Revelation 4:4
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and on the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4)And round about the throne were four and twenty seats (or, thrones), and upon the seats (or, thrones) I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.—Perhaps the wish to give its due pre-eminence to the thought of Him who sat on the throne caused our translators to describe the elders as sitting on seats; but the same word throne is used of both, and those who are now seated on thrones are called (Revelation 5:10) kings and priests. In the similar vision in Ezekiel no human beings are seen; their appearance here is significant. They are the representatives of Christ’s Church and people, of those whom Christ calls His friends, and who are admitted to know what their Lord doeth (John 15:15). Various reasons have been suggested why they should be described as twenty-four in number; they are the twelve tribes doubled, to signify the union of the Gentile with the Jewish Church; they are the two sets of twelve, to represent the two Testaments; they are the twelve Patriarchs cojoined with the twelve Apostles. It will be seen that these were all different forms of the same thought, that the twenty-four elders represent the complete Church of God in the past and in the future, in the Jewish and Gentile worlds; and as such the true spiritual successors, as priests to God, of those twenty-four courses (1Chronicles 24:1-19) arranged by David, and which some have thought gave rise to the use of the number twenty-four in this passage. It is the great united Church. The same thought is touched upon in the double song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:3), and in the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14).

Revelation 4:4-5. And round about the throne — In a circle; four and twenty seats — Greek, θρονοι, thrones; and upon the thrones four and twenty elders — Signifying, perhaps, the most wise, holy, and useful of all the former ages, whether of the patriarchal, Jewish, or Christian Church, Isaiah 24:23; Hebrews 12:1. In the number, there seems to be an allusion to that of the patriarchs and apostles, and they may be called elders, because the presidency of elders was common among the Jews. Or, as Bishop Newton thinks, the allusion is to the princes of the four and twenty courses of the Jewish priests: and if so, these four and twenty elders must be considered as representing the Jewish Church. Indeed, their harps, and golden vials full of odours, (Revelation 5:8,) seem to intimate their connection with the ancient tabernacle service, in which such things were wont to be used. Sitting — In general; but falling down when they worshipped; clothed in white raiment — A habit resembling that of the Jewish priests, and emblematical of their purity; and on their heads crowns of gold — In token of their being made kings as well as priests unto God. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, voices — The usual concomitants of the divine presence, representing the awful majesty of the one true God, the King of Israel; and also emblematical of the revelations about to be given, and of the commotions and convulsions about to take place in the world and in the church. See on Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:19. And there were seven lamps of fire, &c., which are the seven spirits — That is, which represent the various gifts and operations of God’s Holy Spirit. See on Revelation 1:4.4:1-8 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 round about the throne were four and twenty seats - Or rather, "thrones" - θρόνοι thronoi - the same word being used as what is rendered "throne" - θρόνος thronos. The word, indeed, properly denotes a seat, but it came to be employed to denote particularly the seat on which a monarch sat, and is properly translated thus in Revelation 4:2-3. So it is rendered in Matthew 5:34; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 23:22; Matthew 25:31; Luke 1:32; and uniformly elsewhere in the New Testament (53 places in all), except in Luke 1:52; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 11:16; Revelation 16:10, where it is rendered "seat and seats." It should have been rendered "thrones" here, and is so translated by Prof. Stuart. Coverdale and Tyndale render the word "seat" in each place in Revelation 4:2-5. It was undoubtedly the design of the writer to represent those who sat on those seats as, in some sense, kings - for they have on their heads crowns of gold - and that idea should have been retained in the translation of this word.

And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting - Very various opinions have been entertained in respect to those who thus appeared sitting around the throne, and to the question why the number twenty-four is mentioned. Instead of examining those opinions at length, it will be better to present, in a summary manner, what seems to be probable in regard to the intended reference. The following points, then, would appear to embrace all that can be known on this subject:

(1) These elders have a regal character, or are of a kingly order. This is apparent:

(a) because they are represented as sitting on "thrones," and

(b) because they have on their heads "crowns of gold."

(2) they are emblematic. They are designed to symbolize or represent some class of persons. This is clear:

(a) because it cannot be supposed that so small a number would compose the whole of those who are in fact around the throne of God, and,

(b) because there are other symbols there designed to represent something pertaining to the homage rendered to God, as the four living creatures and the angels, and this supposition is necessary in order to complete the symmetry and harmony of the representation.

