Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 6:2

I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Animals;   Bow;   Colors;   Crown;   Horse;   Vision;   Scofield Reference Index - Remnant;   Thompson Chain Reference - Battle of Life;   Bows;   Victor, Christ as;   Weapons;   White;   The Topic Concordance - Day of the Lord;   Seals;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Horse, the;  
Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Color, Symbolic Meaning of;   Prophet, Prophetess, Prophecy;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Colour;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Horse;   War;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Charger(s);   Horse;   Horseman;   Number Systems and Number Symbolism;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Beast;   Crown;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Colours;   Day of Christ;   Eschatology;   Horse;   Life and Death;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Crown;   Horse;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Bow;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Bow (rainbow);   Horse;   White;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Seal;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Color;   Crown;   Eschatology of the New Testament;   Horse, Red;   Horse, White;   Revelation of John:;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

A white horse - Supposed to represent the Gospel system, and pointing out its excellence, swiftness, and purity.

He that sat on him - Supposed to represent Jesus Christ.

A bow - The preaching of the Gospel, darting conviction into the hearts of sinners.

A crown - The emblem of the kingdom which Christ is to establish on earth.

Conquering, and to conquer - Overcoming and confounding the Jews first, and then the Gentiles; spreading more and more the doctrine and influence of the cross over the face of the earth.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

And I saw, and behold - A question has arisen as to the mode of representation here: whether what John saw in these visions was a series of pictures, drawn on successive portions of the volume as one seal was broken after another; or whether the description of the horses and of the events was written on the volume, so that John read it himself, or heard it read by another; or whether the opening of the seal was merely the occasion of a scenic representation, in which a succession of horses was introduced, with a written statement of the events which are referred to. Nothing is indeed said by which this can be determined with certainty; but the most probable supposition would seem to be that there was some pictorial representation in form and appearance, such as he describes in the opening of the six seals. In favor of this it may be observed:

(1)that, according to the interpretation of Revelation 6:1, it was something in or on the volume - since he was invited to draw nearer, in order that he might contemplate it.

(2)each one of the things under the first five seals, where John uses the word “saw,” is capable of being represented by a picture or painting.

(3)the language used is not such as would have been employed if he had merely read the description, or had heard it read.

(4)the supposition that the pictorial representation was not in the volume, but that the opening of the seal was the occasion merely of causing a scenic representation to pass before his mind, is unnatural and forced.

What would be the use of a sealed volume in that case? What the use of the writing within and without? On this supposition the representation would be that, as the successive seals were broken, nothing was disclosed in the volume but a succession of blank portions, and that the mystery or the difficulty was not in anything in the volume, but in the want of ability to summon forth these successive scenic representations. The most obvious interpretation is, undoubtedly, that what John proceeds to describe was in some way represented in the volume; and the idea of a succession of pictures or drawings better accords with the whole representation, than the idea that it was a mere written description. In fact, these successive scenes could be well represented now in a pictorial form on a scroll.

And behold a white horse - In order to any definite understanding of what was denoted by these symbols, it is proper to form in our minds, in the first place, a clear conception of what the symbol properly represents, or an idea of what it would naturally convey. It may be assumed that the symbol was significant, and that there was some reason why that was used rather than another; why, for instance, a horse was employed rather than an eagle or a lion; why a white horse was employed in one case, and a red one, a black one, a pale one in the others; why in this case a bow was in the hand of the rider, and a crown was placed on his head. Each one of these particulars enters into the constitution of the symbol; and we must find something in the event which fairly corresponds with each - for the symbol is made up of all these things grouped together. It may be further observed, that where the general symbol is the same - as in the opening of the first four seals - it may be assumed that the same object or class of objects is referred to; and the particular things denoted, or the diversity in the general application, is to be found in the variety in the representation - the color, etc., of the horse, and the arms, apparel, etc., of the rider. The specifications under the first seal are four:

(1)the general symbol of the horse - common to the first four seals;

(2)the color of the horse;

(3)the fact that he that sat on him had a bow; and,

(4)that a crown was given him by someone, as indicative of victory.

The question now is, what these symbols would naturally denote:

(1) The horse. The meaning of this symbol must be drawn from the natural use to which the symbol is applied, or the characteristics which it is known to have; and it may be added, that there might have been something for which that was best known in the time of the writer who uses it, which would not be so prominent at another period of the world, or in another country, and that it is necessary to have that before the mind in order to obtain a correct understanding of the symbol. The use of the horse, for instance, may have varied at different times to some degree; at one time the prevailing use of the horse may have been for battle; at another for rapid marches - as of cavalry; at another for draught; at another for races; at another for conveying messages by the establishment of posts or the appointment of couriers. To an ancient Roman the horse might suggest prominently one idea; to a modern Arab another; to a teamster in Holland another. The things which would be most naturally suggested by the horse as a symbol, as distinguished, for instance, from an eagle, a lion, a serpent, etc., would be the following:

(a) War, as this was probably one of the first uses to which the horse was applied. So, in the magnificent description of the horse in Job 39:19-25, no notice is taken of any of his qualities but those which pertain to war. See, for a full illustration of this passage, and of the frequent reference in the classic writers to the horse as connected with war, Bochart, Hieroz. lib. ii, c. viii., particularly p. 149. Compare Virgil, Geor. 3:83,84:

“Si qua sonum procul arma dedere,

Stare loco nescit, micat auribus, et tremit artus.”

Ovid, Metam. iii:

“Ut fremit acer equus, cum bellicus, aere canoro.

Signa dedit tubicen, pugnaeque assumit amorem.”

Silius, lib. xiii:

“Is trepido alituum tinnitu, et stare neganti,

Imperitans violenter equo.”

So Solomon says Proverbs 21:31, “The horse is prepared against the day of battle.” So in Zechariah 10:3, the prophet says, God had made the house of Judah “as his goodly horse in the battle”; that is, he had made them like the victorious war-horse.

(b) As a consequence of this, and of the conquests achieved by the horse in war, he became the symbol of conquest - of a people that could not be overcome. Compare the above reference in Zech. Thus, in Carthage the horse was an image of victorious war, in contradistinction to the ox, which was an emblem of the arts of peaceful agriculture. This was based on a tradition respecting the foundation of the city, referred to by Virgil, Aeneas i. 442-445:

“Quo primum jactati undis et turbine Poeni.

Effodere loco signum, quod regia Juno.

Monstrarat, caput acris equi: sic nam fore bello.

Egregiam, et facilem victu per Secula gentem.”

In reference to this circumstance Justin (lib. xviii. 5) remarks, that “in laying the foundations of the city the head of an ox was found, which was regarded as an emblem of a fruitful land, but of the necessity of labor and of dependence; on which account the city was transferred to another place. Then the head of a horse was found, and this was regarded as a happy omen that the city would be warlike and prosperous.” Compare Creuzer, Symbolik, vol. ii. p. 456.

(c) The horse was an emblem of fleetness, and, consequently, of the rapidity of conquest. Compare Joel 2:4; “The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.” Jeremiah 4:13; “behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles.” Compare Job 39:18.

(d) The horse is an emblem of strength, and consequently of safety. Psalm 147:10; “he delighteth not in the strength of the horse.” In general, then, the horse would properly symbolize war, conquest, or the rapidity with which a message is conveyed. The particular character or complexion of the event - as peaceful or warlike, prosperous or adverse - is denoted by the color of the horse, and by the character of the rider.

(2) the color of the horse: “a white horse.” It is evident that this is designed to be significant, because it is distinguished from the red, the black, and the pale horse, referred to in the following verses. In general, it may be observed that white is the emblem of innocence, purity, prosperity - as the opposite is of sickness, sin, calamity. If the significance of the emblem turned alone on the color, we should look to something cheerful, prosperous, happy as the thing that was symbolized. But the significance in the case is to be found not only in the color - white - but in the horse that was white; and the inquiry is, what would a horse of that color properly denote; that is, on what occasions, and with reference to what ends, was such a horse used? Now, the general notion attached to the mention of a white horse, according to ancient usage, would be that of state and triumph, derived from the fact that white horses were rode by conquerors on the days of their triumph; that they were used in the marriage cavalcade; that they were employed on coronation occasions, etc. In the triumphs granted by the Romans to their victorious generals, after a procession composed of musicians, captured princes, spoils of battle, etc., came the conqueror himself, seated on a high chariot drawn by four white horses, robed in purple, and wearing a wreath of laurel (Eschenburg, “Man. of Class.” Literature, p. 283. Compare Ovid de Arte Amandi, lib. v. 214). The name of λευκιππος leukippos- leucippos - was given to Proserpine, because she was borne from Hades to Olympus in a chariot drawn by white horses (Scol. Pind. Ol. vi. 161. See Creuzer‘s Symbol. iv. 253). White horses are supposed, also, to excel others in fleetness. So Horace, Sat. lib. i. vii. 8:

“Sisennas, Barrosque ut equis praecurreret albis.”

So Plaut. Asin. ii. 2,12. So Homer, Iliad K. 437:

Λευκότεροι χιονος, θείειν δ ̓ ἀνέμοισιν ὁμοῖοι

Leukoteroi chionostheiein d' anemoisin homoioi”Whiter than the snow, and swifter than the winds.”

And in the Aeneid, where Turnus was about to contend with Aeneas, he demanded horses:

“Qui candore nives anteirent cursibus auras.”

“Which would surpass the snow in whiteness, and the wind in fleetness” (Aeneas xii. 84).

So the poets everywhere describe the chariot of the sun as drawn by while horses (Bochart, ut supra). So conquerors and princes are everywhere represented as borne on white horses. Thus, Propertius, lib. iv. eleg. i.:

“Quatuor huic albos Romulus egit equos.”

So Claudian, lib. ii., de Laudibus Stilichonis:

“Deposits mitis clypeo, candentibus urbem.

Ingreditur trabeatus equis.”

And thus Ovid (lib. i. de Arte) addresses Augustus, auguring that he would return a victor:

“Ergo erit illa dies, qua tu, Pulcherrime rerum,

Quatuor in niveis aureus ibis equis.”

The preference of “white” to denote triumph or victory was early referred to among the Hebrews. Thus, Judges 5:10, in the Song of Deborah:

“Speak, ye that ride on white asses,

Ye that sit in judgment,

And walk by the way.”

