Revelation 10:9
And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
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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 I went unto the angel - This is symbolic action, and is not to be understood literally. As it is not necessary to suppose that an angel literally descended, and stood upon the sea and the land, so it is not necessary to suppose that there was a literal act of going to him, and taking the book from his hand and eating it.

Give me the little book - In accordance with the command in Revelation 10:8. We may suppose, in regard to this:

(a) that the symbol was designed to represent that the book was to be used in the purpose here referred to, or was to be an important agent or instrumentality in accomplishing the purpose. The book is held forth in the hand of the angel as a striking emblem. There is a command to go and take it from his hand for some purpose not yet disclosed. All this seems to imply that the book - or what is represented by it - would be an important instrument in accomplishing the purpose here referred to.

(b) The application for the book might intimate that, on the part of him who made it, there would be some strong desire to possess it. He goes, indeed, in obedience to the command; but, at the same time, there would naturally be a desire to be in possession of the volume, or to know the contents (compare Revelation 5:4), and his approach to the angel for the book would be most naturally interpreted as expressive of such a wish.

And he said unto me, Take it - As if he had expected this application; or had come down to furnish him with this little volume, and had anticipated that the request would be made. There was no reluctance in giving it up; there was no attempt to withhold it; there was no prohibition of its use. The angel had no commission, and no desire to retain it for himself, and no hesitation in placing it in the bands of the seer on the first application. Would not the readiness with which God gives his Bible into the hands of human beings, in contradistinction from all human efforts to restrain its use, and to prevent its free circulation, be well symbolized by this act?

And eat it up - There is a similar command in Ezekiel 3:1. Of course, this is to he understood figuratively, for no one would interpret literally a command to eat a manuscript or volume. We have in common use a somewhat similar phrase, when we speak of devouring a book, which may illustrate this, and which is not liable to be misunderstood. In Jeremiah 15:16, we have similar language: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Thus, in Latin, the words propinare, imbibere, devorare, deglutire, etc., are used to denote the greediness with which knowledge is acquired. Compare in the Apocrypha, 2 Esdras 14:38-40. The meaning here, then, is plain. He was to possess himself of the contents of the book; to receive it into his mind; to apply it, as we do food, for spiritual nourishment - truth having, in this respect, the same relation to the mind which food has to the body. If the little book was a symbol of the Bible, it would refer to the fact that the truths of that book became the nourisher and supporter of the public mind.

And it shall make thy belly bitter - This is a circumstance which does not occur in the corresponding place in Ezekiel 3:1-3. The expression here must refer to something that would occur after the symbolical action of "eating" the little book, or to some consequence of eating it - for the act of eating it is represented as pleasant: "in thy mouth sweet as honey." The meaning here is, that the effect which followed from eating the book was painful or disagreeable - as food would be that was pleasant to the taste, but that produced bitter pain when eaten. The fulfillment of this would be found in one of two things:

(a) It might mean that the message to be delivered in consequence of devouring the book, or the message which it contained, would be of a painful or distressing character; that with whatever pleasure the book might be received and devoured, it would be found to contain a communication that would be indicative of woe or sorrow. This was the case with the little book that Ezekiel was commanded to eat up. Thus, in speaking of this book, it is said, "And it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe," Ezekiel 2:10. Compare Revelation 3:4-9, where the contents of the book, and the effect of proclaiming the message which it contained, are more fully stated. So here the meaning may be, that, however gladly John may have taken the book, and with whatever pleasure he may have devoured its contents, yet that it would be found to be charged with the threatening of wrath, and with denunciations of a judgment to come, the delivery of which would be well represented by the "bitterness" which is said to have followed from "eating" the volume. Or.

(b) it may mean that the consequence of devouring the book, that is, of embracing its doctrines, would be persecutions and trouble - well represented by the "bitterness" that followed the "eating" of the volume. Either of these ideas would be a fulfillment of the proper meaning of the symbol; for, on the supposition that either of these occurred in fact, it would properly be symbolized by the eating of a volume that was sweet to the taste, but that made the belly bitter.

But it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey - So in Ezekiel 3:3. The proper fulfillment of this it is not difficult to understand. It would well represent the pleasure derived from divine truth - the sweetness of the Word of God - the relish with which it is embraced by those that love it. On the supposition that the "little book" here refers to the Bible, and to the use which would be made of it in the times referred to, it would properly denote the relish which would exist for the sacred volume, and the happiness which would be found in its perusal; for this very image is frequently employed to denote this. Thus, in Psalm 19:10; "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Psalm 119:103; "how sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth." We are then to look for the fulfillment of this in some prevailing delight or satisfaction, in the times referred to, in the Word of the Lord, or in the truths of revelation.

9. I went—Greek, "I went away." John here leaves heaven, his standing-point of observation heretofore, to be near the angel standing on the earth and sea.

