Revelation 4:8
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
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(8) And the four beasts (or, living beings) had each of them (literally, one by one of them) six wings about him; and they were full of (or, teeming with) eyes.—The last verse spoke of the living beings teeming with eyes; this tells us that neither the dropping nor the raising of their wings hindered their view.

And they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almightly, which was, and is, and is to come.—The resemblance to Isaiah’s vision (Revelation 6:1-4) may remind us that the voice of God’s creation has in every age proclaimed His eternal holiness. The word “holy” is repeated eight times in the Sinaitic version. The “six wings” are taken to express reverence, for with twain (Isaiah 6:2) he covered his face; humility, for with twain he covered his feet; and obedience, for with twain he did fly. Some have understood these living beings to betoken rather the creative power of God than the actual creation. There is much to be said for this; but the analogy of the passage suits better the view here adopted. The twenty-four elders represent, not the regenerating power of God, but the regenerate Church. The new creation in Christ Jesus join in praise with all created things. The doxology in Revelation 4:11 favours the interpretation, “Thou hast created all things.”

Revelation 4:8. And the four living creatures — With an allusion to the seraphim represented in Isaiah’s vision; had each of them six wings about him — Which they used in part to express their reverence and humility, and in part to show readiness and expedition in performing the orders and commands of God. See on Isaiah 6:2-3. And they were full of eyes within — Bengelius reads κυκλοθεν και εσωθεν γεμουσιν οφθαλμων, round about and within they are full of eyes: round about signifying their attention to and knowledge of the state of the world and church in general; or rather, perhaps, their vigilance and circumspection, their attention to their duty to God and man, and their watchful observance of the designs, wiles, devices, and various motions and snares of their spiritual enemies; and they are said to be full of eyes within, to signify their self-knowledge, their diligent attention to the state of their own hearts, and the various workings of their passions and appetites, their affections and thoughts. And they rest not — O happy unrest! day and night — They are incessant in the spiritual worship, adoration, and praise of him who is a Spirit; and at all proper opportunities they unite in acts of solemn and external worship; saying — With their lips, as well as in their hearts; Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which ever was, and now is, and is still to come — Or, for ever will be; the one true God, the everlasting Lord, the Supreme Governor of all beings.

There are two words in the original very different from each other, both which we translate holy. The one, οσιος, means properly, merciful: but the other, αγιος, which occurs here, implies much more. “This holiness is the sum of all the praise which is given to the Almighty Creator, for all that he does and reveals concerning himself, till the new song brings with it new matter of glory. This word properly signifies separated. And when God is termed holy, it denotes that excellence which is altogether peculiar to himself; and the glory flowing from all his attributes conjoined, shining forth from all his works, and darkening all things besides itself, whereby he is, and eternally remains, in an incomprehensible manner, separate, and at a distance, not only from all that is impure, but likewise from all that is created. God is separate from all things. He is, and works from himself, out of himself, in himself, through himself, for himself. Therefore he is the First and the Last, the only One, and the Eternal; living and happy, endless and unchangeable, almighty, omniscient, wise and true, just and faithful, gracious and merciful. When God is spoken of, he is often named, The Holy One. And as God swears by his name, so he does also by his holiness, that is, by himself. This holiness is often styled glory; often his holiness and glory are celebrated together, Leviticus 10:3; Isaiah 6:4. For holiness is covered glory, and glory is uncovered holiness. The Scripture speaks abundantly of the holiness and glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And hereby is the mystery of the Holy Trinity eminently confirmed. That is also termed holy, which is consecrated to him, and for that end separated from other things. And so is that wherein we may be like God, or united to him. In the hymn resembling this, recorded by Isaiah, (Revelation 6:3,) is added, The whole earth is full of his glory. But this is deferred in the Revelation, till the glory of the Lord (his enemies being destroyed) fills the earth.” — Wesley.

