Revelation 10:11
And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
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(11) And he . . .—Better, And they (not “he,” as in the English version, but they say: an equivalent for “It was said,”) say to me, Thou must again prophesy concerning (or, with regard to) peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings many. He is told that the bitterness will arise in connection with his prophecies with regard to peoples and kings. This carries us on to the vision in the next chapter, where the two witnesses stand so solitary, and prophesy so mightily, yet so vainly, among men. He will have to tell the story of churches and peoples, priests and princes, unmindful of their high calling and their allegiance to their true king, and of their hatred of God’s mightiest and purest witnesses. The end, indeed, will come. The Church will be victorious. The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of Christ: but it will be through persecutions, apostasies, judgments. This is the sad vision he must describe. The interposed visions will answer the question, “What has the Church been doing?” but it will show how she has done that work, distressed by heresies, crippled by worldliness, trodden down by enemies, and, worse than enemies, foes veiled as friends. But this very vision will lead to the unfolding of the more truly spiritual aspects of the Church’s work, and of that conflict in which she contends with the multiform spirit and power of evil. Thus will he prophesy of peoples and kings many.

Revelation 10:11. And he said — Thou hast not yet finished the whole of thy work, in what thou hast already recorded of the visions of the Lord: but thou must again prophesy before, or to, many peoples and nations, &c. — Mede infers from hence, that the apostle is about to go over the same period of time that he had before been discoursing of, giving an account of the state of the church as he had just done of the state of the empire. But the new descriptions and new events to which the subsequent prophecies refer, that are introduced here, and which constitute the following chapters, are sufficient, without any peculiarity of interpretation, to justify the expression, Thou must prophesy again. Besides, as Bishop Newton observes, if the prophecy begin here again anew, the subject be resumed from the beginning, and all that follows be contained in the little book, then the little book contains more matter than the larger book; and part of the sealed book is made part of the open book, which is contrary to the regularity and order of the Apocalypse, and in a great measure destroys the beauty and symmetry of the different parts: for it is evident and undeniable that the seventh trumpet is the seventh part of the seventh seal, as the seventh seal is the seventh part of the sealed book, and consequently can be no part of the little open book, which ends, as we shall see, with the sixth trumpet, and immediately before the sounding of the seventh.

10:8-11 Most men feel pleasure in looking into future events, and all good men like to receive a word from God. But when this book of prophecy was thoroughly digested by the apostle, the contents would be bitter; there were things so awful and terrible, such grievous persecutions of the people of God, such desolations in the earth, that the foresight and foreknowledge of them would be painful to his mind. Let us seek to be taught by Christ, and to obey his orders; daily meditating on his word, that it may nourish our souls; and then declaring it according to our several stations. The sweetness of such contemplations will often be mingled with bitterness, while we compare the Scriptures with the state of the world and the church, or even with that of our own hearts.And he said unto me - The angel then said.

Thou must prophesy - The word "prophesy" here is evidently used in the large sense of making known divine truth in general; not in the comparatively narrow and limited sense in which it is commonly used, as referring merely to the foretelling of future events. See the word explained in the Romans 12:6 note; 1 Corinthians 14:1 note. The meaning is, that, as a consequence of becoming possessed of the little volume and its contents, he would be called to proclaim divine truth, or to make the message of God known to mankind. The direct address is to John himself; but it is evidently not to be understood of him personally. He is represented as seeing the angel; as hearkening to his voice; as listening to the solemn oath which he took; as receiving and eating the volume; and then as prophesying to many people; but the reference is undoubtedly to the far-distant future. If the allusion is to the times of the Reformation, the meaning is, that the end of the world was not, as would be expected, about to occur, but that there was to be an interval long enough to permit the gospel to be proclaimed before "nations, and tongues, and kings"; that in consequence of coming into possession of the "little book," the Word of God, the truth was yet to be proclaimed far and wide on the earth.

