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Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 5

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

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Verse 1

1 .] The sealed book . And I saw (notice, that from the general vision, in the last chapter, of the heavenly Presence of God, the scene is so far only changed that, all that remaining as described, a particular incident is now seen for the first time, and is introduced by καὶ εἶδον ) (lying) on the right hand (i. e. the right hand was open, and the book lay on the open hand. So in ch. Revelation 20:1 , where see note. The common rendering, in the right hand, misses the ἐπί with the accus. Beza’s and Ebrard’s rendering, “on the right side of Him on the throne,” is shewn to be wrong by what follows Revelation 5:7 , where the Lamb takes the book ἐκ τῆς δεξιᾶς τοῦ καθημένου ἐπὶ τ . θρ .: see there. The lying on the open hand imports, that on God’s part there was no withholding of His future purposes as contained in this book. The only obstacle to unsealing it was as follows, Rev 5:3 ) of Him that sat upon the throne a book (i. e. “a roll of a book,” as in Ezekiel 2:9 f. This explanation alone will suit the meaning of the word as applied to the contemporary practice regarding sacred writings. See also Jeremiah 36:2 ; Jeremiah 36:23 ; Zechariah 5:2 ; and below) written within and behind (such scrolls, written not only, as commonly, on the inner side, but also on the outer, which, to one reading the inner, was behind (see below), are mentioned by Pliny, Epist. iii. 5, who says of his uncle Pliny the elder, “tot ista volumina peregit, electorumque commentarios CLX mihi reliquit, opistographos quidem et minutissime scriptos, qua ratione multiplicatur hic numerus:” by Lucian, Vitarum auctio, i. p. 549, ἡ πήρα δέ σοι θερμῶν ἔσται μεστή , καὶ ὀπισθογράφων βιβλίων : by Juvenal, Sat. i. 6, “summi plena jam margine libri Scriptus et in tergo nondum finitus Orestes:” by Martial, viii. 22, “Scribit in aversa Picens epigrammata charta .” This writing within and without, so that the whole roll was full, betokens the completeness of the contents as containing the divine counsels: there was no room for addition to that which was therein written. This would be of itself a sufficient reason for the fulness of the scroll. To see, as Elliott, i. p. 99; iii. p. 4, two divisions of written matter indicated, by the writing within, and by that on the back, correspondent to one another, seems hardly warranted by the text), fast-sealed with seven seals (not, consisting of seven writings, each sealed with one seal, as Grot. (who joins καὶ ὀπισθ . with κατεσφραγισμ .), Vitringa, Wetst., Storr, Ewald, al.: but one book, fastened with seven seals, which were visible to the Apostle. Various ingenious methods have been imagined, by which the opening of each of these seals may have loosened a corresponding portion of the roll: see e. g. the apocalyptic chart in Elliott, vol. i. p. 111, and its explanation, ib. note 2, p. 98. But they all proceed on the assumption that the roll in the vision was unfolded , which is no where to be gathered from the text. Nor have we any right to say that the separate visions which follow the opening of each seal are identical with separate portions of writing on the roll. These visions are merely symbolic representations of the progress of God’s manifestation of the purpose of His will; but no portion of the roll is actually unfolded, nor is any thing read out of the book. Not its contents, but the gradual steps of access to it, are represented by these visions. What is in that book, shall not be known, until, in full completion, γνωρισθῇ ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἡ πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ , Ephesians 3:10 ; till those material events, which marked the gradual opening of the sum of God’s purposes, are all past, and the roll is contemplated in its completeness by the spirits of the glorified hereafter. This completeness is here set forth to us again by the mystic number seven . See some excellent remarks on the entire distinctness of the opening of the seals , and the reading of the book , in Corn.-a-lap., p. 77 c: “nihil enim in libro legi poterat, nisi post resignationem omnium septem sigillorum: omnibus enim reseratis, tunc demum aperiri et legi potuit liber, non ante.” So also Ribera, p. 197: “calamitates illæ quæ sigillis continebantur, prius omnes pene venturæ erant, quam ea quæ in libro scripta erant, apparerent et cognoscerentur.” Mr. Elliott, in his work “Apocalypsis Alfordiana,” specially directed against my commentary on this book, treats this view with all the scorn which is unfortunately so characteristic of him, calling it absurd, unscriptural, &c. He has not produced a word of proof, or even illustrative corroboration, of his own view, that the opening of each seal corresponds to the unrolling of a certain portion of the scroll: but has contented himself with re-asserting it in the strongest language, and pouring contempt on those who hold the other view. I grieve to say, that this is so often the case throughout his above-mentioned work, as to render it generally impossible for me to meet his objections in argument. One who distrusts his own as well as all other explanations, and believes that much of this mysterious book is as yet unfathomed, is no match for one who hesitates not on every occasion to shew his confidence that he is in the right, and all who differ from him are wrong.

