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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Revelation 8

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 8

Revelation 8:1. Instead of ὅτε ( א), which comes from Revelation 6:1; Revelation 6:3, etc., read ὅταν (A, C, Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]).

Revelation 8:3. ἵνα δὡσει. So, properly, Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.], in accord with A, C, א. Emendations are δώσῃ (Elz., Beng., Griesb., Matth.) and δῷ (6, 9, al., in Wetst.).

Revelation 8:7. The words καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῆς γῆς κατεκάε, which are lacking in the Elz. text, are restored by Beng., Griesb., and modern editors, upon the authority of decisive witnesses.

Revelation 8:9. διεφθάρησαν. So A, א, 10, 12, al., Andr., ed. Compl. Plant., Genev., Beng., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]. The διεφθάρη (Elz.) is an emendation after the analogy of Revelation 8:7.

Revelation 8:11. ἐγένετο. So A, א, 2, 4, 6, al., Beng., Matth., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]. Incorrectly, Elz.: γίνεται.

Revelation 8:13. ἀετοῦ. So, already, Beng., Griesb. The modification ἀγγέλου (Elz.) has no critical value whatever. Nevertheless, many expositors, Vitr., L. Twells in Wolf, etc., have advocated ἀγγέλου on the same ground, from which has proceeded not only this alteration, but also the single variation ἀγγέλου ὡς ἀετοῦ (Wetst.); viz., because the function ascribed to the eagle seems better adapted to an angel. (Cf. Revelation 14:6.) Heinrichs, who does not doubt the correctness of the reading ἑνὸς ἀετοῦ, would have an ὡς supplied before ἀετοῦ, and then explain: “An angel flying through the heaven with the swiftness of an eagle.” א has αἐτοῦ without ἑνὸς.

From the seventh seal, now opened, there proceeds, not as from each of the first six, a single vision, but a series of visions, which not only stand like those seals in a progressive connection with one another, but also, even at the end, extend again into a new series of visions.(2383) After the opening of the seventh seal, silence for half an hour intervenes in heaven, during which seven angels appear who receive trumpets; and since then, after a certain action performed by another angel (Revelation 8:3 sqq.), those seven angels, one after another, sound on their trumpets, scenes are presented to the gazing prophet, which, according to the analogy of the visions proceeding from the opened seals, describe what is to happen.(2384) Nothing is here to be said concerning the reading of the book-roll now opened.(2385)


Verse 1

Revelation 8:1. ὅταν. In the sense of ὅτε,(2386) as is not unusual among the Byzantines.(2387)

σιγὴ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ὡς ἡ΄ίωρον. The silence in heaven, lasting about(2388) a half-hour, begins at the place where the songs of praise still resound, Revelation 7:10 sqq. The voice also of the elder who speaks immediately before the opening of the seventh seal is silent. When the Lamb took the book with the seven seals, the music of the harp and the song of praise resounded in heaven, Revelation 5:8 sqq.; also at the opening of the first six seals, it was in many ways audible;(2389) but when the last seal is opened, a profound silence ensues. The reason for this is the anxious expectation of the inhabitants of heaven, who not only after the precedency of the sixth seal must now expect the final decisive catastrophe, but, also, can infer the proximity of that catastrophe from the appearing of the seven angels, and their being furnished with trumpets. The σιγὴ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is thus a “silent expectation and contemplation of the seven trumpets,”(2390) and, as an expression of “the stupor of the heavenly beings,” belongs to “the adornment and fitness of the dramatic scene.”(2391) Thus, essentially, Andr., Areth., Par., Vieg., Rib., Aret., Calov., Beng., Ew., De Wette, Stern, Ebrard, all of whom are one on the main point,(2392) that the σιγή does not compose the entire contents of the seventh seal, but that rather from this last seal the entire series of trumpet-visions is developed. If this is denied, as by Vitr., and recently by Hengstenb., not only is the organic connection of the visions as a whole rent,—since “the group of the seven trumpets” appears immediately beside “the group of the seven seals,”(2393) but results follow with respect to the exposition as a whole, and in its details, that are entirely inadmissible. Hengstenb. interprets the σιγὴ ἐν τ. οὐρ., as the silencing of the enemies of Christ and his Church, which corresponds with their mourning,(2394) and is regarded as caused by the punishments of the preceding six seals. And, besides, the ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, which alone is strong enough to render this mode of statement impossible, is explained away by the remark: “Heaven here comes into consideration only as a theatre (Revelation 6:1, Revelation 12:1). In reality the silence belongs to the earth”!

