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1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
Ver. 1. One of the seals ] That is, the first of the seals, as Genesis 1:4 ; Mark 16:2 . Under these seven seals falls Rome pagan (saith Mr Cotton), as under the seven trumpets Rome Christian, under the seven vials Rome antichristian. So all the judgments in the Revelation are still upon Rome. Hence Mr Dent calls his exposition upon the Revelation, The Ruin of Rome.
The noise of thunder ] This beast was like a lion, Revelation 4:7 , whose roaring is as thunder.
2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
Ver. 2. And behold a white horse ] The apostles and apostolic preachers of the primitive times, white for their purity of doctrine, discipline, and conversation; horses for their nimble and swift spreading the gospel, which ran αθροως οια τις ηλιου βολη , through the world like a sunbeam (as Eusebius hath it), and was carried as on eagles’ or on angels’ wings. A horse hath his name in Hebrew from devouring the ground by his swiftness, and was therefore by the heathens dedicated to the sun, whose "going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it,"Psalms 19:6; Psalms 19:6 . Cranzius tells us that the Saxon princes, before they became Christians, gave a black horse for their arms; but being once baptized, a white horse; with reference haply to this text.
He that sat on him ] Christ, Revelation 19:11 ; Psalms 65:5 . The conquerors entered into Rome carried on a white horse.
Had a bow ] The doctrine of the gospel, whereby the people fall under him, Psalms 45:4 .
Conquering, and to conquer ] Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo tamen patuerunt, saith Tertullian. Advers. Jdg 7:1-25 Christ came and conquered this kingdom, which the Romans with all their power could not do. A Christo vinci, summa victoria est; vinciri, summa libertas, saith another. There is no such conquest as to be conquered by Christ; no such liberty as to be bound by him.
3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
Ver. 3. Come and see ] John’s better attention is called for. How dull and drowsy are the best in perceiving and receiving heavenly mysteries! A sea coal fire, if not stirred up, will die of itself, so will our spark and spunk of light. Christ calls upon those that had come far to hear him, saying, "Let him that hath an ear hear," Matthew 13:9 ; cf. Zechariah 4:1 .
4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
Ver. 4. That was red ] Portending troubles and tragedies, bloody wars and terrible persecutions. Those ten first were so cruel, that St Jerome writes in one of his epistles that for every day in the year were murdered 5000, except the first day of January.
To him that sat thereon ] Christ,Matthew 10:34; Matthew 10:34 ; Zechariah 1:8 . He stands over his Church as the Agonothetes. a So he did at St Stephen’s martyrdom, Acts 7:55 . He moderates and overrules the enemy’s cruelty.
And that they should kill one another ] viz. The persecutors should rise up and destroy one another, as the Romans did the Jews, and the Jews the Romans in various provinces. And as the emperors, who got nothing (most of them) by their adoption or designation to the empire, nisi ut citius interficerentur, but to be cut off the sooner. (Tacit.) All or most of the persecuting Caesars died unnatural deaths.
A great sword ] That of the gospel, Ephesians 6:17 , which takes away peace, by accident, Matthew 24:6 . Christ threateneth the contempt of the gospel with wars and rumours of wars. Our late Edgehill battle was fought in the vale of Red Horse; as if God had meant to say, "I have now sent you the red horse, to avenge the quarrel of the white."
a A superintendent or director of the great public games of Greece. ŒD
5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
Ver. 5. A black horse ] Famine discolours and denigrates, Lamentations 4:7-8 . It accompanies war for the most part, and in sieges is very extreme, as at Samaria, where an ass’s head was worth four pounds; at Rome, where this proclamation was made in the market, Pone pretium humanae carni; Place a reward on the flesh of a man, at Scodra, where horses were dainty meat, yea, they were glad to eat dogs, cats, rats, &c. At Antioch in Syria, where many Christians (in the holy war, as they called it) were glad to eat the dead bodies of their late slain enemies. (Turk. Hist.)
Had a pair of balances ] Gr. ζυγον , the beam of scales. To show that bread should be delivered out by measure, as is threatened, Ezekiel 4:16 ; Deuteronomy 28:59-68 , and men should be stinted and pittanced.
6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
Ver. 6. In the midst ] The voice of the Lamb, Revelation 5:6 , who appoints and orders all; he cuts us out our several conditions, cautioning for the wine and oil, when other food faileth.
A measure of wheat ] χοινιξ , a quart, say some, a pottle others, an allowance for a day. Among the Greeks, saith Suidas, Choenix dietim dabatur. And that the Israelites in the wilderness (according to Rabanus) had each of them three choenices of manna by the day, that was to be ascribed to the divine bounty, as Junius noteth.
7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
Ver. 7. See Trapp on " Rev 6:3 "
8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Ver. 8. A pale horse ] Fit for pestilence and pale death to ride on.
And hell followed ] sc. To them that were killed with death,Revelation 2:23; Revelation 2:23 ; See Trapp on " Rev 2:23 " that died in their sins, which is far worse than to die in a ditch.
Over the fourth part of the earth ] That is, of the Roman empire. This happened in the days of Decius; Oresius bearing witness that the pestilence which then raged did extend no further quam ad profligandas ecelesias edicta Decii cucurrerunt, that is, than the proclamations of Decius came for the overthrow of the Churches.