An enquiry here arises, What is represented by this Book? Opinions have been very various. 1) Some of our earliest Commentators understood by it the Old Testament: or the Old and New conjoined. So, apparently, Orig [89] (in Ezech., Hom. xiv., vol. iii. p. 405: where after quoting our Revelation 5:2-5 , he says, “quamdiu non venit Deus meus, clausa erat lex, clausus sermo propheticus, velata lectio veteris testamenti.” But again, he says, ἡ γὰρ πὰσα γραφή ἐστιν ἡ δηλουμένη διὰ τῆς βίβλου : so that he can hardly be safely quoted for this view), Euseb. (Demonstr. Ev. viii. 2, vol. iv. p. 386, ποίας δὲ σφραγῖδας , ἢ τῶν προφητῶν τὰς ἀσαφείας ;), Epiphanius (Hær. li. 32, vol. i. p. 454. ὅσα γὰρ ἦν νόμῳ καὶ ἐν προφήταις σκοτεινὰ καὶ αἰνιγματώδη , ταῦτα ὁ κύριος ᾠκονόμησε διὰ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος εἰς ἡμῶν σωτηρίαν τῷ δούλῳ αὐτῷ Ἰωάννῃ ἀποκαλύψαι ), Hippolytus (in Dan. frag. xix., Migne, Patrol. vol. x. p. 653 f., ὅτι δὲ τὰ παλαιὰ διὰ νόμου καὶ προφητῶν λελαλημένα πάντα ἦν ἐσφραγισμένα κ . ἄγνωστα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ὑπάρχοντα Ἠσαΐας λέγει (29:11).… τὰ μὲν οὖν πάλαι ἐσφραγισμένα νῦν διὰ τῆς χάριτος τοῦ κυρίου πάντα τοῖς ἁγίοις ἠνέῳγεν . αὐτὸς γὰρ ἦν ἡ τελεία σφραγὶς καὶ κλεῖς ἡ ἐκκλησία , ὁ ἀνοίγων καὶ οὐδεὶς κλείει , κ . τ . λ ., ὡς Ἰωάννης λέγει . καὶ πάλιν ὁ αὐτός φησι καὶ εἶδον , κ . τ . λ . our Revelation 5:1-2 ; Revelation 5:6 ; Rev 5:9 ), Andreas ( βίβλος δὲ καὶ ἡ προφητεία νοεῖται ); Victorinus (“in dextera autem sedentis super tribunal liber scriptus intus et foris, signatus sigillis septem, vetus testamentum significat, quod est datum inmanibus Dei nostri”), Primasius, Bed [90] (“hæc visio mysteria nobis Sanctæ Scripturæ per incarnationem Domini patefacta demonstrat. Cujus unitas concors vetus testamentum quasi exterius, et novum continet interius:” and so Augustine), Tichonius (similarly to Bed [91] ), Hilary (Prol. to Comm. on Psalms, vol. i. p. 6, “Liber iste, et præterita et futura in his quæ intus et foris scripta erant continens, a nemine dignus est aperiri, &c. … Sed vicit leo ex tribu Judæ, &c.: quia solus septem illa … signacula quibus liber clausus est, per sacramentum corporationis suæ et divinitatis absolvit. Id ipsum autem Dominus post resurrectionem testatus est, dicens Quoniam oportet omnia impleri quæ scripta sunt in lege Moysis et in prophetis, et in psalmis de me.” But see more on Hilary under 2), below), Ambrose (Comm. in Psal. 118:64, § viii. 64, vol. i. (ii. Migne), p. 1078, “legisti in Apocalypsi quod Agnus librum signatum aperuit, quem nullus ante aperire poterat. Quia solus Dominus Jesus in evangelio suo prophetarum ænigmata et legis mysteria revelavit: solus scientiæ clavem detulit, et dedit aperire nobis”), Jerome (Comm. on Isaiah 29:9-12 , vol. iv. p. 393: “Le [92] autem de tribu Juda Dominus Jesus Christus est, qui solvit signacula libri, non proprie unius, ut multi putant, Psalmorum David, sed omnium Scripturarum, quæ uno scriptæ sunt Spiritu sancto, et propterea unus liber appellantur”), al.: and so Joachim, Gregory the Great, Haym [93] , Ansbert (as Bed [94] above), the glossa ordinaria (the same), Aquinas, al. I have given several of the above testimonies at length, as helping us to estimate this view. For it will appear from them, that the opening of the seals was very generally by these fathers and interpreters taken to mean, the fulfilment, and consequent bringing to light, of O. T. prophecy by the events of Redemption as accomplished in the Person of our Lord. But, if so, then this view cannot consist with what follows in the Apocalypse. For manifestly the opening of the seals, as notified by the symbolic visions belonging to each, does not relate to things past, but to things which were yet future when this book was written. Nor can this apparent consensus of the early expositors be cited, as it has been e. g. by Dr. Adams (“Sealed Book, &c.” pp. 82 ff.), in support of any other view than theirs, in which this Book shall still represent the O. T. Such for example is that of Dr. Adams himself, who regards the opening of the sealed book as symbolizing a future republication of the genuine text of the O. T., by which the Jewish people is to be converted. The untenableness of this view appears at once, if only from (so to speak) its touching the apocalyptic course of visions at this point only, and finding no justification or expansion in any of the symbolic visions accompanying the opening of the seals.

