Revelation 11:9
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
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11:3-13 In the time of treading down, God kept his faithful witnesses to attest the truth of his word and worship, and the excellence of his ways, The number of these witnesses is small, yet enough. They prophesy in sackcloth. It shows their afflicted, persecuted state, and deep sorrow for the abominations against which they protested. They are supported during their great and hard work, till it is done. When they had prophesied in sackcloth the greatest part of 1260 years, antichrist, the great instrument of the devil, would war against them, with force and violence for a time. Determined rebels against the light rejoice, as on some happy event, when they can silence, drive to a distance, or destroy the faithful servants of Christ, whose doctrine and conduct torment them. It does not appear that the term is yet expired, and the witnesses are not a present exposed to endure such terrible outward sufferings as in former times; but such things may again happen, and there is abundant cause to prophesy in sackcloth, on account of the state of religion. The depressed state of real Christianity may relate only to the western church. The Spirit of life from God, quickens dead souls, and shall quicken the dead bodies of his people, and his dying interest in the world. The revival of God's work and witnesses, will strike terror into the souls of his enemies. Where there is guilt, there is fear; and a persecuting spirit, though cruel, is a cowardly spirit. It will be no small part of the punishment of persecutors, both in this world, and at the great day, that they see the faithful servants of God honoured and advanced. The Lord's witnesses must not be weary of suffering and service, nor hastily grasp at the reward; but must stay till their Master calls them. The consequence of their being thus exalted was a mighty shock and convulsion in the antichristian empire. Events alone can show the meaning of this. But whenever God's work and witnesses revive, the devil's work and witnesses fall before him. And that the slaying of the witnesses is future, appears to be probable.And they of the people - Some of the people; a part of the people - ἐκ τῶν λαῶν ek tōn laōn. The language is such as would be employed to describe a scene where a considerable portion of a company of people should be referred to, without intending to include all. The essential idea is, that there would be an assemblage of different classes of people to whom their carcasses would be exposed, and that they would come and look upon them. We should expect to find the fulfillment of this in some place where, from any cause, a variety of people should be assembled - as in some capital, or some commercial city, to which they would be naturally attracted.

Shall see their dead bodies - That is, a state of things will occur as if these witnesses were put to death, and their carcasses were publicly exposed.

Three days and an half - This might be either literally three days and a half, or, more in accordance with the usual style of this book, these would be prophetic days; that is, three years and a half. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:5, Revelation 9:15.

And shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves - That is, there would be a course of conduct in regard to these witnesses such as would be shown to the dead if they were not suffered to be decently interred. The language used here - "shall not suffer" - seems to imply that there would be those who might be disposed to show them the respect evinced by interring the dead, but that this would not be permitted. This would find a fulfillment if, in a time of persecution, those who had borne faithful testimony were silenced and treated with dishonor and if there should be those who were disposed to show them respect, but who would be prevented by positive acts on the part of their persecutors. This has often been the case in persecution, and there could be no difficulty in finding numerous instances in the history of the church to which this language would he applicable.

9. they—rather, "(some) of the peoples."

people—Greek, "peoples."

kindreds—Greek, "tribes"; all save the elect (whence it is not said, The peoples … but [some] of the peoples … , or, some of the peoples … may refer to those of the nations …, who at the time shall hold possession of Palestine and Jerusalem).

shall see—So Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic. But A, B, C, and Andreas, the present, "see," or rather (Greek, "blepousin"), "look upon." The prophetic present.

dead bodies—So Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas. But A, B, C, and Coptic, singular, as in Re 11:8, "dead body." Three and a half days answer to the three and a half years (see on [2709]Re 11:2, 3), the half of seven, the full and perfect number.

shall not suffer—so B, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas. But A, C, and Vulgate read, "do not suffer."

in graves—so Vulgate and Primasius. But B, C, Syriac, Coptic, and Andreas, singular; translate, "into a sepulchre," literally, "a monument." Accordingly, in righteous retribution in kind, the flesh of the Antichristian hosts is not buried, but given to all the fowls in mid-heaven to eat (Re 19:17, 18, 21).

And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations; that is, a multitude of people of all sorts shall take notice of this suppression of these two witnesses in their bearing witness for God, and all the cruel dealings with them.