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 the four beasts had each of them six wings about him - An emblem common to them all, denoting that, in reference to each and all the things here symbolized, there was one common characteristic - that in heaven there is the utmost promptness in executing the divine commands. Compare Isaiah 6:2; Psalm 18:10; Psalm 104:3; Jeremiah 48:40. No mention is made of the manner in which these wings were arranged, and conjecture in regard to that is vain. The seraphim, as seen by Isaiah, had each one six wings, with two of which the face was covered, to denote profound reverence; with two the feet, or lower parts - emblematic of modesty; and with two they flew - emblematic of their celerity in executing the commands of God, Isaiah 6:2. Perhaps without impropriety we may suppose that, in regard to these living beings seen by John, two of the wings of each were employed, as in Isaiah, to cover the face - token of profound reverence; and that the remainder were employed in flight denoting the rapidity with which the divine commands are executed. Mercury, the messenger of Jupiter among the pagan, was represented with wings, and nothing is more common in the paintings and basreliefs of antiquity than such representations.

And they were full of eyes within - Prof. Stuart more correctly renders this, "around and within are full of eyes"; connecting the word "around" ("about"), not with the wings, as in our version, but with the eyes. The meaning is, that the portions of the beasts that were visible from the outside of the throne, and the portions under or within the throne, were covered with eyes. The obvious design of this is to mark the universal vigilance of divine providence.

And they rest not - Margin, have no rest. That is, they are constantly employed; there is no intermission. The meaning, as above explained, is, that the works and ways of God are constantly bringing praise to him.

Day and night - Continually. They who are employed day and night fill up the whole time - for this is all.

Saying, Holy, holy, holy - For the meaning of this, see the notes on Isaiah 6:3.

Lord God Almighty - Isaiah Isa 6:3 expresses it, "Yahweh of hosts." The reference is to the true God, and the epithet Almighty is one that is often given him. It is especially appropriate here, as there were to be, as the sequel shows, remarkable exhibitions of power in executing the purposes described in this book.

Which was, and is, and is to come - Who is eternal - existing in all past time; existing now; and to continue to exist forever. See the notes on Revelation 1:4.

8. about him—Greek, "round about him." Alford connects this with the following sentence: "All round and within (their wings) they are (so two oldest manuscripts, A, B, and Vulgate read) full of eyes." John's object is to show that the six wings in each did not interfere with that which he had before declared, namely, that they were "full of eyes before and behind." The eyes were round the outside of each wing, and up the inside of each when half expanded, and of the part of body in that inward recess.

rest not—literally, "have no rest." How awfully different the reason why the worshippers of the beast "have no rest day nor night," namely, "their torment for ever and ever."

Holy, holy, holy—The "tris-hagion" of the Greek liturgies. In Isa 6:3, as here, it occurs; also Ps 99:3, 5, 9, where He is praised as "holy," (1) on account of His majesty (Re 4:1) about to display itself; (2) His justice (Re 4:4) already displaying itself; (3) His mercy (Re 4:6-8) which displayed itself in times past. So here "Holy," as He "who was"; "Holy," as He "who is": "Holy," as He "who is to come." He showed Himself an object of holy worship in the past creation of all things: more fully He shows Himself so in governing all things: He will, in the highest degree, show Himself so in the consummation of all things. "Of (from) Him, through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." In Isa 6:3 there is added, "the whole EARTH is full of His glory." But in Revelation this is deferred until the glory of THE Lord fills the earth, His enemies having been destroyed [Bengel].

Almighty—answering to "Lord of hosts" (Sabaoth), Isa 6:3.