The expression, then, in the passage before us, would properly refer to some kind of triumph; to some joyous occasion; to something where there was success or victory; and, so far as this expression is concerned, would refer to any kind of triumph, whether of the gospel or of victory in war.

(3) the bow: “and he that sat on him had a bow.” The bow would be a natural emblem of war - as it was used in war; or of hunting - as it was used for that purpose. It was a common instrument of attack or defense, and seems to have been early invented, for it is found in all rude nations. Compare Genesis 27:3; Genesis 48:22; Genesis 49:24; Joshua 24:12; 1 Samuel 18:4; Psalm 37:15; Isaiah 7:24. The bow would be naturally emblematic of the following things:

(a)War. See the passages above.

(b)Hunting. Tires it was one of the emblems of Apollo as the god of hunting.

(c)The effect of truth - as what secured conquest, or overcame opposition in the heart.

So far as this emblem is concerned, it might denote a warrior, a hunter, a preacher, a ruler - anyone who exerted power over others, or who achieved any kind of conquest over them.

(4) the crown: “and a crown was given unto him.” The word used here - στέφανος stephanos- means a circlet, chaplet, or crown - usually such as was given to a victor, 1 Corinthians 9:25. It would properly be emblematic of victory or conquest - as it was given to victors in war, or to the victors at the Grecian games, and as it is given to the saints in heaven regarded as victors, Revelation 4:4, Revelation 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:8. The crown or chaplet here was “given” to the rider as significant that he would be victorious, not that he had been; and the proper reference of the emblem was to some conquest yet to be made, not to any which had been made. It is not said by whom this was given to the rider; the material fact being only that such a diadem was conferred on him.

(5) the going forth to conquest: “and he went forth, conquering and to conquer.” He went forth as a conqueror, and that he might conquer. That is, he went forth with the spirit, life, energy, determined purpose of one who was confident that he would conquer, and who had the port and bearing of a conqueror. John saw in him two things: one, that he had the aspect or port of a conqueror - that is, of one who had been accustomed to conquest, and who was confident that he could conquer; the ether was, that this was clearly the design for which he went forth, and this would be the result of his going forth.

Having thus inquired into the natural meaning of the emblems used, perhaps the proper work of an expositor is done, and the subject might be left here. But the mind naturally asks what was this designed to signify, and to what events are these things to be applied? On this point it is scarcely necessary to say, that the opinions of expositors have been almost as numerous as the expositors themselves, and that it would be a hopeless task, and as useless as hopeless, to attempt to enumerate all the opinions entertained. They who are desirous of examining those opinions must be referred to the various books on the Apocalypse where they may be found. Perhaps all the opinions entertained, though presented by their authors under a great variety of forms, might be referred to three:

(1) That the whole passage in Revelation 1:1; “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” See the notes on that verse. Whatever may be said of some of those events - those lying most remotely in the series - it would not accord with the fair interpretation of the language to suppose that the beginning of the series would be far distant, and we therefore naturally look for that beginning in the age succeeding the time of the apostle, or the reign of Domitian.

(c) The inquiry then occurs whether there were any such events in that age as would properly be symbolized by the circumstances before us - the horse; the color of the horse; the how in the hand of the rider; the crown given him; the state and hearing of the conqueror.

(d) Before proceeding to notice what seems to me to be the interpretation which best accords with all the circumstances of the symbol, it may be proper to refer to the only other one which has any plausibility, and which is adopted by Grotius, by the author of Hyponoia, by Dr. Keith (Signs of the Times, 1:181ff), by Mr. Lord, and others, that this refers to Christ and his church - to Christ and his ministers in spreading the gospel. The objections to this class of interpretations seem to me to be insuperable:

(1) The whole description, so far as it is a representation of triumph, is a representation of the triumph of war, not of the gospel of peace. All the symbols in the opening of the first four seals are warlike; all the consequences in the opening of each of the seals where the horseman appears, are such as are usually connected with war. It is the march of empire, the movement of military power.

(2) ahorseman thus armed is not the usual representation of Christ, much less of his ministers or of his church. Once indeed Revelation 19:14-16 Christ himself is thus represented; but the ordinary representation of the Saviour in this book is either that of a man - majestic and glorious, holding the stars in his right hand - or of a lamb. Besides, if it were the design of the emblem to refer to Christ, it must be a representation of him personally and literally going forth in this manner; for it would be incongruous to suppose that this relates to him, and then to give it a metaphorical application, referring it not to himself, but to his truth, his gospel, his ministers.

(3) if there is little probability that this refers to Christ, there is still less that it refers to ministers of the gospel - as held by Lord and others - for such a symbol is employed nowhere else to represent an order of ministers, nor do the circumstances find a fulfillment in them. The minister of the gospel is a herald of peace, and is employed in the service of the Prince of Peace. He cannot well be represented by a warrior, nor is he in the Scriptures. In itself considered, there is nothing more unlike or incongruous than a warrior going forth to conquest with hostile arms, and a minister of Christ.

(4) besides, this representation of a horse and his rider, when applied in the following verses, on this principle becomes most forced and unnatural. If the warrior on the white horse denotes the ministry, then the warrior on the red horse, the black horse, the pale horse, must denote the ministry also, and nothing is more fanciful and arbitrary than to attempt to apply these to teachers of various kinds of error - error denoted by the red, black, and pale color - as must be done on that supposition. It seems plain, therefore, to me, that the representation was not designed to symbolize the ministry, or the state of the church considered with reference to its extension, or the various forms of belief which prevailed. But if so, it only remains to inquire whether a state of things existed in the Roman world of which these would be appropriate symbols. We have, then, the following facts, which are of such a nature as would properly be symbolized by the horse of the first seal; that is, they are such facts that if one were to undertake to devise an appropriate symbol of them since they occurred, they would be well represented by the image here employed:

(1) It was in general a period of prosperity, of triumph, of conquest - well represented by the horseman on the white horse going forth to conquest. I refer now to the period immediately succeeding the time of John‘s banishment, embracing some ninety years, anti extending through the successive reigns of Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the two Antonines, from the death of Domitian, 96 a.d., to the accession of Commodus, and the peace made by him with the Germans, 180 a.d. As an illustration of this period, and of the pertinency of the symbol, I will first copy from an historical chart drawn up with no reference to the symbol here, and in the mind of whose author the application to this symbol never occurred. The chart, distinguished for accuracy, is that of A.S. Lyman, published 1845 a.d. The following is the account of this period, beginning at the death of Domitian: “Domitian, a cruel tyrant, the last of the twelve Caesars.” (His death, therefore, was an important epoch.) “96 a.d. Nerva, noted for his virtues, but enfeebled by age.” “98 a.d. Trajan, a great general, and popular emperor; under him the empire attains its greatest extent.” “117 a.d. Adrian, an able sovereign; spends thirteen years traveling through the empire, reforming abuses and rebuilding cities.” “138 a.d. Antonions Pius, celebrated for his wisdom, virtue, and humanity.” “161 a.d. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the Stoic Philosopher, noted for his virtues.”

Then begins a new era - a series of wicked princes and of great calamities. The next entry in the series is, “180 a.d. Commodus, profligate and cruel.” Then follows a succession of princes of the same general description. Their character will be appropriately considered under the succeeding seals. But in regard to the period now supposed to be represented by the opening of the first seal, anti the general applicability of the description here to that period, we have the fullest testimony in Mr. Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: a writer who, sceptic as he was, seems to have been raised up by Divine Providence to search deeply into historic records, and to furnish an inexhaustible supply of materials in confirmation of the fulfillment of the pro phecies, and of the truth of revelation. For:

(1) he was eminently endowed by talent, and learning, and patience, and general candor, and accuracy, to prepare a history of that period of th world, and to place his name in the very first rank of historians.

(2) his history commences at about the period supposed in this interpretation to be referred to by these symbols, and extends over a very considerable portion of the time embraced in the book of Revelation.

(3) it cannot be alleged that he was biassed in his statements of facts by a desire to favor revelation; nor can it be charged on him that he perverted facts with a view to overthrow the authority of the volume of inspired truth. He was, indeed, thoroughly skeptical as to the truth of Christianity, and he lost no opportunity to express his feelings toward it by a sneer - for it seems to have been an unfortunate characteristic of his mind to sneer at everything - but there is no evidence that he ever designedly perverted a fact in history to press it into the service of infidelity, or that he designedly falsified a statement for the purpose of making it bear against Christianity. It cannot be suspected that he had any design, by the statements which he makes, to confirm the truth of Scripture prophecies. Infidels, at least, are bound to admit his testimony as impartial.

(4) not a few of the most clear and decisive proofs of the fulfillment of prophecies are to be found in his history. They are frequently such statements as would be expected to occur in the writings of a partial friend of Christianity who was endeavoring to make the records of history speak out in favor of his religion; and if they had been found in such a writer, they would be suspected of having been shaped with a view to the confirmation of the prophecies, and it may be added also with an intention to defend some favorite interpretation of the Apocalypse. In regard to the passage before us - the opening of the first seal and the general explanation of the meaning of that seal, above given, there is a striking resemblance between that representation and the state of the Roman empire as given by Mr. Gibbon at the period under consideration - from the end of the reign of Domitian to the accession of Commodes. By a singular coincidence Mr. Gibbon begins his history at about the period supposed to be referred to by the opening of the seal - the period following the death of Domitian, 96 a.d. Thus, in the opening sentences of his work he says: “In the second century of the Christian era the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized portion of mankind. During a happy period of more than fourscore years the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the two Antenines. It is the design of this and the two succeeding chapters to describe the prosperous condition of their empire; and afterward, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall; a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth,” vol. i. 1.

Before Mr. Gibbon proceeds to give the history of the fall of the empire, he pauses to describe the happy condition of the Roman world during the period now referred to - for this is substantially his object in the first three chapters of his history. The titles of these chapters will show their object. They are respectively the following: Ch. i., “The Extent and Military Force of the Empire, in the Age of the Antonines”; ch. ii., “Of the Union and Internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire, in the Age of the Antonines”; ch. iii., “Of the Constitution of the Roman Empire, in the Age of the Antonines.” In the language of another, this is “the bright ground of his historic picture, from which afterward more effectively to throw out in deep coloring the successive traits of the empire‘s corruption and decline” (Elliott). The introductory remarks of Mr. Gibbon, indeed, professedly refer to “the age of the Antenines” (138-180 a.d.); but that he designed to describe, under this general title, the actual condition of the Roman world during the period which I suppose to be embraced under the first seal, as a time of prosperity, triumph, and happiness - from Domitian to Commodes - is apparent from a remarkable statement which there will be occasion again to quote, in which he expressly designates this period in these words: “If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name what elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus,” i. 47.