[89] Origen, b. 185, d. 254

[90] Bede, the Venerable , 731; Bedegr, a Greek MS. cited by Bede, nearly identical with Cod. “E,” mentioned in this edn only when it differs from E.

[91] Bede, the Venerable , 731; Bedegr, a Greek MS. cited by Bede, nearly identical with Cod. “E,” mentioned in this edn only when it differs from E.

[92] Leo, Bp. of Rome , 440 461

[93] Haymo, Bp. of Halberstadt , 841 853

[94] Bede, the Venerable , 731; Bedegr, a Greek MS. cited by Bede, nearly identical with Cod. “E,” mentioned in this edn only when it differs from E.

2) Some have held the Book to be Christ Himself : so Hilary ((?) as cited by Corn.-a-lap. from the Prologue to the Psalms, “Liber, ait, hic est Christus, quia Christus est hujus libri materia et argumentum:” and, “sigilla septem, ait Hilarius, sunt septem præcipua Christi mysteria, &c.” But the words are not found in that prologue), Heterius (Migne, Patr. Lat., vol. xcvi. pp. 963 ff.), Paschasius (Præfatio in Matth. p. 11). But for the same reasons as above, neither can this be held.

3) Wetstein takes it to be “libellus repudii a Deo scriptus nationi Judaicæ:” which for the same reason falls to the ground.

4) Schöttgen, “sententiam a Judice et patribus ejus conscriptis in hostes ecclesiæ conceptam:” and similarly in the main, Hengstenberg: but this view, though strongly defended by Hengstb., is not borne out by the contents of these chapters.

5) Alcasar holds it to be that part of the Apocalypse which treats of the opening of the seven seals (ch. 6 11): and nearly so Hengstb. also, except that he allows only from Rev 6:1 to Rev 8:1 for this portion. But both are obviously wrong, seeing that the opening of the seventh seal evolves a series of symbolic actions which only ends with the book itself. So that this comes to

6) the Book being = the Apocalypse itself: so Corn.-a-lap., seeing in the seven seals that part relating to their opening, and after that regarding the subsequent visions concerning Antichrist and the end of the world, as the contents of the book itself . But he seems, in concluding his paragraph, to resolve this view into the wider one

