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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 13

Geneva Study BibleGeneva Study Bible

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Verse 1

13:1 {23} And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and {1} saw a beast rise up {2} out of the sea, having seven heads and {3} ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, {4} and upon his heads {5} the name of blasphemy.

(23) That is, as a mighty tempest he poured out on the whole world (whose prince he is) to raise the floods and provoke the nations, that they might with their furious bellows toss up and down, driven here and there, and finally destroy the Church of Christ with its holy members. But the providence of God resisted his attempt, that he might save the Church of the Gentiles, yet tender and green. The rest of this story of the dragon is excellently presented by the apostle John later in Revelation 20:1-15 . For here the dragon endeavouring to do wickedness, was by God cast into prison.

(1) The apostle having declared the forming of the Christian Church, and the state of the Church from which ours takes her beginning, now goes to the story of the progress of it, as is shown in the beginning of the former chapter. This history of the progress of the Church and the battles of it, is recorded in this chapter, but distinctly in two parts, one is of the civil Roman Empire, Revelation 13:1-10 . Another of the ecclesiastic or prophetic body, there to the end of the chapter. In the first part these things are shown: First the state of the Empire, in Revelation 13:1-4 then the acts of it in Revelation 13:5-7 after the effect: which is exceedingly great glory Revelation 13:8 . Last of all is commended the use: and the instruction of the godly against the evils that shall come from the same in Revelation 13:9-10 . The history of the state, contains a most ample description of the beast, first entire in Revelation 13:1-2 and then restored after harm, Revelation 13:3-4 .

(2) On the sand where the devil stood practising new tempests against the Church, in the verse next before going: at which time the Empire of Rome was endangered by domestic dissensions and was mightily tossed, having ever and again new heads, and new emperors. See Revelation 17:8

(3) Having the same instruments of power, providence, and most expert government which the dragon is said to have had, in Revelation 12:3 .

(4) We read in Revelation 12:3 that the dragon had seven crowns set upon seven heads because the thief claims to be proper lord and prince of the world, but this beast is said to have ten crowns, set on several, not heads but horns: because the beast is obligated to the dragon for all; Revelation 13:2 and does not otherwise reign, then by law of subjection given by him, namely that he employ his horns against the Church of God. The speech is taken from the ancient custom and form of dealing in such ease: by which they that were absolute kings did wear the diadem on their heads: but their vassals and such as reigned by grace from them, wore the same on their hoods: for so they might commodiously lay down their diadems when they came into the presence of their sovereigns, as also the elders are said, when they adored God which sat upon the throne, to have cast down their crowns before him in Revelation 4:10

(5) Contrary to that which God of old commanded should be written in the head piece of the high Priest, that is, "Sanctitas Jehova", Holiness unto the Lord. The name of blasphemy imposed by the dragon, is that which Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 "He sits as God and boasts himself to be God" For this name of blasphemy both the Roman Emperors did then challenge to themselves, as Suetonius and Dion do report of Caigula and Domitian: and after them the popes of Rome professed the same of themselves, when they challenged to themselves sovereignty in holy things of which kind of sayings the sixth book of the Decretals, the Clementines, and the Extravagants, are very full. For these men were not content with that which Anglicus wrote in his Poetria, (the beginning of which is "Papa stupor mundi" The pope is the wonder of the world) "Nec Deus es, nec homo, sed neuter es inter utrungue." Thou art not God, nor art thou man, but neuter mixed of both: as the gloss witnesses on the sixth book: But they were bold to take to themselves the very name of God, and to accept it given of other: according as almost a hundred and twenty years since there was made for Sixtus the fourth, when he should first enter into Rome in his papal dignity, a Pageant of triumph, and cunningly fixed upon the gate of the city he should enter at, having written upon it this blasphemous verse: "Oraclo vocis mundi moderaris habenas, Et merito in terrs crederis esse Deus." That is, By oracle of thine own voice, the world thou governest all, And worthily a God on earth men think and do thee call. These and six hundred the like who can impute to that modesty by which good men of old would have themselves called the servants of the servants of God? Verily either this is a name of blasphemy, or there is none at all.

