Revelation 10:3
And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
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(3) And cried with a loud voice . . .—Better, and he cried with a loud voice, even as a lion roareth. Another token of the presence of Christ with the Church. The voice is the voice of a courage and strength derived from Him who is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.”

And when he had cried . . .—Translate, and when he cried, the seven thunders (notice, not seven thunders,” but “the seven thunders”) spake their own voices. The thunders are called the seven thunders to bring them before us as another order of sevens, and into harmony with the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven vials. Thus we have four sets of sevens. It was not a seven-fold peal of thunder, but seven thunders, which spake forth distinctly their own voices. This marked language brings the seven thunders, though their utterances are never revealed, into prominence as a portion of the Apocalyptic system. But what were these thunders? Were they more terrible judgments still? and did the sealing of them signify the shortening of the days of judgment, as Christ had said (Matthew 24:22)? It may be so. One thing seems certain—the guesses which have been hazarded (such as that they are identical with the trumpets; that they are the seven crusades) can hardly be admitted. Whatever they were, they were perfectly intelligible to the Evangelist. He was on the point of writing down their utterances. Will this fact help us to understand the general object of their introduction here?

Revelation 10:3-4. And he cried with a loud voice — Uttering the words recorded Revelation 10:6; as when a lion roareth — With a voice strong and awful, as the roar of a lion, signifying, some think, that the gospel would be openly, resolutely, and efficaciously preached and published, in order to effect the subsequent reformation of the church from the errors and superstitions that had now overspread it. And when he had cried — Or, while he was crying, seven thunders uttered their voices — In distinct audible sounds, each after the other, as from the clouds of heaven, and loud as thunder. Doubtless those who spoke these words were glorious heavenly powers. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices — Having understood the things they expressed; I was about to write — To record what was spoken by them. And I heard a voice from heaven — Doubtless from him who had at first commanded him to write, and who presently commands him to take the book, namely, Jesus Christ, saying, Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not — These are the only things, of all which he heard, that he is commanded to keep secret. So some things peculiarly secret were revealed to the beloved John, besides all the secret things written in this book. And as we know not the subjects of the seven thunders, so neither can we know the reasons for suppressing them. Vitringa indeed, by these seven thunders, understands the seven great croisades, or expeditions of the western Christians for the conquest of the Holy Land, and Daubuz the seven kingdoms which received and established the Protestant reformation by law. On which Dr. Apthorp observes as follows: “As heaven signifies the station of the supreme visible power, which is the political heaven, so thunder is the voice and proclamation of that authority and power, and of its will and laws, implying the obedience of the subjects, and at last overcoming all opposition. The thunders are the symbols of the supreme powers, who established the Reformation in their respective dominions.” But, as Bishop Newton remarks, “Doth it not savour rather of vanity and presumption than of wisdom and knowledge, to pretend to conjecture what they are when the Holy Spirit hath purposely concealed them.” Suffice it that we may know all the contents of the opened book, and of the oath of the angel.

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 cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth - The lion is the monarch of the woods, and his roar is an image of terror. The point of the comparison here seems to be the loudness with which the angel cried, and the power of what he said to awe the world - as the roar of the lion keeps the dwellers of the forest in awe. What he said is not stated; nor did John attempt to record it. Prof. Stuart supposes that it was "a loud note of woe, some interjection uttered which would serve to call attention, and at the same time be indicative of the judgments which were to follow." But it is not necessary to suppose that this particular thing was intended. Any loud utterance - any solemn command - any prediction of judgment - any declaration of truth that would arrest the attention of mankind, would be in accordance with all that is said here. As there is no application of what is said, and no explanation made by John, it is impossible to determine with any certainty what is referred to.

But, supposing that the whole refers to the Reformation, would not the loud and commanding voice of the angel properly represent the proclamation of the gospel as it began to be preached in such a manner as to command the attention of the world, and the reproof of the prevailing sins in such a manner as to keep the world in awe? The voice that sounded forth at the Reformation among the nations of Europe, breaking the slumbers of the Christian world, awaking the church to the evil of the existing corruptions and abominations, and summoning princes to the defense of the truth, might well be symbolized by the voice of an angel that was heard afar. In regard to the effect of the "theses" of Luther, in which he attacked the main doctrines of the papacy, a contemporary writer says, "In the space of a fortnight they spread over Germany, and within a month they had run through all Christendom, as if angels themselves had been the bearers of them to all men." To John it might not be known beforehand - as it probably would not be - what this symbolized; but could we now find a more appropriate symbol to denote the Reformation than the appearance of such an angel; or better describe the impression made by the first announcement of the great doctrines of the Reformation, than by the loud voice of such an angel?

