Revelation 1:14
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow.—The whiteness here is thought by some to be the token of the transfiguration in light of the glorified person of the Redeemer. “It is the glorious white which is the colour and livery of heaven.” This doubtless is true; but it appears to me a mistake to say that there is no hint here of age. It is argued that the white hair of age is a token of decay, and that no such token would have place here; but surely this is straining a point, and making a mere emblem an argument. Age and youth alike have their glories; the glory of young men is their strength; the hoary head, too, the token of experience, dignity, authority, is the glory of age. Physically, white hair may be a sign of decay; typically it never is, else the effort to produce the appearance of it in the persons of monarchs and judges would never have been made. The white head is never in public sentiment other than the venerable sign of ripe knowledge, mature judgment, and solid wisdom; and as such it well betokens that full wisdom and authority which is wielded by the Ancient of Days, who, though always the same in the fresh dew of youth, is yet from everlasting, the captain of salvation, perfect through suffering, radiant in the glorious youthhood of heaven, venerable in that eternal wisdom and glory which He had with the Father before the world. (Comp. Daniel 7:9.) “He was one,” Saadias Gaon beautifully says, “with the appearance of an old man, and like an old man full of mercies. His white hair, His white garments, indicated the pure, kind intentions He had to purify His people from their sins.”

His eyes were as a flame of fire.—Comp. Revelation 19:12; Daniel 10:6. The eyes of the Lord, which are in every place, beholding the evil and the good, are here described as like unto fire, to express not merely indignation (He had looked once on the Jewish rulers in indignation) against evil, but determination to consume it; for our God is a consuming fire, purging away sin from those who forsake sin, and consuming in their sin those who refuse to be separated from it. (See Revelation 20:9; Daniel 7:9-10; Jude 1:7.)

1:12-20 The churches receive their light from Christ and the gospel, and hold it forth to others. They are golden candlesticks; they should be precious and pure; not only the ministers, but the members of the churches; their light should so shine before men, as to engage others to give glory to God. And the apostle saw as though of the Lord Jesus Christ appeared in the midst of the golden candlesticks. He is with his churches always, to the end of the world, filling them with light, and life, and love. He was clothed with a robe down to the feet, perhaps representing his righteousness and priesthood, as Mediator. This vest was girt with a golden girdle, which may denote how precious are his love and affection for his people. His head and hairs white like wool and as snow, may signify his majesty, purity, and eternity. His eyes as a flame of fire, may represent his knowledge of the secrets of all hearts, and of the most distant events. His feet like fine brass burning in a furnace, may denote the firmness of his appointments, and the excellence of his proceedings. His voice as the sound of many waters, may represent the power of his word, to remove or to destroy. The seven stars were emblems of the ministers of the seven churches to which the apostle was ordered to write, and whom Christ upheld and directed. The sword represented his justice, and his word, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, Heb 4:12. His countenance was like the sun, when it shines clearly and powerfully; its strength too bright and dazzling for mortal eyes to behold. The apostle was overpowered with the greatness of the lustre and glory in which Christ appeared. We may well be contented to walk by faith, while here upon earth. The Lord Jesus spake words of comfort; Fear not. Words of instruction; telling who thus appeared. And his Divine nature; the First and the Last. His former sufferings; I was dead: the very same whom his disciples saw upon the cross. His resurrection and life; I have conquered death, and am partaker of endless life. His office and authority; sovereign dominion in and over the invisible world, as the Judge of all, from whose sentence there is no appeal. Let us listen to the voice of Christ, and receive the tokens of his love, for what can he withhold from those for whose sins he has died? May we then obey his word, and give up ourselves wholly to him who directs all things aright.His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow - Exceedingly or perfectly white - the first suggestion to the mind of the apostle being that of wool, and then the thought occurring of its extreme whiteness resembling snow - the purest white of which the mind conceives. The comparison with wool and snow to denote anything especially white is not uncommon. See Isaiah 1:18. Prof. Stuart supposes that this means, not that his hairs were literally white, as if with age, which he says would be incongruous to one just risen from the dead, clothed with immortal youth and vigor, but that it means radiant, bright, resplendent - similar to what occurred on the transfiguration of the Saviour, Matthew 17:2. But to this it may be replied:

(a) That this would not accord well with that with which his hair is compared - snow and wool, particularly the latter.

