Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 4:3

And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Bow;   Emerald;   Rainbow;   Sardius;   Throne;   Vision;   Scofield Reference Index - Elders;   Thompson Chain Reference - Appearance, Christ;   Christ;   Emeralds;   Face;   Jasper;   Precious Stones;   Rainbow;   Sardius;   Stones, Precious;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Precious Stones;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Jasper;   Sardius;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Beauty;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Rainbow;   Sardine Stone;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Bow;   Emerald;   Jasper;   Sardine;   Throne;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Carnelian;   Ezekiel;   Jasper;   Minerals and Metals;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jewels and Precious Stones;   Rainbow;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Emerald ;   Jasper ;   Precious Stones ;   Rainbow ;   Sardius ;   Throne ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Emerald;   Jasper,;   Rainbow;   Sardine, Sardius,;   29 Light Lamp Candle;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Bow;   Rainbow;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Cherub;   Sardine;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Emerald,;   Jasper,;   Rainbow,;   Sar'dites, the,;   Stones, Precious;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Bow (rainbow);   Emerald;   Jasper;   Rainbow;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Jasper;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Cherubim (1);   Isaiah;   Luke, the Evangelist;   Rainbow;   Revelation of John:;   Seraphim;   Stones, Precious:;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Gems;   Rainbow;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for February 26;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

And he that sat - There is here no description of the Divine Being, so as to point out any similitude, shape, or dimensions. The description rather aims to point out the surrounding glory and effulgence than the person of the almighty King. See a similar description Numbers 24:10, etc., and the notes there.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-4.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And he that sat was to look upon - Was in appearance; or, as I looked upon him, this seemed to be his appearance. He does not describe his form, but his splendor.

Like a jasper - ἰάσπιδι iaspidiThe jasper, properly, is “an opaque, impure variety of quartz, of red, yellow, and also of some dull colors, breaking with a smooth surface. It admits of a high polish, and is used for vases, seals, snuff-boxes, etc. When the colors are in stripes or bands, it is called striped jasper” (Dana, in Webster‘s Dictionary). The color here is not designated, whether red or yellow. As the red was, however, the common color worn by princes, it is probable that that was the color that appeared, and that John means to say that he appeared like a prince in his royal robes. Compare Isaiah 6:1.

And a sardine stone - σαρδίῳ sardiōThis denotes a precious stone of a bloodred, or sometimes of a flesh-color, more commonly known by the name of carnelian (Robinson‘s Lexicon). Thus, it corresponds with the jasper, and this is only an additional circumstance to convey the exact idea in the mind of John, that the appearance of him who sat on the throne was that of a prince in his scarlet robes. This is all the description which he gives of his appearance; and this is:

(a)entirely appropriate, as it suggests the idea of a prince or a monarch; and,

(b)it is well adapted to impress the mind with a sense of the majesty of Him who cannot be described, and of whom no image should be attempted. Compare Deuteronomy 4:12; “Ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude.”

And there was a rainbow round about the throne - This is a beautiful image, and was probably designed to be emblematical as well as beautiful. The previous representation is that of majesty and splendor; this is adapted to temper the majesty of the representation. The rainbow has always, from its own nature, and from its associations, been an emblem of peace. It appears on the cloud as the storm passes away. It contrasts beautifully with the tempest that has just been raging. It is seen as the rays of the sun again appear clothing all things with beauty - the more beautiful from the fact that the storm has come, and that the rain has fallen. If the rain has been gentle, nature smiles serenely, and the leaves and flowers refreshed appear clothed with new beauty: if the storm has raged violently, the appearance of the rainbow is a pledge that the war of the elements has ceased, and that God smiles again upon the earth. It reminds us, too, of the “covenant” when God did “set his bow in the cloud,” and solemnly promised that the earth should no more be destroyed by a flood, Genesis 9:9-16. The appearance of the rainbow, therefore, around the throne, was a beautiful emblem of the mercy of God, and of the peace that was to pervade the world as the result of the events that were to be disclosed to the vision of John. True, there were lightnings and thunderings and voices, but there the bow abode calmly above them all, assuring him that there was to be mercy and peace.

In sight like unto an emerald - The emerald is green, and this color so predominated in the bow that it seemed to be made of this species of precious stone. The modified and mild color of green appears to everyone to predominate in the rainbow. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28) has introduced the image of the rainbow, also, in his description of the vision that appeared to him, though not as calmly encircling the throne, but as descriptive of the general appearance of the scene. “As is the appearance of the bow that is on the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.” Milton, also, has introduced it, but it is also as a part of the coloring of the throne:

“Over their heads a crystal firmament,

Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure.

Amber, and colors of the showery arch.”

- Paradise Lost, b. vii.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-4.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper stone and a sardius: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, like an emerald to look upon.

There is little that can be known positively about these symbols. Note that, "There is here no description of the Divine Being, so as to point out any similitude, shape, or dimensions."[22] If there had been, people would probably have made idols of it and worshipped it. Regarding the stones here mentioned, we do not know exactly what they were, nor their color with any certainty.

The whole subject of the relation of precious stones named in the New Testament to those in the Old Testament, to those of classical antiquity, and of modern mineralogy is one of great obscurity.[23]

The jasper ... Phillips' New Testament translates this "diamond," and many accept this.

The sardius ... The New English Bible (1961) translates this carnelian, which Ladd identified as "a fiery red stone."[24] Some suppose that the rainbow encircled the throne horizontally and that it derived from the prismatic character of the rock crystal (the glassy sea on which the throne reposed)[25] But what kind of rainbow could be described as "like an emerald to look upon"? This teases the imagination beyond reality. At any rate, taking the above as a good guess, we have the diamond, the ruby and the rainbow like an emerald, which three colors are supposed to represent God's purity (the diamond), God's wrath in judgment (the ruby), and God's mercy (the rainbow like an emerald). At best, such interpretations are fanciful and rest upon inadequate foundations. It is true, of course, that the rainbow (Genesis 9:12ff) is indeed a symbol of God's mercy and of his covenant with Noah that the earth would not again be destroyed by a flood, and that seed time and harvest, day and night, etc., would thenceforth continue as long as the earth stands. The fact of a rainbow encircling the throne of God recalls this, but the description of it injects a new element. Our comment here embraces references to such things because of the usual emphasis given to them in current, and even ancient, writings.

While admitting that, "It is doubtful if any symbolical meaning is intended by the choice of these stones,"[26] Ladd went on to point out that they were in different positions on the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:17ff), and that they are numbered among the foundations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19ff).

[22] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. VI (London: Carlton and Porter, 1829), p. 988.

[23] Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1919), p. 497.

[24] George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 72.

[25] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 113.

[26] George Eldon Ladd, op. cit., p. 73.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper,.... For the brightness, glory, and majesty of his countenance, and for his being light itself, clothed with it, and dwelling in it; see Revelation 21:11; and for the various perfections of his nature, as eternity, infinity, immutability, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, wisdom, power, goodness, truth, love, grace, and mercy; for the jasper, at least one sort of them, is of various colours, and spotted with divers spots; that which is most valued is the green, spotted with red or purpleF8Albert. Magn. de Reb. Metall. l. 2. c. 8. Ruaeus de Gemmis, l. 2. c. 1. : hence this stone, which is the twelfth in the high priest's breastplate, and on which the name of "Benjamin" was written, is called, by the Chaldee paraphrase of Onkelos on Exodus 28:20, "Pantere", and of ben Uzziel, on the same place, "Apanturin", and on Song of Solomon 5:14, "Apantor", because some are variegated and spotted like panthers.