7) that the Book represents “divinæ providentiæ concilium et præfinitio, qua apud Se statuit et decrevit facere vel permittere, &c.” This is very nearly that of Areth [95] (in Catena, τί δὲ τὸ βιβλίον ; ἡ πάνσοφος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἀνεπίληπτος μνήμη , ἣν καὶ ὁ προφήτης Δαβὶδ καὶ Μωυσῆς παρεδήλου , ὁ μὲν διὰ τοῦ Ἐπὶ τὸ βιβλίον σου πάντες γραφήσονται · ὁ δὲ διὰ τοῦ Κἀμὲ ἐξάλειψον ἐκ τῆς βίβλου ἧς ἔγραψας ), Lyra (“liber iste est divina scientia, in qua omnia sunt scripta”), Vitringa, Mede (“codex fatidicus seu consiliorum Dei”), Ewald, De Wette, Stern, Düsterd., al. And this is, in the main, my own view. We may observe, that it is in fact but a limitation of this meaning, when many understand the Book to contain the prophetic fortunes of the Church of Christ: but also that it is a limitation which has arisen from the mistake, noticed above, of confounding the opening of the seals with the reading of the contents of the book. Those successive openings, or if we will, the fortunes and periods of the Church and world, are but so many preparations for that final state of perfection in which the Lamb shall reveal to the Church the contents of the Book itself).

[95] Arethas, Bp. of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, Cent y . X. 2

Verses 1-14

1 14 .] The book with seven seals , containing ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα , which the Seer was to be shewn, ch. Revelation 4:1 . None found worthy to open it but the Lamb, who takes it for this purpose, amidst the praises of the heavenly host, of the church, and of the creation of God .

Verse 2

2 .] And I saw a strong angel (the epithet ἰσχυρόν is by no means superfluous, but corresponds to the φωνῇ μεγάλῃ below, which, as appears by what followed, penetrated heaven and earth and Hades. Compare ch. Revelation 10:1 ; Rev 10:3 and notes) proclaiming in (reff.; the voice is the vehicle, or investiture, of the thing proclaimed) a loud voice, Who is worthy (see reff.

ἄξιος here = ἱκανός Mat 8:8 ) to open the book and to loose the seals of it? and no one was able, in heaven, nor yet upon the earth, nor yet under the earth (in Hades, the place of departed spirits: not, as Grot., in mari ), to open the book, nor yet to look on it (if we were reading an ordinary Greek sentence, this οὐδέ would introduce a climax, which would rule the meaning to be, “ nor even so much as to look upon the book ,” lying there closed as it did. But the somewhat indiscriminate use of οὐδέ in the former clause, in which no such climax can be intended, removes this necessity, and enables us to take βλέπειν of an act subsequent to the ἀνοῖξαι , the looking on the book, with a view to read it. For the claim to open the book must be founded on a claim of worthiness to see that which was contained in it).

Verse 4

4 .] And I ( ἐγώ emphatic, ‘I, for my part’) wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book nor to look upon it (“per hunc fletum designatur Johannis desiderium de sciendo ecclesiæ futurum processum.” Lyra. It had been promised to him, ch. Revelation 4:1 , that he should be shewn future events: and now it seemed as if this promise were about to be frustrated by the lack of one worthy to open the book. There was no weakness of faith, as Hengstb. fancies: indeed such a supposition is entirely out of place here: St. John is in this book the simple recipient of the Apocalypse: for that he is summoned to the heavenly scene, for that he is waiting in humility: but that now seems to be precluded, and his tears burst forth in the earnestness of disappointed desire after the fulfilment of the promise. Christ, as the opener of the book, is not yet revealed to him: and to have him anticipating that revelation by the power of his individual faith, would be to put him out of his place and violate consistency).

Verse 5

5 .] And one from among the elders (“dicunt aliqui,” says Lyra, “quod fuit Matthæus evangelista, qui dixit in persona Christi, Data est mihi omnis potestas in cœlo et in terra:” he himself preferring Peter , who had before this suffered martyrdom, and who was “unus, id est, primus, inter Apostolos.” But see the interpretation of the elders above, ch. Revelation 4:4 . The elders, in their triumphant place round God’s throne, know better than the Evangelist, yet clothed with the infirmities of this earthly state, the nature and extent of the victory and glory of Christ.