Again - πάλιν palin. This had been done before. That is, supposing this to refer to the time of the Reformation, it could be said:

(a) that this had been done before - that the gospel had been in former times proclaimed in its purity before "many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings"; and,

(b) that it would be done "again"; that is, though the Word of God had been hidden, and a mass of corrupt traditions had taken its place, yet the time would come when those pure truths would be made known again to all lands. This will explain the word "again" in this place - not meaning that John would do this personally, but that this would be in fact the result of the restoration of the Bible to the church.

Before many peoples - This word denotes people considered as masses, or as grouped together in masses, without reference to the manner in which it is done. It is used when we look on a mass of people, without taking into account the question whether they are of the same nation, or language, or rank. See the notes on Revelation 7:9. The plural is used here - "peoples" - perhaps to denote that those to whom the truth would be made known would be very numerous. They would not only be numerous in regard to the individuals to whom it would be communicated, but numerous considered as communities or nations.

And nations - The word "nations" here denotes people considered as separated by national boundaries, constitutions, laws, customs. See the notes on Revelation 7:9.

And tongues - People considered as divided by languages - a division not always or necessarily the same as that denoted by the word "people," or "nations" as used in this passage.

And kings - Rulers of the people. The meaning is, that the gospel would not only be borne before the masses of mankind, but in a special manner before kings and rulers. The effect of thus possessing the "little volume," or of the "open book" of revealed truth, would ultimately be that the message of life would be carried with power before princes and rulers, and would influence them as well as the common people.

In inquiring now for the proper application of this symbol as thus explained, we naturally turn to the Reformation, and ask whether there was anything in that of which this would he the proper emblem. The following things, then, are found in fact as occurring at that time, of which the symbol before us may be regarded as the proper representation:

(1) The reception of the Bible as from the hand of an angel - or its recovery from obscurity and forgetfulness, as if it were now restored to the church by a heavenly interposition. The influence of the Bible on the Reformation; the fact that it was now recovered from its obscurity, and that it was made the grand instrument in the Reformation, has already been illustrated. See the notes on Revelation 10:2. The symbolical action of taking it from the hand of an angel was not an improper representation of its reception again by the church, and of its restoration to its true place in the church. It became, as it is proper that it should always be, the grand means of the defense of the faith, and of the propagation of truth in the world.

(2) the statement that the little book when eaten was "in the mouth sweet as honey," is a striking and proper representation of the relish felt for the sacred Scriptures by those who love the truth (compare notes on Revelation 10:9), and is especially appropriate to describe the interest which was felt in the volume of revealed truth in the time of the Reformation. For the Bible was to the Reformers emphatically a new book. It had been driven from common use to make way for the legends of the saints and the traditions of the church. It had, therefore, when translated into the vernacular tongue, and when circulated and read, the freshness of novelty - the interest which a volume of revealed truth would have if just given from heaven. Accordingly, it is well known with what avidity and relish the sacred volume was studied by Luther and his fellow-laborers in the Reformation; how they devoured its doctrines; how they looked to it for comfort in their times of trial; how sweet and sustaining were its promises in the troubles that came upon them, and in the labors which they were called to perform.

(3) the representation that, after it was eaten, it was "bitter," would not improperly describe the effect, in some respects, of thus receiving the Bible, and making it the groundwork of faith. It brought the Reformers at once into conflict with all the power of the papacy and the priesthood; exposed them to persecution; aroused against them a host of enemies among the princes and rulers of the earth; and was the cause for which many of them were put to death. Such effects followed substantially when Wycliffe translated the Bible; when John Huss and Jerome of Prague published the pure doctrines of the New Testament; and when Luther gave to the people the Word of God in their own language. To a great extent this is always so - that, however sweet and precious the truths of the Bible may be to the preacher himself, one of the effects of his attempting to preach those truths may be such opposition on the part of people, such cold indifference, or such fierce persecution, that it would be well illustrated by what is said here, "it shall make thy belly bitter."

(4) the representation that, as a consequence of receiving that book, he would prophesy again before many people, is a fit representation of the effect of the reception of the Bible again by the church, and of allowing it its proper place there. For:


11. he said—A, B, and Vulgate read, "they say unto me"; an indefinite expression for "it was said unto me."