And a sardine stone; the same with the "Sardius": and so read here the Alexandrian copy, the Syriac and Arabic versions, as in Revelation 21:20, and in Exodus 28:17 on which Reuben's name was written; this is of a red, or blood colour as its name אדם, in Hebrew, shows, and the same that is called a cornelian; and is expressive of the fiery indignation of God whose fury is poured out like fire, and who nakedly and absolutely considered, is a consuming fire to the wicked, his enemies, and the enemies of his church and people. Some jaspers being white and sky coloured and the white colour being most agreeable to deity, as Cicero saysF9De Legibus, l. 2. , and the sardine being red, and a gem of the ruby kind make up the description of the church's beloved; Song of Solomon 5:10; and may denote in general his purity, glory, and excellency, and in particular good will to his people, and wrath to his enemies. And to the comfort of the former it is added,

and there was a rainbow round about the throne; which signifies the covenant of grace; see Genesis 9:12. The rainbow is a reverberation, or a reflection of the beams of the sun upon a thin watery cloud; and the covenant of grace is owing to Jesus Christ, the sun of righteousness; it is he that has formed it, and filled it with blessings and promises; he is the Mediator, surety, and messenger of it, and who in Revelation 10:1 is represented as clothed with a cloud, and a rainbow on his head: the rainbow is of, various colours and fitly expresses the various promises and blessings, in the covenant of grace, and the various providences, both prosperous and adverse, with respect to soul and body; and as the rainbow was an emblem of mercy, peace, and reconciliation in God to man, after he had destroyed the world by a flood, so the covenant is a covenant of grace and mercy; it springs from it, and is full of it, and provides for the peace and reconciliation of the people of God, by the blood of Christ; whence it is called a covenant of peace: and as the rainbow is a security to the world, and the inhabitants of it, from a destruction by a flood any more, so the covenant is a security to those who are interested in it, from eternal destruction, and wrath to come; herein lies all their salvation, and this is the security of it: to which may be added, that God calls it my bow, as he often calls the covenant of grace my covenant, in distinction from man's; see Genesis 9:12; and this being round about the throne of God, shows that the covenant of grace does, as it were, include and enclose God in his persons, and in his perfections; all the three divine Persons have a concern in it, and all the divine perfections are glorified by it; and it being around it, it is always in his view; he is ever mindful of it, and constantly remembers it for the good of his people, and faithfully keeps it; and it being in this form denotes, that in whatsoever way he comes forth unto his people, it is always in a covenant way, whether it be in things temporal or spiritual, in adversity or prosperity, with regard to the things of time and eternity; nor is there any coming to him with comfort, but as he is encompassed with the rainbow of the covenant; stripped of this, he is like the jasper and sardine stones, full of sparkling majesty, dread and terror, so that there is no coming nigh him; but being encircled with the rainbow, he may be approached as a covenant God, as the God of all grace, seated on a throne of grace, whither believers may come with boldness, freedom, and cheerfulness: and this rainbow was

in sight like unto an emerald; the stone on which Judah's name was written, in the high priest's breastplate; this is of a green colour, which colour is the prevailing one in the rainbow; it is of an exceeding fine green, very delightful to the eye, and gives pleasure to the mind to look upon it: and what a lovely and delightful sight is the covenant of grace to a believer! to see God as a covenant God, Christ as the Mediator of it, the exceeding great and precious promises and blessings, both of grace and glory, which are in it, yields an unspeakable pleasure to such persons; the covenant of grace, like the emerald, is ever green, it is always new; its promises and blessings are always fresh, and, like that, it is durable; it is sure, and cannot be broken, and is more immovable than rocks and mountains: the emerald is very bright, clear, and transparent; it is reported of NeroF11Ruaeus de Gemmis, l. 2. c. 4. , that he could see in his emerald the combat of the gladiators in the theatre; in the covenant of grace, as in a glass, may be seen the glory of all the three Persons in the Godhead, for it is ordered in all things for the glory of each Person; as also all the perfections of the divine nature; here God appears abundant in goodness and truth; here mercy and truth meet together; and righteousness and peace kiss each other: to which may be added, that the emerald is saidF12Ruaeus, ib. & Albert. Magn. de Reb. Metall. l. 2. c. 17. to help and refresh the memory; now though God stands in no need of any thing to bring things to his remembrance, yet such is his condescension to men, that he sets the rainbow in the cloud, to look at, that he might remember his everlasting covenant; and so he allows his people to put him in remembrance, by making mention of the covenant of grace, and pleading the promises of it. The Alexandrian copy and the Ethiopic version, instead of ιρις, "a rainbow", read ιερεις, "priests".

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-4.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

4 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and [there was] a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

(4) By his nature, in that he is the Father, most glorious in his own person, and with his glory outshining all other things.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/revelation-4.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

was — omitted in the two oldest manuscripts but supported by Vulgate and Coptic.

to look uponGreek, “in sight,” or “appearance.”

jasper — From Revelation 21:11, where it is called most precious, which the jasper was not, Ebrard infers it was a diamond. Ordinarily, the jasper is a stone of various wavy colors, somewhat transparent: in Revelation 21:11 it represents watery crystalline brightness. The sardine, our cornelian, or else a fiery red. As the watery brightness represents God‘s holiness, so the fiery red His justice executing fiery wrath. The same union of white or watery brightness and fiery redness appears in Revelation 1:14; Revelation 10:1; Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 7:9.

rainbow round about the throne — forming a complete circle (type of God‘s perfection and eternity: not a half circle as the earthly rainbow) surrounding the throne vertically. Its various colors, which combined form one pure solar ray, symbolize the varied aspects of God‘s providential dealings uniting in one harmonious whole. Here, however, the predominating color among the prismatic colors is green, the most refreshing of colors to look upon, and so symbolizing God‘s consolatory promises in Christ to His people amidst judgments on His foes. Moreover, the rainbow was the appointed token of God‘s covenant with all flesh, and His people in particular. Hereby God in type renewed to man the grant originally made to the first Adam. The antitype will be the “new heavens and the new earth” restored to redeemed man, just as the earth, after the destruction by the flood, was restored to Noah. As the rainbow was first reflected on the waters of the world‘s ruin, and continues to be seen only when a cloud is brought over the earth, so another deluge, namely, of fire, shall precede the new heavens and earth: the Lord, as here, on His throne, whence (Revelation 4:5) proceed “lightnings and thunderings,” shall issue the commission to rid the earth of its oppressors: but then, amidst judgment, when other men‘s hearts fail them for fear, the believer shall be reassured by the rainbow, the covenant token, round the throne (compare De Burgh, Exposition of Revelation). The heavenly bow speaks of the shipwreck of the world through sin: it speaks also of calm and sunshine after the storm. The cloud is the regular token of God‘s and Christ‘s presence, for example, in the tabernacle‘s holiest place; on Mount Sinai at the giving of the law; at the ascension (Acts 1:9); at His coming again (Revelation 4:7).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/revelation-4.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

To look upon (ορασειhorasei). Locative case of ορασιςhorasis old word (from οραωhoraō to see) for appearance (in appearance) as in Ezekiel 1:5, Ezekiel 1:26.

Like a jasper stone (ομοιος ιασπιδιhomoios iaspidi). Associative-instrumental case of ιασπιςiaspis old word (Persian), used for stones of different colors, one opaque like opal, one translucent (Revelation 21:11, Revelation 21:18., possibly here, only N.T. examples), one a red or yellow stone (Isaiah 54:12). Some even take it for the diamond. Certainly not our cheap modern jasper.

A sardius (σαρδιωιsardiōi). Old word, in N.T. only here and Revelation 21:20. The carnelian or other red stone, derived from Sardis (Pliny).

Rainbow (ιριςiris). Old word, in N.T. only here and Revelation 10:1. From Ezekiel 1:28.

