, not based on anything that WE DO, because through all this, God must receive all the glory. We may not reap any credits for something that we do for our salvation. God created us for His glory, and God is consistent in this, that His salvation plan must also give Him all the glory.
What does this mean?
What is a FREE Gift from God?
How FREE is FREE?
Well, it is only FREE if it is a Gift for which we do not have to do anything. Many Churches say: Christ has done everything to save you, all you have to do is reach out and accept the gift, or all you have to do is get yourself baptized in water, or all you have to do is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior.
All these conditions are false; they make the gift from God not FREE, but based on something that we must DO. These are works gospels, which cannot save anyone. Only the Gospel of the Free Grace of God is the salvation plan whereby God saves anyone.
And how does God turn any of us rebellious creatures around?
He literally has to drag us out of the clutches of Satan into a saving relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus said it so plainly in John 6:44,
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him (lit: drag him).
Does the Father make up His mind to draw this one or that one based on something good that He sees in us?
No, of course not. Salvation is not based on anything that we DO, or any good qualities that we might have. God chooses whom He will save, and since God knows the end from the beginning, the Bible says that He chose us from before the foundation of the world. God would not be omniscient if He did not choose us from before the foundation of the world. And to all those whom God has chosen to save, God promised that He will bring them into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the promises that God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These are the promises that God made with Israel. No, not the physical descendants of Jacob, but those whom God calls the Israel of God in Romans 9, and in Galatians 6.
Joseph understood the promises God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Joseph looked forward to the Day that he would be gathered into his Father’s house with body and soul. Therefore Joseph commanded the children of Israel to carry his bones into the land of Canaan, which typifies the Kingdom of God. And when they walked out of Egypt 359 years later, they carried the mummified body of Joseph with them. Then we read in Joshua 24:34,
And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
Now finally the second land purchase in Canaan had also become a burial place.
What does that mean?
Let’s now look at:
Jacob Bought a Field (Genesis 33:17-20)
And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
Jacob arrived at Succoth, and he took some time to rest there.
Do you know where Succoth is?
It is located just East of the Jordan River. Jacob was on his way to the land of Canaan. Why did he stop East of the Jordan River?
Most likely he stopped to wait for the Jordan River to become a passable stream at the end of the summer. And since it was hot and humid there, he built some booths there from branches and leaves to give his cattle a little shade. Now the next verse:
And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.
Now we see Jacob on the West side of the Jordan, almost straight West from Succoth. Apparently Jacob and all his family, and servants, and cattle had crossed the Jordan River successfully. Jacob came to the city of Shalem, which was a suburb of the city of Shechem, and the city of Shechem was named after the son of the prince of the land, Shechem the son of Hamor. Jacob pitched his tent in front of the city of Shalem, which means “Peace”, because this seams such a peaceful country, located in a valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Here Abraham had pitched his tent and built his first altar in the Promised Land, and received the first divine promise in Genesis 12. Here 2000 years later the Lord Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob, and there are many more historical notes we can associate with Shechem. But Jacob pitched his tent before the city of Shalem, which means “Peace”. And Jacob planned to stay there, as we read in the following verse:
And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money.
What did Jacob buy?
Jacob did not buy this for a burial place. Jacob intended to stay there. This was the field in front of the city of Shalem where he set up his household, and his flocks and his servants, and all that he had. This was Jacob’s plan. But soon after this God moved him to go on and move farther South.
Did Jacob make a mistake in settling here and buying this field?
No! God wrote the Bible, and God orchestrated each event so that these all combined to form the perfect Word of God, the Bible. We can say that God prompted Jacob to buy this field. God had a purpose for it.
How does this field compare with the field of Machpelah that Abraham bought?
1) Both fields were bought from the Gentiles.
2) Both fields ended up as burial places.
3) Both fields represented peace, not to the Gentiles, but to Abraham and to the children of Israel. Shalem means peace. Machpelah means “a fold”, or “a sheepfold” where the flock finds peace.
And what about the full price? (Matthew 7:13-14)
Abraham paid 400 shekels for the field of Machpelah. Jacob paid for the field an hundred pieces of money. Actually, this money should have been left untranslated by the KJV translators, just like they left untranslated the word “shekel”. Literally, the Hebrew text says that Jacob bought the field “for a hundred Kesitah”. A Kesitah was a silver coin that was stamped with the figure of a lamb, and it was equivalent to four shekels. So actually, Jacob paid the same amount for his field at Shalem as Abraham paid for the field at Machpelah: 400 shekels.
Moreover, this field was near Shechem, whereas Abraham’s field was near Hebron.
Is it not curious that both Shechem and Hebron, with their suburbs, were chosen by Joshua to be “Cities of Refuge”?