Thou must—The obligation lies upon thee, as the servant of God, to prophesy at His command.

again—as thou didst already in the previous part of this book of Revelation.

before, &c.—rather as Greek (epilaois), "concerning many peoples," &c., namely, in their relation to the Church. The eating of the book, as in Ezekiel's case, marks John's inauguration to his prophetical office—here to a fresh stage in it, namely, the revealing of the things which befall the holy city and the Church of God—the subject of the rest of the book.

Thou must prophesy again: these words (as many think) evince this a prophecy distinct from the former; he must prophesy again.

Before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings; who shall be concerned to hear what shall now be revealed to thee concerning the rise of antichrist, his rule and tyranny, and his fall and ruin, which are things began long before, during the periods of time, when the six before mentioned trumpets sounded, but were not there clearly revealed; which things I will reveal unto thee, that thou, and after thee the ministers of the gospel, may in their several periods reveal them in the hearing of many people, and nations, &c.; so that hereby John (as some think) was constituted a prophet to reveal the state of the church under antichrist, and his tyranny, and finally his ruin, which began at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, Revelation 11:15; but when it shall be finished, God alone must inform the world by the issues of his providence.

And he said unto me,.... That is, the angel, from whom John received the little book; the Alexandrian copy reads, "they said unto me": both the voice of God the Father from heaven, that bid him take the book, and the angel that bid him eat it:

thou must prophesy again before many people, and nations, and tongues, and kings; which is to be understood not of John's preaching again to many people, and nations, after his return from his exile at Patmos, as he had done before his banishment thither; and much less of his prophesying along with Enoch and Elias, towards the end of the world, grounded upon two fabulous notions, the one that Enoch and Elias will appear in person before the coming of Christ, and the other, that John died not, but is still alive somewhere, and will continue till Christ's second coming; but rather of his delivering more prophecies out of the open little book; not "before", as we render it, but either "concerning" many people, nations, tongues, and kings, as the Syriac version renders it: or "against" them, that is, those people, multitudes, nations, and tongues, over which the whore of Babylon reigns, or has reigned, and the ten kings, and kings of the earth she rules over, Revelation 17:12. Moreover, this may not so much design John's prophesying in person, as the prophesying: of the witnesses or ministers of the word in the several periods of time, whom John personated and represented; and of whom mention is made in the next chapter, to which this seems to be a transition.

{8} And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.

(8) A simple and plain declaration of the sign before, witnessing the divine calling of John, and laying on him the necessity of it.