The cherubim here have six wings, like the seraphim in Isa 6:2; whereas the cherubim in Eze 1:6 had four wings each. They are called by the same name, "living creatures." But whereas in Ezekiel each living creature has all four faces, here the four belong severally one to each. See on [2689]Eze 1:6. The four living creatures answer by contrast to the four world powers represented by four beasts. The Fathers identified them with the four Gospels, Matthew the lion, Mark the ox, Luke the man, John the eagle: these symbols, thus viewed, express not the personal character of the Evangelists, but the manifold aspect of Christ in relation to the world (four being the number significant of world-wide extension, for example, the four quarters of the world) presented by them severally: the lion expressing royalty, as Matthew gives prominence to this feature of Christ; the ox, laborious endurance, Christ's prominent characteristic in Mark; man, brotherly sympathy with the whole race of man, Christ's prominent feature in Luke; the eagle, soaring majesty, prominent in John's description of Christ as the Divine Word. But here the context best suits the view which regards the four living creatures as representing the redeemed election-Church in its relation of ministering king-priests to God, and ministers of blessing to the redeemed earth, and the nations on it, and the animal creation, in which man stands at the head of all, the lion at the head of wild beasts, the ox at the head of tame beasts, the eagle at the head of birds and of the creatures of the waters. Compare Re 5:8-10, "Thou hast redeemed us by Thy blood out of every kindred … and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth"; and Re 20:4, the partakers with Christ of the first resurrection, who conjointly with Him reign over the redeemed nations that are in the flesh. Compare as to the happy and willing subjection of the lower animal world, Isa 11:6-8; 65:25; Eze 34:25; Ho 2:18. Jewish tradition says the "four standards" under which Israel encamped in the wilderness, to the east, Judah, to the north, Dan, to the west, Ephraim, to the south, Reuben, were respectively a lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man, while in the midst was the tabernacle containing the Shekinah symbol of the Divine Presence. Thus we have "the picture of that blessed period when—the earth having been fitted for being the kingdom of the Father—the court of heaven will be transferred to earth, and the 'tabernacle of God shall be with men' (Re 21:3), and the whole world will be subject to a never-ending theocracy" (compare De Burgh, Exposition of Revelation). The point of union between the two views given above is: Christ is the perfect realization of the ideal of man; Christ is presented in His fourfold aspect in the four Gospels respectively. The redeemed election-Church similarly, when in and through Christ (with whom she shall reign) she realizes the ideal of man, shall combine in herself human perfections having a fourfold aspect: (1) kingly righteousness with hatred of evil and judicial equity, answering to the "lion"; (2) laborious diligence in every duty, the "ox"; (3) human sympathy, the "man"; (4) the contemplation of heavenly truth, the "eagle." As the high-soaring intelligence, the eagle, forms the contrasted complement to practical labor, the ox bound to the soil; so holy judicial vengeance against evil, the lion springing suddenly and terribly on the doomed, forms the contrasted complement to human sympathy, the man. In Isa 6:2 we read, "Each had six wings: with twain he covered his face (in reverence, as not presuming to lift up his face to God), with twain he covered his feet (in humility, as not worthy to stand in God's holy presence), and with twain he did fly [in obedient readiness to do instantly God's command]."

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him: the seraphims in Isaiah’s vision, Revelation 6:2, had so; there their use is declared, —with twain he covered his face, with twain his feet, and with twain he did fly. If we understand all the wings here for flight, they signify the readiness of God’s ministers to move every way that God will send them: if we understand them as interpreted by Isaiah 6:2, they signify their various graces, their fear, dread, and reverence of God; their humility and modesty; their agility, or readiness to obey all the commands of God.

And they were full of eyes within: this denotes that large measure of knowledge, and diligence, and watchfulness, which should be in a minister of Christ.

And they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty: this was the song of the seraphims, Isaiah 6:3, and shows how much it should be the care of ministers to make God known in all his attributes, his holiness especially, and his power.

Which was, and is, and is to come; and his eternity and simplicity, as he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, without variableness or shadow of change.