It is the practice of the book to introduce the heavenly beings thus talking with the Seer: cf. ch. Revelation 7:13 f.; Revelation 10:4 ; Revelation 10:8 ff.; Revelation 17:1 ; Revelation 19:9 ; Revelation 21:9 , &c.; Revelation 22:8 , &c.) saith to me, Weep not: behold (the ἰδού serves to present before him the scene of which he says in the next verse καὶ εἶδον .…) the Lion which is from the tribe of Judah (from ref. Gen.: the lion , as victorious: from the tribe of Judah , as the Messiah of promise, sprung from among the brethren of the Seer, and so carrying more comfort to him), the root of David (from ref. Isa.: i. e. the branch or sucker come up from the ancient root, and so representing it: not, as Calov., al., the Divine root which brought forth David, to which Vitringa also approaches very near: for the evident design here is to set forth Christ as sprung from the tribe of Judah and lineage of David, and His victory as His exaltation through suffering, Rev 5:6 ), conquered (as De W. well remarks, this word needs no comparison with any Hebrew usage to explain it (so Vitringa: “vox Hebræa זכה circa recentiora tempora reip. Hebr. receptissima fuit hoc usu ut significaverit mereri, dignum esse, haberi vel censeri: imo etiam simpliciter obtinere, nancisci provinciam v. munus administrandum.” And so the majority of Commentators, as E. V., “hath prevailed to open:” most of all Ewald, “Messiam a Deo veniam hanc petiisse et impetrasse”), but is simply to be taken as standing in its proper sense in a pregnant construction. The usual rendering loses sight of the victory of Christ, and of the uniform sense in which the verb νικᾷν is constantly used in this book. The aor. must not be resolved into a perfect, but points to the past event of that great victory, by virtue of which the opening is in His power), ( so as ) to open (construction, see above) the book and (in order to that) its seven seals .

Verse 6

6 .] The vision of the Lamb . And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living-beings, and in the midst of the elders (the words seem to indicate the middle point before the throne; whether on the glassy sea (De W.) or not, does not appear; but certainly not on the throne, from what follows in the next verse. ἐν μέσῳ is repeated, as ἀναμέσον in Leviticus 27:12 ; Lev 27:14 ) a lamb (the use of ἀρνίον , the diminutive , as applied to our Lord, is peculiar to the Apocalypse. It is difficult to say what precise idea is meant to be conveyed by this form. Elsewhere, it is ἀμνός , John 1:29 ; John 1:36 ; 1 Peter 1:19 ; Acts 8:32 ; and as ἀμνός is found in Isaiah 53:7 , from which the figure here is taken, the alteration of the word appears to be purposely made. Possibly, as De W., it may be to put forward more prominently the idea of meekness and innocence) standing (i. e. in its natural living position: the word is probably chosen on account of what immediately follows. Though ὡς ἐσφαγμένον , it was not lying, but standing), as if slain (i. e. retaining the appearance of death-wounds on its body: looking as if it had been slain: cf. ch. Revelation 1:18 . So the majority of Commentators: cf. especially Vitringa; “vivens equidem, verumtamen insignitum nota majoris alicujus in jugulo vulneris, et conspersum sanguine.” Ebrard is quite wrong in supposing that the ὡς has any emphasis on it: it merely serves to solve the apparent paradox lying in the juxtaposition of ἑστηκός and ἐσφαγμένον ), having (the gender again is that not of the thing expressed, but of the thing signified. See above, ch. Rev 4:1 ) seven horns (the horn is the well-known emblem of might: cf. 1 Samuel 2:10 ; 1 Kings 22:11 ; Psalms 112:9 ; Psalms 148:14 ; Daniel 7:7 ; Daniel 7:20 ff., Daniel 8:3 ff.; ch. Revelation 17:3 ff. The perfect number seven represents that “all power is given unto Him in heaven and earth,” Mat 28:18 ) and seven eyes, which (eyes) are the seven spirits of God, sent forth (as they have been) into the whole earth (i. e. which eyes represent the watchful active operation of God’s Spirit poured forth through the Death and by the victory of the Lamb, upon all flesh and all creation. The weight of the whole sentence lies on the predicative anarthrous participle ἀπεσταλμένα . As the seven burning lamps before the throne represented the Spirit of God immanent in the Godhead, so the seven eyes of the Lamb represent the same Spirit in his sevenfold perfection, profluent, so to speak, from the incarnate Redeemer: busied in His world-wide energy: the very word ἀπεσταλμένα reminding us of the apostolic work and church.

Observe, οἵ εἰσιν does not as Bed [96] (“Spiritus in Christo septiformis propter eminentiam potestatis cornibus, propter illuminationem gratiæ comparatur oculis”), Bengel, De W., al., refer to both κέρατα and ὀφθαλμοί : this would be of course grammatically possible, but it seems otherwise decided here both by the context, and by Zechariah 4:10 ; ἑπτὰ οὗτοι ὀφθαλμοί εἰσιν [add κυρίου A; pref. [97] ], οἱ ἐπιβλέποντες (E. V. which run to and fro; Heb. מְשׁוֹטְטים , from שׁוּט , remigare, cursitare) ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν ).