Revelation 10:11. λέγ. μοι, an oblique, reverential way of describing the divine impulse, due to Aramaic idiom and common in later Biblical Hebrew (cf. Dalman, i., viii. 11). The series of oracles, thus elaborately inaugurated, is concerned increasingly (“again,” in view of Rev 4:4, 15, Revelation 7:4; Revelation 7:9, Revelation 8:13, Revelation 9:6; Revelation 9:16 f.) with those international movements (“kings” = φυλαί, or those in Revelation 17:10; Revelation 17:12) which a prophet related to the course of the divine kingdom. Strictly speaking, the revelation assimilated in Revelation 10:10-11 opens in 12., but the intervening passage is linked to both (see below). The first part of this passage (Revelation 11:1-13) evidently forms part of the βιβλαρίδιον (cf. Introd. § 2). Its enigmatic contents, interrupting the trumpet-visions with edges which do not fit into the context or the rest of the Apocalypse, point to the incorporation of a special and disparate source. Any analysis is more or less hypothetical, but the writer is evidently not moving with absolute freedom. He has his own end in view, but he reaches it, here as elsewhere (cf. Revelation 7:1 f.) by means of stepping-stones which originally lay in different surroundings. This is widely recognised by critics and editors, who commonly take 1–2 and 3–13 as separate oracles. Each indeed might be the torso of a larger source. But, in spite of the different descriptions of Jerusalem, the hypothesis of their original unity has much in its favour. How could so tiny a scrap of papyrus as that required for 1, 2 be preserved? Besides Revelation 10:3 goes with Revelation 10:2 (the prophetic mission as a counterpart to the punishment), the two periods are alike, the strange δίδωμι-construction occurs in both (here only in Apoc.), and the inversion of object and verb is common to both (Revelation 10:2; Revelation 10:5-6; Revelation 10:9-10). To discover an oracle of the Zealots in 1, 2 (Wellhausen, Bousset, Baljon, J. Weiss) is precarious, for even if we could suppose that these passionate citizens took time to write oracles, they had not a monopoly of belief in the temple’s inviolability. The latter belief conflicts with Mark 13:1-2 (Acts 6:14); but, while this makes it extremely unlikely that the passage was adopted, or at least composed, by one of the Twelve, it does not necessarily disprove a Jewish Christian origin for the fly-leaf. Patriotism must have often swayed hope, even in face of authoritative logia. Still, a Jewish origin is more probable (so from Vischer and Sabatier to Baljon, Forbes, von Soden, Wellhausen and J. Weiss), in which case 8 c (ὅπουἐσταυρώθη), with possibly 9 a and 12 b, must be Christianising touches by the editor. As 8 c is the only place in the Apocalypse where Jesus is thus designated (contrast 4), and as the unexampled αἱἑστῶτες occurs in 4, the editor may be using a previous translation of the fly-leat. Otherwise, the repeated traces of Hebraistic idiom suggest that he translated it from an Aramaic or Hebrew original (so especially Weyland, Briggs, and Bruston) which was a Jewish (or Jewish Christian) oracle, composed towards the end of the siege in 70 A.D. between May and August (cf. Joseph. Bell, ver 12, 3) by a prophet who anticipated (cf. S. C., 219, 220) that the temple and a nucleus of the God-fearing would be kept inviolate during the last times of the Gentiles, at the end of which anti-Christ or the pseudo-messiah would blasphemously re-assert himself in the temple (hence its preservation, 1, 2), according to one cycle of tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:3, etc., cf. A. C. 160 f.), after murdering the two heralds of messiah. The motives and further career of the beast are omitted, if not in the source, at least by the editor. He resumes the subject afterwards (cf. Revelation 13:6), when the eschatological monster is specially identified with the imperial power. Here his main concern is with the fate of the two witnesses. Probably it was this feature of the oracle which primarily led him to adopt and adapt it, as showing how the beast or anti-christ was foiled in his attack on messiah’s forerunners, just as (in 12) the dragon is foiled in his attack on messiah himself. The other details are left standing; in their present setting they have much the same pictorial and dramatic interest as the minutiæ of the parables, and it is perhaps doubtful whether the editor linked any symbolic or allegorical meaning to them, although such can easily be attached in a variety of ways, e.g., to the language of 1, 2 in the light of Barn. iv. 11, Ign. ad Magn. 7, etc. (so Weiss, Simcox, Swete, and others). Even the two witnesses are not to be identified with any historical figures of contemporary life, much less taken as allegorical or as typifying aspects of the church’s testimony. “The vision … is of the nature of a superimposed photograph showing traces of many pasts” (Abbott). The original Jewish tradition which lay behind the source expected only Elijah, who should preach repentance to the pagan world, but he was occasionally furnished with a companion in Moses (on the basis of Deuteronomy 18:15; cf. Malachi 4:4-5, the transfiguration-story, and possibly the two radiant saints of Apoc. Pet. 6 f.). The only other serious rival is Enoch, a grand figure in Jewish and early Christian eschatological tradition (for the curious Sir 44:16, cf. E. Bi. 1295). Later tradition, indeed, thinking mainly of Elijah and Enoch (Gfrörer ii. 261 f.; A. C. 203, 211), whom antichrist in wrath slays for their witness against him, and whom God (or Michael and Gabriel) resuscitates, suggests a fairly apposite cycle of belief which may reproduce the earlier Jewish expectation out of which the materials of this fragmentary oracle have been drawn. The unique character of this expectation is illustrated, not so much by Anu and Nudimmut, Marduk’s predecessors in the fight against Tiamât, as by the Zoroastrian belief that the temporary triumph of the evil spirit would be followed by the appearance of two reformers or prophets, Hushêdar and Hushêdaarmâh (S. B. E. xxiii. 195; cf. Hübschmann, 227), who would act each for a millenium on earth as the precursors and heralds of their Lord, the Persian messiah. This belief is much older than the sources in which it occurs, and like several other Zoroastrian traits, it may have fused with the Jewish expectation in question, though the Zoroastrian heralds do not appear simultaneously (cf. Encycl. Relig. and Ethics, i. 207). Here at any rate the appearance of the two anonymous and mysterious witnesses precedes the final outburst of evil (Revelation 11:7; Revelation 11:12 f.) and the manifestation of messiah (Revelation 11:15 f., Revelation 14:14 f.)—an idea for which no exact basis can be found in the strictly Jewish eschatology of the period. It may have grown up under the influence of this kindred trait in the adjoining province of Zoroastrian belief, unless the doubling of the witnesses was simply due to the side-influence of the Zechariah-trait (in Revelation 10:4). Wellhausen argues from the singular πτῶμα (Revelation 10:8-9) that the two witnesses were a duplication of the original single witness, i.e., Elijah; but the singular is collective, and there is no trace of any conflation with Jonah.