Give—A, B, C, and Vulgate read the infinitive, "Telling him to give."

eat it up—appropriate its contents so entirely as to be assimilated with (as food), and become part of thyself, so as to impart them the more vividly to others. His finding the roll sweet to the taste at first, is because it was the Lord's will he was doing, and because, divesting himself of carnal feeling, he regarded God's will as always agreeable, however bitter might be the message of judgment to be announced. Compare Ps 40:8, Margin, as to Christ's inner complete appropriation of God's word.

thy belly bitter—parallel to Eze 2:10, "There was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe."

as honey—(Ps 19:10; 119:103). Honey, sweet to the mouth, sometimes turns into bile in the stomach. The thought that God would be glorified (Re 11:3-6, 11-18) gave him the sweetest pleasure. Yet, afterwards the belly, or carnal natural feeling, was embittered with grief at the prophecy of the coming bitter persecutions of the Church (Re 11:7-10); compare Joh 16:1, 2. The revelation of the secrets of futurity is sweet to one at first, but bitter and distasteful to our natural man, when we learn the cross which is to be borne before the crown shall be won. John was grieved at the coming apostasy and the sufferings of the Church at the hands of Antichrist.

Take it, and eat it up: thus Ezekiel was bidden to eat the roll; and it was in his mouth as sweet as honey, Ezekiel 2:8 3:3. The eating of a book signifies the due reading of it, digesting it, and meditating upon the matters in it.

And it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey; it should be sweet in his month, as it was the revelation of the mind and will of God, (which is sweet to all pious souls; see Jeremiah 15:16), but in his belly it should be bitter, being the revelation of the Divine will, as to the bringing such terrible judgments upon an impenitent people.

And I went to the angel,.... According to the order given him; he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision; and, indeed, whither should any go knowledge but to him who has the words of eternal life, and is the great prophet of the church? and to whom should John go to qualify him for prophesying, but to him, who, as man and Mediator, had this revelation of future things given him? Revelation 1:1;

and said unto him, give me the little book; he did not take it without his leave, but in a modest and humble manner asks him to give it him, that he might deliver out the prophecies in it to others: so ordinary prophets and ministers of the word should go to Christ, to have their eyes opened, their understandings enlightened, that they may understand the Scriptures, and explain them to others:

and he said unto me, take it, and eat it up; which must be understood not literally, but mystically; and the sense is this, take the book, and diligently peruse it, and with as much eagerness as an hungry man would eat a meal; so greedy are some persons of reading, and as it were of devouring books; hence Cicero called (q) Cato "helluo librorum", a glutton at books: and in such manner John is bid to take and eat this book, and look into it, and read it over diligently, and consider what was in it, and meditate upon it, and digest the things contained in it, and lay them up in his mind and memory; and for the present hide and conceal them, in like manner as he was bid to seal, and not write what the seven thunders uttered; and so, though this book is represented to him as open in the angel's hand, yet he must take it and eat it, and hide it in his belly, because the things in it as yet were not to be accomplished: so for ordinary prophesying, or preaching, the ministers of the word should diligently read the Scriptures, constantly meditate on them, digest the truths of the Gospel in their own minds, and lay them up in the treasury of their hearts, and bring them forth from thence in due season:

and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey; as Ezekiel's roll was to him when he ate it, Ezekiel 3:1; the Alexandrian copy, instead of "thy belly", reads "thy heart".

(q) Cicero de Fittibus Bon. & Mal. l. 3. c. 1.

And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
Revelation 10:9-10. The prophet absorbs the word of God; in our phrase, he makes it his own or identifies himself with it (Jeremiah 15:16). To assimilate this revelation of the divine purpose seems to promise a delightful experience, but the bliss and security of the saints, he soon realises, involve severe trials (cf. Revelation 11:2, Revelation 12:13 f., etc.) for them as well as catastrophes for the world. Hence the feeling of disrelish with which he views his new vocation as a seer. The distasteful experience is put first, in Revelation 10:9, as being the unexpected element in the situation. (The omission of bitterness in LXX of Ezekiel 3:14 renders it unlikely that this additional trait of unpleasant taste is due, as Spitta thinks, to an erroneous combination of Ezekiel 3:2; Ezekiel 3:14). The natural order occurs in Revelation 10:10. The only analogous passage in early Christian literature is in the “Martyrdom of Perpetua” (4. cf. Weinel, 196, 197). Wetstein cites from Theophrastus the description of an Indian shrub οὗ ὁ καρπὸςἐσθιόμενος γλυκὺς. οὗτος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ δηγμὸν ποιεῖ καὶ δυσεντερίαν. Before the happy consummation (Revelation 10:7), a bitter prelude is to come, which is the subject of national and political prophecies. In order to underline his divine commission for this task of punitive prediction, he recalls his inspiration.