And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices - Prof. Stuart renders this, "the seven thunders uttered their voices," and insists that the article should be retained, which it has not been in our common version. So Elliott, Dr. Middleton, and others. Dr. Middleton says, "Why the article is inserted here I am unable to discover. It is somewhat remarkable that a few manuscripts and editions omit it in both places Revelation 10:3-4. Were the seven thunders anything well known and pre-eminent? If not, the omission must be right in the former instance, but wrong in the latter; if they were pre-eminent, then is it wrong in both. Bengel omits the article in Revelation 10:3, but has it in Revelation 10:4." He regards the insertion of the article as the true reading in both places, and supposes that there may have been a reference to some Jewish opinion, but says that he had not been able to find a vestige of it in Lightfoot, Schoettgen, or Meuschen. Storr supposes that we are not to seek here for any Jewish notion, and that nothing is to be inferred from the article (Middleton, on the Greek Article, p. 358).

The best editions of the New Testament retain the article in both places, and indeed there is no authority for omitting it. The use of the article here naturally implies either that these seven thunders were something which had been before referred to, either expressly or impliedly; or that there was something about them which was so well known that it would be at once understood what was referred to; or that there was something in the connection which would determine the meaning. Compare the notes on Revelation 8:2. It is plain, however, that there had been no mention of "seven thunders" before, nor had anything been referred to which would at once suggest them. The reason for the insertion of the article here must, therefore, be found in some pre-eminence which these seven thunders had; in some well-known facts about them; in something which would at once suggest them when they were mentioned - as when we mention the sun, the moon, the stars, though they might not have been distinctly referred to before. The number "seven" is used here either:

(a) as a general or perfect number, as it is frequently in this book, where we have it so often repeated - seven spirits; seven angels; seven seals; seven trumpets; or,

(b) with some specific reference to the matter in hand - the case actually in view of the writer.

It cannot be doubted that it might be used in the former sense here, and that no law of language would be violated if it were so understood; as denoting many thunders; but still it is equally true that it way be used in a specific sense as denoting something that would be well understood by applying the number seven to it. Now let it be supposed, in regard to the application of this symbol, that the reference is to Rome, the seven-hilled city, and to the thunders of excommunication, anathema, and wrath that were uttered from that city against the Reformers; and would there not be all that is fairly implied in this language, and is not this such a symbol as would he appropriately used on such a supposition? The following circumstances may be referred to as worthy of notice on this point:

(a) the place which this occupies in the series of symbols - being just after the angel had uttered his voice as symbolical of the proclamation of the great truths of the gospel in the Reformation, if the interpretation above given is correct. The next event, in the order of nature and of fact, was the voice of excommunication uttered at Rome.

(b) The word "thunder" would appropriately denote the bulls of excommunication uttered at Rome, for the name most frequently given to the decrees of the papacy, when condemnatory, was that of papal thunders. So LeBas, in his Life of Wycliffe, p. 198, says: "The thunders which shook the world when they issued from the seven hills sent forth an uncertain sound, comparatively faint and powerless, when launched from a region of less devoted sanctity."

(c) The number seven would, on such a supposition, be used here with equal propriety. Rome was built on seven hills; was known as the "seven-hilled" city, and the thunders from that city would seem to echo and re-echo from those hills. Compare Revelation 17:9.

(d) This supposition, also, will accord with the use of the article here, as if those thunders were something well known - "the seven thunders"; that is, the thunders which the nations were accustomed to hear.

(e) This will also accord with the passage before us, inasmuch as the thunders would seem to have been of the nature of a response to what the angel said, or to have been sent forth because he had uttered his loud cry.

In like manner, the anathemas were hurled from Rome because the nations had been aroused by the loud cry for reformation, as if an angel had uttered that cry. For these reasons there is a propriety in applying this language to the thunders which issued from Rome condemning the doctrines of the Reformation, and in defense of the ancient faith, and excommunicating those who embraced the doctrines of the Reformers. If we were now to attempt to devise a symbol which would be appropriate to express what actually occurred in the Reformation, we could not think of one which would be better suited to that purpose than to speak of seven thunders bellowing forth from the seven-hilled city.

