Vincent's Word Studies
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
Lit., on. The book or roll lay upon the open hand.
A Book (βιβλίον)
Within and on the back side (ἔσωθεν καὶ ὄπισθεν)
Compare Ezekiel 2:10. Indicating the completeness of the divine counsels contained in the book. Rolls written on both sides were called opistographi. Pliny the younger says that his uncle, the elder Pliny, left him an hundred and sixty commentaries, most minutely written, and written on the back, by which this number is multiplied. Juvenal, inveighing against the poetasters who are declaiming their rubbish on all sides, says: "Shall that one then have recited to me his comedies, and this his elegies with impunity? Shall huge 'Telephus' with impunity have consumed a whole day; or - with the margin to the end of the book already filled - 'Orestes,' written on the very back, and yet not concluded?" (i., 3-6).
Only here in the New Testament. The preposition κατά denotes sealed down. So Rev., close sealed. The roll is wound round a staff and fastened down to it with the seven seals. The unrolling of the parchment is nowhere indicated in the vision. Commentators have puzzled themselves to explain the arrangement of the seals, so as to admit of the unrolling of a portion with the opening of each seal. Dsterdieck remarks that, With an incomparably more beautiful and powerful representation, the contents of the roll are successively symbolized by the vision which follows upon the opening of each seal. "The contents of the book leap forth in plastic symbols from the loosened seal." Milligan explains the seven seals as one seal, comparing the seven churches and the seven spirits as signifying one church and one spirit, and doubts if the number seven has here any mystical meaning. Others, as Alford, claim that the completeness of the divine purposes is indicated by the perfect number seven.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
Either as being of higher rank, or with reference to the great voice.
As in John 1:27. Morally entitled.
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
Under the earth
To look (βλέπειν)
See on John 1:29. To take a single look at the contents.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
I wept (ἔκλαιον)
Audible weeping. See on Luke 6:21.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
Of the elders (ἐκ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων)
Strictly, from among the elders.
See Genesis 49:9.
The Root of David
See on Nazarene, Matthew 2:23.
Hath prevailed (ἐνίκησεν)
And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
In the midst of
Not on the throne, but perhaps in the space in the center of which is the throne, and which is surrounded by the twenty-four elders.
A Lamb (ἀρνίον)
The diminutive, very frequent in Revelation, and once in the Gospel of John (John 21:15). Nowhere else in the New Testament. Compare Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29, John 1:36. Christ had just been spoken of as a lion. He now appears as a lamb. Some interpreters emphasize the idea of gentleness, others that of sacrifice.
Rev., more correctly, standing. Though slaughtered the lamb stands. Christ, though slain, is risen and living.
Seven horns and seven eyes
See remarks on the Apocalyptic imagery, Revelation 1:16. The horn is the emblem of might. See 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Kings 22:11; Psalm 112:9; Daniel 7:7, Daniel 7:20 sqq.; Luke 1:69. Compare Matthew 28:18. The eyes represent the discerning Spirit of God in its operation upon all created things.
Sent forth (ἀπεσταλμένα)
See on Mark 3:14.
And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
Lit., hath taken. The perfect, alternating with the aorist, is graphic.
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
Had taken (ἔλαβεν)
Lit., took. The aorist is resumed.
Every one of them harps (ἕκαστος κιθάρας)
Rev., less clumsily, having each one a harp. Each one, that is, of the elders. Κιθάρα harp signifies an instrument unlike our harp as ordinarily constructed. Rather a lute or guitar, to which latter word kithara is etymologically related. Anciently of a triangular shape, with seven strings, afterwards increased to eleven. Josephus says it had ten, and was played with a plectrum or small piece of ivory.
