Revelation 4:3
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
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(3) And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone.—In determining the significance of these emblems we must be guided partly by the analogy of Bible imagery elsewhere, and partly by our knowledge of precious stones. The sardian, or sardine, is admitted to be a stone of fiery red colour; the emerald, to which the bow round the throne is compared, is almost certainly a bright green; the hue of the jasper is the difficulty. The jasper—the last stone in the high-priest’s breastplate, and first of the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem (Exodus 28:20, and Revelation 21:19)—is described by the best authorities as a dark, opaque green. Such a colour is quite in harmony with the colours of the other stones in the breastplate, and particularly with the foundation stones, which seem to be arranged in shades of colour (see Notes on Revelation 21:19 et seq.); but the dark opaque green would be an ill combination with the red sardius and the green emerald in the vision of the present chapter. Is there no further light? We have a jasper stone spoken of in Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:18, with the descriptive phrase, “clear as crystal!” Does not this point to a stone somewhat different in appearance from that spoken of simply as jasper? Such a clear crystal stone would be the most natural companion to the sardine, and the combination of the sparkling brightness and fiery red suits the union of brightness and flame which appears elsewhere in the Bible (comp, Revelation 1:14; Revelation 11:1; Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 7:9), and is best understood of the holiness and righteousness of God. The latter half of this verse shows us these surrounded by the emerald-coloured bow, the evident symbol of the divine mercy. The allusion to the bow in the cloud (Genesis 9:12-16) is obvious; the bow completely encircled the throne, as mercy encompassing judgment. It was a covenant token, bearing witness to God’s faithfulness in dark times, God’s care for the ark of His Church, and His mercy shining forth after storm.

Revelation 4:3. He that sat was to look upon like a jasper — Shone with a visible lustre, like that of sparkling precious stones, such as those which were of old on the high-priest’s breast-plate, and those placed as the foundations of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:19-20. If there be any thing emblematical in the colours of these stones, possibly the jasper (one species, at least, of which, according to Pliny, is milky white, and according to Daubuz, of a white and bright shining colour) might be a symbol of God’s purity, with various other perfections which shine in all his dispensations. The sardine-stone, of a blood-red colour, or with white and red strata, may be an emblem of his justice, and of the vengeance he was about to execute on his enemies. An emerald, being green, may betoken favour to the penitent and pious; and the rainbow, of an emerald colour, was undoubtedly intended to express the everlasting covenant of grace and peace, of which the rainbow was to Noah an appointed token. And this rainbow, being round about the whole breadth of the throne, fixed the distance of those who stood or sat round it.

4:1-8 After the Lord Jesus had instructed the apostle to write to the churches the things that are, there was another vision. The apostle saw a throne set in heaven, an emblem of the universal dominion of Jehovah. He saw a glorious One upon the throne, not described by human features, so as to be represented by a likeness or image, but only by his surpassing brightness. These seem emblems of the excellence of the Divine nature, and of God's awful justice. The rainbow is a fit emblem of that covenant of promise which God has made with Christ, as the Head of the church, and with all his people in him. The prevailing colour was a pleasant green, showing the reviving and refreshing nature of the new covenant. Four-and-twenty seats around the throne, were filled with four-and-twenty elders, representing, probably, the whole church of God. Their sitting denotes honour, rest, and satisfaction; their sitting about the throne signifies nearness to God, the sight and enjoyment they have of him. They were clothed in white raiment; the imputed righteousness of the saints and their holiness: they had on their heads crowns of gold, signifying the glory they have with him. Lightnings and voices came from the throne; the awful declarations God makes to his church, of his sovereign will and pleasure. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne; the gifts, graces, and operations of the Spirit of God in the churches of Christ, dispensed according to the will and pleasure of Him who sits upon the throne. In the gospel church, the laver for purification is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses from all sin. In this all must be washed, to be admitted into the gracious presence of God on earth, and his glorious presence in heaven. The apostle saw four living creatures, between the throne and the circle of the elders, standing between God and the people. These seem to signify the true ministers of the gospel, because of their place between God and the people. This also is shown by the description given, denoting wisdom, courage, diligence, and discretion, and the affections by which they mount up toward heaven.And he that sat was to look upon - Was in appearance; or, as I looked upon him, this seemed to be his appearance. He does not describe his form, but his splendor.

