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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-18


The Two Beasts

Personification of the two powers inspired by the devil to persecute the Church.

1-10. The dragon stands by the sea (i.e. the Ægean Sea), from which there rises to meet him a 'beast,' i.e. something inhuman: signifying the Roman empire, which came to the Province of Asia, in which were the Churches addressed in Rev., from the sea. The beast has ten horns and seven heads: cp. Daniel 7. On the horns are diadems and on the heads 'names of blasphemy,' i.e. blasphemous titles: cp. Revelation 17:3. The ten horns (see on Revelation 12:3) are the ten emperors from Augustus to Titus. The seven horns are those of the ten who had reigned long enough for worship to be paid to them, i.e. omitting Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. The 'names' were, probably, 'Augustus' or 'Sebastos,' i.e. 'reverenced,' under which the emperors were worshipped: cp. Revelation 13:12., Revelation 2:13 note (Revelation 13:1).

'The emperor represented the majesty, the wisdom, and the beneficent power of Rome: he was in many cases actually represented in different parts of the empire as an incarnation of the god worshipped in that district.. Domitian.. delighted.. to be idolised as the Divine Providence in human form; and it is recorded that Caligula, Domitian, and Diocletian were the three emperors who delighted to be styled dominus et deus' (Ramsay, 'Church in Rom. Empire,' pp. 191, 275).

The monster combines the powers of the four beasts in Daniel 7 (Revelation 13:2). One head is smitten unto death, but the death stroke is healed. This head probably represents Nero (54-68 a.d.), of whom popular report said that he was not dead, or that if dead he would return to life (Tacitus, 'Hist.' ii. 8, Suetonius, 'Nero,' 57): cp. Revelation 17:8. The word translated wounded, RV 'smitten,' is that translated 'slain,' of the Lamb, Revelation 5:6. It is implied that Nero, both as the head of the world kingdom, and in his death and return to life, was the counterpart of Christ in God's kingdom. St. John took this Nero superstition, and used it to symbolise the breaking out again of Nero's persecuting spirit in Domitian, 81-96 a.d. (Revelation 13:3). As Nero is represented as the counterpart of Christ, so the worship of the dragon and the beast is the evil counterpart of the worship of God: cp. 'who is like,' etc., with Exodus 15:11; (Revelation 13:4). The beast blasphemes God and His tabernacle (i.e. the Church, the dwelling-place of God) by the assumption of divine honour and by imputing evil practices to Christianity: cp. 1 Peter 2:12; (Revelation 13:5.). He is appointed (i.e. by God, who overrules the work of evil men to His glory) to war against the 'saints' in world-wide power (Revelation 13:7), and worship is offered to him by the ungodly (Revelation 13:8.). The description of the beast ends with an injunction to the saints to submit to God's will in unresisting patience (Revelation 13:10).

1. I stood] RV 'he stood.' Saw] RV 'I saw.' Crowns] RV 'diadems,' i.e. kingly crowns. The name] RV 'names,'

4. Which gave power] RV 'because he gave his authority.'

5. Forty and two months] see on Revelation 11:2.

6. And them, etc.] RV 'even them.' Christians are themselves God's 'tabernacle,' because He is 'in the midst of' them: cp. Revelation 21:3.

Dwell] Gk. 'tabernacle.' In heaven] Christians are here said to dwell in heaven, because they belong to the kingdom of heaven on earth and because in Christ they have begun to live the heavenly life: cp. Ephesians 2:6.

7. All kindreds, etc.] The Roman empire was world-wide.

8. Book of Life] see on Revelation 3:5.

From the foundation, etc.] i.e. in God's eternal counsel: cp. 1 Peter 1:19.

10. RV 'If any man is for captivity, into captivity he goeth' (i.e. his captivity is by God's will): 'if any man shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed,' i.e. Christians are not to fight against the persecutors, but are to submit to God's will: cp. Matthew 26:52.

A second beast is seen. It comes out of the earth (contrast Revelation 13:1), because it belongs to the Province of Asia, the land of the writer and first readers of this book. This beast represented 'the Province of Asia, in its double aspect of civil and religious administration, the Proconsul and the Commune. It had two horns, corresponding to this double aspect, and was like a lamb, for Asia was a peaceful country where no army was needed' (Ramsay). Yet it spake as a dragon, i.e. it made the same blasphemous assertions and demands as those which the first beast had learnt from the dragon: cp. Revelation 13:5. (Revelation 13:11). The authority of the Imperial Government had been delegated to the Provincial Government, which used its authority in enforcing the worship of the emperor. As the persecuting spirit of the empire was incarnate in Nero, the Imperial Government is identified with Nero himself, restored to life; i.e. the succeeding emperors will act in the spirit of Nero (Revelation 13:12). The worship of the emperor's image is recommended to the credulous populace by the aid of trickery and conjuring (Revelation 13:13.), and by ventriloquism, (Hence the beast is also called the 'false prophet,' cp. Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10.) The punishment for refusing to worship the image is death (Revelation 13:15). No one in the Province is allowed to buy or sell, who cannot produce a certificate, under Imperial seal ('the mark, even the name of the beast,' RV), showing that he has joined in the worship of the emperor. Or the meaning may be that all must offer incense with the hand, or bow the head, to the image, before they are allowed to trade (Revelation 13:16.). The name of the beast, i.e, of the smitten head, is given as 666 (Revelation 13:18), The reference is to the numerical value of letters. In both Greek and Hebrew, letters of the alphabet were used as numbers. It has been found that if 'Neron Cæsar' be written in Hebrew letters, the sum of the letters is 666. This is generally accepted at present, although, to get 666, 'Cæsar' has to be written defectively. If spelt 'Nero Cæsar,' the sum of the letters is 616, which is the reading of some MSS. Some hold that 616 is the original reading, and that it represents 'Gaios Cæsar,' i.e. Caligula. Irenæus took the number as standing for 'Lateinos,' i.e. 'the Latin.' Another interpretation sees in the number simply a continuation of the contrast with Christ of Revelation 13:11. The number of the name 'Jesus' in Gk. is 888 and, according to this interpretation, the meaning is that the beast falls as far short of 'seven' (i.e. perfection and holiness) as Jesus goes beyond it.

13. Wonders] RV 'signs': cp. Revelation 12:1. Fire] The false prophet is a travesty of Elijah: cp. 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10.

14. Miracles] RV 'signs.'

15. Life] RV 'breath,' i.e. apparently; perhaps by ventriloquism.

18. Here is wisdom] i.e. wisdom is needed to interpret that which follows: cp. Revelation 17:9.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Revelation 13:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/revelation-13.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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