You can see that there is an intense relationship between the field that Abraham bought and the field that Jacob bought. And God, who wrote the Sermon of Stephen, has pointed us in this direction, as if both land purchases were actually ONE.
The action of Abraham buying the field of Machpelah from the Gentiles, and the action of Jacob buying the field of Shalem from the Gentiles, are both SHADOWS, and they are the same SHADOW of a much greater land purchase.
What is it a SHADOW of?
About 2000 years later on the Cross the Lord Jesus Christ bought the world from the Gentiles, and after He has purged it from all sin He will give it to His Body of Believers as a New Heaven and a New Earth.
God emphasized in Genesis 23 that Abraham paid the full price for the field: 400 shekels of silver. Jacob also paid the full price for the field: 400 shekels of silver. Because Christ on the Cross actually paid the full price, that is why it is absolutely certain that we will inherit the New Heaven & New Earth.
The field of Machpelah and the field of Shechem became burial places for the physically dead. We can be sure that the souls of those Saints went immediately to God in heaven. But when the Lord Jesus Christ bought the world, He paid for the burial place of those persons who have experienced the second death.
What is the second death?
The second death, as described in Revelation 20 and 21, is to be in the Lake of Fire and under the wrath of God for an eternity.
The majority of the people of the world are headed for the Lake of Fire. Jesus said that in Matthew 7:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
This shows you that people by nature do not like the Gospel of the Bible.
Who wants a God who sends people to Hell?
People rather invent a god who is all smiles, and who loves everybody, and who slaps your hand when you have done something wicked. But that is a man made idol. That is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible says: “The wages of sin is Death”, and the Death that God has in view is an eternity in the Lake of Fire. And since all men are sinners by nature, and since God is Righteous, God must punish every human being with an eternity in Hell. The path to heaven is through the Lake of Fire, because our sins must first be cleansed by Fire.
Have we experienced the second death?
Well, if the Lord Jesus Christ paid for all your sins, then you have experienced the second death. Before the Lord Jesus Christ went to the Cross He so identified Himself with all the human beings whom God in His divine wisdom had chosen to save, so much so that He was able to take all their dirty rotten sins upon Himself. Once He had done that, He could not go back into God’s holy heaven laden with all those sins by imputation. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ was obligated to pay for those sins the penalty that God had determined in His Law. That penalty for each sin is an eternity in Hell, with body and soul. That is what each human being would have to pay, if he has to pay for his own sins on the Last Day. Therefore, that is what the Lord Jesus had to pay because He paid the full price. Therefore He suffered the equivalent of an eternity in Hell both in His body and in His Spirit for each and every sin that He had taken upon Himself. That was an awful price to pay for the spiritual freedom of those people whom God had chosen to set free. But because the Lord Jesus was fully God and fully man, He was able to pay for those sins that were imputed to Him. He endured the second death for all those whom He came to identify with, and to save. And when He cried with a loud voice from the Cross: “It is finished”, all those dirty rotten sins were fully paid. At that moment Christ was cleansed from those sins. And because Christ paid the full price for the sins of all those whom He came to save, it is guaranteed that God will bring to repentance each and every one of them before their body dies. It is guaranteed that they will hear the Gospel, and will believe that Christ died for their sins, because God the Holy Spirit will give them a believing heart.
If the Lord Jesus Christ has died for your sins, then you have been identified with Him when He suffered on the Cross the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, which is the second death. Then Christ has endured the second death for you in your place, which means that you have experienced the second death, and you do not have to endure that again.
But the Lord Jesus has not paid for the sins of every human being, as some Churches teach. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, that the majority of human beings will remain in unbelief, or they will worship a god who is not the God of the Bible, therefore they will die in their sins. As a result, they will stand before the Judgment throne of God on the Last Day, they will be judged and they will be found guilty, every last one of them, and they will be cast into Hell to pay that penalty of an eternity in Hell. Christ did not suffer the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for those who themselves end up in Hell.
Therefore, when Abraham bought the field of Machpelah near Hebron, in Genesis 23, and when Jacob bought the field of Shalem near Shechem, in Genesis 33, both these events were SHADOWS of Christ on the Cross buying the world, which gives Him the right to change this world into a New Heaven & New Earth wherein only righteousness dwells. Christ paid for the burial place of those who have experienced the second death with Him. Both the field near Hebron and the field near Shechem are pointing to the same thing, and that is: WE will be resurrected, and WE will inherit the entire Kingdom of God.
There is one more thing that happened to both Hebron and Shechem. They became:
Cities of Refuge (Joshua 20:1-7, Numbers 35)
What are the cities of Refuge?
The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:
That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.
And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
Who may flee to this City of Refuge? (John 19:37, Zechariah 12:10)
And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
The death of the High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
By Alfred J. Chompff