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him,.... As the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2 with two of which they might cover their faces as they did, testifying thereby their reverence of God, when in his presence; and with the other two cover their feet, signifying their sense of their sinfulness, weakness, and imperfection, in their conversation, even in their best works, and in the ministry of the word; and with the other two fly about, as denoting their readiness to minister the word and ordinances, to visit the members of the church, and do all good offices of love and service to them that lie in their power:

and they were full of eyes within; to look into the sin and corruption of their own hearts, which is a means of keeping them humble amidst all their attainments, gifts, and graces, and of qualifying them to speak aptly of the cases of others; and they have eyes within, to look into and consult their own experience; for besides the word of God, which lies before them, they have a testimony in themselves of the truth of the doctrines of the Gospel, which they do well to attend unto; and they have these inward eyes to look into that treasure which God has put into their earthen vessels, in order to bring out of it things new and old.

And they rest not day and night; they give up themselves to the ministry of the word, and prayer; are wholly in these things, meditate on the word continually, and preach the Gospel in season, and out of season:

saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come; living under a continual sense of the holiness of God, Father, Son, and Spirit; and how necessary holiness is in themselves, who bear the vessels of the Lord, and in the churches and house of God; taking care that all their doctrines are according to godliness, and serve to promote holiness of life and conversation; and also under a sense of the power of God, and of their need of it, to carry them through their work, and make their ministry successful; and of the eternity and immutability of God, which is a wonderful support unto them amidst all the difficulties and troubles that attend them. The word "holy" is three times used here, as by the seraphim in Isaiah 6:3; and in some copies it is repeated six times, and in others nine times, as in the Complutensian edition.

And the {b} four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not {8} day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

(b) Every beast had six wings.

(8) By events, in that for all the causes before mentioned, God is glorified both by angels, as holy, Judge, omnipotent, eternal and immutable and also after their example he is glorified by holy men Re 4:9 in sign and speech Re 4:10.

Revelation 4:8. The four beings, having each six wings,[1792] are all around and within full of eyes. Concerning the composition ἛΝ ΚΑΘʼ. ἛΝ, cf. Mark 14:19; John 8:9; Romans 12:15; Winer, p. 234. Concerning the distributive ἈΝΆ, cf. John 2:6; Winer, p. 372.

The ΚΥΚΛΌΘΕΝ belongs not to what precedes,[1793] but with ἜΣΩΘΕΝ to ΓΈΜΟΥΣΙΝ. Yet the ΚΥΚΛΌΘΕΝ is not equivalent to the ἜΜΠΡΟΣΘΕΝ, Revelation 4:6, so that the ἜΣΩΘΕΝ corresponds to the ὍΠΙΣΘΕΝ;[1794] but rather the ΚΥΚΛΌΘΕΝ properly comprises already both of those statements, while only with reference to the wings mentioned is it still expressly remarked that “within,” i e., on the inner side of the wings, under them—not only round about the entire outside of the body (ΚΥΚΛ.)—all is full of eyes.[1795] It results also from this determination of ΚΥΚΛ. and ἜΣΩΘΕΝ, that the declaration ΓΕΜ. ὈΦΘΑΛΜ. is repeated, because this is to be extended particularly[1796] to the wings.[1797] At the same time the adding of what follows, ΚΑῚ ἈΝΆΠΑΥΣΙΝ

, reveals the meaning first of the fulness of eyes, and then of the four beings in general. Ceaselessly, day and night, they exclaim, “Holy,” etc.

The masc. ΛΈΓΟΝΤΕς, in the same loose wav as Revelation 4:1.