An emerald (σμαραγδινωιsmaragdinōi). Adjective (from σμαραγδοςsmaragdos Revelation 21:19), of emerald (supply λιτωιlithōi), in associative instrumental case after ομοιοςhomoios John sees no form for God (Exodus 24:10), but only the brilliant flashing gems. “In the vision the flashing lustre of the ιασπιςiaspis and the fiery red of the σαρδsard are relieved by the halo (ιριςiris) of emerald which encircled the Throne” (Swete). A complete circle.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-4.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Jasper stone

The last of the twelve stones in the High Priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:20; Exodus 39:13), and the first of the twelve enumerated in the foundation of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). Also the stone employed in the superstructure of the wall of the Heavenly City (Revelation 21:18). The stone itself was of different colors, the best being purple. According to Revelation 21:11, it represents a crystalline brightness.

Sardine

Rev., Sardius. The sixth foundation-stone of the Heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation 21:20. A red stone, supposed to answer to our cornelian. Pliny derives its name from Sardis where it was discovered. Others from the Persian sered, yellowish red. The exact meaning of the symbolism must remain uncertain, owing to our ignorance of the precise meaning of “jasper,” a name which seems to have covered a variety of stones now known under other classifications. Some interpreters, assuming the jasper to be sparkling white, find in it a representation of the holiness of God, and in the fiery sardius a representation of His wrath.

Rainbow ( ἶρις )

Only here and Revelation 10:1. The word is identical, and seems to have had some original connection with Iris, the deity known as the messenger-goddess of Olympus. In Homer the word is used in both senses.

“And if thou wishest now to ask of me,

No dream I am, but lovely and divine:

Whereof let this be unto thee a sign,

That when thou wak'st, the many-colored bow

Across the world the morning sun shall throw.

But me indeed thine eyes shall not behold.

Then he, awaking in the morning cold,

A sprinkle of fine rain felt on his face,

And leaping to his feet, in that wild place,

Looked round, and saw the morning sunlight throw

Across the world the many-colored bow;

And trembling knew that the high gods indeed

Had sent the messenger unto their need.”

William Morris, “Jason,” xi., 190-200.

In classical Greek the word is used of any bright halo surrounding another body; of the circle round the eyes of a peacock's tail, and of the iris of the eye.

“And I beheld the flamelets onward go,

Leaving behind themselves the air depicted,

And they of trailing pennons had the semblance,

So that it overhead remained distinct

With sevenfold lists, all of them of the colors

Whence the sun's bow is made, and Delia's girdle.”

Dante, “Purgatorio,” xxix, 73-78.

“Within the deep and luminous subsistence

Of the High Light appeared to me three circles,

Of threefold color and of one dimension,

And by the second seemed the first reflected

As Iris is by Iris, and the third

Seemed fire that equally from both is breathed.”

Paradiso,” xxxiii., 115-120.

On this passage, which belongs to the description of Dante's vision of the Eternal Trinity, Dean Plumptre remarks: “One notes, not without satisfaction, that Dante shrinks from the anthropomorphism of Byzantine and early Western art, in which the Ancient of Days was represented in the form of venerable age. For him, as for the more primitive artists, the rainbow reflecting rainbow is the only adequate symbol of the “God of God, Light of Light” of the Nicene Creed, while the fire of love that breathes from both is that of the Holy Spirit, “proceeding from the Father and the Son.”

Round about the throne

Compare Ezekiel 1:26, Ezekiel 1:28.

Emerald ( σμαραγδίνῳ )

The stone is first mentioned by Herodotus, who describes a temple of Hercules which he visited at Tyre. He says: “I found it richly adorned with a number of offerings, among which were two pillars, one of pure gold, the other of emerald ( σμαράγδου λίθου ), shining with great brilliancy at night” (ii., 44). Also in his story of Polycrates of Samos, the signet-ring which Polycrates cast into the sea, was an emerald set in gold (iii., 41). It is claimed, however, that the real emerald was unknown to the ancients. Rawlinson thinks that the pillar in the Tyrian temple was of glass. The bow was not wanting in the other colors, but the emerald was predominant.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/revelation-4.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

And he that sat was in appearance — Shone with a visible lustre, like that of sparkling precious stones, such as those which were of old on the high priest's breastplate, and those placed as the foundations of the new Jerusalem, Revelation 21:19,20. If there is anything emblematical in the colours of these stones, possibly the jasper, which is transparent and of a glittering white, with an intermixture of beautiful colours, may be a symbol of God's purity, with various other perfections, which shine in all his dispensations. The sardine stone, of a blood-red colour, may be an emblem of his justice, and the vengeance he was about to execute on his enemies. An emerald, being green, may betoken favour to the good; a rainbow, the everlasting covenant. See Genesis 9:9. And this being round about the whole breadth of the throne, fixed the distance of those who stood or sat round it.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/revelation-4.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

A rainbow--like unto an emerald; that is, a splendid appearance of irised colors, in which green, the color of the emerald, was predominant. These, and all the remaining images in this chapter, are intended, apparently to present an imposing picture of a magnificent regal palace, according to the ideas of the time. We are not, probably, to attempt, as some commentators have done in vain, to give to the several parts a distinct and special significance.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/revelation-4.html. 1878.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

LESSONS FROM THE RAINBOW

‘And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.’

Revelation 4:3

A storm is an awful phenomenon whenever it rages, because it is a convulsion of nature. But it has its meet set-off. If it happen in the daytime, when the rain is falling and the sun is shining, it is relieved by the bow, which is an object of supreme beauty.

Just as the rainbow appears and vanishes in the natural world, so it does in that of the inspired. It spans the sky in the first book of the Bible, and reappears round the throne in the last. It is a token of good both on earth and in heaven.

I. As the rainbow owes its all to the natural sun, so the Divine covenant owes its all to the Sun of Righteousness.

II. As the rainbow contains a variety of perfect colours, so the Divine covenant contains a variety of perfect blessings.

III. As the rainbow is fixed round about the throne, so the Divine covenant is established for ever with man.

IV. As the rainbow adorns the throne, so the Divine covenant glorifies its Maker.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/revelation-4.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

Ver. 3. Like a jasper and a sardine] God is here resembled (saith Mr Cotton) by three precious stones, holding forth the three persons in Trinity. A jasper having (as they say) a white circle round about it, representing the eternity of the Father. A sardine stone of a fleshy colour representing Jesus Christ, who took our flesh upon him. An emerald, being of a green colour, refreshing the eyes of them that look upon it, representing the Spirit, who is (as the rainbow) a token of fair weather, and is a comfortable refresher, wheresoever he cometh.

And there was a rainbow] Which is signum gratiae et foederis, a sign of grace and of the covenant of mercy, which is always fresh and green about Christ’s throne of grace.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-4.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Revelation 4:3

The Throne and the Rainbow.

Look—

I. At this wonderful throne. Of course we understand such a thing to be the symbol of government, of the Divine government in the universe, for that Being on the seat of royalty is God. But what do the other emblems mean? The whole chapter seems to glitter with a blaze of precious jewels, some of them with strange names. (1) The exalted monarch is said to be like a jasper and a sardine stone. I find the soberest commentators agreed in declaring that what is here called jasper must be the diamond, and the sardine is only what we call a carnelian, that is, a flesh-coloured gem in hue, as the name signifies. And hence these expositors would have us believe that this personage, with a Divine brightness and a human expression, is none other than the Lamb in the midst of the throne. (2) The attendants. The very nobles are crowned, and wear royal raiment; their ordinary seats are thrones. (3) This vision teaches that earth can always and everywhere be seen from heaven. (4) Observe once more, this is an unimpeachable government. These living creatures are worshipping while watching.

II. The rainbow. This represents a covenant, as the other represented a rule. (1) The ancient covenant has in it the promise of the covenant of grace. (2) Its appearance just here in John's vision is welcomed more for its graciousness than for its antiquity. (3) Observe how well this vision teaches us that God's covenant is completed. This rainbow is a circlet; it goes around the throne. (4) The covenant is abiding; it will stand for ever. (5) This covenant is to each of us individual and personal.