The same thing is apparent also from a remark of Mr. Gibbon in the general summary which he makes of the Roman affairs, showing that this period constituted, in his view, properly an era in the condition of the world. Thus, he says (i. 4): “Such was the state of the Roman frontiers, and such the maxims of imperial policy, from the death of Augustus to the accession of Trajan.” This was 98 a.d. The question now is, whether, during this period, the events in the Roman empire were such as accord with the representation in the first seal. There was nothing in the first century that could accord with this; and if John wrote the Apocalypse at the time supposed (95 or 96 a.d.), of course it does not refer to that. Respecting that century Mr. Gibbon remarks: “The only accession which the Roman empire received, during the first century of the Christian era, was the province of Britain. In this single instance the successors of Caesar and Augustus were persuaded to follow the example of the former rather than the precept of the latter. After a war of about forty years, undertaken by the most stupid, maintained by the most dissolute, and terminated by the most timid of all the emperors, the far greater part of the island submitted to the Roman yoke,” i. 2,3.

Of course the representation in the first seal could not be applied to such a period as this. In the second century, however, and especially in the early part of it - the beginning of the period supposed to be embraced in the opening of the first seal - a different policy began to prevail, and though the main characteristic of the period, as a whole, was comparatively peaceful, yet it began with a career of conquests, and its general state might be characterized as triumph and prosperity. Thus, Mr. Gibbon speaks of Trajan on his accession after the death of Nerva: “That virtuous and active prince had received the education of a soldier, and possessed the talents of a general. The peaceful system of his predecessors was interrupted by scenes of war and conquest; and the legions, after a long interval, beheld a military emperor at their head. The first exploits of Trajan were against the Dacians, the most warlike of men, who dwelt beyond the Danube, and who, during the reign of Domitian, had insulted the majesty of Rome. This memorable war, with a very short suspension of hostilities, lasted five years; and as the emperor could exert, without control, the whole force of the state, it was terminated by an absolute submission of the barbarians. The new province of Dacia, which formed a second exception to the precept of Augustus, was about thirteen hundred miles in circumference,” i. 4.

Speaking of Trajan (p. 4), he says further: “The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan. Like him, the Roman emperor undertook an expedition against the nations of the East; but he lamented with a sigh that his advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equalling the renown of the son of Phil Yet the success of Trajan, however transient, was rapid and specious. The degenerate Parthians, broken by intestine discord, fled before his arms. He descended the river Tigris, in triumph, from the mountains of Armenia to the Persian Gulf. He enjoyed the honor of being the first, as he was the last, of the Roman generals who ever navigated that remote sea. His fleets ravaged the coasts of Arabia; and Trajan vainly flattered himself that he was approaching toward the confines of India. Every day the astonished senate received the intelligence of new names and new nations that acknowledged his sway.

They were informed that the kings of Bosphorus, Colchis, lberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and even the Parthian monarch himself, had accepted their diadems from the hand of the emperor; that the independent tribes of the Median and Carduchian hills had implored his protection; and that the rich countries of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria were reduced into the state of provinces.” Of such a reign what more appropriate symbol could there be than the horse and the rider of the first seal? If Mr. Gibbon had been writing a designed commentary on this, what more appropriate language could he have used in illustration of it? The reign of Hadrian, the successor of Trajan (117-138 a.d.), was comparatively a reign of peace - though one of his first acts was to lead an expedition into Britain: but though comparatively a time of peace, it was a reign of prosperity and triumph. Mr. Gibbon, in the following language, gives a general characteristic of that reign: “The life of Hadrian was almost a perpetual journey; and as he possessed the various talents of the soldier, the statesman, and the scholar, he gratified his curiosity in the discharge of his duty. careless of the difference of seasons and of climates, he marched on foot, and bareheaded, over the snows of Caledonia and the sultry plains of Upper Egypt; nor was there a province of the empire which, in the course of his reign, was not honored with the presence of the monarch,” p. 5.

On p. 6, Mr. Gibbon remarks of this period: “The Roman name was revered among the remote nations of the earth. The fiercest barbarians frequently submitted their differences to the arbitration of the emperor; and we are informed by a contemporary historian that he had seen ambassadors who were refused the honor which they came to solicit, of being admitted into the rank of subjects.” And again, speaking of the reign of Hadrian, Mr. Gibbon remarks (i. 45): “Under his reign, as has been already mentioned, the empire flourished in peace and prosperity. He encouraged the arts, reformed the laws, asserted military discipline, and visited all the provinces in person.” Hadrian was succeeded by the Antonines, Antoninus Pins and Marcus Aurelius (the former from 138 a.d. to 161 a.d.; the latter from 161 a.d. to the accession of Commodus, 180 a.d.). The general character of their reigns is well known.

It is thus stated by Mr. Gibbon: “The two Antenines governed the world for 42 years with the same invariable spirit of wisdom and virtue. Their united reigns are possibly the only period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government,” i. 46. And after describing the state of the empire in respect to its military and naval character, its roads, and architecture, and constitution, and laws, Mr. Gibbon sums up the whole description of this period in the following remarkable words (vol. i. p. 47): “If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name what elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hands of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves as the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honor of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom.” If it be supposed now that John designed to represent this period of the world, could he have chosen a more expressive and significant emblem of it than occurs in the horseman of the first seal? If Mr. Gibbon had intended to prepare a commentary on it, could he have shaped the facts of history so as better to furnish an illustration?

(2) the particular things represented in the symbol:

(a) The bow - a symbol of war. Mr. Elliott has endeavored to show that the bow at that period was especially the badge of the Cretians, and that Nerva, who succeeded Domitian, was a Cretian by birth. The argument is too long to be abridged here, but, if well founded, the fulfillment is remarkable; for although the sword or the javelin was usually the badge of the Roman emperor, if this were so, there would be a special propriety in making the bow the badge during this period. See Elliott, vol. 1, pp. 133-140. But whatever may be said of this, the bow was so generally the badge of a warrior, that there would be no impropriety in using it as a symbol of Roman victory.

(b) The crown - στέφανος stephanos- was, up to the time of Aurelian, 270 a.d. (see Spanheim, p. 60), the distinguishing badge of the Roman emperor; after that, the diadem, set with pearls and other jewels, was adopted and worn. The crown, composed usually of laurel, was properly the badge of the emperor considered as a military leader or commander. See Elliott, 1:130. At the period now under consideration the proper badge of the Roman emperor would be the crown; after the time of Aurelian, it would have been the diadem. In illustration of this, two engravings have been introduced, the first representing the emperor Nerva with the crown, or στέφανος stephanosthe second the emperor Valentinian, with the diadem.

(c) The fact that the crown was given to the rider. It was common among the Romans to represent an emperor in this manner; either on medals, bas-reliefs, or triumphal arches. The emperor appears going forth on horseback, and with Victory represented as either crowning him, or as preceding him with a crown in her hand to present to him. The engraving below, copied from one of the basreliefs on a triumphal arch erected to Claudius Drusus on occasion of his victories over the Germans, will furnish a good illustration of this, and, indeed, is so similar to the symbol described by John, that the one seems almost a copy of the other. Except that the bow is missing, nothing could have a closer resemblance; and the fact that such symbols were employed, and were well understood by the Romans, may be admitted to be a confirmation of the view above taken of the meaning of the first seal. Indeed, so many things combine to confirm this, that it seems impossible to be mistaken in regard to it: for if it should be supposed that John lived after this time, and that he meant to furnish a striking emblem of this period of Roman history, he could not have employed a more significant and appropriate symbol than he has done.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And I saw, and behold a white horse,.... Representing the ministration of the Gospel in the times of the apostles, which were just now finishing, John being the last of them, who saw this vision; and the "horse" being a swift, majestic, and warlike creature, and fearless of opposition and war, may design the swift progress of the Gospel in the world, the majesty, power, and authority with which it came, and opposition it met with, and which was bore down before it; and its "white" colour may denote the purity of Gospel truths, the peace it proclaims, the joy brings, and the triumph that attends it, on account of victories obtained by it, and which is afterwards suggested: white horses were used in triumphs, in token of victoryF14Victor Aurel. de Viris Illustr. in Fur Camill. ; a white horse, in a dream, is a good sign with the JewsF15T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 1. ; and Astrampsychus saysF16In Oneiro Criticis, apud Mede. , a vision of white horses is an apparition of angels; and so one of those angels which the Jews suppose to have the care of men, and the preservation of them, is saidF17Shaare Zion, fol. 102. 2. to ride by him, and at his right hand, upon a white horse; but the rider here is not an angel, but the head of all principality and power:

and he that sat on him had a bow; with arrows; the bow is the word of the Gospel, and the arrows the doctrines of it; see Habakkuk 3:9; so called for their swift motion, sudden and secret striking, piercing, and penetrating nature, reaching to the very hearts of men; laying open the secret thoughts and iniquity thereof; wounding, and causing them to fall, and submit themselves to the sceptre of Christ's kingdom:

and a crown was given unto him; by God the Father; expressive of Christ's regal power and authority, of his honour and dignity, and of his victories and conquests:

and he went forth, conquering and to conquer; in the ministration of the Gospel, which went forth, as did all the first ministers of it, from Jerusalem, to the several parts of the world; from the east, on which side of the throne was the first living creature, who called upon John to come and see this sight, as the standard of the tribe of Judah, which had a lion upon it, was on the east side of the camp of Israel; and out of Zion went forth the word of the Lord, which was very victorious, both among Jews and Gentiles, to the conversion of thousands of them, and to the planting of a multitude of churches among them, and to the setting up and advancing the kingdom of Christ; but inasmuch as yet all things are not made subject to him, he is represented as going forth in the Gospel, still conquering, and to conquer, what remain to be conquered: that Christ is designed by him that sat on the white horse, and is thus described, is evident from Revelation 19:11; with which compare Psalm 45:3, though as this emblem may respect the Roman empire, the white horse may be an emblem of the strong, warlike, and conquering state of it; and the rider which a bow and crown may design Vespasian, whom Christ made use of as an instrument to conquer his enemies the Jews, and who, in consequence thereof, had the imperial crown put upon him; and it may be further observed, that though his conquest of them was a very great one, yet they afterwards rose up in the empire, in great numbers, rebelled, and did much mischief, when they were entirely conquered by Trajan and Hadrian, who seem to be intended in the next seal.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And 2 I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