Vitr. seeks, in a better way, to meet the demands of the text. He refutes, first, the view according to which it is thought that in Revelation 8:1-6 the entire contents of the seventh seal are described,(2395) by the excellent remark that already, in Revelation 8:2, the angels of the trumpets enter, and that Revelation 8:2-6 contain in general a certain preparation for Revelation 8:7 sqq. But while Vitr. thus properly hesitates to sunder Revelation 8:2 sqq. from Revelation 8:7 sqq., he separates Revelation 8:1 from Revelation 8:2 sqq. by finding in Revelation 8:1 the contents of the seventh seal, i.e., the complete conclusion of the series of seal-visions, according to their prophetic significance extending until the end of the world, which, in their way, comprise the entire breadth of Apocalyptic prophecy; for from this it necessarily follows that the prophecy begins again with the first trumpet-vision, which runs parallel to the first seal-vision, etc. The σιγὴ ἐν τ. οὐρ. designates, according to Vitr., “the condition of the most recent period of the Church, in which the Church in the possession of peace, tranquillity, and an abundance of all spiritual blessings, celebrates a triumph over its enemies.” This σιγή, therefore, actually lasts a long time, although it appears to John a half-hour,(2396)—as Lange with entire consistency says, one thousand years.(2397) The connection with the trumpet-visions lies in the fact that here “the Spirit explains in what way and by what steps God led the Church into that state,” viz., as those trumpet-visions describe: “Evils intended for the punishment of the Roman Empire, the enemy of the Church of Christ, to be terminated in the total destruction of the same empire.” There are two main points characteristic of this mode of conception, which is best advocated by Vitr., in which, however, the distortion is evident; viz., the explanation of the σιγὴ ἐν τ. οὐρ., and the statement of the connection with the trumpet-visions. If it is assumed that the seventh seal brings nothing else than that σιγὴ,—although as well after the events of the first six seals, as after the interposed ch. 7, a certain fulness of significant contents is to be expected,—the question for which neither reasons are assigned, nor to which an answer is in any way given in the context itself, is raised; viz., as to what that σιγή “means,” i.e, what historical fact, what state of the world or Church, is typified by that σιγή whose allegorical meaning is presupposed. And this question arbitrarily raised can be answered only arbitrarily: the σιγή means the sabbath rest of the Church after the plagues of the first six seals,(2398) “the beginning of the eternal rest,”(2399) the thousand-years rest before the final end,(2400) or perhaps, in case the sixth seal be not regarded as extending so far, the rest of the Church under Constantine.(2401) As to what the σιγή “means,” expositors of an entirely different class have investigated also when they even with formal correctness acknowledged that not only does the seventh seal contain that σιγή, but also the seven trumpets introduce it. Here belong especially the expositors who refer ch. 8 also to the events of the Romano-Judaic war. According to Grot., the σιγὴ ( ἐν τ. οὐρ.) is the brief rest of the winds of Revelation 7:1 (which are at the four corners of the earth!). Wetst. explains more minutely: “Since all things now looked to a revolt of the Jews, a brief pause followed by the intervention of Agrippa and the priests.”(2402) Alcas.: “The remarkable forbearance of Christians who silently endured persecution from the Jews.” Against all these arbitrary explanations, we must hold fast simply to the text, which says that at the opening of the seventh seal a profound silence occurred in heaven, where the sealed book was opened,—a silence which “signifies” something earthly, as little as the speech and songs heard in heaven at the opening of the preceding seals. But thereby the knowledge is gained that such silence occurs just because of the peculiar contents of this seal. Thereby, besides, the exposition is preserved from the second offence against the context, with which not only Beda but also Ebrard, etc., are chargeable, viz., the idea of a recapitulation in the entire series of trumpet-visions. For what Beda expressly says(2403) is said essentially not only by Vitr., but also, e.g., by Ebrard, when he passes the opinion that in the trumpets, “a retrogression, as it were, is taken,” viz., by the representation “of classes and kinds of judicial punishments which belong only to the godless,(2404) and that, too, not first after or with the sixth seal, but even already before.” In exegetical principle, this exposition stands upon a line with the one of N. de Lyra, who, by the theory of recapitulation, explains that only the conflict of the Church with heretics is portrayed, after(2405) its conflict against tyrants, the heathen oppressors, is stated. Accordingly, the exposition in the trumpet-visions can recur again to the centuries of Church history, from which, on the other side, all sort of facts have already been gathered for ch. 6, in order to show the fulfilment of prophecy. The only apparent occasion which the context gives for the idea that the trumpet-visions recur again before the sixth seal—an idea which has led not only to the further statement that the individual trumpets in some way concur with the individual seals, but also to numberless and unlimited attempts to find the fulfilment of the individual trumpet-visions in historical events—lies in the fact that the final catastrophe, the extreme end, whose description is to be expected after chs. 6. and 7 in the seventh seal, does not yet, at least immediately, appear.(2406) But the expedient adopted here by many expositors to limit the contents of the seventh seal to Revelation 8:1, and to understand the σιγὴ ἐν τ. οὐρ. as the eternal rest of the perfected Church, or the eternal silencing of condemned enemies, has been proved to be mistaken. Yet that difficulty is solved by the view, attained already by Ew., Lücke, De Wette, Rinck,(2407) into the skilful, carefully designed plan of the entire book, which here, just from the fact that from the last seal a new series of visions is to proceed, describes the trial of the patience of saints who are regarded as awaiting the day of the Lord;(2408) but at the same time the expectation excited by the events of the first six seals, and increased by the entire ch. 7, as well as by the silence occurring at the opening of the seventh seal, that in this last seal the final completion is to come, in no way deceives, since the full conclusion is actually disclosed in the seventh seal, although only through a long series of visions in whose chain the trumpet-visions themselves form only the first members.(2409)


Verse 2

Revelation 8:2. καὶ εἶδον. By the same formula, John has indicated what the seals previously opened enabled him to behold.(2410) What he describes in Revelation 8:2-6, he has therefore beheld, not after the conclusion of the silence, Revelation 8:1,(2411) but during it.(2412) The entire scene is silent, until (Revelation 8:5) by the fire cast into the earth, thunderings and voices (from beneath, from the earth) are aroused, which then, interrupting the silence in heaven, give the signal, as it were, to the angels who are to use the trumpets received already in Revelation 8:2.

τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλους οἳ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἑστήκασιν. Doubly incorrect, Luther: “Sieben Engel, die da traten vor Gott” [“Seven angels who appeared before God”]. The words, as they sound, are to be understood in no way otherwise than that John, just as Tobit 12:15,(2413) speaks of seven particular angels, who, with a certain precedency above all the rest, stand before God. They are not called “archangels.”(2414) They can be identified(2415) with the seven spirits of God(2416) only by misunderstanding that expression. But when Hengstenb. and Ebrard assert that the number of angels who stand before God is fixed at seven only because of the seven trumpets, and do not hinder us from thinking of more than just seven to whom belongs the prerogative of “standing before God; “and when Ebrard, in order to give another application to the definite article which conflicts with this, attempts to contrast the seven. angels, Revelation 8:2, to the four angels, Revelation 7:1,—they are only useless pretexts, in order to avoid the unambiguously expressed idea of just seven angels standing before God. The older interpreters, as Luther, Vitr., reached the same conclusion more readily by regarding the article as a Heb. redundancy; yet many also(2417) have without prejudice recognized the thought required by the text.

καὶ ἐδόθησαν αὐτοῖς ἑπτὰ σάλπιγγες. The purpose becomes immediately manifest to John; cf. Revelation 8:6-7 sqq. To the inhabitants of heaven, who, after the opening of the seal, see how to those chief angels trumpets are given, the vast significance of this matter is clear in advance: hence their silence.


Verses 3-5

Revelation 8:3-5. ἄλλος ἄγγελος. The repeated(2418) reference here to Christ(2419) has occasioned the greatest number of arbitrary expedients in the interpretation of what follows: e.g., that by ἔχων λιβ. χρυσ., reference is made to the self-sacrifice of Christ;(2420) that the ἐγέ΄ισεν, κ. τ. λ., Revelation 8:5, is to be understood of the fulness of the Godhead, or Spirit, in Christ;(2421) that the fire cast upon the earth is to be regarded as a gracious visitation,(2422) as the power of the gospel concerning Christ’s love;(2423) and the φωναί, βρονταί, ἀστραπαὶ, of the words and miracles of Christ, and σείσ΄ος, of the movement occasioned thereby among the hearers.(2424) The “other angel,” just as the one mentioned in Revelation 7:2, is to be regarded an actual angel;(2425) yet the text gives no more accurate designation whatever.(2426)

ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου. The ἐπὶ does not mean juxta, “alongside of,” and nothing more;(2427) but it designates with evident exactness, that the angel so presents himself at the altar, that he rises above it.(2428)

The question started here, as on Revelation 6:9, as to whether the altar is to be regarded an altar of incense,(2429) or an altar for burnt offerings,(2430) will be decided not only from the context in itself, but also from the seeming type, Leviticus 16:12; and Ebrard thus comes to the decision that the altar, mentioned Revelation 8:3 a ( ἐπὶ τ. θυσιαστ.) and Revelation 8:5, is the altar for burnt offerings, while “the golden altar” (Revelation 8:3 b) is the altar of incense. But as the question itself is not without an arbitrary assumption, so the answers, also, are without sufficient foundation in the context, into which strange conceptions of many kinds have entered. As to the appeal to Leviticus 16, that passage is essentially different from ours, because it is there said that the high priest, on the great day of atonement, is to take coals in a censer from the altar of burnt offerings, and with it and the incense strewed thereon, shall come, not to the altar of incense in the sanctuary,(2431) but to the ark of the covenant within the holy of holies. Nothing, therefore, is said in Leviticus 16:12, of the altar of incense, so that the analogy of that passage, even apart from a dissimilarity otherwise in the whole and in details, renders any proof impossible that “the golden altar,” Revelation 8:3, is the altar of incense. In general, however, the entire description of heavenly locality, as it is presented in Revelation 4:1, gives us no right whatever for conceiving of the same as after the model of the earthly temple with a holy of holies, a holy place, a veil, different altars, etc., whereby then such conceptions are rendered necessary, as that of Züll., Hengstenb., that in ch. 4 and this passage, the veil before the holy of holies is closed, but in Revelation 11:19 it is opened; or that of Hofm., that we must fancy the roof of the heavenly temple absent, in order to render possible the idea that “Jehovah appears enthroned above the cherubim, yet without a sight being gained of the ark of the covenant.” Entirely arbitrary, also, is the explanation of Ebrard: “that the entire scene, ch. 4, was plainly visible, indeed, at the beginning without the temple, and that later(2432) a heavenly temple appeared, as it were, upon a lower terrace, below and in front of the elevation on which the throne stood.” The description of the scenery, Revelation 4:1 sqq., is destitute throughout of any express representation of a heavenly temple. Such a representation, including the ark of the covenant, appears first at Revelation 11:19,(2433) just where the scene is changed. In the scenery which has remained unchanged from Revelation 4:1, “the altar “becomes noticeable in Revelation 6:9, which, according to the context, must be regarded as having a certain analogy with the altar of burnt-offering, although on this account it must not be considered that the entire heavenly locality, with the throne of God, and “the sea of glass,” appears as the temple. For the article already compels us to identify the altar mentioned in Revelation 8:3 a with that of Revelation 6:9. To infer, however, that, as in Revelation 8:3 a, only τ. θυσιαστ., and in Revelation 8:3 b, τ. θυσιαστ. τὸ χρυσὸυν is mentioned, so in two clauses of Revelation 8:3 two different altars are designated, is a precipitate inference, since it is not at all remarkable that a more definite description is not given until Revelation 8:3 b, where an employment at the altar is spoken of. On the altar, which in Revelation 6:9 appears as in a certain respect having the character of an altar of burnt-offering, incense is burned, whereby a certain analogy with the altar of incense is obtained; but the interpretation is entirely inconceivable, since the altar is regarded as fully corresponding neither with the one nor the other.(2434)