Like a jasper - ἰάσπιδι iaspidi The jasper, properly, is "an opaque, impure variety of quartz, of red, yellow, and also of some dull colors, breaking with a smooth surface. It admits of a high polish, and is used for vases, seals, snuff-boxes, etc. When the colors are in stripes or bands, it is called striped jasper" (Dana, in Webster's Dictionary). The color here is not designated, whether red or yellow. As the red was, however, the common color worn by princes, it is probable that that was the color that appeared, and that John means to say that he appeared like a prince in his royal robes. Compare Isaiah 6:1.

And a sardine stone - σαρδίῳ sardiō This denotes a precious stone of a bloodred, or sometimes of a flesh-color, more commonly known by the name of carnelian (Robinson's Lexicon). Thus, it corresponds with the jasper, and this is only an additional circumstance to convey the exact idea in the mind of John, that the appearance of him who sat on the throne was that of a prince in his scarlet robes. This is all the description which he gives of his appearance; and this is:

(a) entirely appropriate, as it suggests the idea of a prince or a monarch; and,

(b) it is well adapted to impress the mind with a sense of the majesty of Him who cannot be described, and of whom no image should be attempted. Compare Deuteronomy 4:12; "Ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude."

And there was a rainbow round about the throne - This is a beautiful image, and was probably designed to be emblematical as well as beautiful. The previous representation is that of majesty and splendor; this is adapted to temper the majesty of the representation. The rainbow has always, from its own nature, and from its associations, been an emblem of peace. It appears on the cloud as the storm passes away. It contrasts beautifully with the tempest that has just been raging. It is seen as the rays of the sun again appear clothing all things with beauty - the more beautiful from the fact that the storm has come, and that the rain has fallen. If the rain has been gentle, nature smiles serenely, and the leaves and flowers refreshed appear clothed with new beauty: if the storm has raged violently, the appearance of the rainbow is a pledge that the war of the elements has ceased, and that God smiles again upon the earth. It reminds us, too, of the "covenant" when God did "set his bow in the cloud," and solemnly promised that the earth should no more be destroyed by a flood, Genesis 9:9-16. The appearance of the rainbow, therefore, around the throne, was a beautiful emblem of the mercy of God, and of the peace that was to pervade the world as the result of the events that were to be disclosed to the vision of John. True, there were lightnings and thunderings and voices, but there the bow abode calmly above them all, assuring him that there was to be mercy and peace.

In sight like unto an emerald - The emerald is green, and this color so predominated in the bow that it seemed to be made of this species of precious stone. The modified and mild color of green appears to everyone to predominate in the rainbow. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28) has introduced the image of the rainbow, also, in his description of the vision that appeared to him, though not as calmly encircling the throne, but as descriptive of the general appearance of the scene. "As is the appearance of the bow that is on the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about." Milton, also, has introduced it, but it is also as a part of the coloring of the throne:

"Over their heads a crystal firmament,

Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure.

Amber, and colors of the showery arch."

- Paradise Lost, b. vii.

3. was—omitted in the two oldest manuscripts but supported by Vulgate and Coptic.

to look upon—Greek, "in sight," or "appearance."

jasper—From Re 21:11, where it is called most precious, which the jasper was not, Ebrard infers it was a diamond. Ordinarily, the jasper is a stone of various wavy colors, somewhat transparent: in Re 21:11 it represents watery crystalline brightness. The sardine, our cornelian, or else a fiery red. As the watery brightness represents God's holiness, so the fiery red His justice executing fiery wrath. The same union of white or watery brightness and fiery redness appears in Re 1:14; 10:1; Eze 1:4; 8:2; Da 7:9.