(2) The first sign, joined with a declaration, is that because of the sins and horrible rebellion of the world, God will invade the world: and first of all will suddenly, mightily, and gloriously, as if with arrows of pestilence from a distance, beat down the same as Judge, and triumph over it as conqueror.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Evidently Christ, whether in person, or by His angel, preparatory to His coming again, as appears from Revelation 19:11, Revelation 19:12.

bow — (Psalm 45:4, Psalm 45:5).

crownGreek, “{(stephanos},” the garland or wreath of a conqueror, which is also implied by His white horse, white being the emblem of victory. In Revelation 19:11, Revelation 19:12 the last step in His victorious progress is represented; accordingly there He wears many diadems (Greek, “{(diademata}”; not merely Greek, “{stephanoi},” “crowns” or &l)dquo;wreaths”), and is personally attended by the hosts of heaven. Compare Zechariah 1:7-17; Zechariah 6:1-8; especially Revelation 6:10 below, with Zechariah 1:12; also compare the colors of the four horses.

and to conquer — that is, so as to gain a lasting victory. All four seals usher in judgmentson the earth, as the power which opposes the reign of Himself and His Church. This, rather than the work of conversion and conviction, is primarily meant, though doubtless, secondarily, the elect will be gathered out through His word and His judgments.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

And I saw and behold (και ειδον και ιδουkai eidon kai idou). This combination is frequent in the Apocalypse (Revelation 4:1; Revelation 6:2, Revelation 6:5, Revelation 6:8; Revelation 14:1, Revelation 14:14; Revelation 19:11).

A white horse (ιππος λευκοςhippos leukos). In Zechariah 6:1-8 we have red, black, white, and grizzled bay horses like the four winds of heaven, ministers to do God‘s will. White seems to be the colour of victory (cf. the white horse of the Persian Kings) like the white horse ridden by the Roman conqueror in a triumphant procession.

Had (εχωνechōn). Agreeing in gender and case with ο κατημενοςho kathēmenos bow (τοχονtoxon). Old word (Zechariah 9:13. of a great bow), here only in N.T.

Was given (εδοτηedothē). First aorist passive indicative of διδωμιdidōmi crown (στεπανοςstephanos). See note on Revelation 4:4 for this word.

He came forth (exēlthen). Second aorist active indicative of exerchomai either to come out or to go out (went forth).

Conquering (εχηλτενnikōn). Present active participle of εχερχομαιnikaō to conquer (νικωνkai hina nikēsēi). Purpose clause with νικαωhina and the first aorist active subjunctive of και ινα νικησηιnikaō Here ιναhōs nikēsōn (future active participle with νικαωhōs) could have been used. The aorist tense here points to ultimate victory. Commentators have been busy identifying the rider of the white horse according to their various theories. “It is tempting to identify him with the Rider on the white horse in Revelation 19:11., whose name is ‹the Word of God‘” (Swete). Tempting, “but the two riders have nothing in common beyond the white horse.”


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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

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.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

And I saw, and behold a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow — This colour, and the bow shooting arrows afar off, betoken victory, triumph, prosperity, enlargement of empire, and dominion over many people. Another horseman, indeed, and of quite another kind, appears on a white horse, Revelation 19:11. But he that is spoken of under the first seal must be so understood as to bear a proportion to the horsemen in the second, third, and fourth seal. Nerva succeeded the emperor Domitian at the very time when the Revelation was written, in the year of our Lord96. He reigned scarce a year alone; and three months before his death he named Trajan for his colleague and successor, and died in the year98. Trajan's accession to the empire seems to be the dawning of the seven seals.

And a crown was given him — This, considering his descent, Trajan could have no hope of attaining. But God gave it him by the hand of Nerva; and then the east soon felt his power.

And he went forth conquering and to conquer — That is, from one victory to another. In the year108 the already victorious Trajan went forth toward the east, to conquer not only Armenia, Assyria, and Mesopotamia, but also the countries beyond the Tigris, carrying the bounds of the Roman empire to a far greater extent than ever. We find no emperor like him for making conquests. He aimed at nothing else; he lived only to conquer. Meantime, in him was eminently fulfilled what had been prophesied of the fourth empire, Daniel 2:40; 7:23, that he should "devour, tread down, and break in pieces the whole earth."

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

This symbol denotes plainly the onset of a victorious army.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

Scofield's Reference Notes

a white horse

See, Zechariah 6:3, cf. Christ in Revelation 19:11 whom the Beast imitates.

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Revelation 6:2". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

Ver. 2. And behold a white horse] The apostles and apostolic preachers of the primitive times, white for their purity of doctrine, discipline, and conversation; horses for their nimble and swift spreading the gospel, which ran αθροως οια τις ηλιου βολη, through the world like a sunbeam (as Eusebius hath it), and was carried as on eagles’ or on angels’ wings. A horse hath his name in Hebrew from devouring the ground by his swiftness, and was therefore by the heathens dedicated to the sun, whose "going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it," Psalms 19:6. Cranzius tells us that the Saxon princes, before they became Christians, gave a black horse for their arms; but being once baptized, a white horse; with reference haply to this text.

He that sat on him] Christ, Revelation 19:11; Psalms 65:5. The conquerors entered into Rome carried on a white horse.

Had a bow] The doctrine of the gospel, whereby the people fall under him, Psalms 45:4.

Conquering, and to conquer] Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo tamen patuerunt, saith Tertullian. {Advers. 7:1-25} Christ came and conquered this kingdom, which the Romans with all their power could not do. A Christo vinci, summa victoria est; vinciri, summa libertas, saith another. There is no such conquest as to be conquered by Christ; no such liberty as to be bound by him.

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

Revelation 6:2. John saw “a white horse, and he that sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering and to conquer.” The entire form is that of a warrior, and that, too, of one victorious, and triumphing in the certainty of victory. All the individual features of the image harmoniously express this. The horses of the Roman triumphers were white.(2017) On white horses, therefore,(2018) appear not only Christ himself, but also his hosts triumphing with him.

That the weapon of the horseman is a bow, not a sword, has scarcely a symbolical significance. The symbol would be distorted if Wetst. were correct in saying that by the bow, with which work is done at a distance, the intention is to indicate that the reference is properly to a victory, occurring at a distance from Judaea, of the Parthian king Artabanus II.,(2019) who made war upon the Jews in Babylon; but if this were the meaning, the entire form of the horseman, which, in the manner proposed, is to represent that king, must have appeared at a greater distance. Arbitrary is also the explanation of Vitr.: “A bow, not a sword, in order to withdraw our thought from Roman emperors to Christ.” If, as by Vitr., importance be laid upon the fact that the bow is pre-eminently peculiar to Parthian and Asiatic warriors in general, and not to the Roman, we dare not find in the bow an emblem of Christ; in order, then, to explain not so much the bow mentioned as rather the supplied darts of the numerous apostles and evangelists through whose forcible preaching Christ won his victory.(2020) Instead of the bow, in Psalms 45:6, the darts are mentioned, and that, too, beside the sword (Revelation 6:4), in a description which may have floated before John.(2021) In this passage, what is ascribed to the bow can indicate nothing further than that the warrior equipped therewith may meet his foes also at a distance.

ἐδύθη αὐτῷ στέφανος. The crown—whose meaning, in connection with what immediately follows, is indubitable(2022)—is given the warrior, because it is to be marked in the beginning directly, by this going forth, that he already goes forth as a νικῶν, and, therefore, that the goal of his going forth καὶ ἵνα νικήσῃ is undoubtedly reached. א has even the interpretation: καὶ ἐνίκησεν.

The true meaning of this passage is suggested by the statement: κ. ἐξῆλθεν νικῶν καὶ ἳνα νικήσῃ, especially in connection with the succeeding forms of horsemen, but also still further in connection with the fundamental idea of the entire Apoc., particularly the parallel passages Revelation 19:11 sqq., where, in perfect correspondence with the harmonious plan of the book, the form of a horseman comes forth still more gloriously, and at the same time is expressly explained. If we regard only the forms of horsemen proceeding from the three following seals, which, according to the unambiguous hints in the text, are the very personifications of the shedding of blood (Revelation 6:4), famine (Revelation 6:6), and death (Revelation 6:8), nothing is nearer than the opinion that even the first horseman is a personification, yet not of Christianity,(2023)—to which not a single feature of the picture leads, even apart from the fact that, except in the person of Christ, a personification of Christianity is scarcely conceivable,—but of victory, or of war on the side of victory;(2024) with which it would well agree, that, in Revelation 6:3 sqq., war should be represented in its other sides and consequences. So, already, Bengel,(2025) Herder, Eichh., Ew. ii., of whom the latter, like Wetst., limits the idea of the horseman to Judaea. According to this conception, De Wette(2026) judges, with entire consistency, that the similar image of a horseman, referring to Christ,(2027) is intended to be antithetical in its relation to the present; there at the end, Christ with his “spiritual victory,” in opposition to the “vain boast of victory” of the warrior here at the beginning. But in the text there is no trace whatever of such contrast; that the victor here represented had, and wished to win, only a vain worldly victory, has as little foundation as it is unsatisfactory for Christ’s victory to be called only a “spiritual” one, as even the external ruin of Babylon belongs essentially thereto. With correctness, most expositors(2028) regard the horseman of the first, identical with that of Revelation 19:11 sqq. The characteristic attributes are essentially synonymous. Yet in the one case we stand, of course, at the glorious end of the entire development of the kingdom of Christ, while here the Lord first goes forth to bring about that end; but just because only he can go forth to conquer, who is already a victor ( νικῶν),(2029) even here the form of the Lord is essentially the same as at the end. Since the very appearance of Christ reveals all the visions which proceed from the unsealed book of fate, it is indicated that he guides and determines the course and end of all the events portrayed in the succeeding visions; in the prophetic figures, also, which John beholds, as well as in the things portrayed, the Lord is the beginning and end, the First and Last, who will triumph over all enemies ( ἵνα νικήσῃ), as he is already properly victor ( νικῶν) over them. To any special victory of Christ, as possibly the results of the preaching at Pentecost,(2030) the νικῶν, even because of the present form, cannot refer; in the sense of the Apoc., as also of the whole N. T., Christ is absolute victor over all that is hostile, just because he is Christ, i.e., the Son of God, who has suffered in the flesh, and arisen and ascended into heaven, or because he is the Lamb of God who possesses God’s throne. The νικῶν presupposing the ἐνίκησα, Revelation 3:21 (Revelation 5:5), and including in itself already the ἳνα νικήσῃ, designates also the true ground upon which believers in Christ are “to conquer,” and can conquer, and have to expect from the Lord a victor’s reward.(2031) Thus the triumphing image of Christ at the beginning of all the visions, proceeding from the book of fate, is in harmony with the fundamental idea and paracletic tendency of the entire Apoc.

