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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Revelation 6



Other Authors
Verse 1

Of the seals

Add seven.

And see


Verse 2

White horse

For white, see on Luke 19:29. Horse, see Zechariah 1:7-11; Zechariah 6:1-8. All the figures of this verse are those of victory. The horse in the Old Testament is the emblem of war. See Job 39:25; Psalm 76:6; Proverbs 21:31; Ezekiel 26:10. So Virgil:

“But I beheld upon the grass four horses, snowy white,

Grazing the meadows far and wide, first omen of my sight.

Father Anchises seeth, and saith: 'New land and bear'st thou war?

For war are horses dight; so these war-threatening herd-beasts are.'”

Aeneid,” iii., 537.

So Turnus, going forth to battle:

“He spake, and to the roofed place now swiftly wending home,

Called for his steeds, and merrily stood there before their foam

E'en those that Orithyia gave Pilumnus, gift most fair,

Whose whiteness overpassed the snow, whose speed the winged air.”

Aeneid,” xii., 81-83.

Homer pictures the horses of Rhesus as whiter than snow, and swift as the winds (“Iliad,” x., 436,437); and Herodotus, describing the battle of Plataea says: “The fight went most against the Greeks where Mardonius, mounted on a white horse, and surrounded by the bravest of all the Persians, the thousand picked men, fought in person” (ix., 63). The horses of the Roman generals in their triumphs were white.

Bow ( τόξον )

See Psalm 45:4, Psalm 45:5; Hebrews 3:8, Hebrews 3:9; Isaiah 41:2; Zechariah 9:13, Zechariah 9:14, in which last passage the figure is that of a great bow which is drawn only by a great exertion of strength, and by placing the foot upon it. Compare Homer's picture of Telemachus' attempt to draw Ulysses' bow:

“And then he took his place

Upon the threshold, and essayed the bow;

And thrice he made the attempt and thrice gave o'er.”

Odyssey,” xxi., 124-25.

The suitors propose to anoint the bow with fat in order to soften it.

“Bring us from within

An ample roll of fat, that we young men

By warming and anointing may make soft

The bow, and draw the cord and end the strife.”

Odyssey,” xxi., 178-80.

A crown ( στέφανος )

See on Revelation 4:4.

Verse 3

And see


Had opened ( ἤνοιξεν )

Rev., rendering the aorist mow literally, opened.

Verse 4

Red ( πυῤῥός )

From πῦρ fireFlame-colored. Compare 2 Kings 3:22; Zechariah 1:8. Only here and Revelation 12:3.

To take peace from the earth

Compare Matthew 10:34; Matthew 24:7.

Kill ( σφάξωσιν )

See on Revelation 5:6.

Sword ( μάχαιρα )

Compare Matthew 10:34. In Homer, a large knife or dirk, worn next the sword-sheath, and used to slaughter animals for sacrifice. Thus, “The son of Atreus, having drawn with his hands the knife ( μάχαιραν ) which hung ever by the great sheath of his sword, cut the hair from the heads of the lambs … . He spake, and cut the lambs' throats with the pitiless brass” (“Iliad,” iii., 271-292). It is used by the surgeon Machaon to cut out an arrow (“Iliad,” xi., 844). Herodotus, Aristophanes, and Euripides use the word in the sense of a knife for cutting up meat. Plato, of a knife for pruning trees. As a weapon it appears first in Herodotus: “Here they (the Greeks) defended themselves to the last, such as still had swords, using them (vii., 225) Later of the sabre or bent sword, contrasted with the ξίφος or straight sword. Aristophanes uses it with the adjective μιᾷ singlefor a razor, contrasted with μάχαιρα διπλῆ , the double knife or scissors. This and ῥομφαία (see on Luke 2:35) are the only words used in the New Testament for sword. Θίφος (see above) does not occur. In Septuagint μάχαιρα of the knife of sacrifice used by Abraham (Genesis 22:6, Genesis 22:10).

Verse 5

Come and see

Omit and see.


The color of mourning and famine. See Jeremiah 4:28; Jeremiah 8:21; Malachi 3:14, where mournfully is, literally, in black.