[96] Bede, the Venerable , 731; Bedegr, a Greek MS. cited by Bede, nearly identical with Cod. “E,” mentioned in this edn only when it differs from E.

[97] The CODEX SINAITICUS. Procured by Tischendorf, in 1859, from the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. The Codex Frederico-Augustanus (now at Leipsic), obtained in 1844 from the same monastery, is a portion of the same copy of the Greek Bible, the 148 leaves of which, containing the entire New Testament, the Ep. of Barnabas, parts of Hermas, and 199 more leaves of the Septuagint, have now been edited by the discoverer. A magnificent edition prepared at the expense of the Emperor of Russia appeared in January, 1863, and a smaller edition containing the N.T. &c., has been published by Dr. Tischendorf. The MS. has four columns on a page, and has been altered by several different correctors, one or more of whom Tischendorf considers to have lived in the sixth century. The work of the original scribe has been examined, not only by Tischendorf, but by Tregelles and other competent judges, and is by them assigned to the fourth century . The internal character of the text agrees with the external, as the student may judge for himself from the readings given in the digest. The principal correctors as distinguished by Tischendorf are: A, of the same age with the MS. itself, probably the corrector who revised the book, before it left the hands of the scribe, denoted therefore by us א -corr 1 ; B (cited as א 2 ), who in the first page of Matt. began inserting breathings, accents, &c., but did not carry out his design, and touched only a few later passages; C a (cited as א 3a ) has corrected very largely throughout the book. Wherever in our digest a reading is cited as found in א 1 , it is to be understood, if no further statement is given, that C a altered it to that which is found in our text; C b (cited as א 3b ) lived about the same time as C a , i.e. some centuries later than the original scribe. These are all that we need notice here 6 .

Verse 7

7 .] The Lamb takes the Book . And he (or, it ) came and took (not, ‘ received ,’ as Ebrard. The book lay on the open hand of Him that sat on the throne, for any to take who was found worthy. That “ das Buch userreichen ” which Ebrard insists on, is found not here, but in the previous description: and to introduce it here, confuses the distinctness of the symbolism.

The perfect εἴληφεν apparently cannot be pressed: see reff.) it (i. e. the Book; cf. next verse) out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne (Vitringa’s enquiry, whether we are to imagine the Lamb to have had partly a human form and hands, is rightly dismissed by Düsterd. as “ unnöthig und geschmacklos ”).

Verses 8-10

8 10 .] Song of praise following thereupon . And when he took (the aor. ἔλαβεν is not an imperfect, “ when he was taking ,” “ als es nahm ,” Luth.: nor again is it a pluperf. “ when he had taken ,” as E. V. (our idiom perhaps so requiring it), and many Commentators (even De W. and Düsterd.); but a pure past: the context, and not the word itself, indicating that the act to be described was subsequent to that thus expressed. And so in all places commonly cited for aorists “ put for ” pluperfects) the book, the four living-beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (who shares the divine throne, and honour, and worship, cf. Revelation 5:13 ; ch. Revelation 22:1 ; and ch. Rev 3:21 ), having each ( of them ) ( ἔχοντες ἕκαστος apparently applies only to the elders: not for any grammatical reason, but on account of the symbolism: for

1) it is unnatural to suppose figures described as the four living-beings are, having harps or vials; and even if this is not to be pressed (see above on Rev 5:7 ), yet

