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Within and on the back side (eswqen kai opisqen). Compare Ezekiel ii. 10. Indicating the completeness of the divine counsels contained in the book. Rolls written on both sides were called opistographi. Pliny the younger says that his uncle, the elder Pliny, left him an hundred and sixty commentaries, most minutely written, and written on the back, by which this number is multiplied. Juvenal, inveighing against the poetasters who are declaiming their rubbish on all sides, says: "Shall that one then have recited to me his comedies, and this his elegies with impunity? Shall huge 'Telephus' with impunity have consumed a whole day; or - with the margin to the end of the book already filled -'Orestes,' written on the very back, and yet not concluded? "(i., 36).
Sealed (katesfragismenon). Only here in the New Testament. The preposition kata denotes sealed down. So Rev., close sealed. The roll is wound round a staff and fastened down to it with the seven seals. The unrolling of the parchment is nowhere indicated in the vision.
Commentators have puzzled themselves to explain the arrangement of the seals, so as to admit of the unrolling of a portion with the opening of each seal. Düsterdieck remarks that, With an incomparably more beautiful and powerful representation, the contents of the roll are successively symbolized by the vision which follows upon the opening of each seal. "The contents of the book leap forth in plastic symbols from the loosened seal." Milligan explains the seven seals as one seal, comparing the seven churches and the seven spirits as signifying one church and one spirit, and doubts if the number seven has here any mystical meaning. Others, as Alford, claim that the completeness of the divine purposes is indicated by the perfect number seven.
Worthy (axiov). As in John i. 27. Morally entitled.
3. Under the earth. In Hades.
To look (blepein). See on John i. 29. To take a single look at the contents.
4. I wept (eklaion). Audible weeping. See on Luke vi. 21.
5. Of the elders (ek twn presbuterwn). Strictly, from among the elders.
The Lion. See Gen. xlix. 9.
The Root of David. See on Nazarene, Matt. ii. 23.
Hath prevailed (enikhsen). Or overcame.
To loose. Omit.
6. And lo! Omit.
In the midst of. Not on the throne, but perhaps in the space in the center of which is the throne, and which is surrounded by the twenty-four elders. A Lamb (arnion). The diminutive, very frequent in Revelation, and once in the Gospel of John (xxi. 15). Nowhere else in the New Testament. Compare Isa. liii. 7; John i. 29, 36. Christ had just been spoken of as a lion. He now appears as a lamb. Some interpreters emphasize the idea of gentleness, others that of sacrifice.
Seven horns and seven eyes. See remarks on the Apocalyptic imagery, chapter i. 16. The horn is the emblem of might. See 1 Sam. ii. 10; 1 Kings xxii. 11; Ps. cxii. 9; Dan. vii. 7, 20 sqq.; Luke i. 69. Compare Matthew xxviii. 18. The eyes represent the discerning Spirit of God in its operation upon all created things.
Sent forth (apestalmena). See on Mark iii. 14.
7. Took (eilhfen). Lit., hath taken. The perfect, alternating with the aorist, is graphic.
8. Had taken (elaben). Lit., took. The aorist is resumed.
Every one of them harps (ekastov kiqarav). Rev., less clumsily, having each one a harp. Each one, that is, of the elders. Kiqara harp signifies an instrument unlike our harp as ordinarily constructed. Rather a lute or guitar, to which latter word kithara is etymologically related. Anciently of a triangular shape, with seven strings, afterwards increased to eleven. Josephus says it had ten, and was played with a plectrum or small piece of ivory.
Vials (fialav). Only in Revelation. The word vial, used commonly of a small bottle, gives a wrong picture here. The fialh was a broad, flat vessel, used for boiling liquids, sometimes as a cinerary urn, and for drinking, or pouring libations. Also of the shallow cup, usually without a foot, in which libations were drawn out of the mixer. Herodotus says that at Plataea the Spartan Helots were bidden by Pausanias to bring together the booty of the Persian camp, and that they found "many golden mixers and bowls (fialav), and other ejkpwmata (drinking-vessels)" (ix., 30). From its broad, flat shape Areov fialh bowl of Mars was a comic metaphor for a shield. It was also used for sunken work in a ceiling. In the Septuagint the word is frequently used for bowls or basons. See Numbers vii. 13, 19, 25, 31, 37, 43, etc.; 1 Kings vii. 50; Zech. ix. 15. Here, censers, though several different words of the Septuagint and New Testament are rendered censer; as quiskh, 1 Kings vii. 50; qumiathrion, 2 Chronicles xxvi. 19; Ezek. viii. 11; Heb. ix. 4; libanwton, Apoc. viii. 3. Quiskh however is the golden incense-cup or spoon to receive the frankincense which was lighted with coals from the brazen altar, and offered on the golden altar before the veil. The imagery is from the tabernacle and temple service.