(3) they are human beings, and are designed to have some relation to the race of man, and somehow to connect the human race with the worship of heaven. The four living creatures have another design; the angels Revelation 5:1-14 have another; but these are manifestly of our race - persons from this world before the throne.

(4) they are designed in some way to be symbolic of the church as redeemed. Thus, they say Revelation 5:9, "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood."

(5) they are designed to represent the whole church in every land and every age of the world. Thus, they say Revelation 5:9, "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." This shows, further, that the whole representation is emblematic; for otherwise in so small a number - twenty-four - there could not be a representation out of every nation.

(6) they represent the church triumphant - the church victorious. Thus, they have crowns on their heads; they have harps in their hands Revelation 5:8; they say that they are "kings and priests," and that they will "reign on the earth," Revelation 5:10.

(7) the design, therefore, is to represent the church triumphant - redeemed - saved - as rendering praise and honor to God; as uniting with the hosts of heaven in adoring him for his perfections and for the wonders of his grace; As representatives of the church, they are admitted near to him; they encircle his throne; they appear victorious over every foe; and they come, in unison with the living creatures, and the angels, and the whole universe Revelation 5:13, to ascribe power and dominion to God.

(8) as to the reason why the number "twenty-four" is mentioned, perhaps nothing certain can be determined. Ezekiel, in his vision Ezekiel 8:16; Ezekiel 11:1, saw twenty-five men between the porch and the altar, with their backs toward the temple, and their faces toward the earth - supposed to be representations of the twenty-four "courses" into which the body of priests was divided 1 Chronicles 24:3-19, with the high priest among them, making up the number twenty-five. It is possible that John in this vision may have designed to refer to the church considered as a priesthood (compare the notes on 1 Peter 2:9), and to have alluded to the fact that the priesthood under the Jewish economy was divided into twenty-four courses, each with a presiding officer, and who was a representative of that portion of the priesthood over which he presided. If so, then the ideas which enter into the representation are these:

continued...

4. seats—rather as the Greek is translated in this very verse, "thrones," of course lower and smaller than the grand central throne. So Re 16:10, "the seat (rather, throne) of the beasts," in hellish parody of God's throne.

four and twenty elders—Greek, "the four and twenty (or as one oldest manuscript, 'twenty-four') elders": the well-known elders [Alford]. But Tregelles translates, "Upon the twenty-four thrones (I saw: omitted in two oldest manuscripts) elders sitting": which is more probable, as the twenty-four elders were not mentioned before, whereas the twenty-four thrones were. They are not angels, for they have white robes and crowns of victory, implying a conflict and endurance, "Thou hast redeemed us": they represent the Heads of the Old and New Testament churches respectively, the Twelve Patriarchs (compare Re 7:5-8, not in their personal, but in their representative character), and Twelve Apostles. So in Re 15:3, "the song of Moses, and of the Lamb," the double constituents of the Church are implied, the Old Testament and the New Testament. "Elders" is the very term for the ministry both of the Old and New Testament, the Jewish and the catholic Gentile Church. The tabernacle was a "pattern" of the heavenly antitype; the holy place, a figure of HEAVEN ITSELF. Thus Jehovah's throne is represented by the mercy seat in the holiest, the Shekinah-cloud over it. "The seven lamps of fire before the throne" (Re 4:5) are antitypical to the seven-branched candlestick also in the holiest, emblem of the manifold Spirit of God: "the sea of glass" (Re 4:6) corresponds to the molten sea before the sanctuary, wherein the priests washed themselves before entering on their holy service; so introduced here in connection with the redeemed "priests unto God" (compare Note, see on [2687]Re 15:2). The "four living creatures" (Re 4:6, 7) answer to the cherubim over the mercy seat. So the twenty-four throned and crowned elders are typified by the twenty-four chiefs of the twenty-four courses of priests, "Governors of the sanctuary, and governors of God" (1Ch 24:5; 25:1-31).