(b) The usual meaning of the word is more obvious here, and not at all inappropriate.

The representation was suited to signify majesty and authority; and this would be best accomplished by the image of one who was venerable in years. Thus, in the vision that appeared to Daniel Dan 7:9, it is said of him who is there called the "Ancient of Days," that "his garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool." It is not improbable that John had that representation in his eye, and that therefore he would be impressed with the conviction that this was a manifestation of a divine person. We are not necessarily to suppose that this is the form in which the Saviour always appears now in heaven, anymore than we are to suppose that God appears always in the form in which he was manifested to Isaiah Isa 6:1, to Daniel Dan 7:9, or to Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu in the mount, Exodus 24:10-11. The representation is, that this form was assumed for the purpose of impressing the mind of the apostle with a sense of his majesty and glory.

And his eyes were as a flame of fire - Bright, sharp, penetrating; as if everything was light before them, or they would penetrate into the thoughts of people. Such a representation is not uncommon. We speak of a lightning glance, a fiery look, etc. In Daniel 10:6, it is said of the man who appeared to the prophet on the banks of the river Hiddekel, that his eyes were "as lamps of fire." Numerous instances of this comparison from the Greek and Latin Classics may be seen in Wetstein, in loco.

14.—Greek, "But," or "And."

like wool—Greek, "like white wool." The color is the point of comparison; signifying purity and glory. (So in Isa 1:18). Not age, for hoary hairs are the sign of decay.

eyes … as … flame—all-searching and penetrating like fire: at the same time, also, implying consuming indignation against sin, especially at His coming "in flaming fire, taking vengeance" on all the ungodly, which is confirmed as the meaning here, by Re 19:11, 12.

His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow: whiteness signifies purity; whiteness of hair signifies old age ordinarily, which commonly is attended with more prudence, as having most experience: hence this appearance of Christ may denote both his purity and wisdom, and that he is the Ancient of days; see Daniel 7:9,13,22; though there the term of Ancient of days belongs to God the Father, yet it also agreeth to Christ, who is equal with the Father, as to his Divine nature.

And his eyes were as a flame of fire; such an appearance is applied to God, Ezekiel 1:27 Daniel 10:6; and to Christ, Revelation 19:12, to denote either Christ’s knowledge, wisdom, and omniscience; or his grace in purifying souls, as fire doth metals; or his wrath and anger against his enemies. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow,.... In allusion to the white head and hairs of old men, said to be hoary, or like the hoar frost, and compared to an almond tree in bloom, Ecclesiastes 12:5; and here to wool and snow for whiteness; see Ezekiel 27:18; and according to the Jews (p), , "white wool", is the wool of a lamb just born, about which a cloth is bound, that it may not be defiled; now these metaphors are expressive of the antiquity of Christ, who is the everlasting Father, and whose goings forth were of old, even from everlasting; and of his senile gravity and prudence, for with the Ancient is wisdom; he is the wisdom of God, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid; and also of his glory and majesty, being the brightness of his Father's glory; and likewise of his true and proper deity, since this description is the same with that of the Ancient of days in Daniel 7:9; for by his head is not here meant either God the Father, who is sometimes called the head of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:3, nor his divine nature, which is the chief and principal in him, nor his headship over the church; nor do his hairs intend his elect, which grow upon him, and are nourished by him, and are so called for their number, weakness, and purity:

and his eyes were as a flame of fire: see Daniel 10:6; which may design the omniscience of Christ, which reaches to all persons, and things, and is very searching and penetrating, and discovers and brings to light things the most dark and obscure; and also Christ's eyes of love upon his own people, which have both heat and light; Christ's love never waxes cold, and, being shed abroad in the hearts of his people, warms theirs; and in the light of his gracious countenance do they see light; and his love, like flames of fire, melts their souls into a true and genuine repentance for sin: or else, rather his eyes of wrath and vengeance, as set upon his enemies, are here meant: which will be fierce and furious, bring swift and sudden destruction on them, before which there is no standing, and from which there is no fleeing. It is said of Augustus Caesar, that he had fiery eyes (q),

(p) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 54. 1. Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Sabbat, c. 5. sect. 2.((q) Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 8. p. 13. 55.

