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CHAPTER 7

7:18. THE SEALING OF 144,000 FROM THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL.


1. .] Cf. 4:1, note. The reader expects
(8:1). But two episodes, occupying the whole of c. 7., are
introduced between the loosings of the sixth and seventh seals. A similar break follows
the blowing of the sixth trumpet (10:111:13). The purpose of the present pair of
visions (18, 917) is to contrast the preparedness of the Church for the coming end
with the panic of the unprepared world (6:15 ff.).
. Cf. 20:8. The earth is regarded as , in

view of the four quarters from which the winds blowthe ,


,


, LXX.
, of Isa. 11:12, Ezek. 7:2. For cf. Zech. 2:6, 6:5,
Dan. 7:2, 8:8, 11:4, Mc. 13:27; Enoch (76:7) mentions twelve winds (E. S. W. N., and
the intermediate points).
.] At each of the quarters one of the four
winds is held prisoner by an angel appointed to the task. For , hold fast,
detain, cf. Cant. 3:4 , Jo. 20:23
[ ] . With these angel-custodians of the winds may be
compared the angel (14:18) and the angel of the
waters (16:5). The angels of the winds control their movements; it is their mission to
prevent outbreaks of elemental fury. According to Jewish belief a terrific storm was to
usher in the end, cf. Orac. Sibyll. 3. 204f. |
. : the trees are specified, as
suffering most severely from the violence of the winds. The change of case ( ...
... ) answers to a subtle difference in the force of ; the winds blow
on land and sea, but the trees are singled out for a direct attack.
2. .] A fifth angel is seen mounting up
from the sunrising, i.e. from the Orient; is the usual LXX. phrase (Gen.
11:2, Mt. 2:1) or less frequently, (Num. 3:38, B), but is sometimes
expressed (Jos. 1:15, 13:5; Isa. 11:11, 11:14, Apoc. 16:12). From the writers point of
view the East is the direction of Palestine and the countries beyond it; and it was fitting
that the angel who is to seal the tribes of Israel should appear from that quarter. Or there
may be a reference to Ezek. 43:2
, Mal. 4:2 (3:20) ... . The angels ascent
implies that he has been employed in some service on the earth, and now rises into the
sky to deliver his message.
] is here the signet-ring= (Gen.
41:42, Esther 3:10, 8:2 ff., Dan. 6:17, 1 Macc. 6:15), which the Oriental monarch uses
to give validity to official documents or to mark his property. The symbolism seems to
be based on Ezek. 9:4, where a man provided with an ink-horn is bidden to set a mark (

, , i.e. the letter which in the older script was cruciform, see Hastings, D.
B. 1. p. 71) on the foreheads of the righteous in Jerusalem, with a view to their being
spared in an impending massacre. But for a mark made by the pen of a scribe the
Apocalyptist, who has lately had before him the vision of the sealed roll, substitutes the

impression of the Divine signet-ring. The conception of a Divine sealing occurs freely
in St Paul (2 Cor. 1:22 , Eph. 1:13
, 4:30 ,
), and once in the Fourth Gospel (Jo. 6:27
). In post-Apostolic writings the seal of the Lord is either Baptism
(Herm. sim. 9:16 , Clem. Al. quis div. 42
), or the chrism which followed it.
Here the seal, being in the hands of an angel, can hardly be sacramental. The general
sense is well given in 2 Tim. 2:19 ,
. Cf. Orig. in Joann. t. 1:1