9. I went] Apparently from his place in heaven to the earth: but there are difficulties in tracing coherently the changes in the point of view.

and said unto him, Give me, &c.] Read, saying unto him that he should give me.

eat it up] Ezekiel 2:8; Ezekiel 3:3.

it shall make thy belly bitter] This Ezekiel’s roll did not do. We may presume that this little book, like the O. T. one, contained “lamentations, and mourning, and woe.” To both prophets, the first result of absorbing the words of God and making them their own (Jeremiah 15:16) is delight at communion with Him and enlightenment by Him: but the Priest of the Lord did not feel, as the Disciple of Jesus did, the after-thought of bitterness—the Christ-like sorrow for those against whom God’s wrath is revealed, who “knew not the time of their visitation.”

“It grieves so sore his tender heart

To see God’s ransom’d world in fear and wrath depart.”

It is generally held, in one form or another, that this “little book” symbolises or contains “the mystery of God,” the approaching completion of which has just been announced. Some needlessly combine with this the theory (see note on Revelation 10:1) that it contains the whole or part of this book of the Revelation. But really the surest clue to its meaning is the parallel passage in Ezekiel: if we say that the book contains “the Revelation of God’s Judgement” (remembering how that Revelation is described in Romans 1:18) we shall speak as definitely as is safe.

Revelation 10:9. Δοῦναι) Some few read δὸς, for the sake of an easy construction: by far the greatest number read δοῦναι: whence formerly the Latin translator rendered it, ut daret (to give), and thus also the Syriac Version. But the direct style agrees with the present address in preference to the indirect. As to what remains, the Infinitive is put for the Imperative. For this change of Mood is frequent with the Greeks, as we have shown on Chrysost. de Sacerd. p. 510, and the next page. Add Biblioth. Brem. Class, viii. p. 945, and following. The very word δοῦναι for δὸς is found in Theocritus. The Hebrew idiom also admits of this, on which see Dign. Speidelii Gramm. Hebr. p. 139. And the Septuagint on Genesis 45:19, renders קחו, λαβεῖνκαὶ παραγίνεσθε. Add Luke 9:3; Romans 12:15; Php 3:16. Such a figure makes the style characteristic of feeling,[104] and gives to it either a sense of majesty, especially where God is the speaker, or modesty, as here. For John from time to time, in this book, has expressed great reverence, and that almost to excess, towards the inhabitants of heaven: ch. Revelation 7:14, Revelation 19:10, Revelation 22:8 : δοῦναι therefore, instead of δὸς,[105] corresponds with that modesty, which he exhibited towards the angel in asking for the little book. After the example of John, we ought to unite humility of heart and searching of the prophets: and Lampe on Psalms 131, if you take it rightly, befittingly explains this union.

[104] See Appendix on Moratus Sermo.

[105] Δοῦναι, ABC; “ut daret,” h Vulg. Δὸς, Rec. Text, without good authority.—E.

Verse 9. - And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book; and I went away to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. Alford understands that the seer goes from his position in heaven to the angel on earth. But he is probably, in his vision, already on the earth (see on ver. 1). And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; he saith. This part of the vision is founded on Ezekiel 2:9-3:3. The act is no doubt intended to convey the idea that the seer is to carefully receive, to digest thoroughly, as it were, his message in order to deriver it faithfully. Thus in Ezekiel 3:10 the prophet is told, "All my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them," etc. And it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey; cf. the vision of Ezekiel 2:9-3, where the sweetness only is immediately mentioned; but the bitterness is implied later on in Ezekiel 3:14. The sweetness expresses the pleasure and readiness with which St. John receives his commission; the bitterness symbolizes the grief which possesses him when he thoroughly takes in the nature of his message. The pleasure with which he receives the angel's commands may proceed from joy at the thought that the final overthrow of the wicked is the final deliverance of the saints; or it may be that he feels himself honoured at being chosen as the medium for conveying God's message. Compare the readiness of Isaiah 6:8 to fulfil a similar office, and his subsequent fear and hesitation (Isaiah 7:4). The bitterness of the seer follows when he realizes the terrible nature of the judgment he is to announce (cf. Jeremiah 8:21, "For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt"). Various other explanations, more or less allegorical, have been suggested. Thus Andreas explains that the first sweetness of sin is afterwards converted into bitterness. Origen, quoted in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' "Very sweet is this the book of Scripture when first perceived, but bitter to the conscience within." Maurice supposes that St. John's joy proceeds from the expectation that the book will announce the fall of the great Babel empire of the world, and his disappointment follows when he discovers that it predicts the fall of Jerusalem. Bede explains that the bitterness in the belly indicates the reception by the seer, but the sweetness in the mouth is the declaration to others. Revelation 10:9I went (ἀπῆλθον)

The preposition ἀπό has the force of away. I went away from the place where I was standing.

Eat it up

Compare Ezekiel 3:1-3; Jeremiah 15:16.

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