ἔχων λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν. Without doubt λιβανωτός elsewhere means incense;(2435) but no necessity follows, hence, for writing in this passage, where a vessel for incense is manifestly meant, instead of λιβανωτός, λιβανωτίς, or λιβανωτρίς,(2436) or τὸ λιβανωτόν,(2437) of which, besides, the latter form, in its proper sense, cannot be distinguished from λιβανωτός.

καὶ ἐδόθη

ἵνα δώσει ταῖς προσευχαῖς, κ. τ. λ. It is arbitrary to adjust(2438) the difficult. ταῖς προσευχαῖς, by erasing the words ταῖς προς τ. ἁγ. παντ. (Revelation 8:3) and τ. προς τ. ἁγ. (Revelation 8:4), or to change it into τὰς προσευχάς,(2439) or without this emendation to explain it in the sense of Grot.(2440) Incorrect, too, is the effort to complete it by substituting ἐν, so as to make the meaning: “In the midst of prayers.”(2441) The dat. in Revelation 8:3, in its combination with δώσει, is without all difficulty, since it is entirely regular(2442) to express the remote object towards which the giving is directed: “in order that he should give (the θυ΄. πολλ.) to the prayers of all saints.” The significance of this act was correctly described already by Calov.: “that he should give ταῖς πρ., to the prayers of the saints, the same things, i.e., to render these prayers of good odor.”(2443) For upon the ground of Revelation 8:3, the expression, Revelation 8:4, καὶ ἀνέβη καπνὸς τῶν θυ΄ια΄άτων ταῖς προσευχαῖς τ. ἁγ. is to be explained; but not in the mode of Ebrard,(2444) who attempts to interpret it, καπν. τῶν θυ΄. τῶν ταῖς προσευχ. δοθέντων [the smoke of the incense given to the prayers],—by regarding the dat. here as “standing for the gen. of possession,” after the manner of the Hebrew ל,—for the immediate combination of the dat. ταῖς πρ. with the conception τ. θυ΄., is contrary to all Greek modes of thought and expression;(2445) but the dat. ταῖς προσευχ. can, in its relation to καπν. τ. θυ΄., depend only upon the verb ἀνέβη, as, in accordance with the idea expressed in Revelation 8:3, it must be regarded a dat. commodi: “The smoke of the incense for the prayers rose up,” i.e., indicating their being heard.(2446) The view of Kliefoth, that the incense serves only to carry up the prayers, appears to me not to agree well with the expression, Revelation 8:13, ἵνα δώσ. τ. προσευχ. And the idea that the prayers are sure of being heard,—not merely rendered capable of being granted,—which Klief. tries to avoid, is nevertheless prominent.

Besides, the activity of the angel, described in Revelation 8:3-4, in no way establishes the inference of an angelic intercession,(2447) in the sense of Roman-Catholic dogmatics. In the first place, it is in general impracticable to transform the individual points of Apocalyptic visions directly into dogmatical results; and then, in this case, the function ascribed to the angel, just as to the twenty-four elders in Revelation 5:8, is in no way properly that of a mediator, but of a servant.(2448) The incense, therefore, which he gives the prayers of saints, has first been given him; the angel thus in no way effects it by himself, that the prayers brought by his hand are acceptable to God, but the prayers of the saints can be received before God, even without any service of the angel, just because they proceed from saints;(2449) and that now they are carried before God as a heavenly incense-offering by the angel, to be heard and immediately fulfilled, lies also not in his own will, but in that of God, who in the seventh seal is just about to execute his judgment, and from whom himself comes the incense, whose perfume, indicating the hearing of the prayers of the saints, ascends from the hand of the angel as the ministering spirit,(2450) or the fellow-servant of the saints,(2451) who are themselves priests.(2452)

