Revelation 6:7
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7, 8) The fourth seal.—And when He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living being, saying, Come. And I saw, and behold, a horse, pallid (or, livid), and he that sat upon him his name was Death, and Hades was following with him; and there was given to them power over the fourth part of the earth to kill with sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth. The colour pallid, or livid, is that deadly greenish hue, which is the unmistakable token of the approach of death. The rider is Death—not a particular form of death, but Death himself. Attending him, ready to gather up the slain, is Hades. The fourth seal is the darkest and most terrible. Single forms of death (war and famine) were revealed in the earlier seals; now the great King of Terrors himself appears, and in his hand are gathered all forms of death—war, famine, pestilence (for the second time the word “death” is used: it must be taken in a subordinate sense, as a particular form of death, such as plague, or pestilence; we may compare the use of the word “death” thus applied to some special disease, in the case of The Death, or Black Death), and wild beasts. These forms of death correspond with God’s four sore judgments—the sword, and famine, and pestilence, and the noisome beasts of Ezekiel 14:21. The seal, therefore, gathers up into one all the awfulness of the past seals. It is the central seal, and it is the darkest. It is the midnight of sorrows, where all seems given up to the sovereignty of death. The middle things of life are often dark. Midway between the wicket-gate and golden city Bunyan placed his valley of the shadow of death, following the hint of the Psalmist, who placed it midway between the pasture and the house of the Lord (Psalms 23). Dante, perhaps working from the same hint, found his obscure wood and wanderings midway along the road of life:—

“In the midway of this our mortal life

I found me in a gloomy wood, astray.”

The darkest periods of the Church’s history were those we call the Middle Ages. By this, however, it is not meant that there is any chronological signification in the seal. The vision deepens in its central scene, like the horror of darkness in the dream of Abraham. The history of the Church has not unfrequently presented a sort of parallel. The age which follows the ages of barren dogmatism and of spiritual starvation is often an age of sham spiritual life. The pale horse of death is the parody of the white horse of victory: the form of godliness remains, the power is gone.

Revelation 6:7-8. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature — Like an eagle, toward the north; say, Come and see — Receive a further discovery of the divine will. And I looked, and behold a pale horse — Suitable to pale death, his rider. By death, in the Hebrew, we are frequently to understand the pestilence. See Jeremiah 9:21; Jeremiah 18:21; and Sir 39:29. And many other instances might be produced. And hell — Or hades, rather, representing the state of separate souls, followed with him. And power was given unto them — Namely, to death and hades. Or if we read, with Bengelius, αυτω, the expression is, Power was given to him, namely, to death; over the fourth part of the earth — That is, a very considerable part of the heathen Roman empire: to kill — By the several judgments of God here mentioned; with sword — That is, with war; with hunger — Or famine; with death — Or the pestilence; and with the beasts of the earth — These are called the four sore judgments of God, in the style of ancient prophecy. See Ezekiel 14:21; Ezekiel 33:27. The meaning is, That the sword and famine, which were judgments of the foregoing seals, are continued in this, and the pestilence is added to them. Accordingly, says Lowman, we find all these judgments in a very remarkable manner in this part of history, that is, in the reigns of Maximin, Decius, Gallus, Volusian, and Valerian, beginning after Severus, about the year 211, to A.D. 270. Thus also Bishop Newton; who observes, This period commences with Maximin, who was an emperor from the north, being born of barbarous parents in a village of Thrace. He was indeed a barbarian in all respects; an historian affirming that there was not a more cruel animal upon the earth. The history of his, and several succeeding reigns, is full of wars and murders, mutinies of soldiers, invasions of foreign armies, rebellions of subjects, and deaths of princes. There were more than twenty emperors in the space of fifty years, and all, or most of them, died in war, or were murdered by their own soldiers and subjects. Besides lawful emperors, there were, in the reign of Gallienus, thirty usurpers, who set up in different parts of the empire, and came all to violent and miserable ends. Here was sufficient employment for the sword; and such wars and devastations must necessarily produce a famine, and the famine is another distinguishing calamity of this period. In the reign of Gallus, the Scythians made such incursions, that not one nation, subject to the Romans, was left unwasted by them; and every unwalled town, and most of the walled cities, were taken by them. In the reign of Probus also there was a great famine throughout the world; and for want of victuals, the army mutinied and slew him. A usual consequence of famine is the pestilence, which is the third distinguishing calamity of this period. According to Zonaras, it arose from Ethiopia, while Gallus and Volusian were emperors, pervaded all the Roman provinces, and for fifteen years together incredibly exhausted them; and the learned Lipsius declares, that he never read of any greater plague, for the space of time that it lasted, or of land that it overspread. Zozimus also, speaking of the devastations of the Scythians before mentioned, further adds, that the pestilence, not less pernicious than war, destroyed whatever was left of human kind, and made such havoc as it had never done in former times. Many other historians, and other authors quoted by Bishop Newton, bear the same testimony; among whom Eutropius affirms, that the reign of Gallus and Volusian was remarkable only for the pestilence and diseases. And Trebellius Pollio attests, that in the reign of Gallienus the pestilence was so great, that five thousand men died in one day. Now when countries thus lie uncultivated, uninhabited, and unfrequented, the wild beasts usually multiply, and come into the towns to devour men, which is the fourth distinguishing calamity of this period. This would appear a probable consequence of the former calamities, if history had recorded nothing. But Julius Capitolinus, in his account of the younger Maximin, p. 150, informs us that five hundred wolves together entered into a city, which was deserted by its inhabitants, where this Maximin chanced to be. The colour of the pale horse, therefore, is very suitable to the mortality of this period; and the proclamation for death and destruction is fitly made by a creature like an eagle, that watches for carcasses. This period the bishop considers as continuing from Maximin to Dioclesian, about fifty 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 fourth seal - See the notes at Revelation 5:1.

