Revelation 6:3
And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
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(3, 4) And when he had opened . . .—Better, And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living being, saying, Come. And there came forth another horse, red; and to him that sat on him was given to take peace from the earth, and that they (i.e., the inhabitants of the earth) shall kill one another, and there was given to him a great sword. This seal is the distinct and unmistakable declaration to the Church that they must look for wars, even after the Prince of Peace has come. The advent of the highest good does not work peace, but only because the hindrance is in man. Man’s resistance to good turns the gospel of peace into an occasion for the sword. So our Lord declares, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” The reign of peace, the beating of swords into ploughshares, is not yet. The vision may help to fix the Christian position about war. It is to be expected; it is an evil, but often an inevitable evil. Those who take part in war are not condemned: those who occasion offences are. It is as much a mistake to condemn soldiering as a profession as it is to deny that Christianity aims at the suppression of war. She admits the soldier to be a soldier of Christ, even while she keeps before her the ideal age when nations shall learn war no more. We expect wars, even while we believe that the day will come when war will be reckoned as absurd as duelling is now. The vision says, “It must needs be that wars will come;” and war, even when roused by the passions of men, is a judgment of God, for God’s judgments are mostly formed out of man’s vices. The seal puts in pictorial form the warning of Christ that wars and rumours of wars would be heard of. How true the warning the after history shows—wars in the empire, wars among nations, controversies, and often fratricidal wars in the Church of Christ.

Revelation 6:3-4. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature — Which was like an ox, and had his station toward the west; say, Come and see — As the former had done when the first seal was opened; and there went out another horse that was red — Seeming to betoken great slaughter and desolation by approaching wars: and to him that sat thereon was given to take peace from the earth — In the year 75, Vespasian had dedicated a temple to Peace: but after a time we hear no more of peace; all is full of war and bloodshed. According to Bishop Newton, this second period commences with Trajan, who came from the west, being a Spaniard by birth, and was the first foreigner who was elevated to the imperial throne. In his reign, and that of his successor, Adrian, there were horrid wars and slaughters, and especially between the rebellious Jews and Romans. Dion relates, that the Jews about Cyrene slew of the Romans and Greeks two hundred and twenty thousand men, with the most shocking circumstances of barbarity. In Egypt also, and in Cyprus, they committed the like barbarities, and there perished two hundred and forty thousand men more. But the Jews were subdued in their turn by the other generals and Lucius, sent against them by Trajan. Eusebius, writing of the same time, says, that the Jews, inflamed, as it were, by some violent and seditious spirit, in the first conflict gained a victory over the Gentiles, who, flying to Alexandria, took and killed the Jews in the city. The emperor sent Marius Turbo against them, with great forces by sea and land, who, in many battles, slew many myriads of the Jews. The emperor also, suspecting that they might make the like commotions in Mesopotamia, ordered Lucius Quietus to expel them out of the province, who, marching against them, slew a very great multitude of them there. Orosius, treating of the same time, says, that the Jews, with an incredible commotion, made wild, as it were, with rage, rose at once in different parts of the earth. For throughout all Libya they waged the fiercest wars against the inhabitants, and the country was almost desolated. Egypt also, Cyrene, and Thebais they disturbed with cruel seditions. But in Alexandria they were overcome in battle. In Mesopotamia also war was made upon the rebellious Jews by the command of the emperor. So that many thousands of them were destroyed with vast slaughter. They utterly destroyed Salamis, a city of Cyprus, having first murdered all the inhabitants. These things were transacted in the reign of Trajan; and in the reign of Adrian was their great rebellion, under their false Messiah Barchochab, and their final dispersion, after fifty of their strongest castles, and nine hundred and eighty-five of their best towns had been demolished, and after five hundred and eighty thousand men had been slain by the sword, besides an infinite number who had perished by famine and sickness, and other casualties; with great loss and slaughter too of the Romans, insomuch that the emperor forbore the usual salutations in his letters to the senate. Here was another illustrious triumph of Christ over his enemies; and the Jews and the Romans, both the persecutors of the Christians, were remarkably made the dreadful executioners of divine vengeance upon one another. The great sword and red horse are expressive emblems of this slaughtering and bloody period, and the proclamation for slaughter is fitly made by a creature like an ox, that is destined for slaughter. This period continued during the reigns of Trajan and his successors, by blood or adoption, about ninety-five years.