Prayers. For incense as the symbol of prayer, see Lev. xvi. 12,13; Ps. cxli. 2. See on Luke i. 9. Edersheim, describing the offering of incense in the temple, says: "As the President gave the word of command which marked that 'the time of incense had come,' the whole multitude of the people without withdrew from the inner court and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands in silent prayer. It is this most solemn period, when, throughout the vast temple-buildings, deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar, and the cloud of odors rose up before the Lord, which serves as the image of heavenly things in Revelation (viii. 1, 3, 4). The prayers offered by priests and people at this part of the service are recorded by tradition as follows: 'True it is that Thou art Jehovah, our God and the God of our fathers; our King and the King of our fathers; our Savior and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the seashore. Together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, 'Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel.'" Compare "the Song of Moses," chapter xv. 3, and "a new song," verse 9.
9. They sing. Present tense, denoting the continuous, unceasing worship of heaven, or possibly, as describing their "office generally rather than the mere one particular case of its exercise" (Alford).
Redeem (hgorasav). Lit., purchase, as Rev. See John iv. 8; vi. 5. Us. Omit us and supply men, as Rev. With Thy blood (en tw aimati sou). Lit., "in Thy blood." The preposition in is used Hebraistically of the price; the value of the thing purchased being contained in the price.
Kindred (fulhv). Rev., tribe. Often in the New Testament of the twelve tribes of Israel.
10. Us (hmav). Read aujtouv them.
Kings (basileiv). Read, basileian a kingdom. See on chapter i. 6. We shall reign (basileusomen). Read basileuousin they reign. Their reigning is not future, but present.
11. Ten thousand times ten thousand (muriadev muriadwn). Lit., ten thousands of ten thousands. Compare Ps. lxviii. 17; Dan. viii. 10. Muriav, whence the English myriad, means the number ten thousand. So, literally, Acts xix. 19, ajrguriou muriadav pente fifty-thousand pieces of silver; lit., five ten-thousands. In the plural used for an unlimited number. See Luke xii. 1; Acts xxi. 20; Heb. xii. 22; Jude 14.
Thousands (ciliadev). Ciliav, a collective term like, muriav, meaning the number one thousand, is almost invariably used with men in Revelation. See chapter vii. 4; xi. 13. Only once with a material object (chapter xxi. 16). With inferior objects cilioi a thousand is used. See chapter xi. 3; xii. 6. These words are the theme of Alford's noble hymn - "Ten thousand times ten thousand In sparkling raiment bright, The armies of the ransomed saints Throng up the steeps of light: 'Tis finished, all is finished, Their fight with death and sin; Fling open wide the golden gates, And let the victors in."
12. Power, etc. Rev., "the power." Compare the ascription in chapter iv. 11, on which see note, and notice that each separate particular there has the article, while here it is attached only to the first, the power, the one article including all the particulars, as if they formed but one word. On the doxologies, see on chapter i. 6.
Riches (plouton). Not limited to spiritual riches, but denoting the fulness of every gift of God. Jas. i. 17; Acts xvii. 25. Only here in a doxology. Blessing (eulogian). See on the kindred word eujloghtov blessed, I Peter i. 3.
13. Creature (ktisma). See 1 Tim. iv. 4; Jas. i. 18. From ktizw to found. A thing founded or created Rev., created thing. See on John i. 3. In the sea (epi thv qalasshv). More accurately, "on the sea," as Rev. Not ships, but creatures of the sea which have come up from its depths to the surface.
Blessing (h eulogia). Rev. rightly "the blessing." All the particulars of the following ascription have the article.
Honor (timh). Originally a valuing by which the price is fixed, hence the price itself, the thing priced, and so, generally, honor. See on Acts xxviii. 10. Power (to kratov). Rev., the dominion. For the different words for power, see on 2 Pet. ii. 11.
14. Four and twenty. Omit.
Worshipped. In silent adoration.
Him that liveth forever and ever. Omit.