The ἩΜ. Κ. ΝΥΚΤ. can in no way suggest that at the throne of God there is no change of day and night, and still less dare the explanation be made: “Though there be on earth, here or there, day or night.”[1798]

The uninterrupted hymn of praise of the four beings sounds like that of the seraphim in Isaiah 6:3; but since, instead of the close found there (ΠΛΉΡΗς ΠᾶΣΑ Ἡ Γῆς ΔΌΞΗς ΑὙΤΟῦ), it is said here Ὁ ἨΝ ΚΑῚ Ὁ ΚΑῚ Ὁ ἘΡΧΌΜΕΝΟς, there is found[1799] in the praise of these four beings a particular factor, which already in Revelation 1:8 sounds forth like a keynote in a judgment of God which is highly significant to the whole. The thrice holy Lord God, at the same time, is also the Eternal One who is to come. These words of praise from the mouth of the four beings agree perfectly with the manifestation of the Enthroned One,[1800] as this itself agrees with his own words;[1801] and in all the living divine, foundation of the entire Apocalyptic prophecy is indicated, because God “comes”—in a personal way, as the prophet says—as surely as he is the Holy, Almighty, Eternal One, endowed with complete living energy.

Only now can the question be answered, as to what these beings are, and what their special characteristics signify. Undoubtedly these four ΖῶΑ[1802] are not actual beasts who serve only to support the throne of God, as in Persian and Indian sculptures massive forms of beasts are seen supporting a throne;[1803] for ΖῶΟΝ is not ΘΗΡΊΟΝ,[1804] and concerning the four beings as supporting the throne, the text does not say a word.

Almost all the explanations of older times depend upon mere surmises, as, that the four beings are meant to designate: the Four Evangelists, and that, too, so that, according to Augustine,[1805] the lion represents Matthew, the man Mark, the ox Luke, and the eagle John;[1806] the four cardinal virtues;[1807] the four mysteries of faith, viz., Christ’s incarnation, passion, resurrection, ascension;[1808] the four patriarchal churches;[1809] the four apostles or apostolic men, who were then at Jerusalem as standard-bearers of Christ’s camp;[1810] all the doctors of the Church,[1811] etc. It is further a perversion to regard the four beings as angels, from whom they are expressly distinguished in Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:11, Revelation 7:11.[1812] According to their form, they are essentially identical with the cherubim of the O. T.; so they have also their symbolical meaning. The question is whether they represent powers of God employed in the creation,[1813] or creation itself.[1814] The former interpretation is carried to such extent by Ebrard, that the lion is regarded as designating the consuming and destroying, the bullock the nourishing, man the thinking and caring, and the eagle, which soars victoriously above all, the preserving and rejuvenating power in nature. This is indeed ingenious, but is forced. It is in itself peculiar, and entirely unbiblical, to form the powers of God into definite symbolical beings, and the idea is entirely inadmissible, to regard powers so formed as proclaiming the praise of God: but, on the other hand, it is perfectly natural for the works to proclaim the praise of the Creator,[1815] and for these, especially the entire living creation, to be represented by definite, concrete forms. The creatures at the basis of the O. T. cherubic forms most simply offer themselves as such representatives of the entire living creation. The correct point of view is already stated in the rabbinical sentence:[1816] “There are four holding the chief place in the world,—among creatures, man; among birds, the eagle; among cattle, the ox; among beasts, the lion.” That these four are intended to represent the entire living creation, is indicated by the significant number four itself;[1817] and to object against it, that besides the fish, etc., are not represented, is pointless.[1818] Entirely irrelevant, however, to the proper meaning of the symbol, is the succession of lion, ox, etc., which John, after remodelling in general the Ezekiel cherubic forms, unintentionally changed; the idea also is arbitrary, that the four beings in John, just as in Ezekiel, must have had altogether human bodies, since man is exalted above other creatures.[1819] This allusion is introduced here without sufficient reason, as the subject has to do simply with the entirety of the living creation as such. Incorrect, besides, is the interpretation of the eyes, wherewith the four beings are covered, by saying that the entire living creation is “spiritualized,”[1820] which follows at least from Revelation 5:6. The context itself shows, on the other hand, that the eyes are to be regarded as signs of the constant wakefulness day and night, belonging to the ceaseless praise of God.[1821] Finally, the six wings which John has derived for his beings from the six seraphim (Isaiah 6), we cannot well understand here otherwise than as there. They designate not the collective significance of the four beings,[1822] but serve as a figurative representation of the unconditionally dependent and ministerial relation in which the creature stands, and is recognized as standing, to its Creator. Thus Bengel:[1823] “So that with two they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two flew: whereby then the three chief virtues were indicated, viz., reverence or respect, as they do not boldly look; humility, as they hide themselves before that brilliancy; and obedience, to execute commands.”