Some think (and not improbably) that here is an allusion to the twenty-four courses of the priests and Levites, established by God for his service in the sanctuary and temple of old, 1 Chronicles 24:18 25:31; and that these twenty-four elders either typified the whole church under the New Testament, the number of the tribes of Israel (which made up the church under the Old Testament) being doubled to show the increase of the church’s territories under the gospel, or the heads of the church, either under the Old Testament or New, there being twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles. They are represented

sitting, to denote their state of rest and ease; and

clothed in white raiment, to denote their purity and holiness, or being clothed with Christ’s righteousness; and having

crowns of gold on their heads, to denote that state of dignity and glory to which God had advanced them. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats,.... In a semicircular form, as the rainbow also was; the thrones in the above form, came to both ends, or sides of it; just as when the sanhedrim, or great court of judicature among the Jews say (m), the "Nasi", or prince, sat in the uppermost seat, at his right hand was "Ab beth din", or the father or the sanhedrim, and at his left hand a doctor or wise man, and all the rest of the members sat in a semicircular form upon seats before them, so that they could see them all; and to this the allusion might be thought to be, did their numbers agree, but in the great sanhedrim there were seventy one, and the lesser twenty three, which last comes very near the number here;

and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting; by whom are not meant the twenty four books of the Old Testament, as some of the ancients thought, and also some of the modern writers, as Lord Napier and others; for the things said of them are such as cannot be applied to inanimate things, such as sitting on seats, being clothed with white raiment, having golden crowns on their heads, falling down before the throne, and worshipping him that sat on it; and besides, in Revelation 5:8, they are said to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, out of very kindred, tongue, people, and nation; for which last reason, angels also cannot be designed, and who, moreover, in the place referred to, are manifestly distinguished from these elders; nor are they to be understood as to the representatives of the Jewish church, or of the Jewish and Christian church together, as triumphant in heaven; and so be signified by the twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles, which together make up twenty four; but rather the members of the Gospel church state, throughout the whole of it, in every succession and period of time, are here meant; and are expressed by the number "twenty four", in allusion to the twenty four courses of the priests, into which they were divided by David, 1 Chronicles 24:1, and to the twenty four stations of the Levites, who in turn attended the service of the temple daily, and represented the whole body of the people of Israel, in putting their hands upon the sacrifices, and praying for them; of which See Gill on Luke 1:5; add to this, that in twenty four places the priests and Levites kept watch in the temple (n); so these twenty four elders before the throne of God, in his temple, represent the whole Israel of God, all the members of the Gospel church state, from the first to the last of it: and they are styled "elders", not on account of office, as pastors of the churches are called, but because of their senile gravity, prudence, and knowledge; they having a greater degree of spiritual knowledge of the manifold wisdom of God than the Jewish church, which was in a state of infancy, and under tutors and governors, had; but the Gospel church is in a state of manhood, and no longer under a schoolmaster, and so fitly expressed by "elders"; and these are represented as "sitting" on their seats, not only to hear the word of God, but as judging in cases that come before them, respecting the admission or exclusion of members, the laying on or taking off of censures, &c. and these, their seats being around and near unto the throne, denote their nearness to God, and their communion with him, in his house and ordinances, and his dwelling in the midst of them.

Clothed in white raiment; in the pure and spotless robe of Christ's righteousness, which is comparable to fine linen, clean and white; and is the righteousness of the saints in common, of every true member of Christ's body.

And they had on their heads crowns of gold; being made by Christ kings, as well as priests, unto God; for so these four and twenty elders are said to be, in Revelation 5:10; and they now reign as kings over sin, Satan, and the world, and have a kingdom of grace which shall never be removed; and they shall reign with Christ on earth a thousand years, and then reign with him to all eternity in heaven. It is a common saying with the Jews (o),

"that there is no eating and drinking in the world to come, but the righteous are "sitting", , "and their crowns upon their heads".''

(m) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 4. sect. 3. & Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 3.((n) Misn. Middot, c. 1. sect. 1.((o) Zohar in Numb. fol. 106. 3. & Raya Mehimna in ib. fol. 96. 3. T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1. Abot R. Nathan, fol. 1. 3. Caphtor, fol. 82. 2. & 86. 2. & 108. 2. & Nishmat Chayim, fol. 30. 2.