rainbow round about the throne—forming a complete circle (type of God's perfection and eternity: not a half circle as the earthly rainbow) surrounding the throne vertically. Its various colors, which combined form one pure solar ray, symbolize the varied aspects of God's providential dealings uniting in one harmonious whole. Here, however, the predominating color among the prismatic colors is green, the most refreshing of colors to look upon, and so symbolizing God's consolatory promises in Christ to His people amidst judgments on His foes. Moreover, the rainbow was the appointed token of God's covenant with all flesh, and His people in particular. Hereby God in type renewed to man the grant originally made to the first Adam. The antitype will be the "new heavens and the new earth" restored to redeemed man, just as the earth, after the destruction by the flood, was restored to Noah. As the rainbow was first reflected on the waters of the world's ruin, and continues to be seen only when a cloud is brought over the earth, so another deluge, namely, of fire, shall precede the new heavens and earth: the Lord, as here, on His throne, whence (Re 4:5) proceed "lightnings and thunderings," shall issue the commission to rid the earth of its oppressors: but then, amidst judgment, when other men's hearts fail them for fear, the believer shall be reassured by the rainbow, the covenant token, round the throne (compare De Burgh, Exposition of Revelation). The heavenly bow speaks of the shipwreck of the world through sin: it speaks also of calm and sunshine after the storm. The cloud is the regular token of God's and Christ's presence, for example, in the tabernacle's holiest place; on Mount Sinai at the giving of the law; at the ascension (Ac 1:9); at His coming again (Re 4:7).

This is all but a description of the glory of God, as he appeared to John in this vision. The

jasper stone is famous for its transparency, and variety of colours it offereth to the eye, and may signify the various and infinite perfections of God. The

sardine stone is red, and of a bloody colour, which may signify the power, justice, and terror of God. The

rainbow was the sign of God’s covenant with Noah, signifying his being so far reconciled to the world, as that he would not again destroy it by water, Genesis 9:13. The

emerald is green, and pleasant to the eye. So as this vision of God represents God powerful, just, and good, and of various and infinite perfections.

And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper,.... For the brightness, glory, and majesty of his countenance, and for his being light itself, clothed with it, and dwelling in it; see Revelation 21:11; and for the various perfections of his nature, as eternity, infinity, immutability, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, wisdom, power, goodness, truth, love, grace, and mercy; for the jasper, at least one sort of them, is of various colours, and spotted with divers spots; that which is most valued is the green, spotted with red or purple (h): hence this stone, which is the twelfth in the high priest's breastplate, and on which the name of "Benjamin" was written, is called, by the Chaldee paraphrase of Onkelos on Exodus 28:20, "Pantere", and of ben Uzziel, on the same place, "Apanturin", and on Sol 5:14, "Apantor", because some are variegated and spotted like panthers.

And a sardine stone; the same with the "Sardius": and so read here the Alexandrian copy, the Syriac and Arabic versions, as in Revelation 21:20, and in Exodus 28:17 on which Reuben's name was written; this is of a red, or blood colour as its name in Hebrew, shows, and the same that is called a cornelian; and is expressive of the fiery indignation of God whose fury is poured out like fire, and who nakedly and absolutely considered, is a consuming fire to the wicked, his enemies, and the enemies of his church and people. Some jaspers being white and sky coloured and the white colour being most agreeable to deity, as Cicero says (i), and the sardine being red, and a gem of the ruby kind make up the description of the church's beloved; Sol 5:10; and may denote in general his purity, glory, and excellency, and in particular good will to his people, and wrath to his enemies. And to the comfort of the former it is added,