III. Note the collocation of the two symbols. (1) God's promise surrounds God's majesty; (2) God's grace surrounds God's justice; (3) God's love surrounds God's power; (4) God's glory surrounds God's children.

C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 297.


I. The rainbow. We are all familiar with it as a natural phenomenon. (1) In the Bible history it proclaimed the fact of the Divine reconciliation; (2) it intimated that providence is administered under the reign of grace; (3) the grand purpose of the rainbow was to seal or ratify the covenant of God.

II. The position of the rainbow. The rainbow is round about the throne, not above, as dominating, or upon, as occupying, but round about, as encompassing the throne; and in this regard its position is as significantly instructive as it is itself. (1) It evidently carries us up to the Divine origin of the covenant; (2) it intimates that the Divine majesty rules in the covenant throughout; (3) it assures us that the covenant will never pass from the Divine remembrance.

III. The aspect of the rainbow, the natural rainbow round about the throne, here said to be in sight like unto an emerald. Observe why this rainbow has so much in it, not of heaven's, but of earth's, colour, not sky-blue, but emerald green. (1) It indicates that there is a refreshing beauty in the covenant which is never wearisome to look at; (2) it may be held to indicate that there is an essential unity in the covenant, whatever variety may circumstantially distinguish it; (3) the everlasting duration of the covenant may be said to be shadowed forth in the emerald aspect of the rainbow round about the throne. For the green of the emerald is as an unfading hue.

E. Thomson, Memorials of a Ministry, p. 208.


References: Revelation 4:4, Revelation 4:10, Revelation 4:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 441; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 255.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/revelation-4.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 4:3. And he that sat was to look upon, &c.— Many interpreters have observed a mystical meaning in the colours and properties of the precious stones here mentioned. Thus, in the jasper, which Grotius supposes a diamond, he finds an emblem of the invincible power of God. Daubuz, who considers it only as a stone of a white and bright shining colour, looks upon it as a symbol of good-will and favour. Thus again, the Sardine stone, which is of a red colour, with some, signifies the active power of God; with others, it is a symbol of anger and displeasure in God, and therefore of destruction; to teach men, that if they obey his oracle, he will shew them the brightness of his countenance; but if they despise it, he will at last shew them the redness of it, or his fiery anger: and thus the beautiful green of the emerald is supposed to signify great good-will and favour. But the application of these mystical meanings seems, to say the least of it, extremely uncertain. We may observe, concerning the prophetical stile of scripture, what L'Abbe Fleury has justly remarked concerning the poetical: "We are not to imagine that each circumstance has a particular application; the whole figure generally tends to one point only, or directly means but one thing; the rest is added, not to make a part of the comparison, but to point, in a more lively manner, the thing whence the comparison is taken."We have sufficient reason, however, with the whole body of commentators, to consider the rainbow here as a representation of God's faithfulness to his covenant and promise; God himself having appointed it as a standing and perpetual token of his covenant with man. See Genesis 9:13-15.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-4.html. 1801-1803.

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

Revelation 4:3. ὁράσει. Dative of manner:(1686) “in appearance,” cf. ὄψις, κ. τ. λ., Revelation 1:16, and the ὡς ὅρασις with the following gen. of the object compared in the LXX. Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:26 sqq., Revelation 8:2.

λίθῳ ἰάσπιδι καὶ σαρδίω. The σάρδιος(1687) is, as the Heb. name indicates, a red,(1688) particularly flesh-colored gem, our carnelian. Ebrard understands by it the dazzling ruby.

More difficult is the determination of the ἴασπις. The LXX. thus render the Heb. יָֽשְׁפֶה;(1689) yet in this passage, as well as also in Revelation 21:11, where the ἴασπις is designated as λίθος τιμιώτατος, and κρυσταλλίζων, it is scarcely possible to think of the not very costly and not transparent, sometimes greenish, sometimes reddish gem, which the Romans called, as we also call it, jasper. Cf. Pliny:(1690) “A gem, which, although surpassed by many, yet retains the glory of antiquity.” Nevertheless, the most of the expositors adhere firmly to the simple expression. Andr., Areth., N. de Lyra, Aretius, etc., think of the green jasper, and understand it, just as the emerald mentioned immediately afterwards, as a symbol of divine consolation, since green is agreeable to the eye.(1691) A symbolical reference has been discovered even to baptism,(1692) and the judgment of the flood;(1693) for the red sardius denotes the final judgment in fire. Others think of the red jasper, as they either regard it, like the sardius, a symbol of the divine anger,(1694) or, without any such significance,(1695) as only a description of the dazzling appearance of God. Beng., Stern., Hengstenb.,(1696) presuppose a white, crystal-clear species of jasper, and find in this color the image of the divine holiness and unclouded glory. This sense of the brightness of color is indicated partly by emblematic descriptions, as Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 7:9 sq.; and partly by parallels, as Revelation 1:14 sqq., Revelation 10:1.(1697) The brilliancy of light and fire is, in Ezekiel; the appearance of God. In Daniel, also, the bright white raiment and the dazzling white hair of the Ancient of days belong with the fire of his throne; for both the holy glory and the consuming anger of God(1698) must be represented. Upon the same view depends the description of the Lord,(1699) and of the angel, who in Revelation 10:1 appears invested with divine attributes, while, e.g., Revelation 4:4, Revelation 7:9, the heavenly beings, because they have attained to a holiness and glory like that of God, appear indeed in white garments, yet not also with the fiery signs of divine judgment, but with crowns and palms. If now the red appearance of the σάρδιος recalls the ardor of the divine wrathful judgment, we expect the ἴασπις to represent the bright light, which elsewhere is displayed along with the divine glimmering of fire, in a different way. But now the very bright or crystal-clear jasper, stated by Beng. and Hengstenb., does not actually exist. Hence we must believe, either that John imagined an ideal kind of jasper,(1700) or, as is more probable, because of Revelation 21:11, that by the ἴασπις he wished to designate the diamond.(1701) The LXX., in whose vocabulary John was instructed, do not have the term ἀδάμας.(1702) The Heb. שָׁמִיר, which probably designates the diamond, is not accurately translated by the LXX. in Zechariah 7:12; Ezekiel 3:9.(1703) It is, besides, to be observed, that the LXX. render not only יָֽשְׂפֵה, but also כַדְכֹּד, Isaiah 54:12,(1704) by ἴασπις. But if the description (Revelation 4:3) depends upon Ezekiel 8:2 and similar passages, it yet in no way follows that here, as there,(1705) the brilliancy of the two gems is to be regarded as different parts of the form of God,—the bright light of the jasper above, the red appearance of the sardius beneath:(1706) rather, the double brilliancy of the two stones shining through one another(1707) is to be regarded a profound designation of the essential unity of the holiness and righteousness of God. The free treatment of the ancient prophetic view expresses, as to the subject itself portrayed, a deepening of the thought; while the beauty of the likeness gains rather than loses, as the divine appearance to John maintains a pictorial unity. The entire form of the enthroned one appears in the twofold, yet united, brilliancy of the jasper and the sardius, just as the entire form of the Lord was in appearance like intense light of the sun.(1708)

καὶ ἶρις κυκλόθεν τοῦ θρόνου ὅ΄οιος ὀράσει σ΄αραγδίνῳ. Concerning ὅ΄οιος as an adjective of two terminations, cf. Winer, p. 66.

Against the wording ( κυκλ. τ. θρόνου) is the idea of Vitr., that the ἰρις surrounded the head of the one enthroned like a crown;(1709) Beng. and Hengstenb. unnaturally and unfairly regard the ἷρις as surrounding the throne in breadth horizontally.

