Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, , at sacred-texts.com
Of the seals
For white, see on Luk 19:29. Horse, see Zac 1:7-11; Zac 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; Psa 76:6; Pro 21:31; Eze 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 Psa 45:4, Psa 45:5; Heb 3:8, Heb 3:9; Isa 41:2; Zac 9:13,Zac 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 Rev 4:4.
Had opened (ἤνοιξεν)
Rev., rendering the aorist mow literally, opened.
From πῦρ fire. Flame-colored. Compare Kg2 3:22; Zac 1:8. Only here and Rev 12:3.
To take peace from the earth
Compare Mat 10:34; Mat 24:7.
See on Rev 5:6.
Compare Mat 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 Luk 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 (Gen 22:6,Gen 22:10).
Come and see
Omit and see.
The color of mourning and famine. See Jer 4:28; Jer 8:21; Mal 3:14, where mournfully is, literally, in black.
Pair of balances (ζυγὸν)
Rev., a balance. Properly, anything which joins two bodies; hence a yoke (Mat 11:29; Act 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 Lev 26:26; Eze 4:16.
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 Mat 20:2.
Only in Revelation, except Mar 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 Mar 6:39; Rev 8:7; Rev 9:14.
Properly, Hades. The realm of the dead personified. See on Mat 16:18.
See on Mar 2:10; see on Pe2 2:11. Rev., better, authority.
With the sword (ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ)
Another word for sword. Compare Rev 6:4, and see on Luk 2:35.
With death (ἐι θανάτῳ)
Or pestilence. The Hebrew deber, pestilence, is rendered by the Greek word for death in the Septuagint. See Jer 14:12; Jer 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 Eze 14:21.
See on Act 17:23. The altar of sacrifice, as is indicated by slain; not the altar of incense. The imagery is from the tabernacle. Exo 39:39; Exo 40:29.
Or lives. See on Jo3 1:2. He saw only blood, but blood and life were equivalent terms to the Hebrew.
See on Rev 5:6. The law commanded that the blood of sacrificed animals should be poured out at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offering (Lev 4:7).
They held (εἶχον)
Not held fast, but bore the testimony which was committed to them.
They cried (ἔκραζον)
See on Mar 5:5.
How long (ἕως πότε)
Lit., until when. Compare Zac 1:12.
O Lord (ὁ δεσπότης)
See on Pe2 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 Act 4:24; Jde 1:4.
See on Joh 1:9; see on Rev 3:7.
Originally the verb means to separate; thence the idea of selection: to pick out, and so to discriminate or judge.
Compare Luk 18:3; Rom 12:19.
On the earth (ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς)
Earth, in Revelation, is generally to be understood of the ungodly earth.
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 Mar 16:5; Luk 15:22; Luk 20:46.
Should rest (ἀναπαύσωνται)
See on Mat 11:28; see on Pe1 5:14; compare Rev 14:13; Dan 12:13. Not merely rest from their crying for vengeance, but rest in peace.
See Master in Rev 6:10.
Should be fulfilled (πληρώσονται)
Completed in number. See Col 2:10. Some texts read πληρώσωσιν shall have fulfilled their course.
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 (Mat 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 (Mat 24:29, Mat 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 Mat 8:24, and compare Mat 24:7. The word here is not necessarily confined to shaking the earth. In Mat 24:29, it is predicted that the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (σαλευθήσονται, see on Luk 21:26). Here also the heaven is removed (Rev 6:14). Compare Heb 12:26, where the verb σείω to shake (kindred with σεισμὸς) is used.
Black as sackcloth of hair (μέλας ὡς σάκκος)
Compare Mat 24:29; Isa 50:3; Isa 13:10; Jer 4:23; Eze 32:7, Eze 32:8; Joe 2:31; Joe 3:15; Amo 8:9, Amo 8:10; Mic 3:6. For sackcloth, see on Luk 10:13.
The moon (ἡ σελήνη)
Add ὅλη whole. Rev., the whole moon.
Untimely figs (ὀλύνθους)
Better, as Rev., unripe. Compare Mat 24:32; Isa 34:4. Only here in the New Testament.
The verb means to separate, sever. Rev., was removed.
See on Luk 4:17. Compare Isa 34:4.
Mountain and island
Compare Mat 24:35; Nah 1:5.
Of the earth
See on Rev 6:10.
Great men (μεγιστᾶνες)
Rev., princes. See on high captains, Mar 6:21.
Chief captains (χιλίαρχοι)
See on Mar 6:21, and see on centurion, Luk 7:2.
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, Pe2 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 Mat 16:18.
Lit., say. So Rev.
Fall on us
Compare Hos 10:8; Luk 23:30.
Denoting a deep-seated wrath. See on Joh 3:36.
The great day (ἡ ἡμέρα ἡ μεγάλη)
Lit., the day, the great (day). For the construction, see on Jo1 4:9.
Is come (ἦλθεν)
Shall be able to stand (δύναται σταθῆναι)
Rev., rightly, is able. Compare Nah 1:6; Mal 3:2.