and there was a rainbow round about the throne; which signifies the covenant of grace; see Genesis 9:12. The rainbow is a reverberation, or a reflection of the beams of the sun upon a thin watery cloud; and the covenant of grace is owing to Jesus Christ, the sun of righteousness; it is he that has formed it, and filled it with blessings and promises; he is the Mediator, surety, and messenger of it, and who in Revelation 10:1 is represented as clothed with a cloud, and a rainbow on his head: the rainbow is of, various colours and fitly expresses the various promises and blessings, in the covenant of grace, and the various providences, both prosperous and adverse, with respect to soul and body; and as the rainbow was an emblem of mercy, peace, and reconciliation in God to man, after he had destroyed the world by a flood, so the covenant is a covenant of grace and mercy; it springs from it, and is full of it, and provides for the peace and reconciliation of the people of God, by the blood of Christ; whence it is called a covenant of peace: and as the rainbow is a security to the world, and the inhabitants of it, from a destruction by a flood any more, so the covenant is a security to those who are interested in it, from eternal destruction, and wrath to come; herein lies all their salvation, and this is the security of it: to which may be added, that God calls it my bow, as he often calls the covenant of grace my covenant, in distinction from man's; see Genesis 9:12; and this being round about the throne of God, shows that the covenant of grace does, as it were, include and enclose God in his persons, and in his perfections; all the three divine Persons have a concern in it, and all the divine perfections are glorified by it; and it being around it, it is always in his view; he is ever mindful of it, and constantly remembers it for the good of his people, and faithfully keeps it; and it being in this form denotes, that in whatsoever way he comes forth unto his people, it is always in a covenant way, whether it be in things temporal or spiritual, in adversity or prosperity, with regard to the things of time and eternity; nor is there any coming to him with comfort, but as he is encompassed with the rainbow of the covenant; stripped of this, he is like the jasper and sardine stones, full of sparkling majesty, dread and terror, so that there is no coming nigh him; but being encircled with the rainbow, he may be approached as a covenant God, as the God of all grace, seated on a throne of grace, whither believers may come with boldness, freedom, and cheerfulness: and this rainbow was

in sight like unto an emerald; the stone on which Judah's name was written, in the high priest's breastplate; this is of a green colour, which colour is the prevailing one in the rainbow; it is of an exceeding fine green, very delightful to the eye, and gives pleasure to the mind to look upon it: and what a lovely and delightful sight is the covenant of grace to a believer! to see God as a covenant God, Christ as the Mediator of it, the exceeding great and precious promises and blessings, both of grace and glory, which are in it, yields an unspeakable pleasure to such persons; the covenant of grace, like the emerald, is ever green, it is always new; its promises and blessings are always fresh, and, like that, it is durable; it is sure, and cannot be broken, and is more immovable than rocks and mountains: the emerald is very bright, clear, and transparent; it is reported of Nero (k), that he could see in his emerald the combat of the gladiators in the theatre; in the covenant of grace, as in a glass, may be seen the glory of all the three Persons in the Godhead, for it is ordered in all things for the glory of each Person; as also all the perfections of the divine nature; here God appears abundant in goodness and truth; here mercy and truth meet together; and righteousness and peace kiss each other: to which may be added, that the emerald is said (l) to help and refresh the memory; now though God stands in no need of any thing to bring things to his remembrance, yet such is his condescension to men, that he sets the rainbow in the cloud, to look at, that he might remember his everlasting covenant; and so he allows his people to put him in remembrance, by making mention of the covenant of grace, and pleading the promises of it. The Alexandrian copy and the Ethiopic version, instead of "a rainbow", read "priests".

(h) Albert. Magn. de Reb. Metall. l. 2. c. 8. Ruaeus de Gemmis, l. 2. c. 1.((i) De Legibus, l. 2.((k) Ruaeus de Gemmis, l. 2. c. 4. (l) Ruaeus, ib. & Albert. Magn. de Reb. Metall. l. 2. c. 17.

{4} And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

(4) By his nature, in that he is the Father, most glorious in his own person, and with his glory outshining all other things.

Revelation 4:3. ὁράσει. Dative of manner:[1686] “in appearance,” cf. Ἡ ὌΨΙς, Κ.Τ.Λ., Revelation 1:16, and the Ὡς ὍΡΑΣΙς with the following gen. of the object compared in the LXX. Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:26 sqq., Revelation 8:2.

ΛΊΘῼ ἸΆΣΠΙΔΙ ΚΑῚ ΣΑΡΔΊΩ. The ΣΆΡΔΙΟς[1687] is, as the Heb. name indicates, a red,[1688] particularly flesh-colored gem, our carnelian. Ebrard understands by it the dazzling ruby.