Pair of balances ( ζυγὸν )

Rev., a balance. Properly, anything which joins two bodies; hence a yoke (Matthew 11:29; Acts 15:10). The cross-beam of the loom, to which the warp was fixed; the thwarts joining the opposite sides of a ship; the beam of the balance, and hence the balance itself. The judgment of this seal is scarcity, of which the balance is a symbol, representing the time when food is doled out by weight. See Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 4:16.

Verse 6

Measure ( χοῖνιξ )

Choenix. Only here in the New Testament. A dry measure, according to some, a quart; to others a pint and a half. Herodotus, speaking of the provisions for Xerxes' army, assigns a choenix of corn for a man's daily supply, evidently meaning a minimum allowance (vii., 187); and Thucydides, speaking of the terms of truce between the Lacedaemonians and the Athenians, mentions the following as one of the provisions: “The Athenians shall permit the Lacedaemonians on the mainland to send to those on the island a fixed quantity of kneaded flour, viz., two Attic quarts ( χοίνικας ) of barley-meal for each man” (iv., 16). Jowett (“Thucydides”) says that the choenix was about two pints dry measure. So Arnold (“Thucydides”), who adds that the allowance of two choenixes of barley-meal daily to a man was the ordinary allowance of a Spartan at the public table. See Herodotus, vi., 57.

For a penny ( δηναρίου )

See on Matthew 20:2.

Verse 8

Pale ( χλωρὸς )

Only in Revelation, except Mark 6:39. Properly, greenish-yellow, like young grass or unripe wheat. Homer applies it to honey, and Sophocles to the sand. Generally, pale, pallid. Used of a mist, of sea-water, of a pale or bilious complexion. Thucydides uses it of the appearance of persons stricken with the plague (ii., 49). In Homer it is used of the paleness of the face from fear, and so as directly descriptive of fear (“Iliad,” x., 376; xv., 4). Of olive wood (“Odyssey,” ix., 320,379) of which the bark is gray. Gladstone says that in Homer it indicates rather the absence than the presence of definite color. In the New Testament, always rendered green, except here. See Mark 6:39; Revelation 8:7; Revelation 9:14.


Properly, Hades. The realm of the dead personified. See on Matthew 16:18.

Power ( ἐξουσία )

See on Mark 2:10; see on 2 Peter 2:11. Rev., better, authority.

With the sword ( ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ )

Another word for sword. Compare Revelation 6:4, and see on Luke 2:35.

With death ( ἐι θανάτῳ )

Or pestilence. The Hebrew deber pestilence, is rendered by the Greek word for death in the Septuagint. See Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 21:7. Compare the term black-death applied to an Oriental plague which raged in the fourteenth century.

With the beasts ( ὑπὸ τῶν θηρίων )

Rev., by. The preposition ὑπό byis used here instead of ἐν inor with, indicating more definitely the actual agent of destruction; while ἐν denotes the element in which the destruction takes place, and gives a general indication of the manner in which it was wrought. With these four judgments compare Ezekiel 14:21.

Verse 9

Altar ( θυσιαστηρίου )

See on Acts 17:23. The altar of sacrifice, as is indicated by slain; not the altar of incense. The imagery is from the tabernacle. Exodus 39:39; Exodus 40:29.

Souls ( ψυχὰς )

Or lives. See on 3 John 1:2. He saw only blood, but blood and life were equivalent terms to the Hebrew.

Slain ( ἐσφαγμένων )

See on Revelation 5:6. The law commanded that the blood of sacrificed animals should be poured out at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offering (Leviticus 4:7).

They held ( εἶχον )

Not held fast, but bore the testimony which was committed to them.

Verse 10

They cried ( ἔκραζον )

See on Mark 5:5.

How long ( ἕως πότε )

Lit., until when. Compare Zechariah 1:12.

O Lord ( ὁ δεσπότης )

See on 2 Peter 2:1. Only here in Revelation. Addressed to God rather than to Christ, and breathing, as Professor Milligan remarks, “the feeling of Old Testament rather than of New Testament relation.” Compare Acts 4:24; Judges 1:4.

True ( ἀληθινὸς )

See on John 1:9; see on Revelation 3:7.

Judge ( κρίνεις )

Originally the verb means to separate; thence the idea of selection: to pick out, and so to discriminate or judge.

Avenge ( ἐκδικεῖς )

Compare Luke 18:3; Romans 12:19.

On the earth ( ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς )

Earth, in Revelation, is generally to be understood of the ungodly earth.