11. And he said] Read, And they say.

Thou must prophesy again] Some try to make out that there is here a new commission given to the Apostle, and that in the remainder of the book there are higher mysteries than in the foregoing part. But it is surely simpler to take it as a personal warning to the Apostle himself; he was to see the end of all things in vision, but his own earthly work and duties were not at an end. He had already “prophesied before many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (whether Nero or Domitian was the last of these): and he would have to do the same “again.”

Revelation 10:11. [106] Προφητεῦσαι, to prophesy) John acts in the vision throughout the whole course of the book.[107]

[106] πάλιν, again) as others have done, preceding thee, ver. 7.—V. g. βασιλεῦοι πολλοῖς, many kings) living contemporaneously with that period of time, which is mentioned ver. 6.—V. g.

[107] Bengel, J. A. (1866). Vol. 5: Gnomon of the New Testament (M. E. Bengel & J. C. F. Steudel, Ed.) (W. Fletcher, Trans.) (172–248). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Verse 11. - And he said unto me. Λὲγουσιν, "they say," is read in א, A, B, and thirty cursives, and is adopted in the Revised Version. λέγει, "he saith," is found in P and seventeen cursives. Λέγουσιν leaves the speakers quite indefinite, amounting, in fact, to no more than" it was said" (Alford); cf. τρέφωσιν in Revelation 12:6; also Daniel 7:5. 13. Thou must prophesy again. Thou retest, because it is laid upon thee by God's command. It is to be done again, because the seer has already to some extent set forth God's will in the earlier part of the book; and he is now required to proceed with the delivery of his message. "Prophesy" (as in Revelation 11:3) has rather its literal than its derived meaning. It is the telling forth of God's purposes, and may refer to past as well as present or future events. The sentence refers to the announcements made in the following part of the Apocalypse (vide infra). Bede and others take it to mean the Gospel of St. John, which was, perhaps, afterwards composed (see Introduction). Victorinus thinks it points to the period of St. John's return from Patmos to Ephesus, where the Apocalypse may have been published. Before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings; concerning many peoples, etc. (ἐπί, with dative). These are the objects of the prophecy, not the audience. This serves to explain the reference in the preceding sentence. The message is not delivered to, but about peoples, etc. The fourfold enumeration seems to point to the breadth of the signification - it embraces the whole of mankind (cf. Revelation 5:9). This is the end of what is called by many writers the first episode; the second follows. The incident is often alluded to as the "new commission" of St. John; but it seems less a new commission than a solemn re-enactment of the command delivered in Revelation 1.

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