More difficult is the determination of the ἴασπις. The LXX. thus render the Heb. יָֽשְׁפֶה;[1689] yet in this passage, as well as also in Revelation 21:11, where the ἴασπις is designated as λίθος τιμιώτατος, and κρυσταλλίζων, it is scarcely possible to think of the not very costly and not transparent, sometimes greenish, sometimes reddish gem, which the Romans called, as we also call it, jasper. Cf. Pliny:[1690] “A gem, which, although surpassed by many, yet retains the glory of antiquity.” Nevertheless, the most of the expositors adhere firmly to the simple expression. Andr., Areth., N. de Lyra, Aretius, etc., think of the green jasper, and understand it, just as the emerald mentioned immediately afterwards, as a symbol of divine consolation, since green is agreeable to the eye.[1691] A symbolical reference has been discovered even to baptism,[1692] and the judgment of the flood;[1693] for the red sardius denotes the final judgment in fire. Others think of the red jasper, as they either regard it, like the sardius, a symbol of the divine anger,[1694] or, without any such significance,[1695] as only a description of the dazzling appearance of God. Beng., Stern., Hengstenb.,[1696] presuppose a white, crystal-clear species of jasper, and find in this color the image of the divine holiness and unclouded glory. This sense of the brightness of color is indicated partly by emblematic descriptions, as Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 7:9 sq.; and partly by parallels, as Revelation 1:14 sqq., Revelation 10:1.[1697] The brilliancy of light and fire is, in Ezekiel; the appearance of God. In Daniel, also, the bright white raiment and the dazzling white hair of the Ancient of days belong with the fire of his throne; for both the holy glory and the consuming anger of God[1698] must be represented. Upon the same view depends the description of the Lord,[1699] and of the angel, who in Revelation 10:1 appears invested with divine attributes, while, e.g., Revelation 4:4, Revelation 7:9, the heavenly beings, because they have attained to a holiness and glory like that of God, appear indeed in white garments, yet not also with the fiery signs of divine judgment, but with crowns and palms. If now the red appearance of the σάρδιος recalls the ardor of the divine wrathful judgment, we expect the ἴασπις to represent the bright light, which elsewhere is displayed along with the divine glimmering of fire, in a different way. But now the very bright or crystal-clear jasper, stated by Beng. and Hengstenb., does not actually exist. Hence we must believe, either that John imagined an ideal kind of jasper,[1700] or, as is more probable, because of Revelation 21:11, that by the ἴασπις he wished to designate the diamond.[1701] The LXX., in whose vocabulary John was instructed, do not have the term ἀδάμας.[1702] The Heb. שָׁמִיר, which probably designates the diamond, is not accurately translated by the LXX. in Zechariah 7:12; Ezekiel 3:9.[1703] It is, besides, to be observed, that the LXX. render not only יָֽשְׂפֵה, but also כַדְכֹּד, Isaiah 54:12,[1704] by ἼΑΣΠΙς. But if the description (Revelation 4:3) depends upon Ezekiel 8:2 and similar passages, it yet in no way follows that here, as there,[1705] the brilliancy of the two gems is to be regarded as different parts of the form of God,—the bright light of the jasper above, the red appearance of the sardius beneath:[1706] rather, the double brilliancy of the two stones shining through one another[1707] is to be regarded a profound designation of the essential unity of the holiness and righteousness of God. The free treatment of the ancient prophetic view expresses, as to the subject itself portrayed, a deepening of the thought; while the beauty of the likeness gains rather than loses, as the divine appearance to John maintains a pictorial unity. The entire form of the enthroned one appears in the twofold, yet united, brilliancy of the jasper and the sardius, just as the entire form of the Lord was in appearance like intense light of the sun.[1708]

ΚΑῚ ἾΡΙς ΚΥΚΛΌΘΕΝ ΤΟῦ ΘΡΌΝΟΥ ὍΜΟΙΟς ὈΡΆΣΕΙ ΣΜΑΡΑΓΔΊΝῼ. Concerning ὍΜΟΙΟς as an adjective of two terminations, cf. Winer, p. 66.

Against the wording (ΚΥΚΛ. Τ. ΘΡΌΝΟΥ) is the idea of Vitr., that the ἸΡΙς surrounded the head of the one enthroned like a crown;[1709] Beng. and Hengstenb. unnaturally and unfairly regard the ἿΡΙς as surrounding the throne in breadth horizontally.