Shall see their dead bodies three days and an half: there are great disputes what time these three days and an half denote: it cannot be understood of three natural, or artificial days; for (as it is noted by the most judicious interpreters) this is much too short a time for all people to

see their dead bodies, to

rejoice over them, and to

make merry, and to

send gifts one to another in testification of the satisfaction of their lusts, upon the victory got over them. I find some understand these three days and an half of the one thousand two hundred and sixty years, wherein they prophesied in sackcloth, Revelation 11:3, which they thus make out; they first conclude, that these are prophetical days, and so signify three years and a half; then they resolve each of those years into days, and count three times three hundred and sixty days (for in those countries they say the year was counted to contain but three hundred and sixty days); to which they add one hundred and eighty, the half of three hundred and sixty, for the half day, which make up one thousand two hundred and sixty days, or forty-two mouths; which is the just time both of the beast’s reign, and of the woman’s abode in the wilderness, and of the witnesses’ prophesying in sackcloth, and of the Gentiles’ treading down the outward court.

1. But it seems very hard, thus first to make the three days three years in a prophetical sense, and then again to resolve those years, into days, and make those days so many more years; this looks as much like oppression to the text, as the counting interest upon interest to a debtor.

2. It plainly confounds the time of the prophesying of the witnesses in sackcloth, with the time of their lying dead.

Now although the time of their lying dead must be within the one thousand two hundred and sixty days, in the latter end thereof, (for it must be within the beast’s forty-two months, mentioned Revelation 13:5), yet it seems hard to make it as long as the beast’s reign. It certainly signifies a time toward the end of the beast’s reign, when there shall be a more eminent and universal suppression of the faithful witnesses of Christ than ever was before: it seemeth therefore rather to be understood more generally for a short time, as much such a phrase or way of speaking is used, Hosea 6:2, or else for a determinate time of such three years and a half as we ordinarily count. I must confess the half day being added, makes me more incline to the latter; for though it be usual with us to express a short time by, two or three days, and this seems by that text of Hosea to have been an ancient way of speaking, yet we do not use to put in half days when we so speak. I do therefore agree with those who think the time here specified is to be understood of three ordinary years and a half; and the rather, because this is the very time that Christ was under the power of the Pharisees. As three days (that is, part of them) was the time of his being under the power of death, so three years and a half was the just time of all the indignity that he suffered from his manifestation to the world, to his death: and (as we read in 1 Macc.) it was the just time of Antiochus’s oppressing of the Jews, whom divines judge that Daniel, in his 11th chapter, {Daniel 11:1-45} makes a type of antichrist.

And shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves: divines are divided whether these words be to be understood of enemies or friends. If it be to be understood of friends, the death being a civil death principally that was spoken of, it signifieth the providence of God so working for his witnesses, by the adherence of a party to them, that their adversaries the popish party should not wholly extinguish them; which hath been seen all along the story of the church: though their adversaries have been warring against them, overcome and killed them, yet they have not been able to bury them; nor shall they be able to do it at this last pinch, when they shall have a greater victory over them than ever before, and kill them to a further degree. But methinks the phrase rather signifies this an act of enemies, who, to show their further malice to them, and contempt and scorn of them are said to be so inhuman, as not to suffer their dead bodies to be buried.

And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations,.... These are either the enemies of the witnesses, who consisted of the people, kindred, tongues, and nations, out from among whom they were chosen, redeemed, and called; and before or against whom John, representing these witnesses, prophesied; and over whom the Romish antichrist sits and rules, Revelation 5:9; or else their friends, either real or pretended; since it is not said "the people", nor "all the people, kindred, tongues, and nations", as it is when the antichristian party are spoken of; and seeing "they that dwell upon the earth", in Revelation 11:10, are mentioned as a distinct company from these; and these are said to be some "of", or "out" of the people, &c. and accordingly the following words will admit of different senses:

shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. Now, though this is not literally to be understood, yet it may have some reference to the usages of the witnesses enemies, who sometimes have not allowed them a burial: so the bodies of John Huss, and Jerom of Prague, were burnt, and their ashes cast into the Rhine; the body of Peter Ramus was cast about the streets, thrown into ponds and ditches, then dragged out, and beat with rods; and some have had their bones dug up again, after they had been buried many years, and then burnt, and their ashes scattered abroad, as Wickliff and Bucer here in England: but as this is to be understood in a mystical and allusive sense, the meaning is, as it may refer to enemies, that they shall see, and look upon with joy and pleasure, and with scorn and contempt, and insult over the witnesses, being silenced and deprived of power and opportunity of prophesying:, and as quite dispirited, cast down, and trodden under foot; and whereas not to have a burial granted is always reckoned a piece of the greatest barbarity and inhumanity, as well as of ignominy and reproach, and is expressive of a most unhappy and miserable condition; see Psalm 129:2; so it here signifies, that the enemies of the witnesses having obtained power over them, will not only insult them, but treat them in a very cruel and inhuman manner, and expose them to scorn and contempt; and it represents their case as being very uncomfortable, and deplorable: or as it may respect friends, real or pretended, such as had been, or were, the sense is, that they shall see them in their unhappy condition, and look upon them with pity and compassion; and shall thoroughly consider, and lay to heart, their case and circumstances; and shall remember then, their doctrine and testimony, and their godly lives, and not suffer them to be buried in oblivion; and shall also call to mind this prediction concerning them, that they should continue in this state but three days and a half, and then revive; and therefore they shall entertain hopes of them, as persons sometimes do of their friends, when they are in doubt whether they are dead or not, and therefore keep them above ground for some time, and will not suffer them to be buried; for when put into the grave, there is no more hope, or when a person has been dead, as in the case of Lazarus, four days; so that this conduct may express the kindness and hope of these friends: or it may be, the meaning is, that they will not look at them but very shyly, and at a distance, as being ashamed of them, and having no heart to succour, relieve, and encourage them; but act as did the priest and the Levite towards the man that fell among thieves, and was left half dead, looked upon him, and turned from him, to the other side of the way; as also, that they will not entertain them, or give them any shelter and refuge among them, when, in this their distress, they shall apply to them: the grave is a resting place; there the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest, Job 3:17. Such resting places the witnesses in former times have found, as the English in Queen Mary's days found at Frankfort and Geneva, and other places, and since in Holland; and as now the French refugees here, who being killed in a civil sense in their own country, are put into graves, or are allowed places of rest and security here: but now these witnesses will find none; those who pretended to be their friends will look shy upon them, and not harbour them, yea, will not suffer any to do it; they will by some public act, through fear of the Popish party, forbid the reception and entertainment of them. The time that this will last will be "three days and a half"; after which, as in Revelation 11:11, they will live again, which cannot be understood literally of so many precise days; for it will; not be possible, that, in so short a time, the news of the slaying of the witnesses should be spread among the inhabitants of the earth, md they be able to express their general joy and rejoicing, and to send their gifts to one another upon his occasion, as is signified in Revelation 11:10; nor does this design so long a time, as the time and times, and half a time, elsewhere mentioned; or that it is a period of the same date and duration with the forty two months, in which the holy city is trodden under foot, and the 1260 days, or years, in which the witnesses prophesy in sackcloth; for during that time they will prophesy, and hold forth their testimony, though in sackcloth; but now they will be killed, and during this space will lie dead, and in entire silence: besides, it will be when they shall have finished their testimony, or towards the close of the 1260 days or years, that this war and slaughter will be, and when these three days and a half will take place, which are to be understood of three years and a half, according the prophetic style, a day for a year; and seems intended for the comfort of the saints, that this most afflictive and distressed condition of the witnesses should last but for a little while. It is made a question, whether this war with the witnesses, and the slaughter of them, and their lying unburied, are over or not: some have thought that these things had their accomplishment in the council of Constance, held about the year 1414, and which lasted three years and a half exactly, when those two witnesses, John Huss, and Jerom of Prague, were