Hengstenb. infers, besides, from the formula κυκλ. τ. θρ. recurring from Revelation 4:4, that also the thrones of the elders appear within the ἱρις; but it is the only natural and, in a pictorial respect, conceivable way, to regard the ἶρις as surrounding the shining form upon the throne on high.(1710)

Without any basis is the controversy as to whether the ἶρις were a “rainbow,”(1711) or a “bow;”(1712) nor does it in any way correspond to the poetical character of the description, if, in order to explain the rainbow, mention is made of God’s appearing, Psalms 18:12; Psalms 104:3, surrounded by darkness of rain and thick clouds,(1713) or that the green color here named is only the principal color,(1714) as the hues of the jasper and sardius are regarded as combined with the brilliancy of the emerald, attributed to the ἰρις, in order to bring out the three chief colors of one common rainbow. What John saw about the throne had the form of a rainbow,—hence he says ἰρις,—although not the seven colors of an actual rainbow are represented, but only the emerald green. Yet this ἷρις in itself, and the emerald appearance especially,(1715) are not without symbolical significance, possibly in a mere optical contrast with the blending brilliancy of the jasper and sardius;(1716) but in symmetry with the symbolical significance of this twofold brilliancy, the mild emerald-green of the bow, which is already in itself the clear sign of divine grace,(1717) notes the gentle and quickening nature of this grace.(1718) But it follows neither from the gen., nor from the pragmatism of this passage, that the grace recurring after the divine punishments(1719) is described; it would be more correctly interpreted with Grot.: “God in his judgments is always mindful of his covenant.” Yet we dare not precipitately limit the description here presented, in its particular connections, to the judgments of God in their relation to divine grace which are to be beheld only later: it is sufficient that here where the eternal and personal foundation of all that follows is portrayed, the holy glory and righteousness of God appear in most intimate union with his immutable and kind grace, so that thus the entire impending development of the kingdom of God and the world unto its last end, as it is determined by that wonderful, indivisible nature of the holy, just, and gracious God, as well in its course as in its goal, must correspond to this threefold glory of the living God. Consequently this fundamental vision contains every thing that serves the terror of enemies, and the consolation of friends, of the one enthroned.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/revelation-4.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 4:3. ἰάσπιδι, a jasper) While the Sardine stone is of a fiery colour, and resembles the appearance of blood, the Jasper expresses a WHITISH red.—Lampe on this passage.— σαρδίῳ) Erasmus, with the inferior Latin editions, have σαρδίνῳ: the others correctly, σαρδίῳ. λίθῳ ἰάσπιδι καὶ σαρδίῳ are substantives: comp. ch. Revelation 21:20; but σμαραγδίνῳ ( ὁράσει) is an adjective, and of the feminine gender also, from which, in consequence of the rhythm, that word σαρδίνῳ was interpolated unawares by the copyist, although Wolf thinks that the termination σαρδίνῳ is confirmed by the word σμαραγδίνῳ.(57)

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-4.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

This is all but a description of the glory of God, as he appeared to John in this vision. The

jasper stone is famous for its transparency, and variety of colours it offereth to the eye, and may signify the various and infinite perfections of God. The

sardine stone is red, and of a bloody colour, which may signify the power, justice, and terror of God. The

rainbow was the sign of God’s covenant with Noah, signifying his being so far reconciled to the world, as that he would not again destroy it by water, Genesis 9:13. The

emerald is green, and pleasant to the eye. So as this vision of God represents God powerful, just, and good, and of various and infinite perfections.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-4.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

яспису Позже Иоанн изображает этот камень «прозрачным, как кристалл» (21:11), удивительным блеском похожим на бриллиант, который преломляет все цвета спектра.

сардису Огненно-красный камень, получивший название в честь города, около которого он был найден.

смарагду В многоцветной радуге, окружающей престол Господа, преобладает прохладный изумрудно-зеленый (иногда даже название камня переводится как «изумруд») оттенок (ср. Иез. 1:28). Со времен Ноя радуга стала знаком Божьей верности Своему слову, Своим обещаниям и Ноеву завету (Быт. 9:2-17).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/revelation-4.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

A jasper; a precious stone of various colors, as purple, blue, green. In chap Revelation 21:11, the light of the new Jerusalem is compared with it for brilliancy.

A sardine stone; a precious stone of a bright red color. Compare Ezekiel 1:27, where he who sits on the throne has "the appearance of fire." An emerald; a gem of a soft green color. Created objects can but very imperfectly represent the divine majesty and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole creation can afford, But some faint shadows of my Lord; Nature, to make his beauties known, Must mingle colors not her own.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/revelation-4.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And he who sat (on the throne) was to look on like a jasper stone (green) and a sardius (red), and there was a rainbow round about the throne, like an emerald (green) to look on.’

The rainbow ties in with Ezekiel 1:28, although there it is rainbow coloured. It may be seen as a reminder of God’s covenant made to Noah (Genesis 9:13-17) and thus that God remembers His covenants made with the world and His people. The stones were among those depicted in the High Priests breastplate, but only as two among many, and the same applies to these stones as adorning the foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19-20). It would appear therefore that John’s main aim is to depict what he saw in terms which described it physically. Compare ‘amber’ in Ezekiel 1:27. John makes no attempt to depict the likeness of God. He avoids the descriptions in Ezekiel and Daniel. What he saw he considered to be indescribable.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/revelation-4.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

In what sense is God like jasper and sardius (carnelian, NIV) stones? The jasper gem that John saw was evidently a diamond (cf. Revelation 21:11), not what we identify as a jasper today. [Note: Charles, 1:114; Beasley-Murray, p113; Mounce, p134.] The sardius, named for the town of Sardis where it was discovered, is fiery red. These colored gems probably symbolize the holiness and justice of God (cf. Revelation 1:14; Revelation 10:1; Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:26-28; Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 7:9).

"Perhaps it is better to think of this resemblance as denoting His anger as a reaction of His holy nature in view of the prevailing sinfulness of man and in consequence of which He is about to send judgment upon the earth, that "the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."" [Note: Smith, A Revelation . . ., p103.]

The "rainbow" around the throne was apparently the shape of a rainbow rather than the color of one since this one was green. This bow completely encircled the throne, perhaps resembling a halo. It evidently symbolizes God"s mercy that surrounds His rule (cf. Genesis 9:8-17; Ezekiel 1:28). This rainbow may have been various shades of green suggesting the variegated mercy and grace of God. [Note: Swete, p68; Alford, 4:596; Bullinger, p217; Homer Hailey, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, p168.] Another possibility is that the emerald (Gr. smaragd) was a crystal that served as a prism and so yielded a rainbow of colors. [Note: Beasley-Murray, p113.]

"Usually, a rainbow appears after the storm; but here, we see it before the storm." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:582.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-4.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 4:3. The description of Him that sat upon the throne is given: He was like unto a jasper stone and a sardine. It has been noticed that the two stones here mentioned are the first and the last in the ‘breastplate of judgment’ (Exodus 28:17; Exodus 28:20); but it is difficult to attach any importance to this circumstance, for the order is reversed, the sardius being there the first, and the jasper the last. The analogy of Ezekiel 1:27 seems to warrant the inference that the colours of the two stones were not mixed throughout, but that the upper part of the body was marked by the one and the lower part by the other. There can be little doubt, though some interpreters dispute the fact, that the colours of these stones, as well as of the emerald to which the rainbow round about the throne was like, are to be understood symbolically. From chap. Revelation 21:11 we learn that the colour of the jasper was a bright sparkling whiteness, while that of the sardius was a fiery red. The first, therefore, can hardly denote anything but that holiness of God which this very chapter shows to be the feature of His character mainly in view of the sacred writer at the time (Revelation 4:8); the second most naturally expresses the wrath with which He consumes His enemies, and which is represented in the lightnings, etc., of Revelation 4:5 (comp. Psalms 1:3, etc.; Ezekiel 1:4).