3. as … lion—Christ, whom the angel represents, is often so symbolized (Re 5:5, "the Lion of the tribe of Juda").

seven thunders—Greek, "the seven thunders." They form part of the Apocalyptic symbolism; and so are marked by the article as well known. Thus thunderings marked the opening of the seventh seal (Re 8:1, 5); so also at the seventh vial (Re 16:17, 18). Wordsworth calls this the prophetic use of the article; "the thunders, of which more hereafter." Their full meaning shall be only known at the grand consummation marked by the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet (Re 11:19), and the seventh vial.

uttered their—Greek, "spake their own voices"; that is, voices peculiarly their own, and not now revealed to men.

And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: this voice suited him who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah: the lion’s voice is both loud and terrible.

And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices: interpreters judge these seven thunders to signify those judgments of God which should be executed in the world upon the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and precedaneous to the day of judgment, which we shall find more fully opened under the seventh trumpet by the seven vials poured out, which signify the same thing; yet some understand by these seven thunders the powerful preaching the gospel; but the other seemeth more probable.

And cried with a loud voice,.... That all might hear, and to show earnestness and affection, and that it was a matter of great importance, as well as to denote the certainty of it; what he said is not expressed, but seems to be the book of prophecy, or what regarded the state of his church and kingdom, in the several periods of time to the blowing of the seventh trumpet, when the kingdoms of this world shall become his: and this voice of his was

as when a lion roareth; loud and terrible; and indeed it was the voice of the lion of the tribe of Judah, which was heard far and near, throughout the whole world, by his people, and is terrible to his enemies:

and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices; which some understand of the ministers of the Gospel in the times of the Reformation, who were "Boanergeses", sons of thunder, and think that they are the same with the angels in Revelation 14:6, &c. or rather these may signify the denunciations of God's judgments, and of his wrath, both upon the eastern and western antichrist, the Turk and pope, signified by the seven vials, hereafter to be poured out, mentioned in Revelation 16:1.

And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
Revelation 10:3-4. At a mighty call of the angel, seven voices of thunder sounded what John, however, was forbidden to write.

καὶ ἔκραξε

μυκᾶται. What the angel called, the text in no way indicates; at any rate, Beng. is incorrect in saying that what is described in Revelation 10:6 may have been expressed by this cry. Only in general, the threatening character[2712] of this cry is to be recognized already from the fact that the mighty voice belonging to the strong angel[2713] is compared expressly with the roar of the lion,[2714] as in the immediately succeeding and, as it were, responsive voices of thunder.

The word μυκᾶσθαι properly expresses the bellowing of the bull,[2715] yet in Theocritus[2716] there is also found ΜΎΚΗΜΑ ΛΕΑΊΝΗς. [See Note LXIV., p. 308.] ΑἹ ἙΠΤᾺ ΒΡΟΝΤΑῚ. The art., which suggests some particular thunder, cannot refer to Revelation 4:5.[2717] Ewald’s explanation, “All seven thunders of the heavens seem to intimate that the whole heaven must be considered as having exclaimed with an unheard-of and terrible clamor,” has no biblical foundation, and proceeds from the later Jewish conception of seven heavens, as it ascribes to each heaven a special thunder. Heinr. says, too indefinitely: “Seven mightier thunders,” but is correct in making a comparison with the seven spirits of God,[2718] and the seven angels;[2719] for here, where the question is concerning a definite manifestation by thunder, this occurs not only in the concrete number seven,—to which, besides, a certain outward occasion may have been given in the sevenfold description of the Divine voices of thunder, Psalms 29,[2720]—but their sound is regarded also by John as a significant speech (ἘΛΆΛΗΣΑΝ), as each thunder uttered its special voice (Τ. ἙΑΥΤῶΝ ΦΩΝΆς) which brought an intelligible revelation to the prophet.

In accordance with the command, Revelation 1:11, John wanted to write down what the thunder had said; the ἬΜΕΛΛΟΝ ΓΡ., I was on the point of writing,[2721] which does not suit the standpoint of proper vision, since within this any writing is inconceivable,[2722] is explained from the standpoint of the composition of the book; but the exchange of these two standpoints is without difficulty, when considered as referring to the prophet now writing out his vision, and as based, indeed, upon the essential identity of the Divine revelation, which guides the writing, as well as the gazing, prophet, when he receives, in respect to this revelation, another command: καὶ ἤκουσα, κ.τ.λ. The ΚΑῚ has neither here, nor anywhere else, an adversative meaning, but simply connects the new point, whose inner opposition to the preceding is not precisely marked.[2723]

ΦΩΝῊΝ ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΟὐΡΑΝΟῦ. The expression does not compel us to regard John no longer in heaven;[2724] also from the standpoint which John occupies from Revelation 4:1 (cf. Revelation 10:1), he could designate a voice sounding from the depth of heaven as a ΦΩΝ. ἘΚ Τ. ΟὐΡ. That the voice belonged to Christ,—as Beng. infers from the command, Revelation 1:11, which here suffers an exception,—remains an ingenious conjecture. Ew. ii. proposes the angel-attendant of Revelation 1:1. See in loc.