I heard the voice of the fourth beast say - The flying eagle. See the notes at Revelation 15:7. As in the other cases, there does not appear to have been any particular reason why the fourth of the living creatures should have made this proclamation rather than either of the others. It was poetic and appropriate to represent each one in his turn as making proclamation.

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

7. and see—supported by B; omitted by A, C, and Vulgate. The fourth living creature, who was "like a flying eagle," introduces this seal; implying high-soaring intelligence, and judgment descending from on high fatally on the ungodly, as the king of birds on his prey. The beast mentioned Revelation 4:7, that had the face of a flying eagle, inviteth John to attend to the opening of

the fourth seal, that is, the revelation of the counsels of God, as to what should happen to the church (within the Roman empire) in the fourth period, which is conceived to have begun with Maximinus, about the year 237, and to have ended with the reign of Dioclesian, 294. And when he had opened the fourth seal,.... Of the seven seals of the sealed book; that is, when the Lamb had opened it, or took it off, as in Revelation 6:1;

I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, come and see; this living creature was that which was like an eagle, and was on the north side of the throne, answerable to the standard of Dan, which was on the north of the camp of Israel, and had the figure of an eagle upon it; and the opening of this seal begins with Maximinus the Roman emperor, who came from Thrace, far north. This living creature was not James, the brother of our Lord, who had been dead long ago, as Grotius imagines; nor Cyprian, as Brightman thinks, though he lived under this seal; but the ministers of the Gospel in general in the times referred to are intended: and it may denote some decline in the Gospel ministry, that they had not the courage and strength of the lion, as the first Gospel preachers; nor the patience and laboriousness of the ox, the next set of ministers; nor the solidity and prudence of the man, the ministers that followed them; and yet they retained some degree of light and knowledge, sagacity and penetration, and contempt of the world, signified by the eagle; these invite John in a visionary way to come and see the following hieroglyphic.