2) it is inconsistent with the right view of the four living-beings, as representing creation, that they should present the prayers of the Saints) a harp ( κιθάρα , properly a zithern or kind of guitar: the harp of David, which the LXX call κινύρα in 1 Kings 16:16 ; 1 Kings 16:23 , al., but always κιθάρα in the Psalms, is described by Josephus, Antt. vii. 12. 3, ἡ μὲν κινύρα , δέκα χορδαῖς ἐξημμένη , τύπτεται πλήκτρῳ : and then he adds, ἡ δὲ νὰβλα , δώδεκα φθόγγους ἔχουσα , τοῖς δακτύλοις κρούεται . But David, in the passages above cited, appears to have played with his hand: so that perhaps the κινύρα or κιθάρα was played in both ways), and golden vials (cups, or bowls, or, by the context, censers) full of incense ( θυμίαμα is generally used in the plural, e. g. Herod. ii. 86, διηθέουσι θυμιήμασι τετριμμένοισι : viii. 99, ἐθυμίων θυμιήματα ), which ( αἵ might well have θυμιαμάτων for its antecedent, being fem. to suit προσευχαί below: but it is perhaps more likely that φιάλας is its antecedent each vial being full of incense) are (represent: see reff.) the prayers of the saints (see reff.: especially ch. Revelation 8:3 ; Psalms 140:2 , κατευθυνθήτω ἡ προσευχή μου ὡς θυμίαμα ἐνώπιόν σου . The twenty-four elders, representing as they do the whole church of God, offer the praises and the prayers of the whole church: the harps symbolizing the former, the censers the latter. Of any thing approaching intercession on the part of the glorified saints for the church below, or indeed of the glorified saints at all, there is not the least mention, nor does this passage at all touch the question of the fact of such intercession. In the division of the two employments, the most of prayer falls to the lot of the church in trial, and the most of praise to the church in glory: and this is perhaps the reason why, while they have harps on which they themselves play, they only offer or present the vials of incense. De W. remarks, that the Writer of the Apocalypse seems not to know any thing of the intercessory office of Christ. But that office is prominent through this whole scene. What is the lamb as it had been slain what the ἠγόρασας τῷ θεῷ ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου , but recognitions of it? It underlies the whole book): and they sing (why present? Is it because the sound still lingered in his ears? Or more probably, as describing their special and glorious office generally, rather than the mere one particular case of its exercise?) a new song (new, because the occasion was new; the manifestation of the worthiness of the Lamb calls forth fresh words springing from fresh and living thoughts. These words which follow could not be spoken except by those who had seen Christ’s redemption complete; therefore they must needs be new), saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals of it: for Thou wert slain, and didst redeem (the object is not expressed, nor need it be: see similar constructions with ἐκ , Mat 25:8 ; 1 John 4:13 . The ἡμᾶς , which is in the MSS. added or prefixed to the verb, has considerable authority, but on the whole seems more likely to have been inserted, considering the prevalent early interpretation of the elders as Apostles and Prophets, than omitted because they were imagined to be angels) to God through ( ἐν , as the vehicle, and conditioning element of redemption) thy blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation (the only thing to be noticed is the quadruple number of these specifications, as indicating universality: see again below, Revelation 5:13 . To identify φυλῆς as Bengel, or λαοῦ as Züllig, with the Jewish people , seems forbidden by the πάσης ), and madest them a kingdom and priests, and they reign upon the earth (“this clause differs from that in ch. Revelation 1:6 , both by the καί before ἱερεῖς , and by the important addition καὶ βασιλ . κ . τ . λ . This last would be superfluous, if we were with Hengstb., al., to adhere to the rec. βασιλεῖς , or if βασιλείαν could have the sense given to it by Hengstb. in ch. Revelation 1:6 , ‘a people invested with kingly power.’ Here we have three particulars: 1) that those who are bought to be God’s own are made into a kingdom, viz. God’s, 2) ( καί ) that they are made into priests, 3) ( καί ) that they are invested with kingly power. So rightly Ebrard.” Düsterd.

The present βασιλεύουσιν is not to be rendered as a future, but keeps its own meaning (the whole aspect and reference of this heavenly vision being not future , but present : the world and church as now existing, cf. Eph 2:6 ). The Church even now, in Christ her Head, reigns on the earth: all things are being put under her feet, as under His: and even if this meaning be questioned, we have her kingly rank and office asserted in the present, even in the midst of persecution and contempt).