The heavenly voice demands a complete silence concerning all that the thunders had uttered: σφοάγισον

καὶ μὴ αὐτὰ γράψῃς. The sealing is to occur just by the not writing; compare the reverse relation, Revelation 22:10. Contrary to the text, therefore, is every explanation that finds[2725] in this passage a sealing that is in any way conditional,[2726] and entirely improper is the question as to what were the contents of the voices of the thunders. Beda regarded them identical with the seven trumpets; Zeg., as the oracles of all the prophets—before Christ; Hengstenb.[2727] thinks: “what is announced later concerning the destruction of the enemies of the kingdom of God, and the final victory, must be essentially identical with what is here previously kept secret.” Others have tried to conjecture from the context, if not the contents, yet the subject and character, of the utterance of the thunders. Hofm. has offered what is, in every respect, the strangest suggestion, when he imagines how the seven thunders had expressed the blessed mystery of the new world. Beng. considered the voices of thunder as those which mightily proclaim the praise of God. The other expositors have more correctly maintained the threatening significance of the voices of thunder; but their relation to the call of the angel is arbitrarily stated by Herd.: “The thunders declared their curses, but John was forbidden to write them, as they are not to disturb the angel’s glad message;” and by Eichh.: “The thunders had announced the sad contents of the little book, in order that the glad message might remain for the angel.”[2728] The seven thunders are referred to definite individual facts by Vitr., who understands the seven crusades; and by Ebrard, who thinks of the seven acts of God which will occur before the beginning of the seventh trumpet, and whereby God obtains for his people rest, and for himself glory before his enemies. Better than all the exegetes who have even attempted to discover something concerning the contents of the voices of thunder, did S. Brigitta esteem the text, of whom the legend says, that she wanted to know what the voices of thunder announced to John; she therefore prayed for a special revelation from God, and received it, whereby it was revealed to her that the thunder prophesied terrible judgments upon the persecutors of the Church.[2729]

The question has also been asked, why John did not dare write the utterance of the thunders. Incorrectly, Züll.: “Because unbelievers would not be converted;” but it is neither certain that the thunder-voices had any such tendency, nor is the presumption in itself correct.[2730] Ew. mentions the contents of the voices of the thunder as “exceeding human comprehension;”[2731] but John not only understood that declaration, but also regarded it intelligible to others, as he wanted to write it. De Wette says only, that thereby the mysteriousness is to be increased. Volkm. recognizes only a literary reason: for writing, or rather for announcing, there is no longer time, as now the second part, the realization, comes.[2732] Yet there is still time sufficient to refer to new announcements (Revelation 10:6; Revelation 10:11); for they follow as such, and not as realizations. It is well simply to acknowledge what is most obvious; viz., that the holy wisdom of God has given no account as to why this special revelation has not been made universal[2733]

[2712] In so far, Ew. 2. decides not incorrectly (“Rome, thou fallest”); but the threatening of the angel in his cry, as in his significant manifestation, is directed first to Jerusalem, and afterwards to Rome.

[2713] Cf. Revelation 6:1, Revelation 7:2.

[2714] Cf. Hosea 11:10; Amos 3:8.

[2715] Phavorinus: βρυχᾶσθαι ἐπὶ λέοντος· μυχᾶσθαι ἐπὶ βοός. Cf. Wetst.

[2716] Id. xxvi. 21.

[2717] Against Beng.

[2718] Revelation 1:4, Revelation 4:5.

[2719] Revelation 8:2.

[2720] Züll., Hengstenb., Ebrard.

[2721] Cf. Revelation 12:4.

[2722] From an entirely mechanical idea of inspiration, the writing within an ecstasy of course appears inconceivable. Thus, e.g., even Lämmert (Babel, p. 27 sq.) thinks: John, who in his writing had actually proceeded as far as the close of ch. 9, would have written even further.

[2723] Cf. Winer, p. 407 sqq.

[2724] De Wette.

[2725] Cf. Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9.

[2726] Beda: “Do not display the mysteries of the Christian faith to all everywhere, lest they grow common, neither conceal them from the good, lest they be altogether hidden.” Hengstenb., who justifies Brightmann’s paraphrase: “Do not insert these utterances in this, but reserve them for another, more appropriate place.” Cf. also Ew. ii.