Hengstenb. infers, besides, from the formula ΚΥΚΛ. Τ. ΘΡ. recurring from Revelation 4:4, that also the thrones of the elders appear within the ἹΡΙς; but it is the only natural and, in a pictorial respect, conceivable way, to regard the ἾΡΙς as surrounding the shining form upon the throne on high.[1710]

Without any basis is the controversy as to whether the ἾΡΙς were a “rainbow,”[1711] or a “bow;”[1712] nor does it in any way correspond to the poetical character of the description, if, in order to explain the rainbow, mention is made of God’s appearing, Psalm 18:12; Psalm 104:3, surrounded by darkness of rain and thick clouds,[1713] or that the green color here named is only the principal color,[1714] as the hues of the jasper and sardius are regarded as combined with the brilliancy of the emerald, attributed to the ἸΡΙς, in order to bring out the three chief colors of one common rainbow. What John saw about the throne had the form of a rainbow,—hence he says ἸΡΙς,—although not the seven colors of an actual rainbow are represented, but only the emerald green. Yet this ἿΡΙς in itself, and the emerald appearance especially,[1715] are not without symbolical significance, possibly in a mere optical contrast with the blending brilliancy of the jasper and sardius;[1716] but in symmetry with the symbolical significance of this twofold brilliancy, the mild emerald-green of the bow, which is already in itself the clear sign of divine grace,[1717] notes the gentle and quickening nature of this grace.[1718] But it follows neither from the gen., nor from the pragmatism of this passage, that the grace recurring after the divine punishments[1719] is described; it would be more correctly interpreted with Grot.: “God in his judgments is always mindful of his covenant.” Yet we dare not precipitately limit the description here presented, in its particular connections, to the judgments of God in their relation to divine grace which are to be beheld only later: it is sufficient that here where the eternal and personal foundation of all that follows is portrayed, the holy glory and righteousness of God appear in most intimate union with his immutable and kind grace, so that thus the entire impending development of the kingdom of God and the world unto its last end, as it is determined by that wonderful, indivisible nature of the holy, just, and gracious God, as well in its course as in its goal, must correspond to this threefold glory of the living God. Consequently this fundamental vision contains every thing that serves the terror of enemies, and the consolation of friends, of the one enthroned.

[1686] Erasm.

[1687] Revelation 21:20. Cf. Ezekiel 28:17; Ezekiel 39:10; LXX. for אדֶס.

[1688] πυρωπὸς τῷ εἴδει καὶ αἰματοειδής (“fiery in appearance, and blood-red”), Epiphanius in Vitr.

[1689] Exodus 28:20; Exodus 39:13; Ezekiel 28:13.

[1690] N. H., xxxvii. 37.

[1691] N. de Lyra, etc.

[1692] Aret.

[1693] Victorin, Ticon., Primas, Beda.

[1694] Vitr.

[1695] Ew., De Wette, Ebrard.

[1696] Cf. also Ew. ii.

[1697] Cf. Hengstenb.

[1698] Cf. also Deuteronomy 4:24.

[1699] Revelation 1:14 sqq.

[1700] Cf. Revelation 21:21.

[1701] Ebrard.

[1702] Yet, at the time of John, the ἀδάμας was not unknown. Cf. Plin., H. N., xxxvii. Revelation 15 : “Among human things, not only among gems, the adamas, known only to kings, and these very few, had the greatest value.—Now six kinds of it are known: That of India, of a resemblance to crystal, since, also, it does not differ in translucency; the Cyprian, verging to the color of brass.”

[1703] Jeremiah 17:1 is lacking in the LXX.