Verses 11-12

11, 12 .] The assenting chorus of the host of angels . And I saw ( εἶδον , not in a general vague sense, introducing a fresh particular merely; but in its proper sense: John saw the host of angels whose voice he heard: cf. ch. Revelation 6:1 f. The gloss. ord. refers εἶδον to what has preceded: but this is contrary to St. John’s usage), and I heard [ as it were ] a (or, the : φωνή , like many other substantives in regimen with their possessive genitives, being definite though anarthrous) voice of many angels around the throne and the living-beings and the elders (i. e. surrounding on all sides, in the more distant space, the smaller circle hitherto described. The Church, as the vehicle of the work of Redemption, of which Creation is but a part, is the central and crowning manifestation of God’s power and love and wisdom. Round it, and Him who is its Head, the heavenly hosts are ranged in humble admiration; and into its wonders they desire to look. Cf. Ephesians 3:10 ; 1Pe 1:12 ); and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands (i. e. innumerable in its vastness. See Psalms 68:18 , and ref. Dan., where χίλιαι χιλιάδες comes before μύριαι μυριάδες : but it is of very little import whether the specification is by way of climax or of anti-climax, the same idea being conveyed), saying (the appositional nom. instead of the gen.: as in ch. Rev 4:1 ) with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb which hath been slain to receive (by way of ascribed praise : cf. ch. Rev 4:11 and note) the power and riches and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing (here, as in ch. Revelation 7:12 , but in differing order, we have seven particulars of ascription. But here there is a difference both from ch. Rev 7:12 and Revelation 4:11 . In each of those places the art. is repeated before each particular: here, one article includes them all. Bengel well remarks, that we must regard them all as if they formed but one word. And when they are thus regarded, the article seems to point out the fact of all these, as one, belonging to God, whose power and glory the Lamb is declared worthy to share.

Of the particulars themselves, πλοῦτος is better kept in its generality, all riches and fulness, than limited, as by De W., to spiritual riches; see 1 Chronicles 29:11 ; εὐλογία is blessing , in the sense so frequent when the word and its cognate verb are used of an act passing from man to God: viz. that of ascribed praise; the will on the part of the creature, though unaccompanied by the power , to return blessing for blessing conferred The idea of Bengel, that the septenary number has to do with the seven seals, is hardly probable: the number, as indicating completeness, running through the whole book).

Verses 13-14

13, 14 .] The chorus of assenting praise from Creation itself . And every creature (i. e. by the very terms, animated creature: for heaven and earth and sea themselves are mentioned as the abodes of these κτίσματα ) which is in the heaven (the chorus being universal , this will include the angels, previously mentioned, and the glorified saints) and on the earth and under the earth (i. e. not the devils, as even Vitringa: but as in Philippians 2:10 , the departed spirits in Hades: see note there), and upon the sea (i. e. most probably, on the surface of the sea; meaning not those on ships, but those sea-animals which are regarded as being on the surface), and all the things in them (so in Exodus 20:11 . The clause added seems to serve the purpose of complete enumeration, applying here to γῆ and θάλασσα only, as ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ has occurred already. The ἐπί and ὑποκάτω being both superficial, ἐν completes the list in the depths of the earth and the sea: cf. ch. Rev 8:9 ) I heard saying (the gender again is that of the things signified, not that of κτίσμα : see ch. Rev 4:8 ), To Him that sitteth upon the throne (for the various cases after καθημ . ἐπί , see note, ch. Rev 4:2 ) and to the Lamb (the Church, including Creation, gives praise to the Lamb for Redemption, Revelation 5:9-10 ; the angels praise the infinite condescension of the Son of God: the entire universe celebrates the glory of the universal Father and of the Redeemer, thence accruing) ( be (or, is, belongs )) the blessing and the honour and the glory and the might (notice the fourfold arrangement where universality is set forth: and the repeated article, exhaustive of each predicate separately. It is fanciful, with Bengel, to allot the four ascriptions among the four classes of creatures above mentioned. In each case the number has the same signification: but they need not separately correspond) to the ages of the ages .

Verse 14

14 .] The solemn assent of the celestial representatives of Creation and of the Church . And the four living-beings said Amen (as above, in ch. Revelation 4:11 , the four living-beings assert the worthiness of God to receive the glory and the honour and the power on account of His having created all things , so here they say their Amen to creation’s chorus of praise: being themselves the representatives of the animated Creation). And the elders fell down and worshipped (in silent adoration of God and of the Lamb. The inference of Ewald from the rec. text (which is itself here wholly untenable), “presbyteri adoratione repetita Deum prosequuntur, ut a quo auctore omnia progressa sunt et Messias creatus est, ad eum omnis redeat honor, omnis reverentia,” would be unwarranted even were that text retained: ζῶντι , anarthrous, would apply to the whole object of praise in Rev 5:13 ).

Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 5". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hac/revelation-5.html. 1863-1878.
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