Revelation 10:2
And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,
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10:1-7 The apostle saw another representation. The person communicating this discovery probably was our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or it was to show his glory. He veils his glory, which is too great for mortal eyes to behold; and throws a veil upon his dispensations. A rainbow was upon his head; our Lord is always mindful of his covenant. His awful voice was echoed by seven thunders; solemn and terrible ways of discovering the mind of God. We know not the subjects of the seven thunders, nor the reasons for suppressing them. There are great events in history, perhaps relating to the Christian church, which are not noticed in open prophecy. The final salvation of the righteous, and the final success of true religion on earth, are engaged for by the unfailing word of the Lord. Though the time may not be yet, it cannot be far distant. Very soon, as to us, time will be no more; but if we are believers, a happy eternity will follow: we shall from heaven behold and rejoice in the triumphs of Christ, and his cause on earth.And he had in his hand a little book open - This is the first thing that indicated the purpose of his appearing, or that would give any distinct indication of the design of his coming from heaven. The general aspect of the angel, indeed, as represented in the former verse, was that of benignity, and his purpose, as there indicated, was light and peace. But still there was nothing which would denote the particular design for which he came, or which would designate the particular means which he would employ. Here we have, however, an emblem which will furnish an indication of what was to occur as the result of his appearing. To be able to apply this, it will be necessary, as in all similar cases, to explain the natural significancy of the emblem:

(1) "The little book." The word used here - βιβλαρίδιον biblaridion - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in Revelation 10:8-10 of this chapter. The word βιβλίον biblion - "book" - occurs frequently: Matthew 19:7; Mark 10:4 - applied to a bill of divorcement; Luke 4:17, Luke 4:20; John 20:30; John 21:25; Galatians 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:13; Hebrews 9:19; Hebrews 10:7. In the Apocalypse this word is of common occurrence: Revelation 1:11; Revelation 5:1-5, Revelation 5:7-9; Revelation 6:14, rendered "scroll"; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:9-10, Revelation 22:18-19. The word was evidently chosen here to denote something that was special in the size or form of the book, or to distinguish it from what would be designated by the ordinary word employed to denote a book. The word properly denotes "a small roll" or "volume"; a "little scroll" (Robinson's Lexicon, Pollux. Onomast. vii. 210). It is evident that something was intended by the diminutive size of the book, or that it was designed to make a distinction between this and that which is indicated by the use of the word "book" in the other parts of the Apocalypse. It was, at least, indicated by this that it was something different from what was seen in the hand of him that sat on the throne in Revelation 5:1.

That was clearly a large volume; this was so small that it could be taken in the hand, and could be represented as eaten, Revelation 10:9-10. But of what is a book an emblem? To this question there can be little difficulty in furnishing an answer. A book seen in a dream, according to Artemidorus, signifies the life, or the acts of him that sees it (Wemyss). According to the Indian interpreters, a book is the symbol of power and dignity. The Jewish kings, when they were crowned, had the book of the law of God put into their hands 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Chronicles 23:11; denoting that they were to observe the law, and that their administration was to be one of intelligence and uprightness. The gift of a Bible now to a monarch when he is crowned, or to the officer of a corporation or society, denotes the same thing. A book, as such, thus borne in the hand of an angel coming down to the world, would be an indication that something of importance was to be communicated to people, or that something was to be accomplished by the agency era book.

It was not, as in Revelation 6:2, a bow - emblem of conquest; or Revelation 10:4, a sword - emblem of battle; or Revelation 10:5, a pair of scales - emblem of the exactness with which things were to be determined; but it was a book - a speechless, silent thing, yet mighty; not designed to carry desolation through the earth, but to diffuse light and truth. The natural interpretation, then, would be, that something was to be accomplished by the agency of a book, or that a book was to be the prominent characteristic of the times - as the bow, the sword, and the balances had been of the previous periods. As to the size of the book, perhaps all that can be inferred is, that this was to be brought about, not by extended tomes, but by a comparatively small volume - so that it could be taken in the hand; so that it could, without impropriety, be represented as eaten by an individual.