As little as the emblem of the bow, does the horse in itself or its white color have any special significance; any exposition that in such matters seeks any thing more than such emblems whereby the entire form of the horseman is characterized as that of a victorious warrior, and which proceeds to a special interpretation of the individual characteristic features, instead of regarding the unity of significance in the entire image, must result in what is arbitrary and frivolous. This is contrary to all the expositors, who understand by the white horse the Church,(2032) and that, too, the apostolic primitive Church, in its purity and peaceful condition prior to persecutions, which are found in the second seal,(2033) as Beda, Andr., Areth., N. de Lyra, C. a Lap., Calov., etc. [See Note XLVIII., p. 234.]


XLVIII. Revelation 6:2. ἰππος λευκός

Luthardt: “That is, the Word of God, which was the first in the history of N. T. times to pass victoriously through the world, and whose words flew far like arrows, and penetrated the heart (Psalms 45:6).” Alford: “The νικῶν might be said of any victorious earthly power whose victories should endure for the time then present, and afterwards pass away; but the ἳνα νικήσῃ can only be said of a power whose victories are to last forever.… We must not, on the one hand, too hastily introduce the person of our Lord himself; or, on the other, be startled at the objection that we shall be paralleling him, or one closely resembling him, with the far different forms which follow. Doubtless, the resemblance to the rider in Revelation 19:11 is very close, and is intended to be very close. The difference, however, is considerable. There he is set forth as present in his triumph, followed by the hosts of heaven: here he is working in bodily absence, and the rider is not himself, but only a symbol of his victorious power, the embodiment of his advancing kingdom as regards that side of its progress where it breaks down earthly power, and makes the kingdom of the world to be the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ. Further, it would not be wise, nor, indeed, according to the analogy of these visions, to specify. In all cases but the last, these riders are left in the vagueness of their symbolic offices. If we attempt, in this case, to specify further, e.g., as Victorinus: ‘The white horse is the word of preaching sent with the Holy Spirit into the world. For the Lord says, This gospel shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come,’—while we are sure that we are thus far right, we are but partially right, seeing that there are other aspects and instruments of victory of the kingdom of Christ besides the preaching of the word.” If the word “preaching” be limited to public discourses, or even to the public reading and private study of the word, Alford is quite right. But just as the sacraments are only the visible word, and are efficacious because of the word of God joined with them, so every agency for the diffusion of Christ’s kingdom may be reduced to the word of God under some form. Gebhardt (p. 238) regards the rider on the white horse as a personification of victorious war. His objection to the view adopted by Düsterdieck, that the Lamb could not have opened the seals, and at the same time have been represented in what the seal portrays, is not very formidable, and, at most, would not interfere with the conception above proposed of the Word as rider.


XLIX. Revelation 6:2-8

Alford regards the four seals, in their fulness, as contemporaneous, the ἵνα νικήσῃ not being accomplished until the entire earth is subjugated, although “they may receive continually recurring, or even ultimate, fulfilments, as the ages of the world go on, in distinct periods of time, and by distinctly assignable events. So far, we may derive benefit from the commentaries of those who imagine that they have discovered their fulfilment in successive periods of history, that, from the very variety and discrepancy of the periods assigned by them, we may verify the facts of the prevalence of these announced judgments hitherto, throughout the whole lifetime of the Church.”

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 6:2. ἵππος λευκὸς, a white horse) D. Lange altogether applies these seals to the future, Comm. Apoc. f. 73, where he uses five arguments:

I. From the figures of the seals. I reply, The Past, when rightly explained, agrees with them.

II. From the failure of the reasons on which Vitringa, together with others, relies. I reply, Better reasons both exist in abundance and are brought forward. See on ch. Revelation 4:1.

III. From the parallelism of Matthew 24:6 and following verses with the second, third, fourth, and fifth seal. See fol. 83, 257. I reply, That the end, in Matthew 24:14, denotes the destruction of Jerusalem, is proved by the whole connection of the discourse, and especially by the particle οὖν, therefore, Revelation 6:15, and the question of the disciples, as Mark and Luke represent it. A similarity in the plagues inflicted in each text does not imply that the plagues themselves are the same. See above, p. 135 and next.

IV. From the parallelism of Zechariah 6 with the same seals. See fol. 84. I reply, In Zechariah there is not one horse only of each colour, but there are more, and they too joined to chariots: nor are the colours entirely the same (D. Lange undoubtedly puts paleness for whiteness); nor is there the same order of the colours; nor is there the same road to the four quarters of the world, nor the same expedition. In the first seal he applies the white horse to the conqueror, Christ; in the third, the black to the dearness of corn: in what manner this is parallel with Zechariah 6:6; Zechariah 6:8, cannot be shown.

V. From the connection [of the seals] with the trumpets and vials. I reply, As this celebrated interpreter too much extends the epistles, so he also too much compresses the seals, trumpets, etc. The vials almost exhaust the whole of that space, which he supposes to be represented also in the seals and trumpets. There are four distinct spheres, each of which has its own subject-matter agreeing with the titles, churches, seals, trumpets, and vials; and where they are explained distinctly [as distinct from one another], they obtain an amplitude worthy of this prophecy. In such a manner the true explanation preserves the natural ARRANGEMENT of the book; but if this is once laid aside, there is nothing which the ingenuity of man cannot divide and put together, and congratulate itself on the discovery of the truth. As far as relates to the system of the venerable D. Lange, the little season under the fifth seal, the 42 months and 1260 days in ch. 11, the 1260 days and the short time, and the (1) time, (2) times and half a time, in ch. 12, the 42 months in ch. 13, and the short space in ch. 17, which are periods of times, differing both in every kind of way, and widely and elegantly, are not only regarded by that system as equal, but are also put for one [period], and that a period of three years and a half, and the seals and trumpets are arranged in accordance with that hypothesis: Comm. Apoc. f. 16, 115, etc.: they who shall duly weigh the same, f. 15, 88, 95, 133, 143, etc., will perceive how many things are moved from their place and disarranged by this view. In his Epicrisis, for instance, p. 390, he has not sufficiently weighed my arguments, from a reliance on those things, which he had before written.(74)

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Some, by this white horse, understand the gospel; others, the Roman empire. And by him that sat thereon with a bow, some understand Christ going forth with power to convert the nations; others (and in my opinion more probably) the Roman emperors, armed with power, and having the imperial crown, carrying all before them. So as that which God intended by this to reveal to St. John, was, that the Roman emperors should yet continue, and use their power against his church. Those that understand by the white horse, the gospel, or God’s dispensations to his church under the first period, and by the rider, Christ, (amongst whom is our famous Mede), think, that hereby all the time is signified from Christ’s ascension, which was in the thirty-fourth year after his incarnation, till the time that all the apostles were dead, that is, the first hundred years after Christ (for so long histories tell us John lived). It was the age then current, and so may take up part of the vision of things that were to come. The history of all but forty of those years we have in the Acts, till Paul was carried prisoner to Rome. In this period ruled Augustus Caesar, (in whose time Christ was born, Luke 2:1), Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero, Galba, Otho, F. Vespasianus, Titus, and Domitian, Nerva, and Trajan, ten or eleven in all. They went on

conquering, and to conquer the world. But till Nero’s time, about the year 66, they did not begin to persecute the Christians; nor did Vespasian and Titus much rage, nor Domitian, till he had reigned eight years: so as I leave it indifferent to the reader, whether to understand by the white horse and his rider, God’s dispensations of providence to his church these first years, causing his gospel to prevail much, and conquering many to the profession of it, or the Roman empire, with those that ruled it: what is said is true of both.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

конь белый Животное символизирует не имеющий себе подобного период времени, когда воцарится мир во всем мире – ложный мир, который не будет долговечным. О мире будет объявлено чередой ложных мессий, последним из которых станет антихрист (Мф. 24:3-5).

на нем всадник Четырьмя лошадьми и их всадниками представлены не особые физические лица, а силы. Между тем некоторые отождествляют этого всадника с антихристом, который будет ведущей мировой фигурой, и Иоанн замечает, что все человечество будет следовать за ним, одержимое идеей установления этого ложного мира.

лук Лук является символом войны, но отсутствие стрел предполагает, что эта победа бескровная: мир заключен на основе соглашений, а не военных действий (ср. Дан. 9:24-27).

венец Это слово может означать лавровый венец, которым награждали победивших спортсменов. Он и был ему «дан». Антихрист становится царем, его выбирают все жители земли. Не думая о расплате, он завоюет целый мир в результате бескровного переворота.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

A white horse; here, as in Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 6:1-8, the horses denote dispensations, the character of which is indicated by their color and the other emblems employed. A white horse is the symbol of victory. The rider plainly represents Christ. It is therefore a symbol of victory and under his guidance, and redounding to the enlargement of his church.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible


Many have gone out through history representing themselves as the chosen of God, and have brought death in their train. We do not need to identify a specific one as intended here, for the horseman represents all such. It represents theideaof antichrist, and of false claimants to divine authority, whether messiahs, emperors, kings, or prophets.

It may well have been seen by John in the first place to represent such emperors of Rome as claimed to be divine, but we must not limit the horse to Rome. Included are many small ‘Messiahs’ who sought to inspire people to rebel in the first century AD (most not recorded but we can be sure that some accepted the title in their petty insurgencies against Rome). Included is Bar Kokhba, ‘son of the Star’, a so-called Messiah (around 134 AD) accepted by prominent Rabbis, who persecuted Christians, and who would later bring such misery on the people of Judea. Included are all who represent themselves as specially chosen by God, or as divine, and go to war on that basis blinded by religious zeal or arrogance.