The essential idea delineated in the images of the ΖῶΑ (cherubim) may be expressed in words as Psalm 103:22 : “All the works of God (in all places),”—as they, at least with respect to earthly living creatures, are represented in the beings, and that, too, four beings,—are to “praise God in all places of his dominion.” For, that he, as unconditioned Lord of his creatures, is honored with all humility and obedience, is seen in that they hide themselves, and are ready to serve his will. Yet there is also placed in the mouth of the representatives of the creatures an express ascription of praise to the holy, almighty Lord, and that, too, as the innumerable, ever-wakeful eyes show, one that is perpetual (Revelation 4:8). [See Note XLIV., p. 203.]

[1792] Cf. Revelation 5:8, Revelation 19:4, where the beasts fall down, “which cannot be thought of if two of them were four-footed.”

[1793] Luther.

[1794] “Within, towards the throne.”

[1795] Züll., De Wette.

[1796] De Wette.

[1797] Cf. Ezekiel 10:12.

[1798] Beng.

[1799] As it corresponds with the pragmatic relation of the entire presentation, ch. 4 [and 5], to the entire contents of the Apoc.

[1800] Revelation 4:2 sqq.

[1801] Revelation 1:8.

[1802] חַיוֹת, Ezekiel 1. Cf. especially Ezekiel 1:20, where all four חַיוֹת are designated as one חַיָה; here the LXX., incorrectly, ζωή.

[1803] Eichh., Ew.

[1804] Wis 7:20.

[1805] De Cons. Evang., 16.

[1806] Cf. Victor, Primas, Beda, Andr. Even Ebrard attributes some truth to such forced interpretation.

[1807] Andr., Areth.

[1808] Aretius after Augustine, Ansbertus.

[1809] N. de Lyra: Jerusalem (where the church began, is the first beast, Acts 5:29 furnishing an example of its lion-like spirit), Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople. The six wings are the natural law, the Mosaic law, the oracles of the prophets, the gospel of counsels, the doctrine of the apostles, the statutes of general councils. The station of the Romish Church, which is naturally already, in N. de Lyra, the head of all, C. a Lap. describes by adding “that the throne of God is the cathedra Romana, on which sits the vicar of Christ.”

[1810] Grot., who regards them as Peter, James, Matthew, and Paul; the “eyes” are colors, and designate the multiform gifts of God.

[1811] The doctors of theology. Calov.; Cf. Vitr., etc.

[1812] Cf. Vitr. and Hengstenb., vs. Laun., C. a Lap., Beng., etc.

[1813] Ebrard, etc.

[1814] Herder, De Wette, Rinck, Hengstenb.

[1815] Cf. Psalm 19:2 sqq., Psa. 103:22, 148.

[1816] Schemoth, Rabba 23, fol. 122, 4, b. Schöttg. Cf. also Beng.

[1817] Beng., Hengstenb.

[1818] Ebrard.

[1819] “The human type must preponderate in the personification of every thing living; the rest must be content with the representation of their faces” (Hengstenb.).

[1820] Hengstenb.

[1821] De Wette. Cf. Rinck, etc.

[1822] Rinck, who mentions that the entire number of wings, four times six, is equal the number of elders.

[1823] Cf. also Hengstenb.