{5} And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

(5) By the company attending about him in that, as that most high Judge, he is accompanied with the most honourable attendance of prophets and apostles both of the old and new Church, whom Christ has made to be priests and kings; Re 1:6,5:10.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 4:4. The twenty-four elders whom John sees sitting[1720] on the twenty-four thrones standing about the throne of God[1721] are, in like manner, the heavenly representatives of the entire people of God; as, in Isaiah 24:23, the elders are regarded the earthly heads and representatives of the entire Church.[1722] For, that these twenty-four elders are human, and not a “selection of the entire host of heaven,”[1723] nor angels,[1724] is decided by their designation, that which is ascribed to them (white robes and crowns), and the entire mode of their employment.[1725] They are neither the “bishops” or “prefects of the entire church,”[1726] nor priests,[1727] nor “the entire assembly of ministers of the word,”[1728] nor “all true rectors and faithful pastors of the N. T. Church,”[1729] nor Christian martyrs;[1730] but simply the representatives of the entire congregation of all believers, to whom, as to these elders, belong the holiness and glory indicated by the white robes,[1731] and the royal dominion by the thrones and crowns.[1732] The number twenty-four is not derived from the orders of priests, 1 Corinthians 16,[1733] for the question here is in no respect concerning priests; and still less[1734] is it to be regarded as a type of the elders of the church at Jerusalem, for the idea that this church had just twenty-four elders is without any foundation. All those expositors are in the right way who, proceeding from the number twelve, attempt to indicate a doubling of it. As now, undoubtedly, the simple as well as the doubled twelve[1735] has particular reference to the twelve tribes of the O. T. Church, the twenty-four elders cannot be twelve apostles and twelve martyrs;[1736] but also the explanation that from each of the twelve tribes two representatives are regarded as standing, one on the right, the other on the left of the throne of God,[1737] is of itself unimportant and arbitrary. It is possible[1738] only to regard the twofold twelve, either the representatives of the O. and the N. T. Church,[1739] or the representatives of the Church gathered not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles.[1740] Against the latter, Hengstenb. and Ebrard incorrectly say that the mode of view in the Apoc. is not conformable to that of the entire N. T.; for also in Revelation 7:9 sqq., those saved from the heathen are distinguished from those from the twelve tribes (Revelation 7:4 sqq.), and that, too, without detriment to the view according to which the heathen are added to Israel. Yet the former explanation of the twelve representatives of the churches of the O. and N. T. is to be preferred, because this in itself, and according to intimations like Revelation 15:3 (the song of Moses and the Lamb), is more immediate, and because, by this mode of statement, the twenty-four elders appearing in personal definitiveness can the more appropriately represent the O. and N. T. Churches. To wit, not “the twelve tribes,” as De Wette inconsistently explains, but the twelve personal heads of the Church of the O. T., composed of twelve tribes, i.e., the twelve patriarchs, are comprised in thought together with the twelve apostles, the N. T. antitypes to the patriarchs[1741] [See Note XLII., p. 202.] The objections made against the holiness of the twelve patriarchs[1742] are in no way pertinent,—as they could also be urged against the apostles,—because the patriarchs come into consideration not according to their own conduct or individual worth, but as the favored chiefs of the tribes of the O. T. people.

[1720] Cf. Revelation 11:16, ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

[1721] The acc. πρεσβυτέρους depends upon a self-evident εἶδον (De Wette).

[1722] In reference to this passage, the Tanchuma, p. 48, 1 (in Schöttg.), says: “In the future, God ascribes glory to the elders.—Our rabbins also have said: ‘God will make for himself an assembly of our elders.’ ” So, too (at p. 52 in Hengstenb.), according to Daniel 7:9, “In the future, God will sit, and the angels will give seats to the magnates of Israel, and they sit. And God sits with his elders, as the president of a senate, and will judge the Gentiles.”

[1723] Rinck.

[1724] Hofm.

[1725] Cf. Revelation 5:5, Revelation 7:13.

[1726] N. de Lyra, who, in their twenty-four seats finds, at the same time, all the cathedral churches portrayed.

[1727] Zeger.

[1728] Calov.

[1729] Vitr.

[1730] Eichh.

[1731] Cf. on Revelation 4:3.

[1732] Revelation 20:4, Revelation 1:6, Revelation 3:21. Cf. Primas, Aret., C. a Lap., Beng., Herd., De Wette, Stern, Hengstenb., Ebrard, etc.

[1733] Zeger, Vitr., Eichh., Ew. i., Hilgenf.