Religion is regularly made the excuse for rampant murder. The white horse is a warning to ‘go not after them’ (Luke 21:8), but its march is inevitable due to the nature of man. It will be noted that there is no stress on bloodshed with this horse (contrast the next horse). He goes out to spread his particular ‘truth’, the wholesale murder is secondary and not his main aim.

The bow in the hand of the rider shows him to be warlike but clearly distinguishes him from the rider on the white horse in Revelation 19:11-16. There is in fact not a single parallel apart from the white horse. This rider receives a single crown, while the rider in chapter 19 wears many diadems. This rider carries a bow, while the rider in chapter 19 has a sharp, two edged sword coming from His mouth.

But has the bow any meaning? In Psalms 120:4 lying lips and a deceitful tongue are likened to ‘the sharp arrows of the mighty’, an intriguing contrast with the sword of the Spirit of truth (Ephesians 6:17) and both the psalmist and Hosea speak of ‘the deceitful bow’ (Psalms 78:57; Hosea 7:16). Thus the bow, with which men are taken by surprise and brought down, is seen as a weapon of deceit. Indeed the bow in his hand may well have in mind the ‘fiery arrows’ of the Evil one (Ephesians 6:16). The white rider is out looking for people to strike down from a distance by stealth and deceit. While God deals directly, the Devil prefers subtlety. A bow was also carried in the hand of the mysterious Gog, who symbolised the forces of darkness (Ezekiel 39:3).

Furthermore the bow in the hand of the first rider, combined with the sword in the hand of the second, may have been gathered from Psalms 44:6, ‘For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me’ demonstrating that the riders are the opposite of those who trust in God, for they clearly do trust in their bow and sword.

‘A crown was given to him’. Even these horsemen are in the end controlled by God. Unless God had given a crown to the rider on the white horse, he would have had none. Thus even the mighty Roman emperors receive their crown from God. (The use of the passive tense in this way to indicate the action of God parallels Jesus’ similar use of the passive tense e.g. in the Beatitudes. It was a characteristic of apocalyptic literature). It is this alone that enables him to go out ‘conquering and to conquer’ (‘overcoming and to overcome’ - a deliberate parody of the behaviour of true believers who in Revelation also ‘overcome’).

This last phrase suggests an excessive determination to conquer. The fact that the crown is specifically stated to have been given by God (Paul had stated that the powers that be were ‘ordained of God’ (Romans 13:1)), and the fact of his rapacity in conquering, may again point to ‘divine’ Roman emperors as very much in mind here, for it would demonstrate to the readers that whatever their claims their crown came from God - and Rome’s thirst for conquest was a byword.

Some would say that the bow prevents too close an identification, but the figure was not intended just to depict Roman emperors, but all false Messiahs, and as we have seen, the writer uses the bow mainly to prevent identification with Christ (Revelation 19:15) and to indicate his more stealthy, deceitful and distant type of approach. As Jesus warned us, many a false Messiah will ride forth in history before the end.

Some have suggested that the bow indicates Eastern origins e.g. the Parthians, but the conquering of the first horse is in contrast with the taking peace from the earth of the second horse. Had it been the Parthians in mind we would expect the descriptions to be reversed. The fact that it represents false Messiahs and the equivalent comes out in that:

1) The horse is white, copying the horse of the true Messiah in Revelation 19:11.

2) The order of events in Jesus’ discourse shows false ‘Christs’ (Messiahs) as coming first.

3) The lack of emphasis on bloodshed.

4) The fact that the bow is linked with lying and deceit.

5) The deliberate emphasis on conquering or ‘overcoming’. He is a false ‘overcomer’.

6) In Ezekiel 14 the idea of ‘deceitful prophets’ (Ezekiel 14:9-10) precedes the four sore judgments which parallel the next three horses (Ezekiel 14:21).

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation

The mounted horses - Horse #1--6:2.

The horse is portrayed in the Old Testament as the noblest of animals. (Genesis 49:17; Job 39:19-25) The beasts of burden were oxen and asses, horses were warriors, reserved for the arsenals of war, used by kings, either mounted or harnessed to chariots. (Exodus 9:23; Esther 6:8) Solomon imported them from Syria and Egypt. (1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 10:26; 1 Kings 10:29; 2 Chronicles 1:14-17; 2 Chronicles 9:25) They were here in the apocalypse employed under different colors to represent the character of the event as Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 6:2-6, and to signify the fleetness and the strength to represent angels.

Before Solomon's time no horsemen were mentioned in the armies of Israel. The kings were forbidden to keep many horses (Deuteronomy 17:16), as a military disarmament plan to prevent oppression and tyranny; and as a domestic policy to prevent unnecessary burdens on the people by the imposition of taxes; and further to discourage trust in horses and chariots by Israel's kings, who were exhorted to put their trust in God. (Psalms 20:7) Solomon had horses in great number, which he kept for pomp rather than war. He is said to have had forty thousand stalls for his horses and chariots. It appears that Solomon specialized in horses and wives !

Among the heathen, horses were consecrated to the sun idol (2 Kings 23:11); for the worship of the sun by the easterns prevailed for many centuries, and the horse was consecrated to that deity over all the east. The sun-god was represented as riding his chariot drawn by the swiftest and most beautiful horses, completing every day the journey from east to west, for the communication of light to all mankind.

It is worthy of note that the secrets and ceremonies of some fraternal orders today, a certain one in particular, based on the ancient mysteries surrounding the god and goddess of the sun, Osiris and Isis, are not far removed from this ancient deism.

At one time the Lord forbade the kings of Judah to multiply horses as an embargo measure to prevent trade between Judah and Israel, fearing that by means of commerce, as a system of communication, Israel would become infected with the Egyptian idolatries.

In the Old Testament apocalypses, as in Revelation, the symbols of the horse and its rider were the most graphic, if not the most moving imagery. The striking resemblance in the vision of horses, in the first chapter of Zechariah, to that of the four horses in the sixth chapter of Revelation, parallels the historical events in the fortunes of Old Testament Israel with the corresponding experiences of the New Testament church.

The white horse (the first seal)--6:2.

"And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer."

The white horse and its rider were a symbol of the invincible Lord; riding a white horse was the symbol of majesty in a war of victory.

He (the Christ) that sat on him had a bow: The bow was for distance signifying a long conflict; the sword symbolized the clash of combat in the surge of battle. In the ancient armor, the arms of war were the shield, the sword, the spear and the bow. The bow was the instrument for shooting the arrow. This slender combustible missile shot from the bow was the chief dependence in attack and defence. David refers to "the sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper." (Psalms 120:4) The fire from combustible juniper wood was conveyed on the arrow tip to its target, and became a symbol of terror from God. (Psalms 38:2; Job 6:4) Along with lightning, thunder and famine, it was employed as a symbol of divine judgment. (2 Samuel 22:15) As a metaphor of the penetrating power of truth the arrow symbolized the word of God. David refers to "sharp" arrows in hearts causing men to yield to "the sceptre of righteousness." (Psalms 45:4-7) In the same figure the bow stands for fidelity and strength, as in Genesis 49:24, and Psalms 44:6. In the hand of the rider of the white horse the bow was the symbol of all these characters of conflict.

A crown was given unto him: This is a significant description as it is noteworthy that Vespasian who initiated, and Titus who executed, the Jewish war both received the imperial crown.

He went forth conquering, and to conquer: The conquest of Christ was not spontaneous, intermittent or spasmodic; it did not consist in single victories; it was a continuous, progressive conquest of hearts which no might could defeat.

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Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". 1966.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

John saw a horse, which was a war machine in his day (cf. Job 39:19-25; Psalm 76:5-6; Proverbs 21:31), and its rider (cf. Zechariah 1:7-11; Zechariah 6:2-3; Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 24:10; Jeremiah 42:17). The horse was white symbolizing victory, righteousness, and holiness. White has these connotations in other places in Scripture. The horse gave an appearance of purity, but that does not necessarily mean the rider was righteous.

"When men wage war they always pretend to be fighting for righteousness." [Note: D. T. Niles, As Seeing the Invisible, p58.]

The first four seal judgments involve riders riding horses of various colors. This imagery recalls Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 6:1-8. However the horses and horsemen in Revelation evidently represent something different from those in Zechariah, as comparison of these texts suggests.

The rider carried a bow (cf. Zechariah 9:13-14) symbolizing warfare, but no arrows. The absence of arrows probably indicates a bloodless victory. The rider threatens war (cf. Numbers 24:8; Psalm 45:5; Zechariah 9:14), but it does not occur, probably because he accomplishes victory through peaceful means. Someone, evidently God, gave him an imperial crown (Gr. stephanos) anticipating an authoritative career (cf. Revelation 9:1; Revelation 9:3; Revelation 9:5; Revelation 13:5; Revelation 13:7; Revelation 13:14-15). Conquerors also wore this type of crown. [Note: Swete, p86.] The sovereign God is the only one who can give human rulers authority to rule (cf. Romans 13:1).

"All events in the apocalyptic section of the book are initiated from the throne described in chapter4 ..., and must be understood in that light. Though indirect, all that transpires under the seals is in implementation of the "book of doom" through the agency of the Lamb introduced in chapter5." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 1-7, p423.]

This rider rode out conquering his enemies and bent on future conquests.

There have been many suggestions concerning who or what this rider represents. These include a Roman emperor, the Parthian invasion of the Roman Empire, Messiah, and the Antichrist. Others have taken him to represent the Word of God, a personification of judgment, the victorious course of the gospel, warfare in general, triumphant militarism, or the personification of ungodly movements. In the Olivet Discourse Jesus predicted that a number of individuals will mislead many people (cf. Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8). This has led some interpreters to conclude that a personification of ungodly activity is what the rider represents in this verse. [Note: Ibid, p422.] The most probable view is that this is a prophecy of Antichrist who will make a covenant with Israel but only as a pretense for destroying the Jews (cf. Daniel 9:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:3). [Note: See J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, p250.]