The colour of the rainbow is described as that of the emerald, or green. Not that the other colours are awanting, but that they are subordinate to, or lost in, that green colour, which of all others is the most pleasing to the eye. The object itself, its colour, its Old Testament history, and even the mode of its formation in nature, combine to suggest the meaning of the rainbow,—the holiness and wrath of God encompassed by His covenant grace. It is difficult to say whether we are to think of this rainbow as a half or a whole circle spanning the throne. The mere fact that it is called a ‘rainbow’ is not conclusive in favour of the former, for the Seer employs his figures with great freedom (comp. Revelation 1:13, Revelation 2:17, and the ‘green’ colour in this verse); while the words ‘round about the throne,’ and the language used in chap. Revelation 10:1, suggest the latter. We are probably to think of the rainbow as either floating above the throne or as encompassing it in a vertical plane. For the rainbow comp. Ezekiel 1:28.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/revelation-4.html. 1879-90.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Revelation 4:3. He that sat was to look upon like a jasper — Shone with a visible lustre, like that of sparkling precious stones, such as those which were of old on the high-priest’s breast-plate, and those placed as the foundations of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:19-20. If there be any thing emblematical in the colours of these stones, possibly the jasper (one species, at least, of which, according to Pliny, is milky white, and according to Daubuz, of a white and bright shining colour) might be a symbol of God’s purity, with various other perfections which shine in all his dispensations. The sardine-stone, of a blood-red colour, or with white and red strata, may be an emblem of his justice, and of the vengeance he was about to execute on his enemies. An emerald, being green, may betoken favour to the penitent and pious; and the rainbow, of an emerald colour, was undoubtedly intended to express the everlasting covenant of grace and peace, of which the rainbow was to Noah an appointed token. And this rainbow, being round about the whole breadth of the throne, fixed the distance of those who stood or sat round it.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/revelation-4.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

===============================

[BIBLIOGRAPHY]

Similis erat aspectui jaspidis, Greek: omoios orasei iaspidi.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/revelation-4.html. 1859.

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

The jasper stone may have been a diamond () and the sardine a ruby, but we cannot be sure. The rainbow gave the appearance of a velvety green emerald. The meaning of all this is unclear. We can conclude God"s radiance is beautiful and the rainbow around his throne awe-inspiring. The rainbow does remind us that God"s faithful are kept safe and can count on his covenant to be kept without deviation.

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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghc/revelation-4.html. 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

look upon. Compare App-133.

jasper = jasper stone. According to Pliny, this stone was translucent.

sardine stone = sardius stone. A precious stone from Sardis, red in color.

rainbow. Greek. iris. Only here and Revelation 10:1. In Genesis 9:13; Ezekiel 1:28, &c, the Septuagint uses toxon, bow, for the Hebrew kesheth.

insight. Same words as "to look upon", above.

unto = to.

emerald. Only here. A kindred word in Revelation 21:19, and in Exodus 28:18 with Exodus 39:8 (Septuagint)

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/revelation-4.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

Was. So Vulgate Coptic; omitted in 'Aleph (')AB Was. So Vulgate, Coptic; omitted in 'Aleph (') A B.

To look upon - `in sight.'

Jasper. From Revelation 21:11, where it is called most precious, which the jasper was not, Ebrard infers it was a diamond. Ordinarily, the jasper is a stone of various wavy colours, somewhat transparent. In Revelation 21:11 it represents crystalline brightness. The sardine, our cornelian, or else a fiery red. As the brightness represents God's holiness, so the fiery red His just wrath. The same union of white brightness and fiery redness appears in Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 1:14; Revelation 10:1.

Rainbow round about the throne - a complete circle (type of God's perfection and eternity: not a half-circle, as the earthly rainbow) surrounding the throne vertically. Its various colours, which combined form one pure ray, symbolize the various aspects of God's providences uniting in one harmonious whole. Here, however, predominant among the prismatic colours is green, the most refreshing to look upon, symbolizing God's consolatory promises in Christ to His people amidst judgments on His foes. The rainbow was the token of God's covenant with all flesh, and His people in particular. Hereby God renewed the grant originally made to the first man. As the rainbow was reflected on the waters of the world's ruin, and is seen only when a cloud is over the earth, so another deluge, of fire, shall precede the 'new heavens and earth' granted to redeemed man, as the earth after the flood was restored to Noah. The Lord on His throne, whence (Revelation 4:5) proceed "lightnings and thunderings," shall issue the commission to rid the earth of its oppressors; but amidst judgment, when other men's hearts fail for fear, the believer shall be reassured by the rainbow, the covenant token, round the throne (DeBurgh). The heavenly bow speaks of the shipwreck of the world through sin; also of calm sunshine after the storm. The cloud is the token of God's presence-in the tabernacle Holiest Place; on mount Sinai at the giving of the law; at the ascension (Acts 1:9); at His coming again (Revelation 1:7).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-4.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(3) And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone.—In determining the significance of these emblems we must be guided partly by the analogy of Bible imagery elsewhere, and partly by our knowledge of precious stones. The sardian, or sardine, is admitted to be a stone of fiery red colour; the emerald, to which the bow round the throne is compared, is almost certainly a bright green; the hue of the jasper is the difficulty. The jasper—the last stone in the high-priest’s breastplate, and first of the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem (Exodus 28:20, and Revelation 21:19)—is described by the best authorities as a dark, opaque green. Such a colour is quite in harmony with the colours of the other stones in the breastplate, and particularly with the foundation stones, which seem to be arranged in shades of colour (see Notes on Revelation 21:19 et seq.); but the dark opaque green would be an ill combination with the red sardius and the green emerald in the vision of the present chapter. Is there no further light? We have a jasper stone spoken of in Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:18, with the descriptive phrase, “clear as crystal!” Does not this point to a stone somewhat different in appearance from that spoken of simply as jasper? Such a clear crystal stone would be the most natural companion to the sardine, and the combination of the sparkling brightness and fiery red suits the union of brightness and flame which appears elsewhere in the Bible (comp, Revelation 1:14; Revelation 11:1; Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 7:9), and is best understood of the holiness and righteousness of God. The latter half of this verse shows us these surrounded by the emerald-coloured bow, the evident symbol of the divine mercy. The allusion to the bow in the cloud (Genesis 9:12-16) is obvious; the bow completely encircled the throne, as mercy encompassing judgment. It was a covenant token, bearing witness to God’s faithfulness in dark times, God’s care for the ark of His Church, and His mercy shining forth after storm.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/revelation-4.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
like a
21:11,19,20; Exodus 24:10; Ezekiel 1:26; 28:13
a rainbow
10:1; Genesis 9:13-16; Isaiah 54:9,10; Ezekiel 1:28
like unto
21:19; Exodus 28:18; 39:11; Ezekiel 28:13
Reciprocal: Exodus 28:20 - a jasper;  1 Kings 22:19 - I saw the Lord;  Ezekiel 1:22 - the likeness;  Ezekiel 10:1 - in the;  Matthew 23:22 - by the;  Acts 10:10 - he fell;  Revelation 5:1 - that sat;  Revelation 5:7 - out;  Revelation 5:13 - him;  Revelation 7:10 - sitteth

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/revelation-4.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

These precious stones are used to indicate the worth and also the brilliance of the one on the throne. The rainbow refers to the arched halo that is generally pictured over the head of one occupying a place of authority. Like unto an emerald. This is another precious stone that is used to signify the glory about the head of the person occupying the throne.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/revelation-4.html. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 4:3

Revelation 4:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

" And he that sat"

to sit upon a throne, doth signify, first, to make laws and constitutions for all his subjects, his churches, ministers and saints, how they should walk and worship God, { James 4:12} There is one law-giver. { Isaiah 33:22} The Lord is our law-giver-The Lord is our King, and HE will save us.