Only in Revelation. The word vial, used commonly of a small bottle, gives a wrong picture here. The φιάλη was a broad, flat vessel, used for boiling liquids, sometimes as a cinerary urn, and for drinking, or pouring libations. Also of the shallow cup, usually without a foot, in which libations were drawn out of the mixer. Herodotus says that at Plataea the Spartan Helots were bidden by Pausanias to bring together the booty of the Persian camp, and that they found "many golden mixers and bowls (φιάλας), and other ἐκπώματα (drinking-vessels)" (ix., 30). From its broad, flat shape Ἄρεος φιάλη bowl of Mars was a comic metaphor for a shield. It was also used for sunken work in a ceiling. In the Septuagint the word is frequently used for bowls or basons. See Numbers 7:13, Numbers 7:19, Numbers 7:25, Numbers 7:31, Numbers 7:37, Numbers 7:43, etc.; 1 Kings 7:50; Zechariah 9:15. Here, censers, though several different words of the Septuagint and New Testament are rendered censer; as θυΐ́σκη, 1 Kings 7:50; θυμιατήριον, 2 Chronicles 26:19; Ezekiel 8:11; Hebrews 9:4; λιβανωτὸν, Revelation 8:3. Θυΐ́σκη however is the golden incense-cup or spoon to receive the frankincense which was lighted with coals from the brazen altar, and offered on the golden altar before the veil. The imagery is from the tabernacle and temple service.
For incense as the symbol of prayer, see Leviticus 16:12, Leviticus 16:13; Psalm 141:2. See on Luke 1:9. Edersheim, describing the offering of incense in the temple, says: "As the President gave the word of command which marked that 'the time of incense had come,' the whole multitude of the people without withdrew from the inner court and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands in silent prayer. It is this most solemn period, when, throughout the vast temple-buildings, deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar, and the cloud of odors rose up before the Lord, which serves as the image of heavenly things in Revelation (Revelation 8:1, Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:4). The prayers offered by priests and people at this part of the service are recorded by tradition as follows: 'True it is that Thou art Jehovah, our God and the God of our fathers; our King and the King of our fathers; our Savior and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the seashore. Together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, 'Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel.'" Compare "the Song of Moses," Revelation 15:3, and "a new song," Revelation 5:9.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
Present tense, denoting the continuous, unceasing worship of heaven, or possibly, as describing their "office generally rather than the mere one particular case of its exercise" (Alford).
Omit us and supply men, as Rev.
With Thy blood (ἐν τῷ αἵματί σου)
Lit., "in Thy blood." The preposition in is used Hebraistically of the price; the value of the thing purchased being contained in the price.
Rev., tribe. Often in the New Testament of the twelve tribes of Israel.
People, nation (λαοῦ, ἔθνους)
See on 1 Peter 2:9.
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
Read αὐτοὺς them.
Read, βασιλείαν a kingdom. See on Revelation 1:6.
We shall reign (βασιλεύσομεν)
Read βασιλεύουσιν they reign. Their reigning is not future, but present.
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Ten thousand times ten thousand (μυρίαδες μυρίαδων)
Lit., ten thousands of ten thousands. Compare Psalm 68:17; Daniel 8:10. Μυριάς, whence the English myriad, means the number ten thousand. So, literally, Acts 19:19, ἀργυρίου μυριάδας πέντε fifty-thousand pieces of silver; lit., five ten-thousands. In the plural used for an unlimited number. See Luke 12:1; Acts 21:20; Hebrews 12:22; Jde 1:14.
Χιλιάς, a collective term like, μυριάς, meaning the number one thousand, is almost invariably used with men in Revelation. See Revelation 7:4; Revelation 11:13. Only once with a material object (Revelation 21:16). With inferior objects χίλιοι a thousand is used. See Revelation 11:3; Revelation 12:6. These words are the theme of Alford's noble hymn -
"Ten thousand times ten thousand
In sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints
Throng up the steeps of light:
'Tis finished, all is finished,
Their fight with death and sin;
Fling open wide the golden gates,
And let the victors in."
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Rev., "the power." Compare the ascription in Revelation 4:11, on which see note, and notice that each separate particular there has the article, while here it is attached only to the first, the power, the one article including all the particulars, as if they formed but one word. On the doxologies, see on Revelation 1:6.
See on the kindred word εὐλογητὸς blessed, 1 Peter 1:3.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
In the sea (ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης)
More accurately, "on the sea," as Rev. Not ships, but creatures of the sea which have come up from its depths to the surface.
Blessing (ἡ εὐλογία)
Rev. rightly "the blessing." All the particulars of the following ascription have the article.
Originally a valuing by which the price is fixed, hence the price itself, the thing priced, and so, generally, honor. See on Acts 28:10.
Power (τὸ κράτος)
Rev., the dominion. For the different words for power, see on 2 Peter 2:11.
And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
Four and twenty
In silent adoration.
Him that liveth forever and ever