[2727] Cf. also Stern.

[2728] Cf. Revelation 10:9 sq., πικρανεῖ and γλυκύ.

[2729] Cf. C. a Lap.

[2730] Cf. Revelation 11:13.

[2731] Cf. Beng., who refers to 2 Corinthians 12:4.

[2732] See on p. 25.

[2733] Cf. Acts 1:7.


LXIV. Revelation 10:3. μυκᾶται

The application of the word to thunder is very forcibly illustrated by the μύκημα in Æschylus, Prometheus, 1062:—

μὴ φρένας ὑμῶν ἠλιθιώσῃ

βροντῆς μύκημʼ ἀτέραμνον.”

“Quickly from hence depart,

Lest the relentless roar

Of thunder stun your soul.”

PLUMPTRE’S Translation.

Revelation 10:3. ὥσπερ λέων (of God in O.T. reff.; of the messiah 4 Esd. 11:37, 12:31) μυκᾶται Theokr. Id. xxvi. 21, μύκημα λεαίνης, properly of cattle =“to bellow”. ἐλάλησαν κ.τ.λ. = “uttered what they had to say” (i.e., spoke articulately). αἱ (the well-known or familiar) βρονταί “of the apocalyptic machinery” (Alford), or a popular piece of apocalyptic prophecy (see below). Cf. the sevenfold voice of the Lord in thunder, Psalms 29. The seven thunders here may be conceived loosely as the echoes of the angel’s voice reverberating through the universe (Spitta, Weiss), thunder, throughout the ancient world, being especially venerated as a divine voice or warning.

3. seven thunders] Lit. the seven thunders. The only reason that we can imagine for the presence of the article is, that to St John’s mind “the seven thunders” formed one element in the vision; as we might speak of “the seven seals,” “the seven trumpets,” “the seven vials”—these being known to us, as the thunders also were to him.

their voices] The possessive is emphatic, “their own voices.” Perhaps the meaning is, “each uttered its own.” It has been taken to imply that the voices of the thunders were not the voice of God: but comparing Psalms 29 passim; St John John 12:28-29, it is scarcely possible to doubt that these thunders, voices from heaven, are from God, or at least directed by Him.

Revelation 10:3. Μυκᾶται) ὠρύεσθαι expresses the voice of an animal under the influence of hunger or anger: μυκᾶσθαι, the natural voice. Each of them is also attributed to the lion. Theocritus ascribes μύκημα to the lioness.

Verse 3 - And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth; and be cried with a great voice, as a lion roareth (Revised Version). What the angel cried we are apparently not told. Probably the whole incident is intended merely to set forth the powerful and terrible nature of the messenger who is to deliver God's message. The figure is a very common one with the prophetical writers (cf. Isaiah 42:13; Jeremiah 25:30; Hosea 11:10; Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2; Amos 3:8). And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices; and when he cried, the seven, etc. (Revised Version). This, again, is a repetition of the idea contained in the preceding clause. The Jews were accustomed to call thunder the seven voices, and to regard it as the voice of the Lord (cf. the repetition in Psalm 29.), in the same way that they regarded lightning as the fire of God (Job 1:16). We have, therefore, most probably, a national idea of the Jews, made use of to express the simple fact of the loud and mighty character of the utterance of the angel (cf. the note on Euphrates in Revelation 9:14). If this be so, it is unnecessary to seek for any more subtle interpretation of the seven thunders, as that they represent the seven crusades (Vitringa), etc. Revelation 10:3Cried (ἔκραξεν)

See on Mark 5:5.

As when

The when of A.V. is unnecessary.

Roareth (μυκᾶται)

Only here in the New Testament. Peter uses ὠρύομαι for the voice of the lion. See on 1 Peter 5:8. The verb here is originally applied to the lowing of cattle, expressing the sound, moo-ka-omai. Both Aristophanes and Theocritus use it of the roar of the lion, and the former of thunder. Homer, of the ring of the shield and the hissing of meat on the spit.

Seven thunders

The Jews were accustomed to speak of thunder as "the seven voices." Compare the sevenfold "voice of the Lord," Psalm 29:1-11.

As usual, interpretation has run wild as to the seven thunders. As a few illustrations may be cited: Vitringa, the seven crusades; Daubuz, the seven kingdoms which received the Reformation; Elliott, the bull fulminated against Luther from the seven-hilled city, etc.

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