Verse 2

13:2 And the beast which I saw was like {6} unto a leopard, and his feet were as [the feet] of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: {7} and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

(6) Swift as the leopard, easily grabbing all things, as the bear does with his foot, and tearing and devouring all things with the mouth as a lion does.

(7) That is, he lent the same power to the beast to use, when he perceived that he could not escape, but must be taken by the hand of the angel, and cast into the bottomless pit; Revelation 20:1-15 yet he did abandon the same power completely from himself, but that he might use it as long as he could.

Verse 3

13:3 {8} And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

(8) This is the other place that pertains to the description of the beast of Rome: that besides that natural dignity, and breadth of the Roman Empire, which was eluded to in the two former verses, there was added this also as miraculous, that one head was wounded as it were to death, and was healed again as from heaven, in the sight of all men. This head was Nero the Emperor, in whom the race of the Caesars fell from imperial dignity, and the government of the commonwealth was translated to others: in whose hands the Empire was so cured and recovered to health, as he seemed to all so much the more deeply rooted and grounded fast, than ever before. Hence follows those effects, which are next spoken of: First an admiration of certain power, as it were, sacred and divine, sustaining the Empire and governing it: Secondly, the obedience and submission of the whole earth, in this verse: Thirdly, the adoration of the dragon, and most wicked worshipping of devils confirmed by the Roman Emperors: Lastly, the adoration of the beast himself, who grew into so great estimation, as that both the name and worship of a God was given to him, Revelation 13:4 . Now there were two causes which brought in the minds of men this religion: the show of excellency, which brings with it reverence: and the show of power invincible, which brings fear. Who is like (say they) to the beast? Who shall be able to fight with him?

Verse 5

13:5 {9} And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him {10} to continue forty [and] two months.

(9) The second part containing a history of the acts of the beast, as I said see Geneva "Revelation 13:1". The history of them is concluded in two points: the beginning, and the manner of them. The beginning is the gift of the dragon, who put and inspired into the beast both his impiety against the godly and those that were of the household of faith, in Revelation 13:5 The manner of the acts or actions done, is of two sorts, both impious in mind, and blasphemous in speech against God, his Church and the godly in Revelation 13:6 and also most cruel and injurious in deeds, even such as were done of most raging enemies, and of most insolent and proud conquerors in Revelation 13:7

(10) Namely his actions, and manner of dealing. As concerning those two and forty months, I have spoken of them before. See Geneva "Revelation 12:6"

Verse 6

13:6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, {11} and his tabernacle, {12} and them that dwell in heaven.

(11) That is, the holy Church, the true house of the living God.

(12) That is, the godly who as a group hid themselves from his cruelty. For this bloody beast charged those holy souls falsely with innumerable accusations for the name of Christ as we read in Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Arnobius, Minutius, Eusebius, Augustine and others: whose example the latter times followed most diligently, in destroying the flock of Christ: and we in our own memory have found by experience, to our incredible grief. Concerning heaven, see in Revelation 11:12

Verse 8

13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, {13} whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

(13) That is, such as are not from everlasting elected in Christ Jesus. For this is that Lamb slain; Revelation 5:6 . These words I do with Aretas, distinguish in this manner: whose names are not written from the laying of the foundation of the world, in the book of Life, of the Lamb slain. This distinction is confirmed by a similar verse in Revelation 17:8 .

Verse 9

13:9 {14} If any man have an ear, let him hear.

(14) The conclusion of this speech of the first beast, consisting of two parts, an exhortation to attentive audience, in this verse: and a foretelling, which partly contains threatenings against the wicked and partly comfort for those who in patience and faith shall wait for that glorious coming of our Lord and Saviour Christ; Revelation 13:10

Verse 11

13:11 {15} And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; {16} and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.

(15) The second part of the vision, concerning the ecclesiastical dominion, which in Rome succeeded that which was politic, and is in the power of the corporation of false prophets and of the forgers of false doctrine. Therefore the same beast, and the body or corporation is called a false prophet by John; Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20 . The form of this beast is first described in this verse, then his acts in the verses following: and the whole speech is concluded in the last verse. This beast is by his breed, a son of the earth (as they say) obscurely born, and little by little creeping up out of his abject estate.