6:1-8 Christ, the Lamb, opens the first seal: observe what appeared. A rider on a white horse. By the going forth of this white horse, a time of peace, or the early progress of the Christian religion, seems to be intended; its going forth in purity, at the time when its heavenly Founder sent his apostles to teach all nations, adding, Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world. The Divine religion goes out crowned, having the Divine favour resting upon it, armed spiritually against its foes, and destined to be victorious in the end. On opening the second seal, a red horse appeared; this signifies desolating judgments. The sword of war and persecution is a dreadful judgment; it takes away peace from the earth, one of the greatest blessings; and men who should love one another, and help one another, are set upon killing one another. Such scenes also followed the pure age of early Christianity, when, neglectful of charity and the bond of peace, the Christian leaders, divided among themselves, appealed to the sword, and entangled themselves in guilt. On opening the third seal, a black horse appeared; a colour denoting mourning and woe, darkness and ignorance. He that sat on it had a yoke in his hand. Attempts were made to put a yoke of superstitious observances on the disciples. As the stream of Christianity flowed further from its pure fountain, it became more and more corrupt. During the progress of this black horse, the necessaries of life should be at excessive prices, and the more costly things should not be hurt. According to prophetic language, these articles signified that food of religious knowledge, by which the souls of men are sustained unto everlasting life; such we are invited to buy, Isa 55:1. But when the dark clouds of ignorance and superstition, denoted by the black horse, spread over the Christian world, the knowledge and practice of true religion became scarce. When a people loathe their spiritual food, God may justly deprive them of their daily bread. The famine of bread is a terrible judgment; but the famine of the word is more so. Upon opening the fourth seal, another horse appeared, of a pale colour. The rider was Death, the king of terrors. The attendants, or followers of this king of terrors, hell, a state of eternal misery to all who die in their sins; and in times of general destruction, multitudes go down unprepared into the pit. The period of the fourth seal is one of great slaughter and devastation, destroying whatever may tend to make life happy, making ravages on the spiritual lives of men. Thus the mystery of iniquity was completed, and its power extended both over the lives and consciences of men. The exact times of these four seals cannot be ascertained, for the changes were gradual. God gave them power, that is, those instruments of his anger, or those judgments: all public calamities are at his command; they only go forth when God sends them, and no further than he permits.And when he had opened the second seal - So as to disclose another portion of the volume. See the notes at Revelation 5:1.

I heard the second beast say - The second beast was like a calf or an ox. See the notes at Revelation 4:7. It cannot be supposed that there is any special significancy in the fact that the second beast addressed the seer on the opening of the second seal, or that, so far as the symbol was concerned, there was any reason why this living. creature should approach on the opening of this seal rather than on either of the others. All that seems to be designed is, that as the living creatures are intended to be emblems of the providential government of God, it was proper to represent that government as concerned in the opening of each of these four seals, indicating important events among the nations.

Come and see - See the notes on Revelation 6:1.

3. and see—omitted in the three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, and Vulgate. The second seal; the second of those seven seals with which the book, mentioned Revelation 5:1, was sealed.

The second beast; the beast like a calf, Revelation 4:7.

Come and see; inviting John to attend.

And when he had opened the second seal,.... Of the sealed book; that is, the Lamb, as before:

I heard the second beast say, come and see; this living creature was the ox, whose situation was on the west side of the throne, as the standard of Ephraim, on which was an ox, was on the west of the camp of Israel; no mention is made of the noise of thunder, as before, the voice of the ox being lower than that of the lion; and this perhaps may point out a decrease in the Gospel ministry; to fix on any particular person, as, with Grotius, the Evangelist Matthew, because he says, Matthew 24:7, nation shall rise against nation, which carries in it some likeness to what is said at the opening of this seal; or, as with Brightman, Justin Martyr, whose second apology was not regarded by the emperor, is mere conjecture; the ministers of the Gospel are intended who lived under this seal, who, though they might not be strong and courageous like the lion, or their predecessors, yet were like the ox, laborious in preaching, and patient in suffering; and these are represented in this vision as inviting John to behold and observe the following hieroglyphic.

And {3} when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.

(3) The second sign joined with words of declaration (after the express calling of John as before) is, that God being provoked to wrath by the obstinacy and hard heartedness of the world, not repenting for the former plague: as setting on the same at hand, will cause disputes among men, and will destroy the inhabitants of this world, by the swords of one another.