killed, insulted, and triumphed over by this council, which was made up of almost all nations. Brightman refers it to the Smalcaldic war in Germany in 1547, when the Protestant army was beaten, and John Frederick, elector of Saxony, and Ernest, the son of the landgrave, and after that the landgrave himself, were taken prisoners; which was a grievous blow to the Protestant cause, and occasioned great rejoicing in the Popish party; but in the year 1550, just three years and a half after that defeat, the men of Magdeburgh rose up with great spirit and courage, and revived the cause. About this time was the council of Trent; to which also the same writer accommodates these things, which consisted of men of all nations, and continued three years and a half; when the authority of the Scriptures was destroyed, which he supposes are the witnesses; when they were suppressed and silenced, and lay as a mere carcass, a dead letter, without any life in them: and it is easy to observe, that there have been several periods of time, in which there has been a seeming fulfilment of these things; the persecution under Queen Mary, and the burning of the martyrs in her time, continued about three years and a half; the massacre in France, in 1572, threatened an utter extirpation of the Protestant religion there, which yet revived in 1576, much about the same space of time here mentioned; and there are several others that have been observed by writers; but what seems most remarkable of all is the case of the Protestants in the valleys of Piedmont, commonly called the Vaudois. The duke of Savoy, their sovereign, by an edict, dated January 31, 1685-6, N. S. forbad the exercise of their religion on pain of death, ordered their churches to be demolished, and their ministers to be banished; which was published in the valleys April the 11th, and was put in execution on the 22nd of the same month, by Savoy and French troops, who killed great numbers of them, took others, and put them into prisons, whom they released about the beginning of December, 1686, and suffered them to depart into other countries, where they were kindly received, relieved, and preserved, particularly by the kingdoms and states of England, Holland, Brandenburgh, Geneva, and Switzerland, while the Popish party were rejoicing at their ruin: and toward the latter end of the year 1689, about three years and a half after the publishing of the edict, these people were inspired on a sudden with a spirit of resolution and courage; and, contrary to the advice of their friends, who thought their case desperate, secretly passed the lake of Geneva, and entered Savoy with sword in hand, and recovered their ancient possessions; and by the month of April, A. D. 1690, established themselves in it, notwithstanding the troops of France and Savoy, to whom they were comparatively few, and whom they slew in great numbers, with little loss to themselves; when the duke perceiving they were encouraged and assisted by foreign princes, and he having left the French interest, recalled the rest of them, and reestablished them by an edict, signed June 4, 1690, just three years and a half after their total dissipation, and gave leave to the French refugees to return with them. Now I take it, that these several things which have happened at certain times, in particular places, are so many hints and pledges of what hereafter will be universal to the witnesses in all places where they are. It would be very desirable if it could be ascertained, and concluded upon a good foundation, that this affair of the killing of the witnesses was over; but because of the following things it cannot be; for the outward court is not yet given to the Gentiles, at least not the whole of it, which must be, ere they can come at the witnesses in the inner court to slay them: they have indeed attacked it, and have taken some part of it, as in Germany, Poland, &c. but as yet not in Great Britain, Holland, &c. at least not thoroughly, though it is plain they are getting ground. Moreover, the witnesses have not finished their testimony, they are still prophesying: in sackcloth; whereas it will be when they have finished it, and towards the close of the 1260 days or years, that they will be killed: to which add, that the ruin of antichrist will quickly follow their rising and ascension; so that if any of the above instances had been the fulfilling of these things relating to the witnesses, antichrist must have been destroyed before now. And it may be further observed, that the second woe, which is the Turkish woe, will, upon the fulfilment of these things, pass away; and the third woe, or the sounding of the seventh trumpet, will immediately take place, which brings on the kingdom of Christ; whereas the Turkish government is still in being, and in great power (this was published in 1747. Ed.); and there is no appearance, as yet, of the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord Jesus Christ. There may be an allusion, in this space of time, to the time that Antiochus, called Epiphanes, held Jerusalem in his hands, after he had conquered it, which was just three years and six months (s), during which time he spoiled the temple, and caused the daily sacrifice to cease: this term of time is much spoken of by the Jews; so long they say Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, and likewise Vespasian, and also three years and a half Adrian besieged Bither (t).