[1734] Grot.

[1735] Or, elsewhere, the quadruple. Cf. Revelation 7:4 sqq., Revelation 14:3.

[1736] Joachim.

[1737] Heinr.

[1738] The explanation of Volkm., that the subject here is the representation of teacher and hearer as parts of the Christian Church having an equal title., is very remote. Klief.: The number twelve, the sign of the people of God, is doubled “because the blessed people of God assembled in heaven have increased, and daily increase, by those added to believers from all nations.” But, in connection with this, he rejects the distinction between Jewish and Gentile Christianity, made only by modern theologians in violation of Scripture.

[1739] Andr., Areth., Aret., C. a Lap., Bossuet, Stern, Hengstenb., Ebrard.

[1740] Bleek, De Wette. Cf. also Heinr.

[1741] Cf. Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14; Andr., Areth., Hengstenb., Ebrard.

[1742] De Wette, according to Joach.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLII. Revelation 4:4. εἴκοσι τέσσαρας πρεσβυτέρους

Gebhardt, however (p. 48), urges against this view advocated by Düsterdieck, “the fact, that, on the gates of the New Jerusalem, the names of the twelve tribes—the names of the patriarchs—are written; and, on its foundations, the names of the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14); but neither on the gates, nor on the foundation, do we find the two associated. It is entirely foreign to the thoughts of the seer, to conceive of the two side by side with each other. They are the same, but one as the type, the other the fulfilment. The song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:3), which is quoted in favor of this interpretation, is neither a double song, nor is it sung by O. and N. T. believers; it is one, and ascends from the lips of conquerors in the Christian life.” He argues that the elders are not concrete realities, “but, as the living creatures are a symbolical representation of the animated creation of God in general, according to its ideal, so are the elders a symbolical representation of the people of God, according to their ideal, or, in other words, of redeemed humanity.” Luthardt: “Not possibly the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, or, in general, the representatives of the Church; for they are distinguished from believers, Revelation 5:10 (according to the correct reading), Revelation 7:9 sqq., 14, Revelation 11:16 sqq.; and the glorified as yet wear no crowns, but are expecting only the time of dominion (Revelation 2:10 to Revelation 6:9); but it is the heavenly council, composed of representatives of the people of God in heaven.”Revelation 4:4. This verse breaks the continuous description of 3 and 5; it is evidently an original touch of the writer introduced into the more or less traditional scenery of the eternal court where “all the sanctities of heaven stood thick as stars” (cf. Revelation 5:11). The conception of twenty-four πρεσβύτεροι royally (Revelation 1:6) enthroned as divine assessors, with all the insignia of state, reaches back in part to a post-exilic apocalypse (Isaiah 24:23, βασιλεύσει κύριος ἐν Σιὼν καὶ εἰς Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ ἐνώπιον τῶν πρεσβυτέρων δοξασθήσεται), in part to the historic gerousia. But their attire (golden crowns, white robes) and functions are royal rather than judicial or sacerdotal. They are heavenly beings, angelic figures corresponding to the θρόνοι of Colossians 1:16 (cf. Isaiah 63:9 οὐ πρεσβὺς οὐδὲ ἄγγελος). The significance of the doubled 12 has been found in the twelve patriarchs or tribes + the twelve apostles (Andr., Areth., Vict., Alford, Weiss, etc.), in Jewish and Gentile Christianity (Bleek, de Wette, Weizsäcker, Swete), or in the twenty-four classes of the post-exilic priests with their “elders” (Schürer, H. J. P. i. 216 f., so from Vitringa to Ewald, Hilg., Renan, Spitta, Wellh., Erbes, Briggs). But the notion of the church as a fusion or combination of the old and the new covenants is alien to primitive Christianity, and the “elders’ are not the ideal or celestial representatives of the church at all. They pertain to the heavenly court, as in the traditional mise-en-scène of the later Judaism, which had appropriated this and other imaginative suggestions of the heavenly court (Schrader,3 pp. 454 f.), or, judicial council from the Babylonian, astro-theology, where μετὰ τὸν ζῳδιακὸν κύκλον were ranged four-and-twenty stars, half to the north, and half to the south, of which the visible are reckoned as belonging to the living, the invisible to the dead, οὓς δικαστὰς τῶν ὅλων προσαγορεύουσιν (Diod. Sic. 2:31, quoted by Gunkel in S. C. 302–308, who rightly finds in the same soil roots of other symbols in this passage, such as the four ζῷα and the seven λαμπάδες). In Slav. En. iv. 1. immediately after “the very great sea” in the first heaven is mentioned (cf. Revelation 4:6), Enoch is shown “the elders and the rulers of the orders of the stars;” so in Judicium Petri, εἴκοσι γὰρ καὶ τέσσαρές εἰσι πρεσβύτεροι, twelve on the right hand of God and twelve on the left, as in Acta Perpet. The twenty-four star-deities of the Babylonian heaven had thus become adoring and subordinate angelic beings (cf. ἡμῶν, Revelation 4:11) in the apocalyptic world of the later Judaism, and our author retains this Oriental trait, together with the seven torches, the halo, etc., in order to body forth poetically his conception of the divine majesty (so, after Gunkel, Jeremias, and Bousset, Bruston, J. Weiss, Scott, Forbes, Porter). A partial anticipation of this feature, as well as of some others, in the Apocalypse occurs not only in the “sacred council” of Doushara, the Nabatean deity (cf. Cook’s North Semit. Inscr., pp. 221 f., 443 f.), but in Egyptian mythology, as, e.g., in the following inscription from the tomb of Unas (5th dynasty, 3500 B.C.) “His place is at the side of God, in the most holy place; he himself becomes divine (neter), and an angel of God; he himself is triumphant. He sits on the great throne by the side of God [Revelation 3:21]. He is clothed with the finest raiment of those who sit on the throne of living right and truth. He hungers not, nor thirsts, nor is sad, for he eats daily the bread of Ra, and drinks what He drinks daily, and his bread also is that which is spoken of by Seb, and that which comes forth from the mouth of the gods [Revelation 7:16-17; Revelation 21:4]. Not only does he eat and drink of their food, but he wears the apparel they wear—the white linen and sandals, and he is clothed in white … and these great and never-failing gods give unto him of the Tree of Life [Revelation 2:7] of which they themselves do eat, that he likewise may live.”4. four and twenty seats] Better, thrones; it is the same word that is used of the throne. Cf. Daniel 7:9.

