Revelation of John 6This symbol denotes plainly the onset of a victorious army.
A symbol of war and slaughter.
Famine. The carrying of a pair of balances denotes the exactness of measurement attendant on scarcity. A measure of wheat was a very small quantity, and the penny was of much greater value than the English word indicates, (see Matt. 20:2, Luke 10:35;) so that these are famine prices for the necessaries of life; while the luxuries are represented as protected from injury.
The symbol of ruin and destruction. That these visions of the four horses accompanying the opening of the first four seals are intended, severally, to denote invasion, slaughter, famine, and destruction, as above explained, is clear; and it is probable that they are designed to prefigure the onset of these calamities in a general sense. Various attempts have been made by different commentators to give to each one an application to some particular event in history, but without much success; for, during several centuries after these predictions were recorded, perpetual storms of war, pestilence, and famine, ravaged the world; and there seems to be nothing to limit the application of the visions to any specific cases. Hence every independent commentator, who has attempted a limitation, has varied from the others in the selection of events to which he supposes the symbols to refer.
Under the altar; no altar is mentioned before. Emblematical visions like these are not to be expected to be coherent and consistent in their details.—The souls; the disembodied spirits.
And they cried, &c. This voice, and also the earthquake mentioned as taking place upon the opening of the sixth seal, (v. 12,) and the silence in heaven which marked the opening of the seventh, (8:1,) show that these visions were not representations delineated in the book, as its several portions were successively unfolded, but that they were visions exhibited to the mind of John, in action the opening of the seals being, as it were, only the signals for their appearance.—Dost thou not judge and avenge, &c. This is not to be understood as expressing their personal desire for the punishment of their enemies, but as the voice of their blood crying for vengeance, just as, in the case of Cain, the voice of his brother's blood was said to cry to God from the ground. The meaning of the whole plainly is, that, though the servants of Christ must suffer trial and persecution for a long period, they should not be forgotten, but that their blood should be avenged in due time.
The great day of his wrath. This and other expressions indicate strongly that the vision arising under this seal was meant to prefigure the great final retribution, when the enemies of God should be overwhelmed with a most awful destruction, from which his friends, as particularly indicated in the next chapter, should be protected and saved, in the most marked and solemn manner. Many commentators have, however, applied this description to judgments and retributions of a minor character.
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