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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

Revelation 4. The Vision of Heaven.—In this chapter the real Apocalypse commences. A door is opened in heaven and the seer sees the throne of God, flashing like jewels, and surrounded by a rainbow. Twenty-four elders sit on thrones, and with four "living beasts" offer continual praise and worship to God. Much of the imagery is traditional, and derived from similar descriptions of heaven and the Divine majesty in OT cf. Isaiah 6:1-4, Ezekiel 12:4-28, Daniel 7:9 f.

Revelation 4:1. the first voice: that mentioned in Revelation 1:10.

Revelation 4:2. a throne: cf. Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 10:1.

Revelation 4:3. was like a jasper stone and a sardius: note the absence of any anthropomorphism. The Divine presence is described as a radiance of jewels. "The seer's eye is arrested by the flashing of gem-like colours, but he sees no form" (Swete).—jasper: cf. Revelation 21:11, "a stone most precious . . . clear as crystal." As this description does not apply to the modern jasper, many scholars think that the reference here is to the opal.—sardius: probably our cornelian, a deep red stone.—rainbow: from Ezekiel 1:27. Some think that a green stone like the emerald is inappropriate, and suggest that the Greek word used here may refer to the rock-crystal.—[But green is appropriate because of its restfulness to the eye, mitigating the dazzling brightness. Bleek aptly recalls Pliny's statement that when the eyes are blinded by any other sight, the emerald restores them.—A. S. P.]

Revelation 4:4. four and twenty elders: some scholars think that the number is made up of the twelve Patriarchs and the twelve Apostles, who in their union signified the Church of the OT and the Church of the NT. Others regard them as representing the twenty-four courses of priests. The probability, however, is that they are angels of the highest rank. The evidence of Isaiah 24:23 and of Jewish apocalyptic literature proves that the term "elder" was often applied to angels (cf. Scott, Cent.B, p. 163).

Revelation 4:6. a glassy sea: the conception of a celestial sea in heaven is found in Jewish literature, e.g. in the Book of the Secrets of Enoch and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. "The seer, still looking through the window, sees between himself and the throne a vast surface, which flashes back the light that falls upon it, like the Ægean when in summer day he looked down upon it from the heights of Patmos." The whole of this paragraph may be regarded as a pictorial expansion of the conception of God "dwelling in light unapproachable" in 1 Timothy 6:16.—four living creatures: cf. Ezekiel 1:5, where the living creatures are identified with the cherubim. See also the account of the seraphim in Isaiah 6.—full of eyes: cf. Ezekiel 10:12.

Revelation 4:7. In Ezek. each of the cherubim has four faces (lion, ox, man, eagle), in Rev. the "living creatures" have only one face each.

Revelation 4:8. six wings: . . . Holy, holy, holy: a reminiscence of Isaiah 6:2 f.—which was, etc.: cf. Revelation 1:8.

Revelation 4:9. The initiative of worship comes from the cherubim; it is at their instance that the other powers join in and take up the strain of praise.

Revelation 4:11. See next note.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/revelation-4.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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