{6} And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

(6) The fourth sign joined with words of declaration is, that God will devote a quarter of the world to death and hell, or the grave, by all those methods at once, who individually and in order he had summoned to change their minds. To these are also added the wild and cruel beasts of the earth Le 16:22. Thus according to his wisdom, God dispenses the treasures of his power, justly towards all, mercifully towards the good, and with patience or longsuffering towards his enemies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 6:7-8. The fourth form of horseman is recognizable not only by the entire description, but also his name is expressly mentioned: ὄνομα αὐτῷ ὁ Θάνατος. The text is thus as contradictory as is possible to all allegorizing interpretations of mortal heresy,[2071] of the complete falling away from Christ as spiritual death,[2072] of the Saracens and Turks,[2073] of the Roman people with the Emperor Domitian, whom “Hell follows,” because immediately after his death he entered it.[2074] Incorrect, also, as in Revelation 6:5-6, is the limited reference of the whole to any special case, as possibly to the diseases and rapine which occurred at the time of the Jewish war in consequence of the famine (Revelation 6:5-6),[2075] or to the devastations made by the flavi Germani, and other nations of the migration.[2076] As already by the ancient prophets, in addition to the sword[2077] and hunger,[2078] pestilence[2079] and also wild beasts[2080] were called grievous divine judgments, so the Lord also enumerates pestilences (ΛΟΙΜΟΊ) among the signs of his coming. Yet it does not follow thence that the horseman, who has the name Ὁ ΘΆΝΑΤΟς, is the plague;[2081] but it corresponds with those types, that death personified, just as the shedding of blood personified, and famine personified, should enter because of the Lord’s going forth to his victorious goal, and that the means mentioned (Revelation 6:8) should ascribe to him deadly efficacy. This horse has the color which agrees with his work. χλωρός designates not only the fresh green of the grass,[2082] but also the greenish pallor of fear[2083] and of death.[2084]

ὁ καθήμενος. The loose but forcible construction in which the preceding nom. is absorbed by the following dat. (ὌΝ. ΑὐΤῷ Ὁ ΘΑΝ.), as in Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21.

ΚΑῚ Ὁ ἍΙΔΗς ἨΚΟΛΟΎΘΕΙ ΜΕΤʼ ΑὐΤΟῦ. The ΜΕΤΆ with ἈΚΟΛ. as Luke 9:48. To understand Hades by metonymy for the inhabitants of Hades, the host of those swept away by death,[2085] is an assumption which not only gives a monstrous idea, but also especially avoids the correct reading ἘΔΌΘΗ ΑὐΤΟῖς. The incorrect explanation, as well as the incorrect reading ΑὐΤῷ, depends upon the failure to recognize the fact that Hades, i.e., the place belonging to death,[2086] because filled by the agency of death, is represented here like death itself, as a person following death. The idea of locality, which especially belongs to Hades, is also in Revelation 1:18 decisive as to the idea of death; conversely here and in Revelation 20:13 sqq., Hades is personally considered, which suits better the idea of death. But to regard Hades only as the place of torment for the damned,[2087] is only possible if the plagues indicated in Revelation 6:8 are misunderstood as though pertaining to unbelievers alone. The contrary is decided partly by the entire tendency of all four seal-visions, and partly, especially in this place, by the express extension of the dominant power granted death and hell following it, to the fourth part of the earth, and therefore of all inhabitants of the earth, believers—who have patiently endured and hoped for the coming of the Lord—as well as unbelievers.[2088]

ΤῸ ΤΈΤΑΡΤΟΝ. The schematic number gives the idea of a considerably great portion of the whole; a still greater part is designated by the schematic three.[2089]