; With cf. 10:6, 15:7: the phrase, which is fairly common in

the N.T. (Mt.2, Acts1, Paul5, Heb.4, Apoc.3), rests on the



of the O.T. (Jos. 3:10,
Ps. 41:3 (42:2), Hos. 1:10 (2:2)). In the Apoc. it suggests a contrast between the God of
Christ and of Christians and the nonentities (1 Cor. 8:4) of pagan worship.
.] The first care of the Angel with the Seal is to
prohibit the angels of the winds from letting loose the elements until his work of sealing
is done. For . see 6:10. The angels of the winds are identified with the winds,
as the angels of the Churches with the societies they represent (see 1:20, note); it is
theirs to hurt or not as they will, unless withheld by a special prohibition (
... ). The restraint which is put upon them represents the
Divine postponement of the catastrophe until the Church is ready (21:2).
For ... see 2:7, note; and for =, cf. 2:11, note, 6:6.
3. .] Cf. Apoc. 9:4, 14:1, 22:4; a mark
() of the opposite character is mentioned in 13:16, 14:9, 20:4. On .
see Apoc. 1:1, 2:20, 19:2, 19:5, 22:3, 22:6. , addressed by an angel to
angels, points to the bond of a common service which links angels with the saints: they
are the servants of the God whom we also serve.
48. .] The Seer does not witness the sealing, but he
hears the number of the sealed announced, and who they are. : the
gender is determined by (v. 3); WH. places a comma after ., but
perhaps unnecessarily. The sum is 12 x 12,000, and each of the tribes of Israel
contributes an equal proportion. The tribes are named separately in the order: Judah,
Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph (i.e.
Ephraim), Benjamin.
Lists of the patriarchs or of the tribes occur in Gen. 35:22 ff., 46:8 ff., 49., Exod. 1:1
ff., Num. 1., 2., 13:4 ff., 26., 34., Deut. 27:11 ff., 33:6 ff., Josh. 1322., Judg. 5., 1
Chron. 28., 12:24 ff., 27:16 ff., Ezek. 48.; a comparative table will be found in
Hastings, D. B. 4. p. 811. The order differs more or less in every case. The Apocalyptic
order starts with the tribe from which Christ came (cf. c. 5:5); and then proceeds to the
tribe of the firstborn son of Jacob, which heads most of the O.T. lists; next come the
tribes located in the North, broken by the mention of Simeon and Levi who in other lists
WH. Westcott and Hort, N.T. in Greek (Cambridge, 1891).

usually follow Reuben or Judah, while Joseph and Benjamin bring up the rear. This
arrangement seems to have been suggested partly by the birth-order of the patriarchs
and partly by the geographical situation of the tribes; Christian associations have
probably determined the place of Judah and of the Galilean tribes. Since Levi is counted
in, it has been necessary to omit one of the other tribes; the omitted name is Dan, a tribe
which perhaps is dropped also, together with Zebulun, in 1 Chron. 2:38., but see Enc.
Bibl. 1. p. 996, note 4. A mystical reason was given for the omission of Dan from the
Apocalyptic list by Irenaeus 5:30. 2 Hieremias et tribum ex qua veniet
[Antichristus] manifestavit dicens: ex Dan audiemus vocem velocitatis equorum eius
(Jer. 8:16) et propter hoc non annumeratur tribus haec in Apocalypsi cum his quae
salvantur. Cf. Hippolytus de Antichristo 14
, . So Arethas:
,
. Either from a
misunderstanding of Gen. 49:17 or from the story of Judges 18. (cf. Targ. Jon. on Exod.
17:8), Dan is associated in Rabbinical lore with idolatry and apostasy (see Shabbath
66); the Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs (Dan 5) seem to predict an alliance between
Dan and Beliar. On the late Christian tradition which assigns Antichrist to this tribe, see
Bousset Antichrist, p. 112 ff.; it may partly be due to Jewish sources, and partly have
been suggested by the omission of Dan from the Apocalyptic list.
It is more important to enquire whether the Apocalyptist intends the 144,000 sealed
Israelites to represent the elect of Israel (cf. Rom. 11:5 ),
the Jewish Christians (Victorinus), or the whole number of the faithful (Primasius:
omnis significatur ecclesia, and so Bede). The third of these views is supported by
(a) the tendency of the Apocalypse to regard the Church as the true Israel (cf. e.g. 2:9,
3:9 ff.), (b) the use of the same number in 14:1 for the followers of the Lamb, whose
foreheads bear the names of God and Christ, and (c) the circumstance that none are
sealed but the 144,000 of Israel. Had it been the purpose of the Apocalyptist to
distinguish between two bodies of the elect, he would surely have represented both as
alike receiving the seal which was to mark the servants of God; but the sealing is
expressly limited to the twelve tribes. It follows that the Israel of the first vision is
coextensive with the whole Church (cf. Orig. in Joann. t. 1:1, Renan, lAntechrist, p.
390), and the of v. 9 have been sealed already in their capacity of elect
Israelites. The two visions depict the same body, under widely different conditions; in
vv. 48 the true Israelites (Jo. 1:17, Rom. 2:29, Gal. 6:16) of a single generation are
marshalled under the banners of their several tribes for the campaign which is yet before
them, whereas in vv. 917 all the generations of the faithful appear in their countless
numbers, no longer needing the safeguard of the Divine Seal, but triumphant and at rest.
Cf. Beatus: 144 millia omnino ecclesia est; quid sit ex omni tribu exposuit dicens ex
omni gente.
917. THE TRIUMPH OF THE INNUMERABLE MULTITUDE .
Enc. T. K. Cheyne and J. S. Black, Encyclopaedia Biblica (London, 1899
1903).

