|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
13:1-10 The apostle, standing on the shore, saw a savage beast rise out of the sea; a tyrannical, idolatrous, persecuting power, springing up out of the troubles which took place. It was a frightful monster! It appears to mean that worldly, oppressing dominion, which for many ages, even from the times of the Babylonish captivity, had been hostile to the church. The first beast then began to oppress and persecute the righteous for righteousness' sake, but they suffered most under the fourth beast of Daniel, (the Roman empire,) which has afflicted the saints with many cruel persecutions. The source of its power was the dragon. It was set up by the devil, and supported by him. The wounding the head may be the abolishing pagan idolatry; and the healing of the wound, introducing popish idolatry, the same in substance, only in a new dress, but which as effectually answers the devil's design. The world admired its power, policy and success. They paid honour and subjection to the devil and his instruments. It exercised infernal power and policy, requiring men to render that honour to creatures which belongs to God alone. Yet the devil's power and success are limited. Christ has a chosen remnant, redeemed by his blood, recorded in his book, sealed by his Spirit; and though the devil and antichrist may overcome the body, and take away the natural life, they cannot conquer the soul, nor prevail with true believers to forsake their Saviour, and join his enemies. Perseverance in the faith of the gospel and true worship of God, in this great hour of trial and temptation, which would deceive all but the elect, is the character of those registered in the book of life. This powerful motive and encouragement to constancy, is the great design of the whole Revelation.
Verse 1. - And I stood upon the sand of the sea. The Revised Version, agreeing with א, A, C, Vulgate, Syriac, AEthiopic, Armenian, Victorinus, reads ἐστάθη, "he stood." The Authorized Version follows the reading ἐστάθην, "I stood," which is found in B, P, Coptic, Andreas, Arethas. Fortunately, the point is not important. Whether St. John or the dragon stood on the edge of the sea is not material, since we are distinctly told that the ten-horned beast rose from the sea. Wordsworth aptly contrasts this station on the unstable sand in proximity to the sea, the clement of commotion, with the vision of the Lamb on Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1-5). The imagery which follows is founded upon the vision of Daniel 7. The phrase should probably be joined on to the preceding passage, as in the Revised Version. The new vision then opens in the customary manner with εῖδον, "I saw," as in Revelation 4, 5, 6, 7, etc. And saw a beast rise up out of the sea. Supply "I," and make this the beginning of the fresh paragraph (see above). The one beast here takes the place of the four beasts of Daniel 7, and is distinguished by the characteristics of the first three (see on ver. 2). This beast arises from the sea, the second beast from the earth (see ver. 11). They are the instruments of the woe which is denounced against the earth and the sea in Revelation 12:12. The sea, again, is the type of instability, confusion, and commotion, frequently signifying the ungovernable nations of the earth in opposition to the Church of God (cf. Revelation 17:15; Revelation 21:1). Probably this is the beast referred to in Revelation 11:7, and (more fully) in Revelation 17. It is the power of the world which is directed towards the persecution of Christians. Having seven heads and ten horns. Nearly every manuscript has, having ten horns and seven heads. The order is reversed in Revelation 12:3 and Revelation 17:3; possibly the horns are mentioned first in this passage, because they are first seen as the beast rises from the sea. The essential identity of this beast with the dragon of Revelation 12:3 is plainly shown. There Satan is described in his personal character; here he is described under the aspect of the persecuting power of the world. The symbolism is analogous to that found in Daniel 7, where we may find the key to the interpretation. First, the heads signify dominion. The head is naturally looked upon as the chief, the controlling and guiding part of the body; that part to which all the members of the body are subject. This is the idea conveyed in Daniel 7:6. The third beast there is distinguished by the possession of four heads, and (we are immediately told) "dominion was given to it." Seven, as we have repeatedly seen, is the number typical of universality (cf. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 5:1, etc.). The seven, heads, therefore, are symbolical of universal dominion. In the second place, horns are the type of power. Thus, in Daniel 7:7, the beast which is distinguished by the possession of the horns is described as being "diverse from all the beasts that were before it." It was "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it" (cf. Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 132:17; Jeremiah 48:25, etc.). The number ten is the sign of completeness; not of universality or totality, but of sufficiency and abundancy for the purpose in view (cf. Genesis 18:32, the ten righteous wanting at Sodom; Exodus 27:12, the ten pillars of the tabernacle; the ten commandments; the tithe; Psalm 33:2, etc.). The ten horns, therefore, denote plenitude of power. The words of this passage thus signify that the beast should possess worldwide dominion and ample power. These are the qualities ascribed to the power which Satan now directs against the "seed of the woman." At the time of the writing of the Apocalypse, this power was evidently heathen Rome; but the meaning may be extended to embrace all the forms which this world opposition has assumed, whether Roman, Mohammedan, or Gothic, etc. It is consequently unnecessary, as it certainly seems fruitless, to attempt to interpret the heads and horns of individual nations and kings. In endeavouring to do so, many writers have imported into the description here given other details from Daniel, or deduced by themselves, for which there is no warrant in the narrative here supplied. For the same reason, it is useless to inquire into the disposition of the ten horns and seven heads; since the whole is a figure intended to convey certain ideas, and is not a description of an actual bodily form. And upon his horns ten crowns. "Ten crowns;" διαδήματα, crowns denoting sovereignty; not στέφανος, the victor's wreath. The crowns upon the horns denote the sovereign nature of the power with which the beast is invested. The nations of the world who have persecuted the Church of God have the chief rule in this world. And upon his heads the name of blasphemy. The plural ὀνόματα, "names," adopted by the Revised Version, is found in A, B, Vulgate, Coptic, Andreas, Primasius. Alford reads the singular ὄνομα, with א, C, P, Coptic, Andreas, Primasius. There is no article. Possibly each head bore a name, which was the same in each case, and which might therefore with equal propriety be described as name or names. "Upon his heads" (ἐπὶ κεφαλάς); the accusative being used (as Afford suggests) because the action of inscription carries with it a tinge of motion. In the preceding clause we have the genitive Or; ἐπὶ κεράτων, where the preposition denotes rest. We have no hint given as to what the name was; the nature only is indicated. St. John very possibly had in his mind the mitre of the high priest, upon the plate of which was inscribed, "Holiness to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36). It is a "name of blasphemy;" that is, the worldly power, typified by this beast, denies the Divinity and might of the true God, and exalts itself above him. Bede, Hengstenberg, etc., see the fulfilment in the assumption by the Roman emperors of titles which belong rightly only to Christ - King of kings, Divus, etc. But the application is wider. As partial fulfilments of that which will never be completely fulfilled until the end of the world, we may mention Pharaoh, when he said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?" (Exodus 5:2); Sennacherib (2 Kings 18.); Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:22); as well as those since St. John's time who have blasphemed by denying the existence or omnipotence of Christ.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And I stood upon the sand of the sea,.... The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions read, "and he stood", &c. and so the Alexandrian copy; meaning the dragon, said to be wroth with the woman, and to go forth to make war with her seed, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, where some versions place this clause; and the Arabic version reads expressly, "and the serpent stood", &c. And this is thought by some to be the better reading, because of the connection with what goes before, and because there is no mention of the name of John, nor of his being called or removed from heaven, where he was beholding sights, and continuing the account of them, Revelation 4:1, as there is when he is shown sights elsewhere; see Revelation 17:3. And besides, as the dragon was contriving a new way of persecuting the saints, and about to raise up a beast out of the sea, by which he might do it, to whom he would give his power, seat, and authority, he is represented as standing in a proper place for this purpose; it was upon the sand, which may signify a multitude of people employed by him, and also may denote the weakness and failure of his efforts in the issue; yet the Greek copies in general agree in the common reading, and refer it to John, who stood on the shore of the isle of Patmos, and in a fit place, in a visionary way, to behold the following sight: for that the next clause belongs to him is without doubt,