(s) Joseph de Bello Jud. l. 1. c. 1. sect. 7. (t) Echa Rabbati, fol. 43. 4. & 46. 3. & 48. 1. & 52. 2. & 58. 3. T. Hieros. Taanith, fol. 68. 4. Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 93. 1.

And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies {15} three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

(15) That is, for three years and a half: for so many years Boniface lived after his Jubile, as Bergomensis witnesses.

Revelation 11:9. Cf. 2 Chronicles 24:19 f., Matthew 23:34 f., Job 1:12.—ἀφίουσιν, for other N.T. assimilations of irreg. to reg. verb (Win. § Revelation 14:16; Blass, § 23:7), cf. Mark 1:34, Luke 11:4. In Ep. Lugd. the climax of pagan malice is the refusal to let the bodies of the martyrs be buried by their friends. ὑπὸ γὰρ ἀγρίου Θηρὸς ἄγρια καὶ βάρβαρα φῦλα παραχθέντα δυσπαύστως εἶχε. The rendering of burial honours to the dead was a matter of great moment in the ancient world; to be denied pious burial meant ignominy in the memory of this world and penalties in the next. The two witnesses are treated as the murdered high priests, Ananus and Jesus, were handled by the Jewish mob in the seventh decade (Jos. Bell. iv. 5, 2).—βλέπουσιν, the onlookers, who evidently sympathise with anti-christ (cf. on Revelation 16:12), include pagans as well as Jews (Andr.).—ἡμέρας, κ.τ.λ., three and a half as the broken seven (cf. on Revelation 11:2) here in days. This trait (cf. on Revelation 11:12) shows that their fate was not originally modelled on that of Jesus.

9. shall see] Read, see: and so “suffer not” … “rejoice … and make merry,” but “shall send.” The presents seem to make the transition from the prophecy to the narrative a little easier.

three days and a half] Should probably be “the three &c.” The half day lends a certain support to the “year-day” hypothesis—that 3½ years are meant. But the traditional explanation takes the days literally—they rise, not on the third day like their Lord, but on the fourth—being like Him, though not equal to Him. Whether the periods named are to be taken literally or no, there seems no reason why we should not follow the traditional view, and understand this chapter as foretelling a sign which shall literally come to pass in the last days. The prophets Moses and Elijah will appear upon earth—or at the least two prophets will arise in their “spirit and power:” the scene of their prophecy will be Jerusalem, which will then be re-occupied by the Jewish nation. Antichrist (under whose patronage, it is believed, the restoration of the Jews will have taken place) will raise persecution against them, and kill them: but they will rise from the dead, and then, and not till then, the heart of Israel will turn to the Lord.

Revelation 11:9. Καὶ βλέπουσινκαὶ οὐκ ἀφήσουσι) The present, followed by another tense. Thus soon after, χαίρουσι καὶ εὐφρανθήσονται. Comp. ch. Revelation 12:4, Revelation 13:12.—ἡμέρας τρεῖς ἥμισυ) 3½ days, not 3 or 4. This passage, even by itself, affords an irrefragable proof, how scrupulously, that is, how exactly, the interpreter, who trembles at the words of THE LORD, ought to take prophetic numbers, without proverbial roundness of numbers. See Erkl. Offenb., p. 99.

Verse 9. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves; and from among the peoples and tribes, etc., do [men] look upon, etc., and suffer not, etc., in a tomb (Revised Version). The fourfold enumeration points to the wide distribution of the state of things symbolized (cf. Revelation 4:6; Revelation 5:9, etc.), and seems of itself almost sufficient to demonstrate that the two witnesses are not two individual persons who are hereafter to appear. The period is but three days and a half; again, as in vers. 2, 3, a broken, that is, a finite but uncertain period; but, as compared with the three years and a half - the period of the world's existence - very short. (On the signification of the last clause, see on ver. 8.) It is the usual Eastern mark of contempt and degradation. The whole verse, together with the preceding and succeeding verses, describes symbolically, but graphically, the scorn and contempt to which the Church and God's Word will be subjected by men. Revelation 11:9Shall see (βλέψουσιν)

Read, βλέπουσιν do men look (Rev.), and see on John 1:29.

Shall not suffer (οὐκ ἀφήσουσιν)

Read ἀφίουσιν do not suffer.

To be put in graves (τεθῆναι εἰς μνήματα)

Read μνῆμα a tomb, as Rev. Compare Genesis 23:4; Isaiah 14:19, Isaiah 14:20.

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