9. .] The second vision, introduced by a fresh ,


presents a series of sharp contrasts when compared with the first. In the first, the
concourse can be counted; in the second, it is incalculably great. In the first, it is drawn
from the twelve tribes of Israel; in the second, from every nation. In the first, it is being
prepared for imminent peril; in the second, it is victorious and secure.
.] Cf. 19:1, 19:6. The writer perhaps recalls the vast crowd
that thronged our Lord during His ministry; see Mc. 4:1, 5:21, 5:24, Lc. 12:1, Jo. 6:2,
12:9, 12:12. , in contrast with v. 4
; possibly there is an allusion to Gen. 15:5, 32:12 (cf, Heb. 11:12). In the
Church, which is Abrahams seed, the promise of a countless progeny will at length be
realised (Gal. 3:7, 3:29). With . cf. Apoc. 5:9, 11:9, 13:7, 14:6,
17:15; this favourite formula found a daily illustration in the polyglott cosmopolitan
crowd who jostled one another in the agora or on the quays of the Asian seaport towns.
(a constructio ad sensum; the crowd is in thought resolved into the plurality of
its countless constituents) . Hitherto only the Elders, the ,
and the Angels have had places assigned to them in the presence of God and of the
Lamb, but in this prospective vision the presence-chamber is crowded with a vast
assemblage of men; drawn from every nation upon earth and by some unexplained
process transported to heaven. Perhaps no passage in the Apocalypse has had so wide an
influence on popular eschatology. The symbolism must not however be pressed into the
service of the fancy which places redeemed humanity in a localised abode of God and
of Angels. Life before the Throne of God is life wherever spent, if it is dominated by
a joyful consciousness of the Divine Presence and Glory. The present picture must be
correlated with that of cc. 21., 22., where the future state is presented in the light of a
City descending from Heaven, yet possessing within its walls the Throne of God.
The scene of 7:9 ff. anticipates the final condition of redeemed humanity. Like the
Transfiguration before the Passion, it prepares the Seer to face the evil which is yet to
come.
.] The construction is much broken, as if in
sympathy with the rapture and abandon of the moment. ( ... ...
... ... ). The acc. seems
to presuppose an , understood in (WM. pp. 671, 724; Blass, Gr. p. 81);
is an obvious correction. The whole company of the elect are now seen
clad in the white robes which in 6:11 distinguish the Martyrs; what the symbol here
represents is explained below, v. 13 f., where see notes.
] , palm branches (=
(Lev. 23:40), . (2 Esdr. 18. (8) 15) or . (Jo. 12:13)), as in 2 Macc. 10:7
; cf. Pollux 1:244
. They were carried at the Feast of Tabernacles, and used in
constructing the shelters on the housetops required on that occasion (Lev. 23:42, 2
Esdras ll. cc.); an allusion to these may be latent in v. 15 .
But palm-branches were regarded as appropriate at any season of joy or triumph; the
WM. Winer-Moulton, Grammar of N. T. Greek, 8th Engl. ed. (Edinburgh, 1877).