and saw a beast rise up out of the sea: by which is meant, not the devil, because it is in Revelation 13:2, distinguished from the dragon, who is the devil and Satan, as also elsewhere, Revelation 16:13, nor the old Roman empire, though there are many things which seem to agree; the Roman monarchy is called a beast it is one of the four beasts in Daniel 7:2; which rose up out of the sea, from a multitude of people and nations, which were gathered to it and composed it. Rome Pagan had, as this beast has, seven heads and ten horns, Revelation 12:3; and had power over all nations, and is therefore sometimes called the whole world, and exercised great cruelty upon the Christians; but then this is signified by the red dragon itself, in the preceding chapter, and, besides, had risen up before the times of John, whereas this is one of the things shown him, which should be hereafter: this beast then was not, but was to come, Revelation 4:1; and was not to arise, nor did it arise till after the downfall of Rome Pagan, and after the Arian persecution, after the woman's flight into the wilderness, and after, and upon the inundation of the barbarous nations into the empire, as appears from the preceding chapter; nor will the time of this beast's duration agree with the old Roman empire, for this beast is to continue forty two months, Revelation 13:5; which is the whole time of the holy city being trodden under foot, and of the church's being in the wilderness, and of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth; whereas the Roman monarchy, governed by emperors, did not last four hundred years. Moreover, as this beast is distinguished from the dragon, so it is said to have its power from him; whereas the Roman empire was of God, and obedience and subjection to it are always recommended to the saints in the Scriptures, Romans 13:1, much less can the empire, as become truly Christian, be intended; nor are either the eastern or the Turkish empires designed, for neither of these had their seat at Rome, which the dragon save to this beast, but at Constantinople: it remains then, that by it meant the Roman empire, when divided into ten kingdoms, and united in the Papacy; or it designs Christ in his secular power, with the ten kings, that receive power with him as such one hour, and give their kingdom to him: now this beast is said to "rise up out of the sea"; either out of the abyss, the bottomless pit of hell, see Revelation 11:7; or out of the sea of this world, and the wicked in it, who are like a troubled sea that cannot rest; or out of the floods of errors and heresies, by which this man of sin was conceived and cherished, and a way was paved for his open rising and appearance in the world; or rather, since waters design, in this book, nations, people, and tongues, see Revelation 17:15; and the four beasts in Daniel are said to rise out of the sea, Revelation 7:2; and a multitude of people are compared to the waves of the sea, Ezekiel 26:3; see also Isaiah 17:12, where the Jewish writers say (b), the nations are compared to the sea, as Israel to the sand, the inundation of the barbarous nations, the Goths, Huns, and Vandals, into the empire, seem to be intended, which made great commotions and changes in it: these set up ten kingdoms in it, upon which antichrist arose, and placed himself at the head of them; these gave their kingdoms to the beast; and so may be said to give rise unto him, especially as to his secular power.
Having seven heads: which some understand the seat of knowledge, and seven a number of perfection; and so may refer to those boasted treasures of wisdom and knowledge which antichrist pretends to have, as being the judge of controversies, and the infallible interpreter of the Scriptures; or else the seven fold form of government among the Romans is intended, as in Revelation 12:3; or rather as it is interpreted in Revelation 17:9; the seven mountains on which Rome was built, and so design the city itself built on them, that being the metropolis of the empire; or the seven capital cities of the empire, as Mr. Daubuz thinks; the whole is meant, for it is the same Roman monarchy as before, only in a different form:
and ten horns; the ten kingdoms, into which the empire was divide it upon its being wasted and vanquished by the Goths, and the ten kings of them, which reigned with the beast, and gave their kingdoms to him; so horns signify kingdoms in Zechariah 1:18.
And upon his horns ten crowns; which distinguishes Rome Papal from Rome Pagan; the crowns in Rome Pagan were upon the heads, or the emperors, that resided at Rome; and though it had ten horns, as here, and was divided into so many provinces, which were governed by deputies, proconsuls, &c. yet they were not kings, they had no crowns; but here the horns have crowns on them because the governors of these ten kingdoms are crowned kings:
and upon his heads the name of blasphemy; which refers not to Rome Pagan being called the eternal city, and Rome the goddess, and the like; but to Rome Papal, or antichrist, who elsewhere is said to have the name "Mystery" written upon the forehead, and to have blasphemy on his heads; and is called blasphemy in the abstract, as being a most blasphemous creature against God, Christ, and his people, and so his name is suitable to his character, mouth, and language, Revelation 13:5; assuming that to himself which only belongs to God and Christ, as power over the conscience, to forgive sin, &c. and even deity itself; see 2 Thessalonians 1:4. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, read, "names of blasphemy".