(2) "the fact that it was open:" "a little book open" - ἀνεῳγμένον aneōgmenon. The word used here means, properly, "to open or unclose" in respect to what was before fastened or sealed, as what is covered by a door, Matthew 2:11; tombs, which were closed by large stones, Matthew 27:60, Matthew 27:66; a gate, Acts 5:23; Acts 12:10; the abyss, Revelation 9:2 - "since in the east pits or wells are closed with large stones, compare Genesis 29:2" (Robinson's Lexicon). The meaning of this word, as applied to a book, would be, that it was now opened so that its contents could be read. The word would not necessarily imply that it had been sealed or closed, though that would be the most natural impression from the use of the word. Compare for the use of the word rendered "open," Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:20; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 5:2-5, Revelation 5:9; Revelation 6:1, Revelation 6:3,Revelation 6:5, Revelation 6:7,Revelation 6:9, Revelation 6:12; Revelation 8:1; Revelation 9:2; Revelation 10:8; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 20:12. This would find a fulfillment if some such facts as the following should occur:

(a) if there had been any custom or arrangement by which knowledge was kept from people, or access was forbidden to books or to some one book in particular; and,

(b) if something should occur by which what had before been kept hidden or concealed, or that to which access had been denied, should be made accessible. In other words, this is the proper symbol of a diffusion of knowledge, or of "the influence of a book on mankind."

(3) the fact that it was in the hand of the angel. All that seems to be implied in this is, that it was now offered, or was ready to be put in possession of John - or of the church - or of mankind. It was open, and was held out, as it were, for perusal.

In regard to the application of this, it is plain that, if it be admitted that it was the design of the author of the vision to refer to the Reformation, no more appropriate emblem could have been chosen. If we were now to endeavor to devise an emblem of the Reformation that would be striking and expressive, we could not well select one which would better represent the great work than what is here presented. This will appear plain from a few considerations:

(1) The great agent in the Reformation, the moving cause of it, its suggester and supporter, was a book - "the Bible." Wycliffe had translated the New Testament into the English language, and though this was suppressed, yet it had done much to prepare the people for the Reformation; and all that Luther did can be traced to the discovery of the Bible, and to the use which was made of it. Luther had grown up into manhood; had passed from the schools to the university of Erfurt, and there having, during the usual four years' course of study, displayed intellectual powers and an extent of learning that excited the admiration of the university, and that seemed to open to his attainment both the honor and emolument of the world, he appeared to have been prepared to play an important part on the great drama of human affairs. Suddenly, however, to the astonishment and dismay of his friends, he betook himself to the solitude and gloom of an Augustinian monastery.

There he found a Bible - a copy of the Vulgate - hid in the shelves of the university library. Until then he had supposed that there existed no other Gospels or Epistles than what were given in the Breviary, or quoted by the preachers. To the study of that book he now gave himself with untiring diligence and steady prayer; and the effect was to show to him the way of salvation by faith, and ultimately to produce the Reformation. No one acquainted with the history of the Reformation can doubt that it is to be traced to the influence of the Bible; that the moving cause, the spring of all that occurred in the Reformation, was the impulse given to the mind of Luther and his fellow-laborers by the study of that one book. It is this well-known fact that gives so much truth to the celebrated declaration of Chillingworth, that "the Bible is the religion of Protestants." If a symbol of this had been designed before it occurred, or if one should be sought for now that would designate the actual nature and influence of the Reformation, nothing better could he selected than that of an angel descending from heaven, with benignant aspect, with a rainbow around his head, and with light beaming all around him, holding forth to mankind a book.

(2) this book had before been hidden, or closed; that is, it could not until then be regarded as an open volume:

(a) It was in fact known by few even of the clergy, and it was not in the hands of the mass of the people at all. There is every reason to believe that the great body of the Roman Catholic clergy, in the time that preceded the Reformation, were even more ignorant of the Bible than Luther himself was. Many of them were unable to read; few had access to the Bible; and those who had, drew their doctrines rather from the fathers of the church than from the Word of God. Hallam (Middle Ages, ii. 241) says: "Of this prevailing ignorance (in the tenth century and onward) it is easy to produce abundant testimony. In almost every council the ignorance of the clergy forms a subject for reproach. It is asserted by one held in 992, that scarcely a single person could be found in Rome itself who knew the first clements of letters. Not one priest of a thousand in Spain, about the age of Charlemagne, could address a letter of common salutation to another. In England, Alfred declares that he could not recollect a single priest south of the Thames (the best part of England), at the time of his accession, who understood the ordinary prayers, or who could translate the Latin into the mother tongue."