Triumphal Entry (Jo. l.c.) may be in view, or such a scene as that described in 1 Macc.
13:51 [sc. ] ... ...
, or in 2 Macc. l.c. Cf. Verg. Aen. 5:111 palmae,
pretium victoribus; Pausanias, Arcad. 48
; Tert. scorp. 12 palmis victoriae insignes revelantur
scilicet de Antichristo triumphantes; Andreas:
... . Deissmanns suggestion (Bible Studies, p.
370) needs confirmation.
10. .] The polyglott multitude ( ...
, v. 9) shouts its praises as with one voice; for see 6:10, 7:2.
The key note of the strain is (cf. 12:10, 19:1); those who raise it have all
experienced the great deliverance (v. 14) which they ascribe to God and the Lamb: cf.
Ps. 3:9 . To cry is equivalent to
attributing to Both the title of , so freely given by the loyal or pliant cities of Asia
to the Emperors, but belonging in Christian eyes only to God and to His Christ. The
Pastoral Epistles supply examples of both applications, (1) 1 Tim. 1:1
, 2:3, Tit. 1:3, 3:4 . : (2) Tit. 1:4
, 2:13 . , 3:6
, For . compare Jo. 4:22 . . Acts 4:12
., Jude 3 ... .
: cf. v. 3, note. The elect of mankind claim God as their God, since He is the
God of Christ (Jo. 20:17, Apoc. 3:12).
11. .] (exclaims Andreas)
. The Angels endorse the ascription of praise, as in 4:11 ff.
They form, as there, a circle round the Throne, outside the Elders and the ; their
position relatively to the is not stated, but the exigencies of the scene
appear to require that they should stand nearer the Throne. For the it is sufficient
to be (vv. 9, 15), seeing the God Whom they serve.
... .] Cf. 4:10, 11:16; and for , 1:7, 5:14,
19:4. The Angels, while adding their Amen to the doxology of the Church, offer their
own tribute in other words. It is addressed to the Majesty on the throne, Whom like the
redeemed they call their God (v. 12); the Lamb is not included as in 5:13. The ascription
is sevenfold, as in 5:12, but it does not exactly agree with any of the previous
doxologies, although each of its features has occurred in one or more of them; for
cf. 5:12, 5:13; , 1:6, 4:11, 5:12, 5:13; , 5:12; , 4:9; ,
4:9, 4:11, 5:12, 5:13; , 4:11, 5:12; , 5:12; see notes ad ll. As in 5:12, each
word is emphasized by the article. The concluding is perhaps a liturgical addition,
but it rests on good authority.
13. .] An Elder intervenes, as in 5:5, to
interpret the vision. For see Mc. 9:5 note; for a similar use of in
the LXX. cf. Cant. 2:10 , . The
Elder anticipates the questions which the Seer was ready to put ( ... ;
; ); Bede: interrogat ut doceat. The vision was not a mere spectacular

display, but a revelation; and its points must not be missed. , the
white robes which arrest attention: cf. , v. 9, note.
14. .] Cf. Zech. 4:2, 4:5 ; ...
... ; , . If the perfect () is to
be pressed here, it must be explained as meaning that to the Seers mind the whole
scene was still fresh and vivid, that he seemed to himself to have but just spoken, as if
the echoes of his voice were not yet silent. On the quasiaoristic use of the perfect in this
book, see 5:7, note. , so the O.T. apocalyptic writers address a superhuman person;
cf. Dan. 10:16 f., Zech. 4:5, 4:13; or may be merely the sir of courtesy, as in Jo.
20:15, where it is addressed to one who is supposed to be a . is at
once a confession of ignorance, and an appeal for information; cf. Ezek. 37:3
... ; , . Contrast the
of Jo. 21:15 ff.
.] The answer covers both questions
(, ;). These who wear the white robes are such as come ,
timeless, cf. WM. p. 444) out of the Great Tribulation. The reference is probably to
Dan. 12:1 Th. , ; cf.
Mc. 13:19. There is a which His servants share (1:9, 2:9 f.), but the Great
Tribulation ( . ., cf. Acts 8:10 ) is the
superlatively great crisis of trial through which all must pass (3:10), and from which the
servants of God alone emerge unscathed. The present vision, which anticipates the issue
of the final judgement, represents the latter as already delivered out of the evil to come.
.] The conception comes partly from Exod.
19:10, 19:14, where the Israelites wash their clothes before the lawgiving; partly from
Gen. 49:11 ,
. The of the redeemed, however, are not (cf. Isa. 63:1), but
. Hence is explained by (Tert. candidaverunt, Prim.
candidas fecerunt, Vg. dealbaverunt); cf. Ps. 50. (51) 9, which may also be in view:
, : cf. Isa. 1:18
, , , .
is used in reference to the fullers art, cf. Mc. 9:3
, . The
whiteness of the saints robes is gained ; cf. 1:5, 5:9, parallels
which ought to have saved some ancient writers (e.g. Tertullian, scorp. 12; Arethas:
) from the mistake of understanding the Blood of the Lamb here to
mean the blood of martyrs shed for His sake; the candidatus martyrum exercitus itself
owes its whiteness to the Great Sacrifice. Cf. Beatus: hi sunt qui venerunt etc.: non ut
aliqui putant martyres soli sunt, sed omnis ecclesia; non enim in sanguine suo lavari
dixit sed in sanguine agni. is the Sacrifice of the Cross, cf. 1
Pet. 1:2, 1:19, 1 Jo. 1:7, Rom. 3:25, 5:9, Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:20, Heb. 9:14; the paradox
is in accord with the manner of this book, where violent contrasts
abound. The aorists , , look back to the life on earth when the
Vg. The Latin Vulgate.

