DOES ACTS 7:43 HAVE MISTAKES?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Stephen’s sermon in Acts chapter 7 claims: “ 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?  Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.”
We can go turn the Old Testament Book of Amos to find the original quote. (Acts 7:42 says “the prophets” because Hosea to Malachi, while 12 Books in our Gentile Old Testament, were originally one Book in the Hebrew Bible—it was titled “the Twelve,” as in “Twelve Prophets”). Read Amos chapter 5: “ Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?  But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.  Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.”
If we are meticulous Bible students, we see two main points of controversy here. Firstly, Amos says “Chiun” whereas Stephen uses “Remphan” instead. Why? Secondly, Amos has “Damascus” but Stephen replaces it with “Babylon.” To what purpose?
The god “Chiun” is rather mysterious, so its identity is unclear. It may have been a statue to worship a pagan god associated with the planet Saturn (cf. “the host of heaven” in Acts 7:42). The Greek word “Remphan”—from Egyptian (?)—means “the shrunken [that is, lifeless].” God the Holy Ghost, speaking through Stephen (Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55), may have selected this word to underscore the lifelessness of “Chiun,” the false religion Israel had chosen. Whatever the idol’s name, it was still paganism and offensive to JEHOVAH God!
As touching “Damascus” in Amos, and “Babylon” in Acts, this is nothing more than the Holy Spirit through Stephen extending the initial prophecy so it encompasses a later prophecy. Amos was writing to the Northern Kingdom, Israel’s 10 tribes, which would soon go away into Assyrian Captivity (to the north, past Damascus—modern Syria). Judah, the Southern Kingdom, was exiled in the Babylonian Captivity approximately 100 years later (to the east, past Babylon—modern Iraq). Stephen, living many centuries after, replaces “Damascus” with “Babylon” to encompass all 12 tribes’ captivity in Gentile/foreign lands. In both cases, it was the fifth course of chastisement—God’s punishment on the idol-worshipping Jews (Leviticus 26:27-39)! Details concerning the Assyrian Captivity are in 2 Kings chapter 17; the Babylonian Captivity is found in chapters 24–25.