XLIV. Revelation 4:6-8. τέσσερα ζῷα

Cf. Cremer (Lexicon): “Properly, a living creature, which also occurs elsewhere also in profane Greek, where ζῶον, a post-Homeric word, generally signifies living creature, and only in special instances a beast; θηρίον = animal, as embracing all living beings, must be retained in the Revelation, where four ζῶα are represented as being between God’s throne and those of the elders which surround it, the description given of which (Revelation 4:8. A description of the sounds and songs of heaven follows the picture of its sights.—γέμουσιν, either with τὰ τ. ζ. (ἔχων for once a real participle) or an asyndeton (if ἔχων here, as elsewhere in the Apocalypse, must be supplied with a copula). κυκλ. κ. . = “round their bodies and on the inside” (i.e., underneath their wings). For the ceaseless praise, which resembles that of Nin-ib, the Assyrian deity, cf. on Revelation 4:7 and Revelation 4:11, also Enoch xxxix. 12 (the trisagion sung by the sleepless ones, i.e., angels), Slav, En. 17, and Test. Levi 3 (where endless praise is the function of denizens in the fourth heaven). The first line of the hymn is Isaianic, the second (ὁ ἦν κ.τ.λ.) is characteristic of the Apocalypse. In En. xli. 7 the sun and moon in their orbits “give thanks and praise and rest not; for to them their thanksgiving is rest”. In the Apocalypse, however, the phenomena of nature are generally the objects or the scourges of the divine wrath. The precedence of ὁ ἦν over ὁ ὤν may be due to the emphasis of the context upon (Revelation 4:11) the definite creative action of God. Since the πρεσβύτεροι worship God as the eternal (Revelation 4:10), while the ζῷα acknowledge him as the ἅγιος, the latter epithet probably retains its O.T. sense, i.e., absolute life and majestic power (Revelation 16:5). The trisagion occurs in the Babylonian recension (Revelation 4:3.) of the Shmone-Esreh, among the daily prayers of the Jewish community. See further Encycl. Rel. and Ethics, i. 117, 118.

8. And the four beasts &c.] Render, And the four living creatures, having each of them six wings, are full of eyes round about and within:” i.e. the statement of Revelation 4:6, that they are “full of eyes before and behind,” is extended to tell us that they are covered with eyes, not only on the parts ordinarily visible, but when they spread their wings (and the Eagle at least was in the attitude of flight) it is seen that the inside of the wings, and the parts beneath it, are full of eyes too.

they rest not] Lit. have no rest. The order of words in the original makes it doubtful whether “day and night” should be connected with these words or with “saying:” but Revelation 14:11 (where the same words occur in a very different sense) proves that the A. V. is right. There is some resemblance between this place and Enoch xxxix. 11, where Isaiah 6:3 is referred to, much as here: it is hardly likely that St John had the passage from Enoch in his mind.

Holy, holy, holy] Isaiah 6:3. It will be observed that “Almighty” represents the Hebrew [God] “of Hosts:” see on Revelation 1:8.

which was, &c.] Revelation 1:4.

Revelation 4:8. Ἔχον) Εἶχον, Er. (without the sanction of the other copies of Andreas) and Bar. L.; ἔσχον, Hunt. The ἀνὰ is thought by Wolf to require the plural form of the verb: the singular however occurs, Revelation 21:21. The others, with great agreement, have ἔχον or εἶχον.[60]–[61] γέμουσις[62] ὀφθαλμῶν) Uffenb., a recent book indeed, has γέμουσιν ὀφθαλμούς; but that this was the reading of others also, you may collect from And. I., who substitutes ἔχοντα ὀφθαλμούς. The same Uff., Revelation 4:6, has also γέμοντα ὀφθαλμούς. Perhaps more MSS. have the same variety, which may have been overlooked by collators. The verb γέμω is found with a genitive and accusative together, ch. Revelation 17:4.—ἅγιος, ἅγιος, ἅγιος, holy, holy, holy) Some copyists wrote this nine times, in accordance with the liturgical custom of the Greeks; but John, as Isaiah, wrote it three times. And in John the four beasts raise this cry to Him that sits upon the throne, that is, the Father, from whose right hand the Lamb, that is, Christ, takes the book which is sealed with seven seals. The Τρισάγιον, as the Greeks term it, occurs also in Psalms 99, where, on the announcement of His Majesty which is about to display itself, of His Justice which already displays itself, and of His Mercy displayed in time past, there resound three addresses on the subject of His Holiness. And, as in that instance, so this Apocalyptic Τρισάγιον also in the text itself, points out its own meaning in relation to itself:

[60] A has ἔχων: so Lachm. and Tiseh. B, ἔχον. Rec. Text, εἶχον; so Vulg. “habebant.” Either of the former, as being the more difficult, is less likely to have come from transcribers.—E.

[61] κυκλόθεν, about) This is to be referred not to the wings, but to the eyes.—V. g.

[62] So AB Vulg.; but Rec. Text, without good authority, γέμοντα.—E.

Holy, He who was:

Holy, He who is:

Holy, He who is to come.

He showed Himself as an object of holy worship, in the creation of all things: He shows Himself further more fully as an object of holy worship, in the governing of all things: He will in the highest degree show Himself an object of holy worship, in the consummation of all things. From Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to Him be glory to all ages. Castellio is not inconsistent with those things which we said on the subject of Holiness in the German Notes; for, according to his explanation, קדוש is Augustus, as T. L. Bunemann observes in the Index of the Bible of Castellio.

In a similar hymn, Isaiah 6:3, there is added, THE EARTH is full of His glory. But in the Apocalypse this is deferred, until the glory of THE LORD fills the earth, His enemies having been destroyed. See ch. Revelation 5:10, Revelation 11:16-18, Revelation 19:2. By the use of which passages, we collect, that the four beasts are more occupied, while the action is in heaven; the elders, while it is extended to the earth.

Verse 8. - And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within. The stop should probably be after wings: are full of eyes about and within. In Isaiah 6:2 we have "six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly." These actions appear to indicate reverence, humility, obedience. The eyes denote ceaseless activity. And they rest not day and night, saying. In the Authorized Version "day and night" is attached to "rest not." but probably should be taken with "saying," for, if connected with the negative phrase, "nor" would be more likely to occur than "and." But the point is practically immaterial, since the sense of the passage is the same in both readings. These representatives of life display the characteristics of life in its fullest energy. They have no part in anything which savours of death - no stillness, rest, or sleep. Holy, holy, holy. The thrice-repeated "holy" has very generally been held to indicate the Trinity of the Godhead. Such is evidently the intention of the English Church in ordering this passage to be read in the Epistle for Trinity Sunday. This ascription of praise is often, though wrongly, spoken of as the "Trisagion." Lord God Almighty. "Almighty" is παντοκράτωρ, the "All-Ruler," not παντοδύναμος, the "All-Powerful." The former, as Bishop Pearson says, embraces the latter. Which was, and is, and is to come. This phrase is no doubt intended to attribute to God the quality of eternal existence. But it may also symbolize three aspects or departments of God's dealings with mankind: the creation, which has been effected by the Father; the redemption, which is now occurring by the intercession of the Son; and the final perfect sanctification by the Holy Ghost. Revelation 4:8Had (εἶχον)

The best texts read ἔχων having, the participle in the singular number agreeing with each one.

Each of them (ἕν καθ' ἑαυτὸ)

Lit., one by himself. The best texts read ἕν καθ' ἕν one by one or every one. Compare Mark 14:19.

Six wings

Compare Isaiah 6:2. Dante pictures his Lucifer, who is the incarnation of demoniac animalism, with three heads and six wings.

"Underneath each came forth two mighty wrings,

Such as befitting were so great a bird;

Sails of the sea I never saw so large.

No feathers had they, but as of a bat

Their fashion was; and he was waving them,

So that three winds proceeded forth therefrom.

Thereby Cocytus wholly was congealed."

"Inferno," xxxiv., 46-52.


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