There were few books of any kind in circulation, and even if there had been an ability to read, the cost of books was so great as to exclude the great mass of the people from all access to the sacred Scriptures. "Many of the clergy," says Dr. Robertson (Hist. of Charles V. p. 14, Harper's ed.), "did not understand the Breviary which they were obliged daily to recite; some of them could scarcely read it." "Persons of the highest rank, and in the most eminent stations, could neither read nor write." One of the questions appointed by the canons to be put to persons who were candidates for orders was this, "Whether they could read the Gospels and Epistles, and explain the sense of them at least literally?" For the causes of this ignorance see Robertson's History of Charles V. p. 515. One of those causes was the cost of books. "Private persons seldom possessed any books whatever. Even monasteries of considerable note had only one Missal. The price of books became so high that persons of a moderate fortune could not afford to purchase them. The Countess of Anjou paid for a copy of the Homilies of Haimon, bishop of Alberstadt, two hundred sheep, five quarters of wheat, and the same quantity of rye and millet," etc. Such was the cost of books that few persons could afford to own a copy of the sacred Scriptures; and the consequence was, there were almost none in the hands of the people. The few copies that were in existence were mostly in the libraries of monasteries and universities, or in the hands of some of the higher clergy.


2. he had—Greek, "Having."

in his hand—in his left hand: as in Re 10:5 (see on [2699]Re 10:5), he lifts up his right hand to heaven.

a little book—a roll little in comparison with the "book" (Re 5:1) which contained the whole vast scheme of God's purposes, not to be fully read till the final consummation. This other, a less book, contained only a portion which John was now to make his own (Re 10:9, 11), and then to use in prophesying to others. The New Testament begins with the word "book" (Greek, "biblus"), of which "the little book" (Greek, "biblaridion") is the diminutive, "the little bible," the Bible in miniature.

upon the sea … earth—Though the beast with seven heads is about to arise out of the sea (Re 13:1), and the beast with two horns like a lamb (Re 13:11) out of the earth, yet it is but for a time, and that time shall no longer be (Re 10:6, 7) when once the seventh trumpet is about to sound; the angel with his right foot on the sea, and his left on the earth, claims both as God's, and as about soon to be cleared of the usurper and his followers.

And he had in his hand a little book open; the same book with that mentioned Revelation 5:1; though some by it understand the Scriptures. There it was represented to John as sealed with seven seals; here open, to let us know that all the counsels of God, however sealed as to us, are open to Christ, and that he would open to John what should come to pass in his church to the end of the world.

And he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth; to let us know the dominion he had over the whole world, as well the more unquiet as quieter parts of it.

And he had in his hand a little book open,.... By which is meant not the Bible, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; or the book of the Gospel, the substance of which lies in a little room, and is no other than the preaching of Christ, and him crucified, as God's way of salvation; and which is now more open and manifest, and more clearly made known unto the sons of men, under the Gospel dispensation, than it was before, and especially since the time of the Reformation, to which this book, and the prophecies of it, may have respect; but the same book is here designed, which in Revelation 5:1 is represented as in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, as shut and sealed; but the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, having taken it out of his hand, unloosed its seals, and opened it; and whereas we never read of his laying this book down, or of his delivering it to any other, he may be well supposed to be this mighty angel, who held it open in his hand: it may be said to be "a little book", because now not only many of the scenes and visions in it were exhibited, upon the opening of the seals; but because, at the time this vision refers to, many of its prophecies were accomplished, so that the bulk of it was greatly reduced; and it may be represented as "open", because the seals of it were unloosed, and the things in it revealed; and it is to be observed, that as the several seals of this book, and the opening of them, refer to the state of the empire, both as Pagan and as Christian, as has been seen; so the little book itself, clear of these seals, sets forth the state and condition of the church in the empire, under its different revolutions and appearances:

and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth; which signifies that he was Lord and possessor of both, of the whole terraqueous globe, being the Maker and supporter of it; and that his Gospel should be spread all over the world, both on the continent and in the islands of the sea; and that his kingdom should be from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth; that the abundance of the sea should be converted to him, or the maritime parts of the world should be subject to the sceptre of his grace and government; and that the earth, and the uttermost parts of it, should be his possession, though it was now almost wholly in the hands of the Turk and pope; and it may be observed, that he set his foot upon both earth and sea, out of which the two beasts arise, Revelation 13:1, which shall be destroyed by him.

And he had in his hand a {3} little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,

(3) Namely, a special book of the affairs of God's Church: For the book that contains things belonging to the whole world, is said to be kept with the Creator Re 5:1 but the book of the Church, with the Redeemer: and out of this book is taken the rest of the history of this Apocalypse.

Revelation 10:2. “And in his (left? cf. Revelation 10:5) hand a small booklet open” (in contrast to the larger closed book of Revelation 10:1), after Ezekiel 2:9. This colossal figure, like an Arabian jin, bestrides earth and sea. His message is for the broad world.

2. a little book] The diminutive perhaps suggests comparison (but hardly contrast) with the book of Revelation 5:1 seqq.

Revelation 10:2. Βιβλαρίδιον) But in Revelation 10:8-10, βιβλίον. By this reading, the book first appeared to John very small, compared with the vast stature in which the angel appeared, who in some measure grasped the heaven, the sea and earth. Afterwards the voice from heaven called it a book, on account of the greatness of the subject: and John with teachable mouth and hand imitated this title. In Andreas of Cæsarea in the Augustan Codex, it is styled βιβλιδάριον σφόδρα ὑποκοριστικῶς λεχθέν.[103]—θαλάσσηςγῆς, on the sea—on the land) Le Buy, Marck, and Newton, correctly interpret the sea as Europe, the land as Asia: by which means the rivers denote Africa, and the sun belongs to the whole world: ch. Revelation 8:7-8; Revelation 8:10; Revelation 8:12, Revelation 16:2-4; Revelation 16:8. The sea is Europe: the earth, Asia. So Huth Diss. ii. on Ap. xiv. p. 12.

[103] A Vulg. and C, doubly corrected, read βιβλιδάριον: B and h, βιβλιον: C corrected, βιβλιδάριον.—E.

Verse 2. - And he had in his hand a little book open. Ἔχων, "having," is read in א, A, B, C, P; εἴχεν, "he had," in a few cursives, the Vulgate, Andreas, Arethas, Primasius. The meaning is the same. The word βιβλαρίδιον, "little book," is a diminutive of βιβλίον (Revelation 5:1), which is itself a diminutive of βίβλος. This form of the word is found nowhere else; the corresponding usual form is βιβλιδαρίον. The book is probably little in comparison with that in Revelation 5:1. The latter contained all God's purposes, and the seer was not permitted to read it - only part was indicated to him. This book contains only a small portion of God's methods of dealing with man, and St. John is commanded to receive the whole. The contents are indicated in ver. 11 and the following chapter. The book is open, as a sign that what is contained therein is to be revealed. Bede thinks the New Testament is signified by it; Wordsworth sees in it the spiritual power of Rome; Hengstenberg considers that it contains the judgment of the degenerate Church. And he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth. Thus it is indicated that the revelation which is to follow affects the whole world, and is not partial in its operation, as were the judgments set forth under the earlier trumpets. Wordsworth (following Hengstenberg) sees in the earth an emblem of worldly power, and in the sea a symbol of the agitation and turbulence of nations. Revelation 10:2In his hand (ἐν)

The roll of Revelation 5:1-14 was on the hand (ἐπί, see Revelation 5:1), being too large to be grasped within it. The roll was on the right hand; the little book is in the left. See on Revelation 10:5.

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