Daniel Wong concluded that the horseman is either Antichrist or a trend or movement of which he is the chief example. [Note: Daniel K. K. Wong, "The First Horseman of Revelation 6," Bibliotheca Sacra153:610 (April-June1996):212-26.] Several writers have argued that he is Christ. [Note: E.g, Zane C. Hodges, "The First Horseman of the Apocalypse," Bibliotheca Sacra119:476 (October1962):324-34; and Jack MacArthur, Expositional Comentary on Revelation, p137.] Newell believed the rider on the four horses in the first through the fourth seal judgments is Jesus Christ. [Note: Newell, pp102-6.] He viewed these judgments as an overview of the Lord Jesus" judgment on the world that he believed the following chapters reveal in more detail.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 6:2. All the figures of this verse are those of victory,—the horse and its whiteness, the crown, and the distinct statement at the close of the verse (comp. chap. Revelation 19:11; Revelation 19:14). The bow expresses the fact that the Conqueror sees and strikes down His enemies from afar.

The great question is, Who is this rider? On the one hand it might seem as if it cannot be the Lord Himself, for how in that case shall we preserve a perfect parallelism between the first vision and the three that follow it? Can Christ be named in the same category with War, Famine, and Pestilence? On the other hand, if it be not the Lord, how shall we draw a line of distinction between the first and the second vision? Both will symbolize war. Besides which, the last words of the verse to conquer so clearly point to complete and permanent victory that it is difficult to limit them to any lower object than the triumphant Saviour. In the Old Testament, too, the judgments of God are three, not four, in number, ‘the sword, the famine, and the pestilence’ (Ezekiel 6:11, etc.), exactly those found in the three following riders. We are thus led to see here our Lord in His cause and kingdom ‘riding prosperously (as in Psalms 45), because of truth and meekness and righteousness, His arrows sharp in the heart of His enemies, and His right hand teaching them terrible things.’ It is His kingdom, first in Himself and then in His people, who are one with Him and in Him, that passes before the Seer’s eye,—a kingdom which shall yet prevail over every adversary. By looking at the matter in this light we preserve the analogy of the four riders, not one of whom is strictly speaking a person, while at the same time we render full justice to each part of the figure. ‘Wars’ and ‘famines and pestilences’ are foretold in the same order by our Lord in Matthew 24:6-7.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

A white horse, such as conquerors used to ride upon at a solemn triumph. This is commonly understood of our Saviour, Christ, who, by himself and his apostles, preachers, martyrs, and other saints, triumphed over all the adversaries of his Church. He had a bow in his hand, the doctrine of his gospel, piercing like an arrow the hearts of the hearers; and the crown given him, was a token of the victory of him who went forth conquering, that he might conquer. (Witham) --- He that sitteth on the white horse is Christ, going forth to subdue the world by his gospel. The other horses that follow represent the judgments and punishment, that were to fall on the enemies of Christ and his Church: the red horse signifies war; the black horse famine; and the pale horse (which has death for its rider) plagues or pestilence. (Challoner) --- White horse; viz. Jesus Christ, who came to subdue all nations to the faith. The bow signifies the gospel, and the word of God, those powerful arms, of which St. Paul so often speaks, as being so necessary for all who are engaged in bringing souls to the faith of Christ. The crown marks the sovereign power of Jesus Christ, and the assurance of conquest. (Cornelius; Bossuet; Du Pin)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

The rider on the white horse must be Christ. White is used to symbolize purity and holiness, especially in this book. In Revelation 19:11-16, a rider on a white horse is clearly identified as Christ. He was described as a conqueror in 5:5 and is most logically the conqueror here. In fact, the entire book sets the Lamb up as one who has conquered or is conquering. (Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 12:11; Revelation 17:14) The bow was used for hunting or war. It seems likely we see here a weapon used by Christ against his enemies, perhaps even his word. (Psalms 45:5; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12) He is given a victory crown. It is not easy to believe God would give one to anyone other than Jesus.

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E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

behold. App-133.

he that sat, &c. Not to be identified with the white horse and rider of Revelation 19:11, for here is the beginning of the series of terrible judgments. See Revelation 6:12 and the order of events in Matthew 24:4-28.

on him = thereon. Greek. epi (App-104.) auton.

bow. Greek. toxon. Only here in N.T. Compare Revelation 4:3.

crown. See App-197.

given. The giver not mentioned. See Revelation 13:5, Revelation 13:7. Luke 4:6. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9.

unto = to.

went. Greek."came", see Revelation 6:1.

conquering, &c. Literally conquering and in order that (Greek. hina) he may conquer. The verb is the same as "overcame" in Revelation 2:7, &c.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

Christ, whether in person or by His angel, preparatory to His coming again, as appears from Revelation 19:11-12.

Bow - (Psalms 45:4-5.)

Crown, [ stefanos (Greek #4735)] - the wreath of a conqueror: also implied by His white horse, white being the emblem of victory. In Revelation 19:11-12, the last step in His victorious progress: accordingly there He wears many diadems [ diadeemata (Greek #1238); not merely stefanoi (Greek #4735), wreaths], personally attended by the hosts of heaven. Compare Zechariah 1:1-21; Zechariah 6:1-15; especially Revelation 6:10 below, with Zechariah 1:12 : cf. the colours of the four horses. The black is not in Zechariah.

And to (that He should) conquer - to gain a lasting victory. All four seals usher in judgments on the earth, as the power which opposes the reign of Himself and His Church. This, rather than conversion, is meant, though, secondarily, the elect will be gathered out through His Word and His judgments.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) Conquering, and to conquer.—Better, conquering, and that he might conquer. One version has, “and he conquered.” All commentators seem to be agreed that this rider represents victory. The emblems —the crown and white horse—are obviously those of victory. The crown (stephanos) is the crown of triumph. The horses used in Roman triumphs were white. On the white horse of triumph the crowned rider goes forth conquering, and that he might conquer. But who or what is here represented? Some take it to be a mere emblem of conquest, or victory, as the next rider represents war. There is then a harmony of interpretation: the horsemen reveal to the seer that the after-history will be marked by conquests, wars, famines, pestilences. The description, however, seems to demand something more: the expression, “that he might conquer,” carries our thoughts beyond a mere transient conqueror. The vision, moreover, was surely designed to convey an assured happy feeling to the mind of the seer. No picture of mere Roman conquests or world-victory would have conveyed this. Is not the vision the reflex of the hopes of early Christian thought? It is the symbol of Christian victory. It was thus their hopes saw Christ: though ascended He went forth in spiritual power conquering. They were right in their faith, and wrong in their expectation. Right in their faith: He went forth conquering, and He would conquer. Wrong in their expectation: the visions of war, famine, death must intervene. It was through these that the conqueror would be proved more than conqueror. It is, perhaps, significant of this intervening period of trouble and suffering that the rider is armed with a bow. The arrows of His judgments (war, famine) would be sharp among those who refused the sword of His word. For those who will not turn He hath bent His bow and made it ready. His arrows are ordained against the persecutors.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
a white
19:11,14; Zechariah 1:8; 6:3-8
and he that
Psalms 45:3-5; 76:7
and a
14:14; 19:12; Zechariah 6:11-13; Matthew 28:18
and he went
11:15,18; 15:2; 17:14; Psalms 98:1; 110:2; Isaiah 25:8; Romans 15:18,19; 1 Corinthians 15:25,55-57; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Reciprocal: Joshua 11:21 - Joshua destroyed;  2 Samuel 3:1 - David waxed;  Psalm 18:37 - GeneralPsalm 24:8 - The Lord strong;  Psalm 45:4 - ride;  Habakkuk 3:8 - ride;  Haggai 2:6 - and I;  Zechariah 6:2 - red;  Zechariah 9:14 - his;  Matthew 12:20 - till;  Luke 21:10 - Nation shall

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

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

Horses were used in war and it could mean either spiritual or carnal war depending upon the connection in which it is used. The rider on the horse had both a crown and a bow, which signified that he was a person of authority and that he would engage in war. The rider represents Christ who was fighting for the truth through the instrumentality of His disciples. The white horse agrees with the phrase conqzteriny and to conquer, for the Gospel won many battles over the foe in the first years of the church.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 6:2

Revelation 6:2. And I saw, and behold, a white horse; and He that sat on him had a bow, and a Crown was given unto him, And he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

It is usual in the prophets to signify great and wonderful transactions and dispensations of God, by warlike horses. { Zechariah 6:2-3; Zechariah 6:6-7} So in this chapter. { Revelation 6:4-5; Revelation 6:8} By this white horse we may understand the ministry of the gospel of peace and grace, especially the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit in the word preached. { Hebrews 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:5} Notwithstanding all the opposition and persecution of the Roman pagan emperors, and the Roman papal potentates.

And He that sat upon on the white horse;

that is the Lord Jesus Christ. { Revelation 19:11; Revelation 19:15}

had a bow and a crown;

That Isaiah, he first converted, and then crowned his converts, and made them a royal priesthood. { 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Psalm 45:1; Psalm 45:7} Thine arrows are sharp in the hearts of the kings enemies;( ride prosperously). Therefore the people fall under thee. { Psalm 45:5} So our Lord and King Jesus, did in the ministry of the gospel. Read; { Romans 15:19; Galatians 1:17; 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 5:13; Acts 15:1-22; Romans 1:15-16} Thus Christ came

forth conquering, and to conquer;

that Isaiah, as he did in the apostles days, so he will do in all generations, especially in the latter days: Who hath heard of such a thing; Shall a Nation be born in a day. { Isaiah 66:8; Isaiah 60:1-4; Isaiah 60:7; Joel 2:27-29} So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. { Acts 19:20} And so it will to the end. { Ephesians 4:11-13} Until we all come in the unity of faith unto a perfect Prayer of Manasseh, &c.

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation".

Harold Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

1. In verse2Christ opens THE FIRST SEAL

WHICH IS EVANGELISM--"And I saw A WHITE HORSE, and He that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given unto Him: and He went forth conquering and to conquer."

Any interpretation of the rider on the WHITE horse of this first seal must agree with that of chapter19 verse11, which reads "I saw heaven opened, and behold A WHITE HORSE. And He that sat upon it was called faithful and true, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war"--"His eyes were as a flame of fire" (that Isaiah, He searches out everything. He sees all--there are no secrets hidden from Him). And verse16 states, "His Name is King of kings and Lord of lords." Jesus Christ is the person in Revelation 6:1-17 verse2who sits on the WHITE HORSE of VICTORY, of CONQUEST.

This first seal reveals Christ going throughout the world preaching the gospel in a holy war against sin. Christian evangelism is marked by countless victories. In John"s day the Roman emperor claimed absolute power, but here in the first seal John saw that the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ will result in victories in his and all generations as the reign of Jesus Christ extends over surrendered Christians. Victory does not belong to temporal earthly powers--not even to Roman Emperors--but the bow and crown of victory is given to the evangel of the risen Christ.