καὶ εἴληφεν, κ. τ. λ. The angel had put down his censer after he had poured its contents (Revelation 8:3) on the altar,(2453) while the smoke ascended (Revelation 8:4). Now (Revelation 8:5) he again takes it into his hand for a service that is new, but inwardly connected with what has happened in Revelation 8:3-4; from the same fire of the altar which had consumed the incense, he fills his censer, and then casts these glowing coals, taken from the altar, upon the earth;(2454) in consequence of this, there are voices, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake, the signs of the Divine judgment now breaking forth, as the seven angels also, as soon as the noise breaking the heavenly silence rises from the earth, make ready to sound their trumpets (Revelation 8:6). The inner connection between Revelation 8:5 and Revelation 8:3-4 has been correctly described already by C. a Lap.: “Through the petitions of the saints, praying for vengeance upon the godless and their persecutors, fiery vengeance, i.e., thunderings, lightnings, and the succeeding plagues of the seven angels and trumpets, are sent down upon the godless.”(2455) The idea has been suggested by Ebrard, that the fire of judgment is that “in which the martyrs were burned; “this is not once said in Revelation 6:10, although in this passage the idea is positively expressed that the fire which was cast upon the earth is from that whereby the incense was consumed, so that the judgment, therefore, appears to be a consequence of the heard prayers. For hereby, also, the chief contents of the prayers of all saints, and not merely those of martyrs (Revelation 6:10), are made known. They have as their object that to which all the hopes and endurance of the saints in general are directed, viz., the coming of the Lord,(2456) and the judgment accompanying it; the martyrs also in their way prayed for this.

αὐτὸ το δένδρον, λιβανωτὸς δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ λιβάνου. [ λίβανος—the tree itself; but λιβανωτὸς, the fruit of the tree]; and Ammonius: λίβανος μὲν γὰρ κοινῶς καὶ τὸ δένδρον καὶ τὸ θυμιώμενον· λιβανωτὸς δὲ μόνον τὸ θυμιώμενον [ λίβανος, in common both the tree and the incense; λιβανωτὸς, the incense only].


Verse 6

Revelation 8:6. The half-hour silence in heaven is now at an end; after the fire, whose meaning also becomes manifest by the threatening signs immediately following (Revelation 8:5), has been cast upon the earth, the seven angels (Revelation 8:2) prepare to sound their trumpets.

ἡτοίμασαν ἐαυτ. This includes the grasping of the trumpets in such a way that they could bring them to their mouths.(2457)


Verse 7

Revelation 8:7. “When the first angel sounded the trumpet, “there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth.” The plague is like that of Egypt, Exodus 9:24 sqq., only that with the hail and fire, i.e., masses of fire,(2464) there is no lightning;(2465) nor is there any thing said of a wind, as perhaps the Prester of Plin., H. N. ii. 49,(2466) but blood(2467) is to be added, with which both the hail and fire are mingled.(2468) The ἐν with αἵματι enables us to see the original meaning still more clearly, as, e.g., Revelation 6:8 : the blood appears as the mass wherein hail and fire are found.(2469) The expression μεμιγμ. ἐν αἳμ. does not give the idea of a “rain of blood.” Entirely distorted, however, is the explanation of Eichh.: “While the hail was falling, a shower also poured in the midst of flashes of lightning so rapidly following one another, that the shower itself seemed to be red with the reflected flames of the lightning.” The plague in this passage differs from that described in Exodus 9:24 sqq., also in the fact that there the devastation was wrought by the hail, but here by the fire: κατεκάη.

τὸ τριτον τῆς γῆς. De Wette properly thinks only of the surface of the earth, with that which is upon it. Yet neither the especially prominent trees,(2470) the third part of which are consumed, nor the green grass all of which is burned, are to be regarded upon only that third part of the earth; but besides the τρίτον τῆς γῆς, also ( καὶ) the third part of all the trees, and besides ( καὶ) all the grass (upon the whole earth).

To explain what is here beheld by John as in any way allegorical, and thus to bring out the assumed “meaning” of the whole, and of its individual features, is an undertaking, which, since it has no foundation in the text, can lead only to what is arbitrary. Beda, according to whom there is described in Revelation 8:7 the destruction of the godless in general, refers the entire portrayal to “the punishment of hell.” Luther, who begins in general with chs. 7 and 8. the prophecy of spiritual tribulations, i.e., of heresies, and then progresses to the Papacy, thinks here of Tatian and the Encratites. Grotius says, “The first trumpet explains the cause of the rest,” and explains χάλαζα = “the hardening of the hearts of the Jews;” πῦρ μεμ. ἐν αῖμ. = “sanguinary rage.” “Civil insurrections”(2471) and wars are suggested, not only by those who everywhere find the Romano-Judaic disturbances, but also by Beng.(2472) and Hengstenb.(2473) Vitr. refers to the plague and famine in the times of Decius and Gallus.(2474) Stem explains persecutions of the Church by the heathen, erroneous doctrines,(2475) and worldly wars in the Roman Empire. Ebrard understands the spiritual famine as it occurs in such Catholic lands as have rejected the light of the Reformation.