" Was to look upon like a jasper"

our Lord Jesus Christ, the king, priest, and prophet of his church, is here resembled by three precious stones in Aaron's breast plate; the jasper, the sardine, and the emerald, { Exodus 28:20-39} which were also three of the foundation stones of the holy city, the new Jerusalem. { Revelation 21:11-20} This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of JEHOVAH, Jesus, in Ezekiel's vision. { Ezekiel 1:26-28} The other jasper is a precious stone, which shineth so bright, that no color can darken it; hereby it figured forth the shining glory of Jesus Christ, who is the brightest of his father's glory. { Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6} The sardine, or sardius, is a precious stone of a clear carnation color; hereby is represented the spiritual beauty, and loveliness of Jesus Christ, Song of Solomon 5:10-16 who is white and ruddy, and altogether lovely; made so precious to sanctified believers by his sufferings. { 1 Peter 2:4-7} A crucified Jesus is a precious Jesus, { Isaiah 63:1-3} glorious in his red apparel; his bloody garments of redemption and salvation. { Ephesians 1:7; Isaiah 61:10} The emerald is a lively lovely green stone, mixed with shining rays, and sparklings of other excellent and pleasant colors, which make that precious stone very desirable for its worth, beauty, and lustre. So is our precious Lord Jesus Christ ten thousand thousand times more worth, more glorious, and more desirable for the variety of his spiritual gifts and graces.

" And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald"

And Christ is said to have a rainbow upon his head, { Revelation 10:1} The rainbow was a token of Gods covenant with Noah, { Genesis 9:11-16} and was applied by the prophet for the everlasting comfort of the church of God, { Isaiah 54:5-10} and signifies that God and Christ is ever mindful of the new covenant, and will perform his word to a thousand generations. {Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 111:5} God will not break his covenant, { Psalm 89:30-35} and Christ is the mediator of the new convenant between God and his people. { 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 8:6}

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hkc/revelation-4.html.

Harold Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Verse3.

"Like JASPER and CARNELION." "Jasper," as we learn fromis "clear as crystal"--a bright, sparkling stone of various colors representing THE STRENGTH AND GLORY OF GOD. And "Carnelion"--a fiery red color, representing the JUDGMENT OF GOD. "And round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald. "THE RAINBOW"--After the flood of Noah"s day the rainbow has been a symbol of GOD"S MERCY ( Genesis 9:12-17). All phases of light make the rainbow. The rainbow round the throne of God reminds us that all aspects and facts of truth are considered in heaven in MERCY.

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Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Revelation 4:3. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and sardius stone; and a rainbow was round about the throne in sight like to an emerald. It is God's infinite glory that is here displayed, his grace toward the church, his punitive righteousness; all properties, which at the present stage come forth into action, and are fitted to inspire with courage the fainting souls of believers. The punitive righteousness presages destruction to the enemies of the church; the compassionate grace promises deliverance to the church; the holiness takes from those who stand under grace, all despondency, all hope from those who stand under wrath. As in the rainbow the colour of the precious stone was doubtless indicated, so is it also in respect to the jasper and the sardius. And according to the fundamental and parallel passages, afterwards to be noticed, which have this also in common with the one before us, that they describe an appearing of the Lord for judgment, we may reasonably expect that the two precious stones represent two different properties of God. Now the jasper is of diverse colours. But what sort the seer had in view is plain from the addition, "clear as crystal" in the later passage, ch. Revelation 21:11. According to Revelation 21:23 of that chapter, the light of the city, which by Revelation 21:11 was like a crystal-clear jasper, "the most precious stone," (the first foundation stone in Revelation 21:19 is a jasper), is the glory of the Lord, his essential nature, the kernel of his personality, which, according to ch. Revelation 4:8, is his holiness, not in the doctrinal, but the scriptural sense. Comp. also ch. Revelation 22:5. It is this which is represented here by the jasper. By σαρδιό ςLXX. render the Heb. אדם, the etymology of which already points to the red colour. The sardius, or carnelian, is "red, as red flesh, dark-red, tile-red, clay-red." Orpheus, de lapid. xvi. 5, speaks of the "blood-coloured sardius;" and Epiphanius says, "it is of a fiery red appearance and blood-like," ( ἐ στι δὲ πυρωπὸ ς τῷ εἰ δει καὶ αἱ ματοειδή ς).That the sardius is here employed to represent the punitive righteousness of God, his anger, cannot be doubted when we look at the fundamental and parallel passages. The red colour, according to Meyer in his Hesperides, is "the light in its internal expansion, light in warmth, light in love or its opposite, anger. It must be stimulated by an object in order to appear so, and its appearance is its conquering." One might take the red here as the colour of blood, in the shedding of which the punitive righteousness of God manifests its energy, comp. Revelation 6:4, Revelation 12:3, Revelation 17:3, Isaiah 63:1-2. But it is better to take it as the colour of fire. For the fire of the divine anger suits admirably to the radiating light of the divine holiness; and then fire is quite a standing image in Scripture of the divine anger, and as such is employed particularly in the original passages of Ezekiel and the parallel passages of the Pentateuch. These passages we must come to consider more closely. In Ezekiel 1:4 it is said, in the description there given of the threatening and judgment-looking appearance of the Lord: "And I looked, and behold a whirlwind came from the north, a great cloud, and complicated fire and brightness to it (the cloud) round about (from the fire shining through), and out of the midst of it to look upon as chasmal, out of the midst of the fire." The chasmal denotes here the kernel of the personality, the holiness. That it betokens something of the brightest splendour there can be no doubt from the זבר, light-lustre, which is put by the prophet as parallel to it in Ezekiel 8:2. The LXX. render it by electrum, a metal distinguished by its brightness, and composed of gold mixed with a fifth part of silver.[Note: This Chasmal is different from Nehoschet Kalal. The three times it is used it is applied to the person who was throned upon the cherubim. It is on no account to be supposed that the feet of the beasts were so exhibited as if they were an immediate image of the person who was enthroned on the cherubim.]In Ezekiel 1:27 it is said: "And I beheld, and it was as chasmal, as the look of fire, that was enclosed round about (comp. Genesis 15:17, like devouring fire); from the loins upwards (he was like chasmal) and from the loins downwards I saw as the appearance of fire." At Ezekiel 8:2, "And I beheld, and lo! there was the appearance as fire, from his loins downwards he was of the appearance of fire, and from his loins upwards he was to look upon as light-splendour, as the look of chasmal." The meaning of the last passage is excellently given by Züllig, "Below, toward the earth, the person on the throne appeared to me in the glowing ire of his function as judge and avenger, above in the pure splendour of his calm, untroubled, heavenly majesty." The fire is placed in the front of the description, because the main object was to present an image of God's anger toward Jerusalem; comp. Deuteronomy 4:24,"For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, a jealous God," Deuteronomy 9:3, and the remarks on fire as a symbol of the anger of God on Psalms 50:3. In Daniel 7:9-10, the garments of the Ancient of days were white as snow, and the hair of his head as pure wool; his throne was a flame of fire, and his wheels burning fire, a stream of fire went forth from him. The majesty and holiness there indicated hy the clear brightness is not less appalling to the guilty than fire. It takes from the enemies of the church all hope of escaping the fire. In the Revelation 1:14 we find the head and hair white as white wool, as snow, but the eyes like flames of fire, and the feet like burning metal. In Revelation 10:1 the countenance is like the sun, the feet like pillars of fire. From these original and parallel passages it is also to be supposed that the colours of the two precious stones did not intermingle with each other through the whole appearance, but that they respectively belonged to different parts of it. The rainbow round about the throne—in respect to which Bengel says, "Not the head merely of him who sat upon the throne, but the throne itself, in its whole height and breadth, was surrounded by it—indicates that the judgment was to be an act of grace for the church. The "round about the throne" is not said without meaning in respect to the rainbow and the seats of the four and twenty elders. These, the symbol of the church, are to be understood as enclosed in the circle, so that the church is represented as the object of the tender grace of God. The fundamental passage for this here and ch. Revelation 10:1, where the rainbow appears on the head of the angel, is Ezekiel 1:27-28. There, around about the manifestation, which was radiant with the glowing brightness of fire, was a splendour; "as the appearance of the rainbow which is in the cloud in the day of rain, so is the appearance of the brightness round about." The truth symbolized is given thus by Grotius, "However strict the divine judgment may be, it still will not destroy the remembrance of the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Isaiah 54:10 may serve as a commentary, "For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." But the rainbow is not the symbol of grace generally; it is the symbol of grace returning after wrath. This is indicated in Ezekiel by the cloud; comp. the "great cloud" in Ezekiel 1:4 and Revelation 10:1. Lange, in his Vermischten Schr. i. p. 5, says excellently, "The rainbow is the coloured reflection of the sun breaking forth upon the dark cloud as it withdraws, the triumph of the sun over the floods; the brightness of the sun, of fire, of light, imprinted, as it were, on the cloud itself in token of its subjection." Accordingly, we are to suppose that the colour of the emerald, the green, is here named, not as the only one, but as that which predominated. This is even self-evident. For a simply green rainbow would be no rainbow at all. Bengel remarks, "Green is of all colours the most agreeable. If other things have made the eyes weak and tender, we find them refreshed by turning them on the green. The colours of white and red affect the vision much more, and if we hold long before us anything of a fiery red or a shining white, the sight is soon injured; but the green colour is intermediate between the two, and of a chaster description. When God represents himself as the jasper and sardius, he exhibits himself in his holiness and glory, in which respect he is frightful to men. But the green rainbow is a mark of the divine condescension, placability, and forbearance, which prevent us from being injured or consumed by those attributes of God, which are terrible to men. . . . We are not able to fix our eyes on the divine majesty and holiness, they frighten us away; but the friendliness of God allures us and inspires us with an assured confidence. We must present God to our view, not only as he shews himself in some one aspect, but in all that he makes known to us; there will still remain much behind of his infinite perfection. The testimonies which he has disclosed to us respecting himself, we must carefully put together, that we may attain to a complete knowledge, adoration, and service. If we look, for example, to grace alone, we shall soon obtain confidence; but this confidence may speedily in hearts like ours break forth into impiety. But if we have respect also to the majesty and holiness of God, we shall continue in a profound reverence, and our confidence in grace itself shall thereby be increased." Excellent observations in themselves, but too much overlooking the concrete reference of the vision; not taking into account the circumstance, that everything in it is directed to revive the church's confidence after having been deluged by the world. To him, for whom the rainbow is adapted, the jasper and sardius are also consolatory; but, on the other hand, the emerald also is terrible to him, for whom it is not

