Vincent's Word Studies
And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
Of the seals
And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
For white, see on Luke 19:29. Horse, see Zechariah 1:7-11; Zechariah 6:1-8. All the figures of this verse are those of victory. The horse in the Old Testament is the emblem of war. See Job 39:25; Psalm 76:6; Proverbs 21:31; Ezekiel 26:10. So Virgil:
"But I beheld upon the grass four horses, snowy white,
Grazing the meadows far and wide, first omen of my sight.
Father Anchises seeth, and saith: 'New land and bear'st thou war?
For war are horses dight; so these war-threatening herd-beasts are.'"
"Aeneid," iii., 537.
So Turnus, going forth to battle:
"He spake, and to the roofed place now swiftly wending home,
Called for his steeds, and merrily stood there before their foam
E'en those that Orithyia gave Pilumnus, gift most fair,
Whose whiteness overpassed the snow, whose speed the winged air."
"Aeneid," xii., 81-83.
Homer pictures the horses of Rhesus as whiter than snow, and swift as the winds ("Iliad," x., 436, 437); and Herodotus, describing the battle of Plataea says: "The fight went most against the Greeks where Mardonius, mounted on a white horse, and surrounded by the bravest of all the Persians, the thousand picked men, fought in person" (ix., 63). The horses of the Roman generals in their triumphs were white.
See Psalm 45:4, Psalm 45:5; Hebrews 3:8, Hebrews 3:9; Isaiah 41:2; Zechariah 9:13,Zechariah 9:14, in which last passage the figure is that of a great bow which is drawn only by a great exertion of strength, and by placing the foot upon it. Compare Homer's picture of Telemachus' attempt to draw Ulysses' bow:
"And then he took his place
Upon the threshold, and essayed the bow;
And thrice he made the attempt and thrice gave o'er."
"Odyssey," xxi., 124-25.
The suitors propose to anoint the bow with fat in order to soften it.
"Bring us from within
An ample roll of fat, that we young men
By warming and anointing may make soft
The bow, and draw the cord and end the strife."
"Odyssey," xxi., 178-80.
A crown (στέφανος)
See on Revelation 4:4.
And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
Had opened (ἤνοιξεν)
Rev., rendering the aorist mow literally, opened.
And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
To take peace from the earth
See on Revelation 5:6.
Compare Matthew 10:34. In Homer, a large knife or dirk, worn next the sword-sheath, and used to slaughter animals for sacrifice. Thus, "The son of Atreus, having drawn with his hands the knife (μάχαιραν) which hung ever by the great sheath of his sword, cut the hair from the heads of the lambs.... He spake, and cut the lambs' throats with the pitiless brass" ("Iliad," iii., 271-292). It is used by the surgeon Machaon to cut out an arrow ("Iliad," xi., 844). Herodotus, Aristophanes, and Euripides use the word in the sense of a knife for cutting up meat. Plato, of a knife for pruning trees. As a weapon it appears first in Herodotus: "Here they (the Greeks) defended themselves to the last, such as still had swords, using them (vii., 225) Later of the sabre or bent sword, contrasted with the ξίφος or straight sword. Aristophanes uses it with the adjective μιᾷ single, for a razor, contrasted with μάχαιρα διπλῆ, the double knife or scissors. This and ῥομφαία (see on Luke 2:35) are the only words used in the New Testament for sword. Θίφος (see above) does not occur. In Septuagint μάχαιρα of the knife of sacrifice used by Abraham (Genesis 22:6,Genesis 22:10).
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
Come and see
Omit and see.
Pair of balances (ζυγὸν)
Rev., a balance. Properly, anything which joins two bodies; hence a yoke (Matthew 11:29; Acts 15:10). The cross-beam of the loom, to which the warp was fixed; the thwarts joining the opposite sides of a ship; the beam of the balance, and hence the balance itself. The judgment of this seal is scarcity, of which the balance is a symbol, representing the time when food is doled out by weight. See Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 4:16.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
Choenix. Only here in the New Testament. A dry measure, according to some, a quart; to others a pint and a half. Herodotus, speaking of the provisions for Xerxes' army, assigns a choenix of corn for a man's daily supply, evidently meaning a minimum allowance (vii., 187); and Thucydides, speaking of the terms of truce between the Lacedaemonians and the Athenians, mentions the following as one of the provisions: "The Athenians shall permit the Lacedaemonians on the mainland to send to those on the island a fixed quantity of kneaded flour, viz., two Attic quarts (χοίνικας) of barley-meal for each man" (iv., 16). Jowett ("Thucydides") says that the choenix was about two pints dry measure. So Arnold ("Thucydides"), who adds that the allowance of two choenixes of barley-meal daily to a man was the ordinary allowance of a Spartan at the public table. See Herodotus, vi., 57.
For a penny (δηναρίου)
See on Matthew 20:2.