Verses 7-12

Revelation 8:7-12. The first four trumpets are expressly distinguished by Revelation 8:13, from the last three. The instrument with which the terrible war alarm(2458) and signals of various other kinds are given(2459) is employed by the seven angels to signalize a series of threatening signs preceding the judgment which is to enter at the coming of the Lord; but just as from the opened seals the impending visitations themselves come forth, so from the trumpets—the comparison of which, in other respects, with the sevenfold trumpet-blasts before Jericho is very remote(2460)—not a mere sound, which could give the signal for the expected horrors, but in consequence of the trumpet-blast, the very things themselves to be announced are presented to the gazing prophet. This is not acknowledged by those interpreters who have imagined that while the good angels, whose trumpet-tones through evangelical preachers like Hus, Luther, etc., from the time of the apostles until the end of the world have not been silenced, call to Christ, a conflict is raised by Satan, who cast (Revelation 8:7) hail and fire (i.e.; erroneous doctrine) upon the earth, so that the trees (i.e., the teachers of godliness) and the grass (i.e., ordinary Christians) are injured.(2461)

Other distorted explanations, as the opinion of Bengel, that the prayers of the saints (Revelation 8:3 sqq.) and the trumpets of the angels are contemporaneous, and the conjecture of Ebrard, that the first six trumpets occur before the sealing of ch. 7,(2462) or,—as the subject also is changed,—that “the sealing in reference to the first four trumpet-visions is intended to represent only a relation, but in reference to the last three, an event,”(2463)—are decided already by the general remarks on ch. 7 and on Revelation 8:1. Arbitrary interpretations of this kind necessarily accompany the effort to derive the “meaning” of the trumpet-visions from allegorizing.


Verse 8-9

Revelation 8:8-9. Upon the sound of the second trumpet, follows a sign which exercises its injurious effects upon the sea, together with creatures living therein and on ships.

ὡς ὄρος

θάλασσαν. Ebrard’s view, that a volcano was torn away from its station along the seacoast by the force raging within, and cast into the sea, conflicts with the ὡς as well as with the idea lying in the connection, that the ἐβλήθη (cf. Revelation 8:7) occurred by a special, wonderful, Divine working.(2476) The meaning of the ὡς was given already by N. de Lyra.(2477) By the comparison with a great mountain all on fire, only the dreadful greatness of the fiery mass is made manifest, which, if we consider its source in general, must be regarded as coming from heaven (cf. Revelation 5:7). Hence it cannot in any way be said,(2478) that the form of the representation is taken from that of a volcano. An allusion to Jeremiah 51:21(2479) is entirely out of place.(2480) The effect (Revelation 8:8 b, Revelation 8:9) is described after the model of the Egyptian plague, Exodus 7:20 sqq., only that here it is not as there all the water, but, in analogy with Revelation 8:7; Revelation 8:10 sqq., 12 sqq., a third that becomes blood, and likewise a third of living creatures and ships that is destroyed.

τὰ ἒχοντα ψυχάς. The expression designates all living creatures. The nom. apposition to τῶν κτισ΄. τῶν ἐν τ. θαλ. stands like Revelation 3:12, Revelation 9:14, Revelation 14:20, without construction.

The allegorizing commentators guess here and there without any foundation, because the text throughout contains nothing allegorical. Beda(2481) explains the whole: “As the Christian religion grew, the Devil swollen with pride, and burning with the fire of his own-fury, was cast into the sea of the world.” On τ. ἕχ. ψυχ. he remarks: “those alive, but spiritually dead.” Luther: “Marcion, the Manichaeans, etc.” Grot, may be considered the representative of the expositors who make conjectures in general concerning the distresses of the Romano-Judaic war. According to him, ὄρος, κ. τ. λ., designates the citadel of Antony, i.e., the soldiers therein who threw themselves with madness ( καιό΄.) into the city ( ἐβλ. εἰς τ. θαλ.), killed men ( ἀπεθάνε, κ. τ. λ.), and stole what was movable ( τ. πλοίων). Also Vitr., Beng., Stern, yea, even Hengstenb, understand the whole as referring to the devastation of war, while they interpret the details with lack of judgment like Grot.,(2482) and only differ from him in that Vitr., etc., find the inroads of the Goths into the Roman Empire, and Hengstenb., wars in general, prophesied. Hengstenb, has the view in general, that, in all the trumpet-visions except the last, the same thing is represented, viz., war.(2483) According to Ebrard, the whole means that “the vulcanic, Titanic energy of covetous or pleasure-seeking egoism poisons the intercourse of men, the intellectual as well as especially the domestic.”


Verse 10-11

Revelation 8:10-11. The third trumpet brings a poisoning of a third part of the rivers and fountains of waters (upon the land), and thereby the death of many men.

If, therefore, a certain connection with the second trumpet-vision be found in the fact that damage to the other waters follows that done to the sea, yet the two visions need in no way be drawn together, not even in reference to the so-called fulfilment.(2484) The nature of the damage of Revelation 8:10 is entirely different from that of Revelation 8:8; it is also, in Revelation 8:11, intended for men. In general, however, the preparatory visitations represented by the trumpet—just as by the seal-visions—are so directed that one blow follows another until finally the Lord comes.

ἔπεσεν ἐκ τ. οὐρ. ἀστήρ, κ. τ. λ. That the star “itself is abandoned to ruin, and, hence, has been torn from its place,”(2485) is a statement entirely out of place. The text marks only the ruinous effect which the star is to have; but in connection therewith lies the idea, that, just to produce the effect intended by God, the falling of the star has been caused by the determinate Divine will.