Zllig is inclined to explain "the image of a single-coloured green rainbow as an unnatural one. There should at least have been also yellow and red. For, green, yellow, and red, these are the fundamental colours, out of which are formed the seven well-known shades of the rainbow. But observe, it is precisely these two other colours that we have already found in the jasper and the sardius of the main figure. There can be no doubt, also, that these colours are combined together, and form with each other a composite arch, in such a manner that the green is not to be thought of as divided by a certain space from the main figure, but only as its outermost radiation." The whole image, then, must consist of a rainbow! The two inner colours give to the seer his image of Jehovah, the outer one the lustrous glory connected with it. But that we are not to think of a one-coloured green rainbow, that only the chief colour is rendered prominent, while the others are still supposed to exist, we have remarked already. But a singular image the rainbow, of him who sits upon the throne! The person sitting there is manifest, and according also to the fundamental passages in Ezekiel and Daniel, he is a person, from whom there issues so bright a splendour, white and red, that only this splendour can be seen. The significance of the rainbow is also overlooked by such a view; it can never be a lustrous glory. Since Genesis 9 it has been unalterably consecrated as a symbol of grace returning after wrath.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/revelation-4.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

3.Like a jasper—Not in solidity, but in picturesque hue. The jasper is a species of quartz, of various colours, and sometimes transparent as crystal, Revelation 21:11. Alford says, “It represents a watery crystalline brightness.” The sardine, or carnelian, is, says Epiphanius, “fire-red and blood-red.” Meyer, quoted by Hengstenberg, says: “The red colour is light in its intrinsic unfolding, light in warmth, light in love, or in its opposite, anger.” The crystalline jasper thus represents the purity of the divine nature; the red carnelian its sensibility—its wrath and its love exercised toward sin or holiness in responsible beings. The rainbow—symbol of the covenant—with its seven prismatic hues, yet with the soft green like unto an emerald predominant, represents the divine mercy.

Round about the throne—Horizontally, says Hengstenberg; vertically, says Alford. We think the former clearly right. Around the nebulae of jasper and carnelian hues there circled a horizontal halo of soft green, in which the seven streaks of the rainbow were visible, leaving the throne somewhat visible, but no form of its Occupant. Thus far we have picture of the divine Presence; now for the attendants.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-4.html. 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 4:3. The sources of the general conception lie far back in passages like Isaiah 6:1 f., Ezekiel 1:26 f., Daniel 7:9 f., Enoch xxxix., xl., xlvi., mediated by rabbinical interpretations. But it should be noted that in the palace-temple of Hatra, the Parthian capital, one well-known frieze contained a row of figures including the griffin, the eagle, the human face, the head of an ox, and an emblem on the cornice apparently representing the sun. With a sublime restraint, the author leaves the royal presence undefined, though he is more definite and explicit on the whole than (say) Ezekiel. The latter’s advance in this respect upon his predecessors was explained by the rabbis (cf. Streane’s Chagiga, p. 73) as a needful counteractive to the Jewish belief that visions were impossible outside Canaan, and as a help to men of the captivity who needed “special details to support them in their trials” (cf. above, Revelation 1:9 f.). The , a flesh-coloures, semi-transparent, often golden or ruddy gem, answers to our red jasper or cornelian, so-called perhaps from Sardis, whence the stone was originally exported, , adj. only here with two terminations. “The striking simile . . . . . . recalls the portrait statues of Roman emperors and others, in which the raiment is worked out in hard-coloures stones—a fashion introduced in the last years of the republic from Ptolemaic Egypt” (Myres, E. Bi., 4812).— . The nimbus or halo round the throne is green, . (cf. Deissm. 267) being malachite or more probably an emerald (Revelation 21:19), to which the ancients attributed a talismanic power of warding off evil spirits. “Thou hast made heaven and earth bright with thy rays of pure emerald light” (hymn to Ra, E. B. D. 8). The. rabbis (Chagiga, 16 a) discouraged any study of the rainbow, as it symbolised the glory of God. As the symbol of God’s covenant, it may be here a foil to the forbidding awe of Revelation 4:5a (which develops 3 a, as 5 b develops 3b–4); “Deus in judiciis semper meminit foederis sui” (Grotius.) But, like the parabolic details of Jesus, these traits are mainly descriptive. The association of jasper, sardius, and emerald is a genuinely Hellenic touch: cf. Phaedo, 110, where Plato describes the real earth under the heavens of paradise as a place where in perfection lie such things as exist here but in fragmentary beauty—for example, the pebbles esteemed here, . Flinders Petrie, taking . as rock-crystal, argues that the rainbow here is of the prismatic colour which a hexagonal prism of that colourless stone would throw (Hastings, D. B. iv. 620).

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 4:3". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-4.html. 1897-1910.