four and twenty elders] There are two views as to the significance of these, both leading to substantially the same result: (i) that they are the twelve Patriarchs, the heads of the Tribes of Israel, together with the twelve Apostles, the heads of the new People of God: (ii) that they answer to the heads of the 24 courses of the Priests, 1 Chronicles 24. The title of those assessors to the divine Throne is already found in Isaiah 24:23 : and the conception of the twelve Apostles answering to the twelve Tribes appears in Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30, as well as in this Book, Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14. The resemblance between this passage and those in the O. T. and Gospels is not complete—in the account of the Judgement, Revelation 20:11, the Elders are not mentioned: still on the whole they support the former interpretation. But perhaps the second is not inconsistent with it, for the Elders have certainly a priestly character. They are not called Priests in Revelation 5:10 according to the true text, and their white robes, though suitable, are not peculiar to priests: but they act as priests in Revelation 5:8 : and we may add, their title is the ordinary Scriptural one for the Christian priesthood. Either way of explaining their number points to the same explanation of their office: they are the glorified embodiment and representatives of the people of God. It seems not necessary to read “the 24 elders,” which would imply that their meaning, and perhaps their number, was known: if it be right, the chief reference is probably to Isaiah 24:23.

crowns of gold] The word used does not necessarily imply royal crowns—we have a different one e.g. in Revelation 19:12 : but probably we are to understand that the elders are kings as well as priests. Cf. Zechariah 6:11-13.Revelation 4:4. Θρόνοι[58]—ΚΑῚ ΕἸΚΟΣΙΤΈΣΣΑΡΑς ΠΡΕΣΒΥΤΈΡΟΥςΚΑῚΣΤΕΦΆΝΟΥς ΧΡΥΣΟῦς) See App. Crit., Ed. ii. The 1st edition of Erasmus is correct: for John is accustomed to mix the cases: ch. Revelation 1:16, Revelation 18:12-13, etc.—ΤΟῪς) The article with the force of a relative. There are 24 thrones, and 24 elders; and each of the elders has his separate throne. I wish that he had weighed the force of this article, who in a recent cabalistic work multiplied the thrones, and those seated upon them. The elders (comp. ΠΡΕΣΒΎΤΕΡΟΙ, Hebrews 11:2), and they 24 in number, appear to be so many individuals, the most excellent of the human race; for instance, Adam, Seth, Enos, Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered, Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Selah, Eber, Peleg, Regu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Abel, Japhet (Melchisedech, Job).