The words καιό΄ενος ὡς λα΄πάς make it manifest, that the great star which John saw fall from heaven had a luminous flame, but in no way show that “the great star” was any meteor, comet, or falling star.(2486)

καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν ποτα΄ῶν, κ. τ. λ. If any one should ask how this is to happen, the answer may be given with Ebrard, that the star in its fall is to be scattered so that its “sparks and fragments may fly into the water;” but the question and answer come from a consideration not belonging to the text.

ἄψινθος(2487). The masc. form, instead of the usual τὸ ἀψίνθιον or ἄψινθος, is chosen because of its congruence with ἀστήρ.(2488) The name designating(2489) the nature of the star declares its effect ( ἐπικράνθησαν).

τὸ τρίτον τῶν ὑδάτων. From this combination of the previously mentioned ποτα΄οί and πηγαὶ ὑδάτων, the result is expressly, that already in Revelation 8:10 the third of the πηγ. ὑδ. is to be thought of, which is clear also from the connection with τὸ τρίτον τ. ποτ.

ἐγένετο

ἐις ἄψινθον. The same thing is indicated by ἐπικράνθησαν. By the falling star “Wormwood,” the waters are made wormwood-water whose poisonous bitterness brings death to many men. The consideration that wormwood(2490) is no deadly poison, is not at all pertinent, because it is not natural wormwood that is here treated of.

ἐκ τ. ὑδ. Cf. Revelation 9:8; Winer, p. 344. The cause appears as the source from which the effect comes.

The star falling from heaven (the Church), which makes the waters bitter and poisonous, is readily interpreted by allegorical expositors as heresy. So Beda: “Heretics falling from the summit of the Church attempt, with the flame of their wickedness, to taint the fountains of divine Scriptures.” More definitely still, N. de Lyra, who had referred the two preceding trumpets to Arius and Macedonius: “Pelagius, who preached contrary to the sweetness of the Holy Spirit.” Luther: “Origen, who by philosophy and reason imbittered and corrupted the Scriptures, as the high schools with us have done until the present.” Vitr, Beng., etc., refer it to Arius. Mede understands Romulus Augustulus; Laun., Gregory the Great. But to the expositors who find everywhere in the Apoc. the particular facts of the history of the Church and the world represented, such matters are not subject to the option of an allegorizing interpretation, as they refer all to events contemporaneous with John. Thus in the star, Grot. finds the Egyptian mentioned in Acts 21:38; while Herder, whose opinion Böhmer has reproduced, finds Eleazar,(2491) “a fiery, audacious young man, the prime originator of the spirit of the zealots,” through whom the “animosity” was first aggravated. Hengstenb. also here traces again the war. Stars he regards as signifying, in general, sovereigns; “the fire with which the great star burns is the fire of wrath, war, and conquest;” the water of the streams is “a symbol of prosperity:” the whole designates, therefore, the calamity of war.


Verse 12

Revelation 8:12. The fourth trumpet brings damage to sun, moon, and stars, whereof the third of all is darkened, and thus the light is withdrawn from a third of the day and of the night, ἐπλήγη. That a “preternatural striking” is to be thought of,(2492) which has as its consequence the intended darkening ( ἵνα σκοτ.), Wolf already mentions, in opposition to the leaning towards the rabbinical way, whereby the darkening itself of sun and moon is represented as a “smiting.”(2493) The miraculous eclipse is in itself, as already according to the O. T. representation,(2494) a foretoken of the coming day of judgment;(2495) the limitation of the same, however, to a third of the sun, moon, and stars, and consequently to a third of the day and night ruled over by them,(2496) corresponds to similar statements in the preceding trumpet-visions.

καὶ ἡ΄έρα ΄ὴ φάνῃ, viz., as the apposition τὸ τρίτον αὐτῆς more explicitly says, the third part of the day. And likewise the night. The words cannot mean that the light proceeding from the smitten stars has lost the third of its brilliancy, the reverse of Isaiah 30:26;(2497) still less does the expression bear the explanation of Ebrard, “that the third of the stars was smitten with respect to time, so that they were darkened only for a third of the day, contrasted with nighttime, while for the other two-thirds they are bright.” But the idea is this: Since a third of the sun is eclipsed, a third of the day (regarded in its temporal length) is deprived of its sunlight, and the night likewise of the shining of moon and stars. So De Wette, who judges likewise that here the sameness between the third of the stars and the third of day and night “is carried out even to what is unnatural.” The exception is correctly taken, and therefore expressed without impiety, because the present vision of John is to him as little as all the rest an absolutely objective incident, a likeness presented him by God as complete;(2498) of course, also, no real fiction,(2499) but a view communicated through the prophet’s own subjectivity.

The allegorical expositors find here(2500) the obscuration, confusion, and diminution of beneficial institutions, whether of a spiritual or a political kind. Beda proposes the disturbance of the Church by false brethren; N. de Lyra, the heresy of Eutyches. The injury done by Islam is understood by Stern, who mentions the fact, that instead of the full moon the Church has become a half moon ( ἐπλήγη

τὸ τρίτον τ. σελ.), and many stars have vanished, i.e., the sees of many bishops have been overthrown. Wetst.,(2501) Herder, etc., propose political confusion; so, too, Vitr., Beng., who, however, have in mind the incursions of the Goths and Vandals into the Eastern Empire, and Hengstenb., who very generally understands sad times full of the calamities of war. Böhmer combines the reference to Jewish temporal relations with his interpretation of sun and moon as applying to spiritual things, already employed on Revelation 6:12 : “That sun and moon and stars are smitten with darkness, we explain from the fact that sad prophecies have transpired, and the law has begun to be neglected. But the end of prophecy and the law has not, as yet, actually come, on which account only a third thereof is regarded as having been obscured.”