(16) That is, in show he resembled the Lamb (for what is more mild or more humble then to be the servant of the servants of God?} but indeed he played the part of the dragon, and of the wolf; Matthew 7:15 . For even Satan changes himself into an angel of light; 2 Corinthians 11:14 and what should his honest disciples and servants do?

Verse 12

13:12 {17} And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein {18} to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

(17) The history of the acts of this beast contains in sum three things, hypocrisy, the witness of miracles and tyranny: of which the first is noted in this verse, the second in the three verses following: the third in the sixteenth and seventeenth verses. His hypocrisy is most full of lies, by which he abuses both the former beast and the whole world: in that though he has by his cunning, as it were by line, made of the former beast a most miserable skeleton or anatomy, usurped all his authority to himself and most impudently exercises the same in the sight and view of him: yet he carries himself so as if he honoured him with most high honour, and did truly cause him to be reverenced by all men.

(18) For to this beast of Rome, which of civil Empire is made an ecclesiastical hierarchy, are given divine honours, and divine authority so far, as he is believed to be above the scriptures, which the gloss upon the Decretals declares by this devilish verse. "Articulos solvit, synodumque facit generalem" That is, "He changes the Articles of faith, and gives authority to general Councils."

Which is spoken of the papal power. So the beast is by birth, foundation, feat, and finally substance, one: only the Pope has altered the form and manner of it, being himself the head both of that tyrannical empire, and also of the false prophets: for the empire has he taken to himself, and to it added this cunning device. Now these words, "whose deadly wound was cured" are put here for distinction sake, as also sometimes afterwards: that even at that time the godly readers of this prophecy might by this sign be brought to see the thing as present: as if it were said, that they might adore this very empire that now is, whose head we have seen in our own memory to have been cut off, and to be cured again.

Verse 13

13:13 {19} And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

(19) The second point of the things done by the beast, is the credit of great wonders or miracles, and pertaining to the strengthening of this impiety: of which signs some were given from above, as it is said, that fire was sent down from heaven by false sorcery, in this verse. Others were shown here below in the sight of the beast, to establish idolatry, and deceive souls: which part John sets forth, beginning (as they say) at that which is last, in this manner: First, the effect is declared in these words, "He deceives the inhabitants of the earth". Secondly, the common manner of working, in two sorts: one of miracles, "for the signs which were given him to do in the presence of the beast", the other of the words added to the signs, and teaching the idolatry by those signs "saying to the inhabitants of the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which etc." Thirdly, a special manner is declared, "That it is given to him to put life into the image of the beast" and that such a type of quickening, that the same both speaks by answer to those that ask counsel of it, and also pronounces death against all those that do not obey nor worship it: all things which oftentimes by false miracles through the procurement and inspiration of the devil, have been effected and wrought in images. The histories of the papists are full of examples of such miracles, the most of them false, many also done by the devil in images, as of old in the serpent; Genesis 3:5 . By which example is confirmed, not the authority of the beast, but the truth of God and these prophecies.

Verse 14

13:14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by [the means of] those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an {20} image to the {21} beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

(20) That is, images, by "enallage" or change of the number: for the worship of them ever since the second Council of Nicea, has been ordained in the Church by public credit and authority, contrary to the Law of God.

(21) In the Greek the word is in the Dative case, as much to say, as to the worship, honour and obeying of the beast: for by this maintenance of images, this pseudo-prophetical beast mightily profits the beast of Rome, of whom long ago he received them. Wherefore the same is hereafter fittingly called the image of the beast, for images have their beginning from the beast, and have their form or manner from the will of the beast, and have their end and use fixed in the profit and commodity of the beast.

Verse 15

13:15 {22} And he had power to give {a} life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

(22) The papists books are full of these miracles of the images of the beast, (that is, which the beast ordained to establish idolatry) which miraculously speak, and give judgment, or rather astonishingly, by the fraud of the false prophets.

(a) To give life, as Jannes and Jambres imitated the miracles that Moses did.