cleansing was effected (Mc. 2:10). The act is ascribed to the saints themselves, and not
to Christ, as is the act of redemption (1:5, , 5:9 ); the saints are not
passive recipients of redemption, but cooperate with the Divine grace by repentance and
faith and the use of the Sacraments (Acts 22:16
: Mt. 26:28 ,
), and by vigilance and victory over
sin (c. 12:11).
15. ] refers to the whole of
the preceding sentence ( ... ). The purification of the conscience
and character derived in their lifetime from faith in the Blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 15:9,
Heb. 9:14) had fitted them for the Presence of God; cf. Mt. 5:8
, . See Ephes. 5:26 f. for a picture of the Church in
her final purity, fresh from the bath of a perfect absolution
, .
.] Cf. 22:3
. On see Lightfoot, Philippians (3:3). In the LXX.
(excepting Daniel) it is the normal equivalent of ,

, as distinguished from the

priestly

which is usually represented by . Since the members of the
Church are priests unto God (1:6, 5:10, 20:6) might have been expected
here and in 22:3 rather than . But the conception is that of a vast worshipping
congregation, and the use of would rather have suggested that of an
exclusive priesthood admitted to the sanctuary, while the great majority were content to
pray without (Lc. 1:10, 1:21). . The Israelite who was not a Priest or
Levite did not proceed beyond the , one tribe alone having access to the . But
in the Eternal Temple the Seer sees the whole Israel of God admitted to the , and
the occasion for the of a tribal or special priesthood has disappeared, all
being priests and all serving in the Presence of God. The mention of a temple must be
corrected by the later revelation in c. 21:22 , ...
. The Temple is here the Divine Presence, realized and enjoyed;
is equivalent to (vv. 9, 15).
The of the Church is not interrupted by nightfall (for see
Lc. 18:7, 1 Thess. 5:5, Apoc. 4:8). Even the Temple had its night offices; see 1 Chron.
9:33 ( ) , Ps. 133. (134.) 2
. The Church inherited the practice, and the
stillness of the night was broken by the vigil services of the early times (Batiffol,
Brviaire, p. 2 ff.) and at a later date, in monastic communities, by the matin-lauds. But
the vision of ceaseless worship is realized only when life itself is regarded as a service.
The consecration of all life to the service of God is the goal to which our present
worship points, and it is symbolized by the Apocalyptists
. Here again the later vision of the closing chapter corrects the earlier: cf. Apoc.
21:25, 22:5 . Cf. Andreas:
.