Concerning the visions coming with the first four trumpets, which are to be distinguished from the three immediately following (Revelation 8:13), it is to be remarked in general: 1. The plagues described in them, which concern the entire sphere of the visible world (the earth, Revelation 8:7; the sea, Revelation 8:8-9; the waters of the main land, Revelation 8:10-11; the stars, day and night, Revelation 8:12; cf. Beng., Ew., etc.), are perceptible not only to unbelievers, but also to believers.(2502) This necessarily lies in the very nature of the plagues; and the sealing correctly understood (Revelation 7:2 sqq.) in no way gives any other idea.(2503) 2. The allegorical explanation, and the reference founded thereon to events or circumstances of ecclesiastical or civil history,—of which Ebrard emphasizes the latter,(2504) has no foundation whatever in the text, and, therefore, leads necessarily to arbitrary suppositions. But the context, according to which the trumpet-visions proceed from the seventh seal, shows that this vision, in its eschatological significance, has reference to the end to be expected already after the sixth(2505) and in the seventh seal; viz., the actual coming of the Lord, in connection with which the plagues described by the first six seals are to be regarded as premonitory signs of the impending end of the same character as those described in the fundamental prophecy of Matthew 24:29. The same relation as subsists there between Matthew 8:29 and Matthew 8:6-7, recurs in the signs portrayed in the four trumpet-visions and those described in the seal-visions. It is true that the sixth seal already has introduced foretokens of the nature of Matthew 24:29, and this is developed in close connection until the description of the last end; but by the fact that in Revelation 7:1, between the sixth and seventh seals, the four angels come forth who are to bring a new plague, the final development is further postponed. And if now the final catastrophe actually proceeds from the seventh seal,—as is to be expected after Revelation 6:17,—yet this occurs only after a further development, which, as first of all in the first four trumpet-visions, brings with it new foretokens of the coming end. The introductory significance of this sign is expressed in the fact that only a third of the earth is concerned; thus a new course is designated after the points marked by the already strong signs of the sixth seal. Yet that a progress occurs, and that the trumpet-visions do not, in any way, again prevail before the sixth seal, the context indicates by the fact that the plagues befalling a third of the earth mark an advance when compared with the plagues of the fourth seal (Revelation 6:8).


Verse 13

Revelation 8:13. An eagle flying in the zenith proclaims, by a threefold annunciation of woe, the three trumpets still remaining.(2506)

εἱδον καὶ ἤκουσα. Cf. Revelation 5:11, Revelation 6:1.

ἑνὸς ἀετοῦ. Concerning the indefinite meaning of the είς,(2507) cf. “Winer, p. 111. An eagle is mentioned, not an angel in the form of an eagle.(2508) That it is an eagle which appears as the harbinger of the still impending woe, has its foundation, not in the “prophecy” of Christ, Matthew 24:28,—for that passage contains no prophecy at all, but a proverbial assertion of the moral law upon which the threatening prophecies of the Lord depend,—nor is it to be regarded as an antithesis to the dove, John 1:32;(2509) nor does the eagle come into consideration as a bird of omen,(2510) for, apart even from the unchristian character of the idea, the evil omen does not lie in the eagle as such. But it is in the same way appropriate that the far-sounding, menacing cry of the mighty, dreadful eagle be raised, in which the irruption of devastating enemies is compared with the flight of the eagle to its plunder.(2511)

πετομένου-g0- ἐν-g0- μεσουρανήματι-g0-. Cf. Revelation 14:6, Revelation 19:17. ΄εσουρανεῖν designates the sun’s position in its meridian altitude; hence μεσουράνημα is first of all the astronomical relation which is occasioned by the sun’s standing in the zenith.(2512) According to this, the expression may designate the ΄έσον οὔρανον(2513) as the place for the ΄εσουρανεῖν of the sun, but not the space between the vault of heaven and the earth.(2514) The eagle flies to the meridian altitude of heaven, because the idea is thus given, that it can be seen and heard of all to whom its message pertains.

τοῖς κατοικοῦσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, as Revelation 6:10.

ἐκ τ. λοιπ. φων. The ἐκ, for the same reason as Revelation 8:11.(2515)

τῆς σάλπιγγος. The sing, is not distributive,(2516) but by its close connection with τῶν φωνῶν shows itself to be one conception.

τὸ ἀπὸ πρωίας μἐχρις ἡλιακοῦ μεσουρανήματος. In Wetst.

Who or what the eagle properly is, cannot be properly decided here, as in Matthew 24:28. Yet even here allegorical explanations are found. Beda: “The voice of this eagle daily penetrates the Church through the mouths of eminent teachers.” C. a Lap.:(2517) “Some prophet or other to be expected at the end of the world.” According to Joachim, the eagle is Gregory the Great; according to N. de Lyra, John himself; according to Zeger, the Apostle Paul. Herder, etc, also Böhmer and Volkm., propose the eagle of the Roman legions.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 8:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/revelation-8.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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