[58] So Rec. Text and Tisch. But Lachm. with A, θρόνους.—E.Verse 4. - And round about the throne were four and twenty seats. Throughout the vision no past tense is used. The vision represents the worship of heaven (so far as it can be presented to human understanding) as it continues eternally. Thrones.. seats. Render both by the same English word, as in the Revised Version. Some doubt is attached to the case of the first θρόνοι. Θρόνοι, is found in B, P; and this makes the construction nominative after ἰδού (cf. ver. 2); but א, A, 34, 35, read θρόνους, which causes εϊδον to be understood. The point is immaterial, as the meaning is the same. And upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting. Omit "I saw" (see above). The number twenty-four, the double of twelve, represents the Churches of both the old and the new covenants. The elders are the heads or representatives of the body to which they belong (see Exodus 19:7; Exodus 24:1, and many others; see also the list of elders in Hebrews 11.). In the Christian Church the same distinction exists (see Acts 14:23, "ordained them elders;" Acts 20:17, St. Paul sent for the elders of Ephesus; Acts 21:18, "The elders were present"). So here the elders represent the saints of both the Old and New Testaments. Thus they offer "the prayers of the saints" (Revelation 5:8). Christ, moreover, promised twelve thrones to his disciples (Luke 22:30) though not to the exclusion of the saints of old, for both are conjoined in Revelation 21:12, 14. In Revelation 15:2, 3, the victorious ones sing "the song of Moses and of the Lamb." Other interpretations which have been advanced are

(1) that the twenty-four elders represent the great and minor prophets (St. Hippolytus);

(2) higher angels - the celestial priesthood, as denoted by their white garments and the number twenty-four, the number of courses of the Levitical priesthood (Reuss);

(3) simply angels (Hoffmann);

(4) the elders of the Church at Jerusalem (Grotius);

(5) the doubled twelve signifies the accession of the Gentiles (Bleek, De Wette);

(6) the books of the Old Testament. then the Jewish Church, while the four living creatures denote the Gospels, that is, the Christian Church (Wordsworth). (For this last view, for which there is much to be said, see Wordsworth, in loc.) Clothed in white raiment; the natural garb of heaven, symbolical of purify. And they had on their heads crowns of gold (στεφάνους, not διαδήματα). The crown of victory, not necessarily the kingly crown. Possibly a reference to the priestly crown (see on Revelation 2:10). Trench and Vaughan, however, are of opinion that the crowns here denote the kingly condition of the saints. But Christians are nowhere in the New Testament described as "kings." Throne (θρόνου)

A seat or chair. In Homer, an armchair with high back and footstool. Cushions were laid upon the seat, and over both seat and back carpets were spread. A royal throne. Used of the oracular seat of the priestess of Apollo. Apollo, in the "Eumenides" of Aeschylus, says: "Never, when I sat in the diviner's seat (μαντικοῖσιν ἐν θρόνοις) did I speak aught else than Zeus the father of the Olympians bade me" (616-618). Plato uses it of a teacher's seat. "I saw Hippias the Elean sitting in the opposite portico in a chair (ἐν θρόνῳ). Others were seated round him on benches (ἐπὶ βάθρων)," questioning him, "and he ex cathedre (ἐν θρόνῳ καθήμενος, lit., sitting in the chair) was determining their several questions to them, and discoursing of them" ("Protagoras," 315). Also used of a judge's bench, and a bishop's seat.

Seats (θρόνοι)

Rev., rightly, thrones. The word is the same as the last.

Isaw

Omit.

Elders (πρεσβυτέρους)

See on Acts 14:23. The twenty-four elders are usually taken to represent the one Church of Christ, as at once the Church of the old and of the new Covenant, figured by the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles.

"Then saw I people, as behind their leaders,

Coming behind them, garmented in white,

And such a whiteness never was on earth

.....

Under so fair a heaven as Icontinued...

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