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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 8

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-13

VIII 1 (d). The Seventh Seal —Silence in Heaven ’as though for half an hour’. Not merely because this series of visions ends, and with a ’sabbathrest’, but because the Consummation is ineffable. The vision outstrips words, symbols, and thought itself. One of the most overwhelming ’revelations’ of this Book.

A. (II) VIII 2-XI 18. A Double Preparatory Vision (a) 8:24 —The prayer of the Martyrs in heaven. 2. The ’Seven Angels’. Tradition placed 7, 6, 4 or 3 specially ’great’ Angels before God’s Face (cf.Tob 12:15). To each is here given a trumpet. Throughout the OT and cf.Matthew 24:31 and 1 Corinthians 15:52, trumpets symbolize the summons of God, especially to Judgement, but also, the promulgation of feasts and disasters. Another angel takes his stand on (the steps of?) the altar of burnt-sacrifice whence he brings burning coal to put it in a censer full of incense (the prayers of the Saints: cf. 3:4; 6:9-11). (b ) 5. Then the burning coal with clouds of incense rising from it is thrown down to the earth, cf.Luke 12:42. These Prayers have a double effect— they obtain mercy save when it is refused; but even when mercy is rejected and they provoke chastisement, it is chastisement that can be curative. This prepares for the actual sounding of the Trumpets. This new series of visions stands in no time-relation to what has preceded them, though their symbolism begins to look forward to what John will use in the second Part of the Book. The literary background is on the whole the Plaguing of Egypt.

The Sounding of Seven Trumpets (a) 7-12 A group of 4 Trumpets —A third of the earth and its vegetation is destroyed: then, a third of the sea and what is on or in it: then, a third of the fresh waters: then, a third of the heavenly bodies. These occurrences are not consecutive nor to be taken literally. (How visualize the destruction of a ’third’ of seas and rivers? or the darkening of a third of the night? And the Sixth Seal showed us the stars as already fallen.) This new set of visions shows us the same thing under different (more concrete) symbols. Conceivably John has seen an Aegean thunderstorm, and rain reddened by Sahara-dust, or a volcanic eruption, or a meteor; but, more probably, his imagination is stimulated by the plagues of Egypt.

11. ’Wormwood’ traditionally signified perversion of justice, or the fruits of idolatry, or divine chastisements (Amos 5:7; Amos 6:13; Deuteronomy 29:12; Jeremiah 9:14, Jeremiah 9:15). The waters are not embittered because the star is made of wormwood; but because they are corrupted, the star is so named. Possibly the Eagle announcing further disasters is introduced because of the different character of those woes—they concern men and spirits, not inanimate nature, and even of that, only part, not even half, was destroyed.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Revelation 8". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/revelation-8.html. 1951.
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