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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 8

 

 

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Introduction

Revelation 8. The arrangement of ch. 8 has recently been subjected to critical examination by Charles (Studies in the Apocalypse, ch. 8), who arrives at the conclusion that Revelation 8:7-12 contains a separate Apocalypse, the insertion of which at this point causes inexplicable difficulties. He thinks the chapter was originally composed of the following elements: Revelation 8:1, Revelation 8:3-5, Revelation 8:2 (changing the word "seven" to "three"), Revelation 8:6 (with the same change), Revelation 8:13. This would also entail a change in the enumeration of the trumpets in ch. 9. The theory has one very important merit. It explains "the silence in heaven" by connecting Revelation 8:1 with Revelation 8:3-5. The real problem is, What is the connexion between "the seventh seal" and "the trumpets" and later on "the bowls"? Does the "seventh seal" let loose the woes of the trumpets and the bowls? Or do the trumpets and the bowls recapitulate and go over again the ground already covered by the seals? We expect the breaking of the seventh seal to be followed by a climax, but instead of a climax we get a pause. Do the trumpets and the bowls carry us forward towards the climax, or are they different ways of approaching the same end?


Verses 1-5

Revelation 8:1. silence in heaven: the explanation of this "silence" has always puzzled commentators. The usual interpretation is in the words of C. A. Scott (Cent.B, p. 198): "It suggests the wistful or alarmed uncertainty with which the end of the silence was awaited. The silence big with fate conveys as nothing else could the sense of trembling suspense." Charles's theory, that Revelation 8:2 is out of place and the "silence in heaven" is explained in Revelation 8:3-5, gives what seems to be the true interpretation. "The praises and thanksgivings of all the mighty hierarchies of heaven are hushed in order that the prayers of the suffering saints on earth may be heard before the throne of God" (op. cit., p. 153).—half an hour: this phrase is not to be taken literally; as Swete says, "Half an hour is a long interval in a drama."

Revelation 8:2. And I saw . . . trumpets: these words obviously come too early, and are really connected with Revelation 8:6.

Revelation 8:3. another angel: sometimes identified with Michael the guardian and intercessor of Israel.—over the altar: the picture which is drawn of heaven in chs. 4f. contains no altar, though "the bowls full of incense" in Revelation 5:8 may possibly imply an altar of incense. In Revelation 8:3 most scholars think there is a reference to two altars, (a) the altar over which the angel stood, i.e. the altar of burnt offering which stood before the holy place, (b) "the golden altar," i.e. the altar of incense (Exodus 30 ff.*), the theory being that there was a "pattern in the heavens" of the complete earthly Temple (cf. Hebrews 8:5). Swete and Charles, however, maintain that the Apocalypse only mentions one altar—the altar of incense. Jewish Christian writers before A.D. 200 never allude to a second altar in heaven, and their language definitely excludes the possibility of the existence of more than one (op. cit., pp. 161-179).—a golden censer: cf. Leviticus 16:12 f.—add it unto the prayers: apparently the prayers of the saints in this metaphor, are the live coals upon which the incense is sprinkled. In Revelation 5:8, however, there is a variation of the metaphor, and the "prayers" are represented as the incense,

Revelation 8:4. lit. "the smoke of the incense went up to help (lit. ‘for') the prayers of the saints."

Revelation 8:5. The prayers are answered; the angel uses the censer to cast the fire from the altar upon the earth as a symbol of disaster (cf. Ezekiel 10:2).


Verses 6-13

Revelation 8:6-13. The First Four Trumpets.—The first four trumpets, like the first four seals, form a connected group, and differ in character from the last three. They affect chiefly the natural world, which they overwhelm with disaster. Many of the features are borrowed from the plagues of Egypt. [The description seems to be based also on volcanic phenomena, as often in OT prophecy. The whole district was subject to volcanic disturbances, and in particular the island of Santorin (about 80 miles S.W. of Patmos) may have suggested several features. See J. T. Bent's article, "What St. John saw in Patmos" (Nineteenth Century, 1888). On this island there is a work by F, Fouqué, Santorin et ses éruptions.—A. S. P.]

Revelation 8:7. The first trumpet (cf. Exodus 9:24), "fire flashing continually amid the hail." The phrase "mingled with blood" is added. "Blood-red rain is not unknown in nature"; storms of this character have occurred in the S. of Europe, and the usual explanation given is that the air was full of particles of red sand from the Sahara.

Revelation 8:8. The second trumpet.—a great mountain: this phrase is introduced by way of illustration, and we need not imagine that the writer pictures an actual mountain cast into the sea. He indicates rather a huge blazing mass like a mountain in size.

Revelation 8:9. sea became blood: cf. Exodus 7:17-21, Revelation 16:3.

Revelation 8:10. The third trumpet. A great meteor falls from heaven and destroys the fresh-water supply. [J. H. Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism. p. 326, compares "the falling of the great star Gocîhar upon the earth," mentioned in the Bundahish.—A. S. P.]—called Wormwood: lit. absinthe. In OT the term is always used metaphorically to denote the bitterness of injustion or the fruits of idolatry or Divine chastisement (Proverbs 5:4*).

Revelation 8:12. The fourth trumpet. This causes the partial eclipse of the heavenly bodies (cf. Exodus 10:21-23). None of these plagues are final, and it seems to be suggested that there is still time for repentance.

Revelation 8:13. On the ordinary interpretation this verse is intended to be a last warning to the world before the other trumpets are blown. Charles thinks, however, that originally the four trumpets were not found in the text, and that this verse simply introduces the three trumpets (cf. Revelation 8:9).—an eagle: so the best MSS. TR reads, "an angel," and so AV.

Rev. . See Introd. to ch. 20.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Revelation 8:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/revelation-8.html. 1919.

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