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Only in Revelation, except Mark 6:39. Properly, greenish-yellow, like young grass or unripe wheat. Homer applies it to honey, and Sophocles to the sand. Generally, pale, pallid. Used of a mist, of sea-water, of a pale or bilious complexion. Thucydides uses it of the appearance of persons stricken with the plague (ii., 49). In Homer it is used of the paleness of the face from fear, and so as directly descriptive of fear ("Iliad," x., 376; xv., 4). Of olive wood ("Odyssey," ix., 320, 379) of which the bark is gray. Gladstone says that in Homer it indicates rather the absence than the presence of definite color. In the New Testament, always rendered green, except here. See Mark 6:39; Revelation 8:7; Revelation 9:14.
Properly, Hades. The realm of the dead personified. See on Matthew 16:18.
With the sword (ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ)
With death (ἐι θανάτῳ)
Or pestilence. The Hebrew deber, pestilence, is rendered by the Greek word for death in the Septuagint. See Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 21:7. Compare the term black-death applied to an Oriental plague which raged in the fourteenth century.
With the beasts (ὑπὸ τῶν θηρίων)
Rev., by. The preposition ὑπό by is used here instead of ἐν in or with, indicating more definitely the actual agent of destruction; while ἐν denotes the element in which the destruction takes place, and gives a general indication of the manner in which it was wrought. With these four judgments compare Ezekiel 14:21.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
Or lives. See on 3 John 1:2. He saw only blood, but blood and life were equivalent terms to the Hebrew.
They held (εἶχον)
Not held fast, but bore the testimony which was committed to them.
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
They cried (ἔκραζον)
See on Mark 5:5.
How long (ἕως πότε)
Lit., until when. Compare Zechariah 1:12.
O Lord (ὁ δεσπότης)
See on 2 Peter 2:1. Only here in Revelation. Addressed to God rather than to Christ, and breathing, as Professor Milligan remarks, "the feeling of Old Testament rather than of New Testament relation." Compare Acts 4:24; Jde 1:4.
Originally the verb means to separate; thence the idea of selection: to pick out, and so to discriminate or judge.
On the earth (ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς)
Earth, in Revelation, is generally to be understood of the ungodly earth.
And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
White robes were given unto every one of them (ἐδόθησαν ἑκάστοις στολαὶ λευκαὶ)
The best texts read ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἑκάστῳ στολὴ λευκή there was given them to each one a white robe. So Rev. Στολὴ is properly a long, flowing robe; a festive garment. Compare Mark 16:5; Luke 15:22; Luke 20:46.
Should rest (ἀναπαύσωνται)
See Master in Revelation 6:10.
Should be fulfilled (πληρώσονται)
Completed in number. See Colossians 2:10. Some texts read πληρώσωσιν shall have fulfilled their course.
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
The sixth seal
"The Apocalypse is molded by the great discourse of our Lord upon 'the last things' which has been preserved for us in the first three Gospels (Matthew 24:4; 25.; Mark 13:5-37; Luke 21:8-36; compare 17:20-37). The parallelism between the two is, to a certain extent, acknowledged by all inquirers, and is indeed, in many respects, so obvious, that it can hardly escape the notice of even the ordinary reader. Let any one compare, for example, the account of the opening of the sixth seal with the description of the end (Matthew 24:29, Matthew 24:30), and he will see that the one is almost a transcript of the other. It is remarkable that we find no account of this discourse in the Gospel of St. John; nor does it seem as sufficient explanation of the omission that the later Evangelist was satisfied with the records of the discourse already given by his predecessors" (Milligan).
Lit., shaking. Used also of a tempest. See on Matthew 8:24, and compare Matthew 24:7. The word here is not necessarily confined to shaking the earth. In Matthew 24:29, it is predicted that the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (σαλευθήσονται, see on Luke 21:26). Here also the heaven is removed (Revelation 6:14). Compare Hebrews 12:26, where the verb σείω to shake (kindred with σεισμὸς) is used.
Black as sackcloth of hair (μέλας ὡς σάκκος)
The moon (ἡ σελήνη)
Add ὅλη whole. Rev., the whole moon.
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
Untimely figs (ὀλύνθους)
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
The verb means to separate, sever. Rev., was removed.
Mountain and island
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
Of the earth
See on Revelation 6:10.
Great men (μεγιστᾶνες)
Rev., princes. See on high captains, Mark 6:21.
Chief captains (χιλίαρχοι)
The mighty (οἱ δυνατοὶ)
The best texts read οἱ ἰσχυροὶ. Rev., the strong. For the difference in meaning, see on the kindred words δύναμις and ἰσχύς might and power, 2 Peter 2:11.
Every free man
Omit every, and read as Rev., every bondman and free man.
In the dens (εἰς τὰ σπήλαια)
Rev., caves. The preposition εἰς into implies running for shelter into.
See on Matthew 16:18.
And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
Lit., say. So Rev.
Fall on us
Denoting a deep-seated wrath. See on John 3:36.
For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?