ἘΝ, as a designation of the instrument or means,[2090] stands properly with ῬΟΜΦΑΊᾼ, ΛΙΜῷ, and ΘΑΝΑΤῷ; while to ΘΗΡΊΩΝ, as the beasts themselves are active, ὙΠΌ is attached,[2091] which in other cases also is combined in classical Greek with the active.[2092] The ῥομφαία, Revelation 6:8, has as little to do with the ΜΆΧΑΙΡΑ, Revelation 6:4, as the ΛΙΜΌς concurs with the famine, Revelation 6:5-6; on the contrary, such means to kill are to be ascribed to Death personally portrayed with Hell, as already in the O. T. are threatened as destructive means of punishment prior to God’s judgment. Because of the juxtaposition of ἘΝ ΘΑΝΆΤῼ with ἘΝ ῬΟΜΦΑΊᾼ and ἘΝ ΛΙΜῷ, the ΘΑΝΆΤῼ is readily taken specially as a designation of the plague, especially as the LXX., in similar connections, use ΘΆΝΑΤΟς where the Heb. text has דֶבֶר;[2093] but if John had wished to designate this precise idea, the expression ΛΟΙΜΌς[2094] would scarcely have escaped him. As in Revelation 2:23, the general conception must be maintained also in this passage,[2095] which also appears the more suitable as the ἘΝ ΘΑΝΆΤῼ occurs in a certain exclusive way to the two preceding conceptions which are likewise furnished with the prep. ἘΝ, while the attached ὙΠῸ Τ. ΘΗΡΊΩΝ Τ. Γ., as also the change of prep. shows, connects it again with a certain independence to the three preceding conceptions. [See Note XLIX., p. 235.]

[2071] Beda, who mentions especially Arius; Zeger, etc.

[2072] Stern.

[2073] Vitr., C. a Lap.

[2074] N. de Lyra.

[2075] Wetst., Grot., Herd., Böhmer.

[2076] Huschke.

[2077] Cf. Revelation 5:3 sqq.

[2078] Cf. Revelation 6:5 sqq.

[2079] דֶבֶר. LXX.: θάνατος, Jeremiah 21:7; Jeremiah 14:12.

[2080] Leviticus 16:22; Ezekiel 14:21.

[2081] “Pestis nomine mortis” (Eichh.).

[2082] Revelation 8:7, Revelation 9:4; Mark 6:39.

[2083] Il. vii. 479.

[2084] Pallida mors.

[2085] Eichh., Ebrard.

[2086] Cf. Revelation 1:18, Revelation 20:13 sqq.

[2087] Hengstenb.

[2088] Beng., Ew.

[2089] Revelation 8:7.

[2090] Cf. Revelation 2:16.

[2091] Cf. Ew., De Wette.

[2092] Matth., Ausführ. Griech. Gramm., § 592.

[2093] Vitr., Beng., De Wette, etc.

[2094] Matthew 24:7.

[2095] Hengstenb., Ebrard.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLIX. Revelation 6:2-8Alford regards the four seals, in their fulness, as contemporaneous, the ἵνα νικήσῃ not being accomplished until the entire earth is subjugated, although “they may receive continually recurring, or even ultimate, fulfilments, as the ages of the world go on, in distinct periods of time, and by distinctly assignable events. So far, we may derive benefit from the commentaries of those who imagine that they have discovered their fulfilment in successive periods of history, that, from the very variety and discrepancy of the periods assigned by them, we may verify the facts of the prevalence of these announced judgments hitherto, throughout the whole lifetime of the Church.”Revelation 6:7-8. The fourth seal opened pestilence and mortality.The Fourth Seal, Revelation 6:7-87. I heard the voice of] The slight variation of phrase serves to mark the fourth rider off, as partly distinct in character from the rest. They have brought an increasing series of scourges to the earth: his work is utter and unmitigated woe, combining the worst features of theirs.Verse 7. - And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say; when he opened, as in vers. l, 3, and 5. The events narrated accompany the action of opening the seal. Of the fourth living being (see on Revelation 4:6). The individual is not specified (see on ver. 1); but Wordsworth specifies the living being like a flying eagle, by which he understands the Gospel of St. John (but see on Revelation 4:6). Saying. Though λέγουσαν, the feminine accusative, to agree with φωνήν, "voice," is adopted in the Textus Receptus, and supported by the sole authority of 1, yet א, A, B, C, P, and others read λέγοντος, the masculine genitive, agreeing with ζώου, "living being." Come and see. The Revised Version omits "and see" (see on ver. 1). "Come" is probably addressed to St. John (see on ver. 1).
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