{8} And I turned to {k} see the voice that spake with me. {9} And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;

(8) The exposition, declaring the third and last point of the proposition (for the other points are evident of themselves) in which is he first speaks of the author of his calling (till verse 17), and secondly, of the calling itself Re 1:17-20. First of all the occasion is noted in this verse, in that John turned himself towards the vision, and after he sets down the description of the author, in the following verses, Re 1:13-16.

(k) To see him whose voice I had heard.

(9) The description of the Author, who is Christ: by the candlesticks that stand about him, that is, the churches that stand before him, and depend upon his direction. In Re 1:13 he is described by his properties, that he is provided with wisdom and dexterity for the achieving of great things, and in Re 1:14 with ancient gravity and most excellent sight of the eye. In Re 1:15 he is described with strength invincible and with a mighty word, and in Re 1:16 by his ruling of the ministry of his servants in the Church by the sword of his word, and enlightening all things with his countenance, and mightily providing for everyone by his divine providence.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 1:14. To the general conception ἡ δὲ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ, the part which properly pertains to the description is attached by the more accurately determining καὶ.[763] Thus there is a dependence on the ἡ δὲ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ, corresponding to which are the special particulars, each of which is designated with the addition of αὐτοῦ; viz., οἱ ὀφθ. αὐτοῦ, οἱ ποδ. αὐτοῦ, and ἡ φων. αὐτοῦ, while the καὶ αἱ τριχ. is without the αὐτοῦ.[764] The order of thought is not, therefore, as De Wette proposes, first concerning the whole of the head, to which also face and beard belong, and then especially to the hair of the head.

The whiteness of the hair signifies neither the freedom from sin of Christ’s earthly life,[765] nor in general the holiness peculiar to him;[766] nor does it designate merely the heavenly light-nature.[767] Christ rather appears here to the Christian prophet in the same divine brilliancy in which Daniel[768] beheld not the Son of man, but the Ancient of days, whose eternity is designated by the whiteness of his hair. This interpretation[769] is justified not only by the type in Daniel, but also by the fact that Christ represents himself as the Eternal One, like the Father, Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8, in his words, corresponding to his manifestation, Revelation 1:17-18; cf. Revelation 2:8. The eyes, “as a flame of fire,”[770] are, as all the other features, not without significant reference to the revelation itself.[771] By Revelation 2:18, Revelation 19:12,[772] the idea is presented not of omniscience in general,[773] also not of punitive justice,[774] or of holiness consuming all that is impure[775] without regard to omniscience, but of omniscience combined with holy wrath directed against all that is unholy.

[763] Cf., also, Bengel, Hengstenb., Ebrard.

[764] In Daniel 7:9, according to the LXX., there stands, on the other hand, καὶ ἡ θρὶξ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ.

[765] Areth., Coccej., Vieg.

[766] Hengstenb., who, however, understands at the same time, “the majesty of glory.”

[767] De Wette.

[768] Revelation 7:9.

[769] Cf., also, C. a Lap., Calov., Vitr., Storr., Diss. in Apoc., quaed. loc.; Commentatt. ed. Velthusen, etc., iv. 439; Stern, etc.

[770] Revelation 19:12; Daniel 10:6; cf. Virg., Aen., v. 647 sqq.: “Divini signa decoris ardentesque notate oculos—qui voltus vocisque sonus” (“Note the marks of divine beauty and the glowing eyes; what is the countenance, and sound of the voice”). Hom., Il., xix. 365 sqq.: τὼ δὲ οἱ ὄσσε λαμπέσθην ὡσεί τε πυρὸς σέλας (“The eyes shone like the brightness of fire”).

[771] On the other hand, De Wette: “An exaggeration of the spirited, fiery glance of human eyes, to the penetrating, consuming gaze of such eyes as belong to celestial beings, as the Greeks also ascribe to their gods, and as the Son of God has it in an unparalleled way.”

[772] Cf. Psalm 18:9; Psalm 97:3; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Hebrews 12:29.

[773] Vitr., Calov., Beng., Stern.

[774] Hengstenb.; cf. Ribera, C. a Lap.