Revelation 6:3-4. When the Lamb[2034] opens the second seal, John is again commanded, and this time by the second of the beings, to come; it is therefore presupposed, that after the vision of the first seal had ended, and the first image of a horseman had vanished, he had again withdrawn, and taken his original place.[2035] The form proceeding from the book of fate after the opening of the second seal (ἐξῆλθεν, cf. Revelation 6:2) is that of personified shedding of blood. This is so obviously indicated by the red color of the horse,[2036] whereby it was granted (ἘΔΌΘΗ, cf. Revelation 3:21) to take peace away from the earth with the effect of a slaughtering of one another by the dwellers upon earth,[2037] and by the corresponding emblem of a great sword which was given (ἐδόθη, cf. Revelation 6:2),[2038] that expositors are united concerning the essential significance of the vision.[2039] The more accurate determination of the intention of the threatening manifestation is given partly from the words ἐκ τῆς γῆς, and partly from the connection of the whole, decided already in the first sight of a seal. As ἐκ τῆς γῆς does not mean “from the land of Judaea, and the places in which there were Jews,”[2040] certainly the vision as a prophecy post eventum cannot refer to the Jewish war, and the rapine and strifes of factions which occurred during its continuance, especially in Jerusalem.[2041] Since, on the other hand, because of the connection of λαβ. τ. εἰρ. ἐκ τῆς γῆς and ἀλλήλους σφάξουσιν, only the κατοικοῦντες ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς[2042] can be regarded as subject to ἀλλήλους σφάξ., who kill one another, those massacred cannot be Christians, i.e., the discourse cannot be in reference to the persecutions of Christians; for then also, in reference to the combination of the first four seal-visions, it is entirely arbitrary to assert that the last three horsemen occupy a hostile position towards the first.[2043] Incorrect, therefore, are all expositions which in the second seal-vision find the persecution of Christians; as well those specially expounding it,[2044] as those holding it more or less in general.[2045] On the contrary, as in Matthew 24:7-8, wars in the world are regarded as the first presage of the parousia of Christ, the ἀρχὴ ὠδίνων, so there appears here the personification of the shedding of blood, which is to occur on earth in consequence of the Lord’s approach for the glorious and victorious end. Even sanguinary war serves the Lord at his coming. Believers, too, are of course alarmed by the πειρασμός which is thus proclaimed by the second seal-vision;[2046] but their Lord not only preserves them, but at the signs of his coming they are to be the more confident in their hope, since their redemption approaches.[2047]

[2034] Cf. Revelation 6:1.

[2035] Cf., also, Revelation 6:5; Revelation 6:7. Ebrard.

[2036] Cf. 2 Kings 3:22; LXX.: ὕδατα πυῤῥὰ ὡς αἷμα.

[2037] The ἳνα with the ind. fut., in the epexegetical clause καὶ ἱνα, κ.τ.λ., stands in combination with ἐδόθῃ αὐτῷ, just as the ἵνα after ποιήσω, Revelation 3:9.

[2038] It is to be noted how excellently the significant instrument, the μάχαιρα, applies to the slaying which is announced (σφάξουσιν; cf. Revelation 6:6).

[2039] Apart from individual, entirely untenable, arbitrary explanations, as in Alcasar.

[2040] Grot.

[2041] “Intestine dissensions, robbers, assassins, insurrection of Theudas,” etc., Wetst.; cf. Herder, Böhmer, also Eich., Heinr., etc.

[2042] Revelation 3:10.

[2043] “Against the victorious and conquering Church, a red horse goes forth, i.e., an unfavorable populace, bloody from their rider, the Devil” (Beda).

[2044] e.g., N. de Lyra: “The red horse is the Roman people; the rider is Nero.”

[2045] e.g., Beda, Zeger, Calov.: “The red horse, an unfavorable people, an assembly of the godless; the rider is the Devil.” Cf. also Andr., Areth., Laun., Vitr., who regard the rider a personification of the Roman Empire, and suggest Decius and others; Stern, who, in the entire form of each personification, sees only the worldly power thirsting for the blood of Christians, etc.

[2046] Cf. Revelation 3:10.

[2047] Hengstenb., Ebrard, also Beng., Ew., De Wette.

Revelation 6:3-4. The second seal opened: A swordsman representing (red = martial colour) war and bloodshed, “is permitted to make men slay one another”. The allusion to the merciless weapon (Plut. de Iside, 11) of the sword as Rome’s national arm thus places the Parthian and Roman empires side by side (τῆς γῆς generally, not Judaea in particular), but the vision of war is also connected directly with the two following visions of famine (Revelation 6:5-6) and mortality (from pestilence, 7, 8). The seven punishments drawn up by rabbinic theology (Pirke Aboth, Revelation 6:11 f.) were: three kinds of famine, pestilence, noisome beasts, and captivity or exile.

Verse 3. - And when he had opened the second seal; he opened (Revised Version). The tense is aorist. The circumstances described accompanied the act of opening, as in the case of the other seals. I heard the second beast say, Come and see; I heard the second living being say, Come. (On the four living beings as representing creation, see on Revelation 4:6.) For the omission of "and see," and the discussion of the question to whom the words are addressed, see above, on ver. 1. As there stated, some believe the second living being here specified to be the ox, which, on account of its sacrificial character invites the prophet to behold the result of the war which is personified by this vision. Wordsworth, interpreting the living beings to mean the Gospels, here sees a reference to St. Luke's Gospel, which depicts the sufferings of Christ, and considers that the ox here summons St. John to witness the persecution of the martyrs. Revelation 6:3And see


Had opened (ἤνοιξεν)

Rev., rendering the aorist mow literally, opened.

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