Verse 16

13:16 {23} And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive {24} a {b} mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

(23) The third point is a cruel exercise of power, as was said before, usurped over men, in this verse: and over their goods and actions, in the next verse. For he is said, to bring on all persons a cruel slavery, that as bondslaves they might serve the beast. Also he is said to exercise over all their goods and actions, an abuse of indulgences and dispensations (as they term them) among their friends and against others, to use most violent prohibitions, and to curse, even in natural and civil, private and public contracts, in which all good faith ought to have place.

(24) That is their consecrated oil, by which in the ordinance

(as they call it) of confirmation, they make servants for themselves, the persons and doings of men, signing them in their forehead and hands. They make the sign left by Christ, see Revelation 7:3 and the ordinance of baptism useless. For whom Christ has joined to himself as signified by baptism this beast challenges with his greasy consecrated oil, which he does not hesitate to prefer over baptism, both in authority and value.

(b) The mark of the name of the beast.

Verse 17

13:17 And that no man might {25} buy or sell, save he that had the {26} mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

(25) That is, have any trade or dealings with men, but only those who have this annointing and consecration of Clearkely shaving of the head, as they call it, read Gratian "de Consecratione, distincione tertia.c.omnes.cap spiritus, etc." of these matters.

(26) Here the false prophets require three things, set down in the order of their greatness, a character, a name, and the number of the name. The meaning is, that man that does not have their first annointing and clerical shaving of the head: secondly holy orders, by which is communicated the name of the beast: or finally has not attained that high degree of pontifical knowledge, and of the law (as they call it) canonical, and has not made up in account and cast the number of the mysteries of it: for in these things consists the number of the name of the beast. This is excellently set forth in the next verse.

Verse 18

13:18 {27} Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the {28} number of a man; and his number [is] Six hundred threescore [and] six.

(27) That is, in this number of the beast consists that popish wisdom, which to them seems the greatest of all others. In these words John expounds the saying that went before the number of the beast, what it has above his distinctive mark and his name. These things, says John, the mark and the name of the beast, is wisdom: that is, only the wise and such as have understanding, can come by that number: for they who would attain it must be knowledgeable doctors, as the words following declare.

(28) How great and of what denomination this number of the beast is by which the beast accounts his wisdom, John declares in these words, "Do you demand how great it is?" It is so great, that it occupies the whole man: he is always learning, and never comes to the knowledge of it: he must be a man in deed that does attain to it. You ask what denomination it is? Truly it is six throughout, all the parts of it in their denominations (as they term them) it stands of six by units, tens, hundreds, etc. There is not one part in the pontifical learning and order, which is not either referred to the head, the top of it, or contained in the same: so fitly do all things in this hierarchy agree with one another, and with their head. Therefore that cruel beast Boniface the eighth, does commend by the number of six those Decretals which he perfected: in the sixth book. "Which book (he says) being to be added to five other books of the same volume of Decretals, we thought good to name Sextum the sixth: that the same volume by addition of it, containing a senary, or the number of six books (which is a number perfect) may yield a perfect form of managing all things, and perfect discipline of behaviour." Here therefore is the number of the beast, who empowers from himself all his parts, and brings them all back to himself by his discipline in most wise and cunning manner. If any man desires more of this, let him read the gloss on that place. I am not ignorant that other interpretations are given in this place; but I thought it my duty, with the good favour of all, and without the offence of any, to propound my opinion in this point. For this cause especially, since it seemed to me neither profitable, nor likely to be true, that the number of the beast, or the name of the beast should be taken as the common interpreters take it. This number of the beast teaches, gives out, imprints, as a public mark of those who are his, and esteems that mark above all others, as the mark of those whom he loves best. Now those other expositions seem to be far removed from this property and condition of that number: whether you respect the name Latinus, or Titan, or any other. For these the beast does not teach, nor give forth, nor imprint, but most diligently forbids to be taught, and audaciously denies: he does not approve them, but reproves them: and hates those that think so of this number, with a hatred greater then that of Vatinius.

Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 13". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsb/revelation-13.html. 1599-1645.
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