(b) Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 41. 4. & 55. 2. & 63. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Re 13:1-18. Vision of the Beast that Came Out of the Sea: The Second Beast, Out of the Earth, Exercising the Power of the First Beast, and Causing the Earth to Worship Him.
1. I stood—So B, Aleph, and Coptic read. But A, C, Vulgate, and Syriac, "He stood." Standing on the sand of the sea, HE gave his power to the beast that rose out of the sea.
upon the sand of the sea—where the four winds were to be seen striving upon the great sea (Da 7:2).
beast—Greek, "wild beast." Man becomes "brutish" when he severs himself from God, the archetype and true ideal, in whose image he was first made, which ideal is realized by the man Christ Jesus. Hence, the world powers seeking their own glory, and not God's, are represented as beasts; and Nebuchadnezzar, when in self-deification he forgot that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men," was driven among the beasts. In Da 7:4-7 there are four beasts: here the one beast expresses the sum-total of the God-opposed world power viewed in its universal development, not restricted to one manifestation alone, as Rome. This first beast expresses the world power attacking the Church more from without; the second, which is a revival of, and minister to, the first, is the world power as the false prophet corrupting and destroying the Church from within.
out of the sea—(Da 7:3; compare Note, see on Re 8:8); out of the troubled waves of peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The earth (Re 13:11), on the other hand, means the consolidated, ordered world of nations, with its culture and learning.
seven heads and ten horns—A, B, and C transpose, "ten horns and seven heads." The ten horns are now put first (contrast the order, Re 12:3) because they are crowned. They shall not be so till the last stage of the fourth kingdom (the Roman), which shall continue until the fifth kingdom, Christ's, shall supplant it and destroy it utterly; this last stage is marked by the ten toes of the two feet of the image in Da 2:33, 41, 42. The seven implies the world power setting up itself as God, and caricaturing the seven Spirits of God; yet its true character as God-opposed is detected by the number ten accompanying the seven. Dragon and beast both wear crowns, but the former on the heads, the latter on the horns (Re 12:3; 13:1). Therefore, both heads and horns refer to kingdoms; compare Re 17:7, 10, 12, "kings" representing the kingdoms whose heads they are. The seven kings, as peculiarly powerful—the great powers of the world—are distinguished from the ten, represented by the horns (simply called "kings," Re 17:12). In Daniel, the ten mean the last phase of the world power, the fourth kingdom divided into ten parts. They are connected with the seventh head (Re 17:12), and are as yet future [Auberlen]. The mistake of those who interpret the beast to be Rome exclusively, and the ten horns to mean kingdoms which have taken the place of Rome in Europe already, is, the fourth kingdom in the image has TWO legs, representing the eastern as well as the western empire; the ten toes are not upon the one foot (the west), as these interpretations require, but on the two (east and west) together, so that any theory which makes the ten kingdoms belong to the west alone must err. If the ten kingdoms meant were those which sprung up on the overthrow of Rome, the ten would be accurately known, whereas twenty-eight different lists are given by so many interpreters, making in all sixty-five kingdoms! [Tyso in De Burgh]. The seven heads are the seven world monarchies, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, the Germanic empire, under the last of which we live [Auberlen], and which devolved for a time on Napoleon, after Francis, emperor of Germany and king of Rome, had resigned the title in 1806. Faber explains the healing of the deadly wound to be the revival of the Napoleonic dynasty after its overthrow at Waterloo. That secular dynasty, in alliance with the ecclesiastical power, the Papacy (Re 13:11, &c.), being "the eighth head," and yet "of the seven" (Re 17:11), will temporarily triumph over the saints, until destroyed in Armageddon (Re 19:17-21). A Napoleon, in this view, will be the Antichrist, restoring the Jews to Palestine, and accepted as their Messiah at first, and afterwards fearfully oppressing them. Antichrist, the summing up and concentration of all the world evil that preceded, is the eighth, but yet one of the seven (Re 17:11).
name of blasphemy—So C, Coptic, and Andreas. A, B, and Vulgate read, "names of blasphemy," namely, a name on each of the heads; blasphemously arrogating attributes belonging to God alone (compare Note, see on Re 17:3). A characteristic of the little horn in Da 7:8, 20, 21; 2Th 2:4.
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