.] Perpetual service will find


its stimulus and its reward in the perpetual vision of Him Who is served.

represents

in the LXX. (Jud. 5:17, 8:11 (B), 3 Regn. 8:14(A)); in the N.T. its use is
limited to the Johannine writings (Jo. 1:14, Apoc. 7:15, 12:12, 13:6, 21:3). The
reference both here and in 21:3 is to the O.T. promise that God would walk or dwell
in Israel (Lev. 26:22 , Zech. 2:10 , ib.
8:3, 8:8, Ezek. 37:27 ). The assonance of ,



,


, has probably suggested the use of both in Jo. l.c. ( ...
) and in Apoc. 7., 21. (here only: cf. 21:3
) brings in the further idea of Gods Presence as a protection from
all fear of evil, with reference perhaps to Isa. 4:5 f., where the Pillar of the Exodus
suggests the overshadowing of Israel by the Shechinah. An allusion to the of the
Feast of Tabernacles is also possible; see v. 9, note.
The Apocalyptist now passes from the present tense to the future (, cf. v.
16 f.); the vision becomes a prediction.
16. .] Andreas:
. This verse, with part of the next, is borrowed from Isa. 49:10
where of Israel returning from exile we read: ,
, ,
. The changes which the Apocalyptist makes are interesting:
(the sirocco, cf. Mt. 20:12, Lc. 12:55, Jac. 1:11) is changed into

(Latt. aestus, scorching heat of any kind), ((



) into
, while becomes .
For the interpretation of here see Jo. 6:35, and for ,
Jo. 4:14, 6:35, 7:37. With contrast 16:9.
17. .] looks back to c. 5:6
. . . (used here only in Apoc.) is usually between,
amongst (cf. Mt. 13:25, Mc. 7:31, 1 Cor. 6:5), but it sometimes stands for
(e.g. Jos. 19:1, Sir. 27:2, Mt. 13:25), and this must be its meaning here. ...
is a bold mixture of two metaphors. has been used of Christ in
2:27, where and in 12:5, 19:15, there is a reference to Ps. 2:9; here the context guides us
to Isa. 40:11 , or to Ezek. 34:23, but especially
to Ps. 22. (23.) 1 ff. ... , 79. (80.) 1
... . In Christ the Shepherd has taken the nature of the
sheep; the is Himself of the fold ( ). On see 2:27,
note. noless than has an interesting history in Biblical Greek. It is
used of the Divine guidance of Israel (Exod. 15:13, Deut. 1:33), of the guidance of
individual lives (Ps. 5:9, 85. (86.) 11, Sap. 9:11); of the work of the Spirit of Christ (Jo.
16:13); and lastly, in this place, of the work of Christ Himself in the future order. The
Divine shepherding and guidance of men belongs to the future as well as to the present
life, and in the future only meets with a full response (cf. Jo. 10:4, Apoc. 14:4).
] The order emphasizes to lifes water springs, Vg.
ad vitae fontes aquarum; Alford well compares 1 Pet. 3:21 . Isa.

(


supplies . .; is perhaps from Jer. 2:13 [ ]
, (
(
(
). The change of order gives
l.c.

prominence to the mention of life. It is to God as the Fountain of life (Ps. 35. (36.) 10
) that the Lamb leads His sheep: cf. 21:6, 22:1, 22:17. The
interpretation is again supplied by the Johannine Gospel; see Jo. 4:12, 4:14; 7:38 f. The
plurals are perhaps not to be pressed, being merely echoes of the Hebrew
(cf. 8:10, 14:7, 16:4); if they have any significance here, they point to the secondary
sources which are replenished by the Fountain itself, or to the manifold energies of the
one Christ-life (1 Cor. 12:4 ff.), as the of 1:4 etc. represent the
of the One Spirit.
.] Yet another reference to the O.T.; cf. Isa.
25:8 where the LXX. have ,

but Symmachus, influenced perhaps by his recollections of this passage, renders




by . The sentence occurs again with verbal changes in c. 21:4; indeed, the
whole of the episode c. 7:917 finds echoes in the last two chapters of the book, where
the climax here anticipated is fully described. On the main thought see Tertullian de res.
carn. 58 delebit deus omnem lacrimam ab oculis eorum, utique ex iisdem oculis qui
retro fleverant, quique adhuc flere potuissent, si non omnem lacrimae imbrem
indulgentia divina siccaret dolor et maeror et gemitus quomodo auferentur, nisi
cessaverint causae? ubi casus adversi apud Deum, aut ubi incursus infesti apud
Christum? quae infirmitas post virtutem? quae imbecillitas post salutem?
Beatiso Bede sums up in the words of the second Beatitudequi lugent, quoniam
ipsi consolabuntur.