[775] Ebrard.Revelation 1:14. ὡς χ.; another conventional simile for celestial beings. ἡ κ. κ. αἱ τ., a pleonastic expression; either = “his head, i.e. his hair,” or “his forehead and his hair”; scarcely a hendiadys for “the hair of the head” (Bengel). Jewish tradition rationalised the white hairs into a proof of God’s activity as a wise old teacher (Chag. 14, cf. Proverbs 20:27 f.), and the Daniel-vision might suggest the fine paradox between the divine energy and this apparent sign of weakness. But such traits are probably poetical, not allegorical, in John’s vision; they body forth his conception of Jesus as divine. In Egyptian theology a similar trait belongs to Ani after beatification. The whole conception of the messiah in the Apocalypse resembles that outlined in Enoch (Similitudes, xxxvii.–lxxi.), where he also possesses pre-existence as Son of man (xlviii) sits on his throne of glory (xlvii. 3) for judgment, rules all men (lxii. 6), and slays the wicked with the word of his mouth (xlii. 2); but this particular transference to the messiah (Revelation 1:14; Revelation 1:17-18, Revelation 2:8, Revelation 22:12-13), of what is in Daniel predicated of God as the world-judge, seems to form a specifically N.T. idea, unmediated even in Enoch (xlvi. 1), although the association of priestly and judicial attributes with those of royalty was easy for an Oriental (it is predicated of the messiah by Jonathan ben Usiel on Zechariah 4:12-13). ὡς φλὸξ πυρός, like Slav. En. i. 5, from Daniel 10:6; cf. Suet. August. 79, “oculos habuit claros et nitidos, quibus etiam existimari uoluit inesse quiddam diuini uigoris; gaudebat-que si quis sibi acrius contuenti quasi ad fulgorem solis uultum submitteret”. Divine beauty was generally manifested (Verg. Aen. ver. 647 f.) in glowing eyes (insight and indignation), the countenance and the voice; here also (Revelation 1:15) in feet to crush all opposition. The messiah is not crowned, however (cf. later, Revelation 19:12). χ. = some hard (as yet unidentified) metal which gleamed after smelting. The most probable meaning of this obscure hybrid term is that suggested by Suidas: χαλκοίβανον· εἶδος ἠλέκτρου τιμιώτερου χρυσοῦ, ἔστι δὲ τὸ ἤλεκτρον ἀλλότυπον χρυσίον μεμιγμένον ὑέλῳ καὶ λιθείᾳ (ἤλ. actually occuring in LXX, Ezekiel 1:27). The reference then is to amber or to some composition like brass or (copper) bronze; only, it contains gold (cf. vulg. = aurichalcum, a valuable and gleaming metal). Abbott (201) sees a corruption of some phrase like χαλκὸν ἐν κλιβάνῳ, while others suggest χαλκός and לבן (i.e., glowing white brass). Haussleiter would upon inadequate grounds omit ὡς ἐκ. κ. πεπ. (219–24).14. like wool, as white as snow] Either these words are to be taken together, ‘like wool white as snow’ or we must punctuate “were white like white wool, like snow.” Though the Person seen is the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13, the description is more nearly that of the Ancient of Days, ibid. 9. We need not wonder that Their union was made more plain to the later Prophet.Revelation 1:14. Ἡ κεφαλὴ καὶ αἱ τρίχες) ἕν διὰ δυοῖν: that is, the hair of His head. Thus John saw it.Verse 14. - His head. From the garments of the great High Priest, St. John passes on to himself. What he had seen as a momentary foretaste of glory at the Transfiguration, he sees now as the abiding condition of the Christ. In Daniel 7:9 "the Ancient of days" has "the hair of his head like pure wool." This snowy whiteness is partly the brightness of heavenly glory, partly the majesty of the hoary head. The Christ appears to St. John as a son of man, but also as a "Divine Person invested with the attributes of eternity." As a flame of fire. "The Lord thy God is a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24). "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins" (Jeremiah 17:10). The flame purifies the conscience and kindles the affections. White (λευκαὶ)

See on Luke 9:29. Compare Daniel 7:9.

Wool - snow

This combination to represent whiteness occurs in Daniel 7:9, and Isaiah 1:18. Snow, in Psalm 51:7.

Flame of fire

Compare Daniel 10:6. Fire, in Scripture, is the expression of divine anger. The figure may include the thought of the clear and penetrating insight of the Son of Man; but it also expresses His indignation at the sin which His divine insight detects. Compare Revelation 19:11, Revelation 19:12. So Homer, of Agamemnon in a rage: "His eyes were like shining fire" ("Iliad," i., 104); also of Athene, when she appears to Achilles: "Her eyes appeared dreadful to him" ("Iliad," i., 200).

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