And with death. ] i.e. The pestilence, that harbinger and purveyor of death: this is somewhere called "God’s evil angel;" and by ecclesiastical writers mortality. Hippocrates calleth it το θειον , the divine stroke, because God hath a special hand in it.
9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
Ver. 9. Under the altar ] i.e. Under Christ, Hebrews 13:10 , under his custody and safeguard; or, under the altar, that is, lying at the bottom of the altar, as beasts newly slain for sacrifice. See Philippians 2:17 ; 2 Timothy 4:6 . The ten persecutions and (after them) the invasions of the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and Herula, heaped on massacres of martyrs.
Which they had ] Gr. ειχον , which they had, and would not be drawn by any terrors or tortures to part with. They may take away my life, said one, but not my faith; my head, but not my crown.
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
Ver. 10. And they cried ] When God intends deliverance to his people, he poureth out upon them "the spirit of grace and supplication," Zechariah 12:9-10 .
How long, O Lord ] Calvin had this speech always in his mouth, breathing out his holy desires in the behalf of the afflicted Churches, with whose sufferings he was more affected than with anything that befell himself. (Beza in Vita.)
Dost thou not judge and avenge ] The glorified souls cannot be properly said to desire revenge; but the cry which they make must be understood to be the provocation of God to vengeance which their sufferings produce in the same sort as Abel’s blood is said to cry. (Thorndike.)
That dwell on the earth ] In opposition to the inhabitants of heaven. As names written in heaven stand opposed to those that are written in the earth, Luke 10:20 ; Jeremiah 17:13 .
11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were , should be fulfilled.
Ver. 11. And white robes ] Their innocence was cleared, and their persecutors convinced. God would speak for them in the hearts of their greatest enemies.
Until their fellowservants also ] We doubt not, saith a learned interpreter here (Mr Forbes), but that the crowned saints do in general know the afflicted condition of the Church militant, and do wish them deliverance; but our special necessities and occurrences of particular persons they cannot know. Brother Bradford, said Bishop Ridley, a little before he was offered up, so long as I shall understand that thou art in thy journey, by God’s grace I shall call upon our heavenly Father to set thee safely home; and then, good brother, speak you for the remnant that are to suffer for Christ’s sake, according to that thou then shalt know more clearly. (Acts and Mon.) But this is to be taken with a grain of salt.
That should be killed ] Under Licinius, Julian the Apostate, and the Arian emperors.
12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
Ver. 12. There was a great earthquake ] Understand hereby those horrible commotions and confusions that occured in the Roman empire upon those ten bloody persecutions, and the earnest supplications of the saints which can work wonders in heaven and earth. The death and destruction of the persecutors was (as it was said of the death of Arius) precationis opus non morbi, the effect of faithful prayers calling for full and final vengeance. (Socrates i. 15.)
The sun became black ] It is ordinary in Scripture to set forth horrible commotions of commonwealths by such figurative expressions as these, Jer 4:23-31 Joel 2:10-11 Isaiah 13:10 .
13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
Ver. 13. And the stars ] Rome’s dunghill deities, together with their chemarims or chimney chaplains, the priests. ConferIsaiah 34:4; Isaiah 34:4 ; Daniel 8:10 ; Exodus 12:12 ; Numbers 33:4 .
14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Ver. 14. And every mountain ] See Trapp on " Rev 6:12 " Cinis quidam noxius e Visuvio emissus, Romam venit (inquit Dio) ita ut incolae putare coeperunt omnia sursum deorsum ferri, solemque in terram cadere, ac terrain in caelum conscendere. I myself saw, saith Bellarmine, a huge hill removed by an earthquake, and brought down to a town, which was wholly covered by it, and as it were buried under it. Perhaps he meant Pleurs in Rhetia, which was overcovered suddenly with a mountain, so that 1500 persons were buried there alive.
15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
Ver. 15. And the kings of the earth ] Who came in to help their gods against the mighty, against Constantine, Theodosius, &c., that threw out their priests, and pulled down their temples. These kings and grandees were Maximianus, Maximinus, Maxentius, Galerius, Licinius, Jullanus, &c., and their complices, who were routed, ruined, and driven into holes and corners by the Christian emperors, and afterwards so pursued by divine justice, that they came to shameful ends. Diocletian poisoned himself, Maximinian hanged himself; Maximinus likewise and Maxentius became their own executioners; Galerius died of a loathsome disease; Julian had his death wound from heaven, and died raving and blaspheming. (Euseb. Hist., Item de Vita Const.)
16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
Ver. 16. And said to the mountains ] Which yet was but a poor shelter; for mountains melted and rocks rent at his presence. So that if wicked men cry to the hills, Help us, they will give an echo, Help us. For God’s wrath is upon the creature for man’s sin.
17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Ver. 17. Who shall be able to stand ] They could not stand before their own misgiving hearts and soul condemning consciences; how much less before God that was greater than their hearts! God sent his hornet, which drove out these Canaanites, Exodus 23:28 . Facti sunt a corde suo fugitivi, They were made by their heart a fugitive, as Tertullian hath it.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29