Song of Solomon, in the first seal--The living Christ rides on the WHITE horse of gospel evangelism. EVANGELISM is the first seal.

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

Revelation 6:2. And I saw, and behold a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given him, and hemarched out conquering, and that he might conquer. Bengel remarks: "Much such another, one quite peculiar and incomparable rider upon a white horse, is to be seen in ch. Revelation 19:11; but this one in the first seal had to be exhibited in some proportion with the riders in the second, third, and fourth seals, that there might be only some distinguishing traits in him as compared with the others." The desired "proportion" must, no doubt, be found, but there is no proof of its needing to stand in the circumstances indicated by Bengel. Even if we understand by the rider on the white horse here, in accordance with ch. Revelation 19:11, Christ, there still exists between this seal and the others both a formal agreement and a matter-of-fact one also, in so far as the appearance here, as well as the others, threatens destruction to the anti-christian world, and brings it. This essential and indispensable point of unity is entirely left out of view by Bengel. According to him it was the appearance of the reign of Trajan that was represented, and so the church, instead of getting an answer to her anxious and sorrowful question, "Lord, how long?" gets only a bald proof of the omniscience of God: "Trajan's reign could have been guessed by no human sagacity, and yet the things which were to take place under it shortly after the vision of John in Patmos, were so clearly announced beforehand." That by such an interpretation the connection is quite broken between this appearance and what follows in the other seals, is clear as day. But for the identity of the rider on the white horse here with that in ch. Revelation 19:11, "And I saw the heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and he that sat upon him is called true and faithful, and he judges and makes war in righteousness," there are the following reasons.

1. The agreement with ch. Revelation 19:11 is of the greater moment as the end of Christ's war and victory there corresponds with the beginning here.

2. That the rider here is no other than Christ is clear from the unmistakeable reference of this passage to the Messianic Psalms 45, which is distinctly referred to Christ in Hebrews 1:8. The royal dignity, the sitting upon a horse, the bearing of a bow, the going forth to fight, the fulness of victory, all, excepting only the white colour of the horse, presents itself there again.

3. The original passage for the whole first four seals is Zechariah 1:7-17 (where see the Christology). The starting-point there, too, is the prosperity of the world, the distress of the church; and the subject is the announcement of the impending judgment on the world. That judgment the prophet there also incorporates under an equestrian figure. He sees a proud rider on a red horse in the myrtle bush of a deep valley, surrounded by red, bay, and white horses. He recognises in the rider at the head the angel of the Lord, and in his attendants the angels that serve him. In that portraiture also the angel of the Lord, the Logos, appears at the head.

4. Only if Christ here appears at the head will the design and import of the following appearances become clear. They then present themselves as means for accomplishing the victory of Christ, which they must necessarily be from the starting-point of the whole book and from the connection of the introductory chapters, in which everything serves as a preparation for an exhibition of the victory of Christ over the world. In the second, third, and fourthhorses by themselves there is only a fact set forth which can be contemplated from several points of view. We take the right one only when we refer Revelation 6:2 to Christ. In Zechariah also the signification of the symbol would have been doubtful if the angel of the Lord had not been at the head, whose appearance as such announced the salvation of the church, the destruction of the world.

Comp. John 17:9.

5. The difference, along with the agreement, between the first appearance and those that follow, discovers itself in the "voice of thunder," the "Come and see," and "there went out another horse," in Revelation 6:4, which is said in respect to the second horse only from its relation to the first, and must, therefore, point to a diversity. 6. The crown is not the victor's crown, but the badge of royal dignity. This shows that the first rider cannot, according to Zllig's opinion, be like the rest, "a plague-spirit," and points to Christ, who, according to ch. Revelation 19:16, has a name written upon his garments and upon his thigh: "King of kings and Lord of lords." That the discourse here cannot be of a victor's crown is evident alone from the consideration that he receives it before he goes out to fight, and in ch. Revelation 14:14 also he appears having a golden crown on his head.

The white, λευκό ς, luceo, to enlighten, shine, is throughout the Revelation the colour of lucid splendour, the symbolical image of glory.

Comp. on ch. Revelation 4:4, and hence the prevailing colour in the appearances of Christ; comp. ch. Revelation 1:14, "But his head and his hair white as wool." The white horse has respect to the glory at once of his person and of his operations. Vitringa distinguishes unnecessarily between things that are most essentially limited. That the latter could not be excluded is plain from the analogy of the other horses, the colours of which foreshadow what was to be done by the riders, as also from the analogy of the horses in Zechariah in the passage already referred to, and in ch. Revelation 6:1-8.

The crown is given to the rider, materially, that he may bear it in his warlike and victorious march. The king wears the royal crown only when he is engaged in kingly actions.

We must not interpret: conquering and so that he conquered; but only: conquering and that he might conquer. Victory and nothing but victory! The expression: and that he might conquer, is a substitute for the annexed infinitive absol. in Heb., which "describes vividly unceasing progress." Ewald, 280, b. It might also have stood: conquering and conquering, or, so that he conquered and conquered.

The object of the victory can only be the world as hostile to Christ. Viewed in regard to it, the affirmation, "This is no image of terror but of joy," must be changed into the opposite. We must not, also, determine the relation of this horse to the following ones, so as to imply that this brings victory and these three misfortune. The description of a court of judgment opens the whole group. The book with the seven seals is the book of the judgment which God suspends over an ungodly world for the deliverance of his people. This character of it must necessarily come out to view in the first vision. Then in support of this view is the analogy of ch. Revelation 19:11, where also the appearance of him who sits upon the white horse is terrible and appalling to the enemies. Finally, if we were to regard this first appearance as one altogether cheering and joyful, we must destroy its connection with the three following, and overlook the fact that the three last riders form the sequel to the first, are the instruments of his victory. (Bossuet: "In his train march the three scourges of the wrath of God, as they were presented to David, 2 Samuel 24:13, war, famine, and pestilence."). Behind the punishment there is salvation also for the world, if they submit to the punishment, and the case referred to in ch. Revelation 9:20, and Revelation 16:11, does not enter, of salvation being hid. The book is primarily a book of consolation for the church. This in all its feebleness and tribulation shall be revived by having the image of its heavenly King placed before its eyes, as he goes forth with invincible might to win a sure and glorious victory.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2.Behold—As each seal is opened, the symbol does not remain as a picture on the visible page, but with a visional freedom springs forth a living, moving object, or series of objects.

A white horse—The white horse was, in antiquity, a symbol of victory. The conqueror, in triumphal processions, rode on a white horse. And hence the Messiah, in Revelation 19:11, rides a “white horse.” From this fact many commentators identify the two, and interpret this symbol as the going forth of a conquering gospel. Such a meaning would not allow it to coordinate with the rest of the four, which are all symbols of earthly woe. It would stand alone among all the first four symbols of the entire three serial sevens. Hengstenberg, indeed, replies, that Christ’s going forth would coordinate, because it is a judgment on the profane. But, 1. Hengstenberg emphasizes too strongly the phase of judgment, both in the theophany and this first four seals; and, 2. It would be equally true of the three spiritual seals that they are adverse, and even judgment, for the wicked.

Crown— Not so much the diadem of royalty as the chaplet of victory.

Was given unto him—By the force of events under divine permission. Similarly to the red horse of Revelation 6:4, and the pale horse of Revelation 6:8, power was given.


And to conquer—In the future. Present success is stimulant and surety for a full career of success. This well describes the progress of a Charlemagne or a Napoleon.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 6:2. White = royal and victorious colour, cf. the white horse of the Persian kings (Philostr. Vit. Ap. i.). The triumphant figure of the mounted bowman is by no means to be identified with that of the Christian messiah or of the gospel. It would be extremely harsh and confusing to represent the messiah as at once the Lamb opening the seal and a figure independently at work. The initial period of the gospel was not one of irresistible triumph, and matters have become too acute for John to share the belief voiced in Mark 13:10. Besides, the messiah could hardly be described as preceding the signs of his own advent, nor would he be on the same plane as the following figures. The vision is a tacit antithesis, not an anticipation, of Revelation 19:11 f.; the triumph of the world which opens the drama is rounded off by an infinitely grander triumph won by Christ.— . . . . John was too open-eyed to ignore the fact that other forces, besides the Christian gospel, had a success of their own on earth. What is this force? Not the Roman Empire, as if the four steeds represented the first four emperors (so, variously, Renan, Spitta, Weizsäcker), but a raid of the Parthians (so most edd. from Vitringa to Erbes, Völter, Holtzm., Bousset, Bruston, Ramsay, Scott), which represented war in its most dreaded form for inhabitants of the Eastern provinces. There is no need to find any definite reference to the raid of Vonones (Wetstein) or of Vologesus who invaded Syria in 61–63 A.D. The simple point of the vision is that the Parthians would be commissioned to make a successful foray, carrying all before them. The bow was the famous and dreaded weapon of these oriental cavalry; was a title of Seleucus, and of the Persian satrap. One plausible hypothesis (developed by Erbes) refers the basis of the seal-visions to (a) the triumphs of Augustus and Tiberius, (b) the bloody feuds in Palestine under Caligula, (c) the famine in Syria under Claudius (Acts 11), (d) the subsequent pestilence, (e) the Neronic martyrs, and (f) the agitations of the empire under Galba, etc. (for portents cf. Plin. Ep. vi. 16, 20; Tacit. Hist. i. 4). But a similar collocation of portents is found in the reign of Titus; and apart from the misinterpretation of the first seal, it is arbitrary and jejune to suppose that this prophet’s splendid, free reading of providence was laboriously spelt out from details of more or less recent history.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

The Bible Study New Testament

2. There was a white horse. The Rider on the white horse symbolizes Christ. [This is still a vision.] The bow, the crown, and the white horse, are symbolic of conquest and victory. As a conqueror to conquer. Christ is a conqueror (Revelation 3:21). He has already conquered death and the world of the dead (Acts 2:24; Revelation 1:18). Compare the Rider in Revelation 19:11 ff. Christ stands among his gold lampstands (Revelation 1:12 ff), and this can be taken as symbolic of his conquest through his church. It is the church (the messianic community) which is commanded to: “Go!” (Matthew 28:19-20).




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 6:2". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.