Verse 11

White robes were given unto every one of them ( ἐδόθησαν ἑκάστοις στολαὶ λευκαὶ )

The best texts read ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἑκάστῳ στολὴ λευκή therewas given them to each one a white robe. So Rev. Στολὴ is properly a long, flowing robe; a festive garment. Compare Mark 16:5; Luke 15:22; Luke 20:46.

Should rest ( ἀναπαύσωνται )

See on Matthew 11:28; see on 1 Peter 5:14; compare Revelation 14:13; Daniel 12:13. Not merely rest from their crying for vengeance, but rest in peace.


See Master in Revelation 6:10.

Should be fulfilled ( πληρώσονται )

Completed in number. See Colossians 2:10. Some texts read πληρώσωσιν shallhave fulfilled their course.

Verse 12

The sixth seal

“The Apocalypse is molded by the great discourse of our Lord upon 'the last things' which has been preserved for us in the first three Gospels (Matthew 24:4; 25.; Luke 21:8-36; compare 17:20-37). The parallelism between the two is, to a certain extent, acknowledged by all inquirers, and is indeed, in many respects, so obvious, that it can hardly escape the notice of even the ordinary reader. Let any one compare, for example, the account of the opening of the sixth seal with the description of the end (Matthew href="/desk/?q=mt+24:29&sr=1">Matthew 24:29, Matthew 24:30), and he will see that the one is almost a transcript of the other. It is remarkable that we find no account of this discourse in the Gospel of St. John; nor does it seem as sufficient explanation of the omission that the later Evangelist was satisfied with the records of the discourse already given by his predecessors” (Milligan).

Earthquake ( σεισμὸς )

Lit., shaking. Used also of a tempest. See on Matthew 8:24, and compare Matthew 24:7. The word here is not necessarily confined to shaking the earth. In Matthew 24:29, it is predicted that the powers of the heavens shall be shaken ( σαλευθήσονται , see on Luke 21:26). Here also the heaven is removed (Revelation 6:14). Compare Hebrews 12:26, where the verb σείω toshake (kindred with σεισμὸς ) is used.

Black as sackcloth of hair ( μέλας ὡς σάκκος )

Compare Matthew 24:29; Isaiah 50:3; Isaiah 13:10; Jeremiah 4:23; Ezekiel 32:7, Ezekiel 32:8; Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Amos 8:9, Amos 8:10; Micah 3:6. For sackcloth, see on Luke 10:13.

The moon ( ἡ σελήνη )

Add ὅλη wholeRev., the whole moon.

Verse 13

Untimely figs ( ὀλύνθους )

Better, as Rev., unripe. Compare Matthew 24:32; Isaiah 34:4. Only here in the New Testament.

Verse 14

Departed ( ἀπεχωρισθη )

The verb means to separate, sever. Rev., was removed.

Scroll ( βιβλίον )

See on Luke 4:17. Compare Isaiah 34:4.

Mountain and island

Compare Matthew 24:35; Nahum 1:5.

Verse 15

Of the earth

See on Revelation 6:10.

Great men ( μεγιστᾶνες )

Rev., princes. See on high captains, Mark 6:21.

Chief captains ( χιλίαρχοι )

See on Mark 6:21, and see on centurion, Luke 7:2.

The mighty ( οἱ δυνατοὶ )

The best texts read οἱ ἰσχυροὶ. Rev., the strong. For the difference in meaning, see on the kindred words δύναμις and ἰσχύς mightand power, 2 Peter 2:11.

Every free man

Omit every, and read as Rev., every bondman and free man.

In the dens ( εἰς τὰ σπήλαια )

Rev., caves. The preposition εἰς intoimplies running for shelter into.

Rocks ( πέτρας )

See on Matthew 16:18.

Verse 16

Said ( λέγουσιν )

Lit., say. So Rev.

Fall on us

Compare Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30.

Wrath ( ὀργῆς )

Denoting a deep-seated wrath. See on John 3:36.

Verse 17

The great day ( ἡ ἡμέρα ἡ μεγάλη )

Lit., the day, the great (day ). For the construction, see on 1 John 4:9.

Is come ( ἦλθεν )

Lit., came.

Shall be able to stand ( δύναται σταθῆναι )

Rev., rightly, is able. Compare Nahum 1:6; Malachi 3:2.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 6:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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