[1704] i.e., the probable ruby,

[1705] Cf. also Revelation 10:1Revelation 4:3. The sources of the general conception lie far back in passages like Isaiah 6:1 f., Ezekiel 1:26 f., Daniel 7:9 f., Enoch xxxix., xl., xlvi., mediated by rabbinical interpretations. But it should be noted that in the palace-temple of Hatra, the Parthian capital, one well-known frieze contained a row of figures including the griffin, the eagle, the human face, the head of an ox, and an emblem on the cornice apparently representing the sun. With a sublime restraint, the author leaves the royal presence undefined, though he is more definite and explicit on the whole than (say) Ezekiel. The latter’s advance in this respect upon his predecessors was explained by the rabbis (cf. Streane’s Chagiga, p. 73) as a needful counteractive to the Jewish belief that visions were impossible outside Canaan, and as a help to men of the captivity who needed “special details to support them in their trials” (cf. above, Revelation 1:9 f.). The σάρδιον, a flesh-coloures, semi-transparent, often golden or ruddy gem, answers to our red jasper or cornelian, so-called perhaps from Sardis, whence the stone was originally exported, ὅμοιος, adj. only here with two terminations. “The striking simile ὅμ. ὁρ. λ. . κ. σ. recalls the portrait statues of Roman emperors and others, in which the raiment is worked out in hard-coloures stones—a fashion introduced in the last years of the republic from Ptolemaic Egypt” (Myres, E. Bi., 4812).—ἶρις. The nimbus or halo round the throne is green, σμ. (cf. Deissm. 267) being malachite or more probably an emerald (Revelation 21:19), to which the ancients attributed a talismanic power of warding off evil spirits. “Thou hast made heaven and earth bright with thy rays of pure emerald light” (hymn to Ra, E. B. D. 8). The. rabbis (Chagiga, 16 a) discouraged any study of the rainbow, as it symbolised the glory of God. As the symbol of God’s covenant, it may be here a foil to the forbidding awe of Revelation 4:5 a (which develops 3 a, as 5 b develops 3b–4); “Deus in judiciis semper meminit foederis sui” (Grotius.) But, like the parabolic details of Jesus, these traits are mainly descriptive. The association of jasper, sardius, and emerald is a genuinely Hellenic touch: cf. Phaedo, 110, where Plato describes the real earth under the heavens of paradise as a place where in perfection lie such things as exist here but in fragmentary beauty—for example, the pebbles esteemed here, σάρδιά τε καὶ ἰάσπιδας καὶ σμαράγδους. Flinders Petrie, taking σμ. as rock-crystal, argues that the rainbow here is of the prismatic colour which a hexagonal prism of that colourless stone would throw (Hastings, D. B. iv. 620).

3. a jasper and a sardine stone] Our jasper, a stone the colour of which varies between red, green and yellow, does not seem very appropriate to the image here, nor to answer to the description in Revelation 21:11, as it is not sparkling nor transparent. But it seems proved that the jasper of the ancients (the word is substantially the same in Hebrew, in Greek and Latin, and in modern languages) was the translucent stone now known as Chalcedony—especially the green variety. The sardius (so we should read) is certainly the choicest kind of red carnelian, translucent and fiery in colour, but not exactly sparkling.

round about the throne] i.e. forming an arch over it.

in sight] The word is the same as “to look upon” just before, though the construction is somewhat varied.

like unto an emerald] Here there is no doubt what stone is meant: we have only the question whether the rainbow was all green, or only produced the same effect on the eye as an emerald—brilliant yet not dazzling. The ancients felt very strongly the relief given to the eye by looking at it. The rainbow in any case no doubt represents God’s revelation by a covenant of grace, Genesis 9:13 sqq.

Revelation 4:3. Ἰάσπιδι, a jasper) While the Sardine stone is of a fiery colour, and resembles the appearance of blood, the Jasper expresses a WHITISH red.—Lampe on this passage.—σαρδίῳ) Erasmus, with the inferior Latin editions, have σαρδίνῳ: the others correctly, σαρδίῳ. Λίθῳ ἰάσπιδι καὶ σαρδίῳ are substantives: comp. ch. Revelation 21:20; but σμαραγδίνῳ (ὁράσει) is an adjective, and of the feminine gender also, from which, in consequence of the rhythm, that word σαρδίνῳ was interpolated unawares by the copyist, although Wolf thinks that the termination σαρδίνῳ is confirmed by the word σμαραγδίνῳ.[57]

[57] AB read σαρδίῳ: Rec. Text, without good authority, σαρδίνῳ—E.

Verse 3. - And he that sat was to look upon like, etc.; or, he that sat like in appearance (δράσει). The word ὅρασις is found in this verse and in two other places only in the New Testament, viz. in Acts 2:17 (where it is part of a quotation from Joel) and in Revelation 9:17. In the latter place the expression is ἐν τῇ ὁράσει, and the presence of the preposition, together with the article, seems to justify the rendering "in the vision." In the Septuagint ὅρασις is frequently used to signify either "vision" or "appearance" (see 1 Samuel 3:1; Isaiah 1:1; Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 7:13; Daniel 1:17 and Daniel 8:1; Obadiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 2:2; and many others, where it is "vision." Also Judges 13:6; Ezekiel 1:5, 13, 26-28; Daniel 8:15; Nahum 2:4; 1 Samuel 16:12; and many others, where it is "appearance"). In the classics, ὅραμα signifies a "vision;" ὅρασις, "sight," the power of seeing. A jasper and a sardine stone. The jasper was the last, and the sardius the first stone of the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:17). The jasper was the first, and the sardius the sixth of the foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19, 20). Much doubt is attached to the whole subject of the precious stones of the Bible. The modern jasper is opaque, while it is evident that the jasper of the Revelation is remarkable for its translucent character (see Revelation 21:11, "jasper stone. clear as crystal;" 21:18, "The building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass"). It is evident that the stone was characterized by purity and brilliancy - features which seem to point it out as the modern diamond. The varying colour, which, according to some authorities, the jasper possessed, is not inconsistent with this view. It is curious, too, that in Exodus 28:18, the Hebrew יַהְלַם, which in the Authorized Version is rendered "diamond," is represented in the LXX. by ἴασπις; while in ver. 20, יָשְׂפֶה the English "jasper," is ὀνύχιον. The sardius was the carnelian, always red, though somewhat varying in shade. The name has been variously derived from

(1) the Persian sered, yellowish red;

(2) Sardis, as the first place of its discovery;

(3) while carnelian is connected with carneus, as being of the colour of raw flesh. But

(4) Skeat derives the word from cornu, a horn;

the term being thus an allusion to the semitransparent nature of the stone. The pure jasper, together with the red sardius, may fitly typify God's purity and mercy together with his justice and judgment. And there was a rainbow round about the throne. The Greek ϊρις, which is used here, is not found in the LXX.? where τόξον is invariably found, probably to avoid reference to a term which was so pre-eminently heathen. The rainbow is here, as always (see Genesis 9:12, 13), a token of God's faithfulness in keeping his promises. It is, therefore, a fit sign of comfort to those persecuted Christians to whom, and for whose edification, this message was sent. In sight like unto an emerald. The σμάραγδος is our modern green emerald. It was highly valued in Roman times. It was one of the stones of the high priest's breastplate, and the fourth foundation of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). The description in this verse recalls Ezekiel 1:23, "As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain. so was the appearance of the brightness round about." Some have found a difficulty in the association of a rainbow with its varied colours, and the single green hue of the emerald. But of course it is the form only of the rainbow which is alluded to, not every quality which a rainbow may possess. A circular green appearance was seen round the throne, which perhaps may be described as a green halo. If the purity of the jasper (see above) be allowed to symbolize God's purity and spirituality, and the sardine, man clothed with flesh, the green emerald may fitly represent God's goodness displayed in nature. Revelation 4:3Jasper stone

The last of the twelve stones in the High Priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:20; Exodus 39:13), and the first of the twelve enumerated in the foundation of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). Also the stone employed in the superstructure of the wall of the Heavenly City (Revelation 21:18). The stone itself was of different colors, the best being purple. According to Revelation 21:11, it represents a crystalline brightness.


Rev., Sardius. The sixth foundation-stone of the Heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation 21:20. A red stone, supposed to answer to our cornelian. Pliny derives its name from Sardis where it was discovered. Others from the Persian sered, yellowish red. The exact meaning of the symbolism must remain uncertain, owing to our ignorance of the precise meaning of "jasper," a name which seems to have covered a variety of stones now known under other classifications. Some interpreters, assuming the jasper to be sparkling white, find in it a representation of the holiness of God, and in the fiery sardius a representation of His wrath.

Rainbow (ἶρις)

Only here and Revelation 10:1. The word is identical, and seems to have had some original connection with Iris, the deity known as the messenger-goddess of Olympus. In Homer the word is used in both senses.

"And if thou wishest now to ask of me,

No dream I am, but lovely and divine:

Whereof let this be unto thee a sign,

That when thou wak'st, the many-colored bow

Across the world the morning sun shall throw.

But me indeed thine eyes shall not behold.

Then he, awaking in the morning cold,

A sprinkle of fine rain felt on his face,


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