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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Revelation: Chapter 6)



6:1 {And I saw} (kai eidon). As in 4:1; 5:1. The vision unfolds without anything being said about opening the book and reading from it. In a more vivid and dramatic fashion the Lamb breaks the seals one by one and reveals the contents and the symbolism. The first four seals have a common note from one of the four z“a and the appearance of a horse. No effort will be made here to interpret these seals as referring to persons or historical events in the past, present, or future, but simply to relate the symbolism to the other symbols in the book. It is possible that there is some allusion here to the symbolism in the so-called "Little Apocalypse" of Mr 13; Mt 24f.; Lu 21. The imagery of the four horses is similar to that in Zec 1:7-11; 6:1-8 (cf. Jer 14:12; 24:10; 42:17). In the Old Testament the horse is often the emblem of war (Job 39:25; Ps 76:6; Pr 21:31; Eze 26:10). "Homer pictures the horses of Rhesus as whiter than snow, and swift as the wind" (Vincent).
{When the Lamb opened} (hote ˆnoixen to arnion). First aorist active indicative of anoig“. This same phrase recurs in rhythmical order at the opening of each seal (6:1,3,5,7,9,12) till the last (8:1), where we have hotan ˆnoixen (hotan rather than hote calling particular attention to it).
{One} (mian). Probably used here as an ordinal (the first) as in Mt 28:1. See Robertson, "Grammar", p. 671f.
{Of} (ek). This use of ek with the ablative in the partitive sense is common in the Apocalypse, as twice in this verse (ek t“n, etc.). So henos ek t“n (one of the four living creatures) is "the first of," etc.
{In a voice of thunder} (en ph“nˆi brontˆs). Old word used of John and James (Mr 3:17) and elsewhere in N.T. only Joh 12:29 and a dozen times in the Apocalypse.
{Come} (Erchou). Present middle imperative of erchomai, but with exclamatory force (not strictly linear). The command is not addressed to the Lamb nor to John (the correct text omits kai ide "and see") as in 17:1; 21:9, but to one of the four horsemen each time. Swete takes it as a call to Christ because erchou is so used in 22:17,20, but that is not conclusive.

6:2 {And I saw and behold} (kai eidon kai idou). This combination is frequent in the Apocalypse (4:1; 6:2,5,8; 14:1,14; 19:11).
{A white horse} (hippos leukos). In Zec 6:1-8 we have red, black, white, and grizzled bay horses like the four winds of heaven, ministers to do God's will. White seems to be the colour of victory (cf. the white horse of the Persian Kings) like the white horse ridden by the Roman conqueror in a triumphant procession.
{Had} (ech“n). Agreeing in gender and case with ho kathˆmenos.
{A bow} (toxon). Old word (Zec 9:13f. of a great bow), here only in N.T.
{Was given} (edothˆ). First aorist passive indicative of did“mi.
{A crown} (stephanos). See on »4:4 for this word.
{He came forth} (exˆlthen). Second aorist active indicative of exerchomai, either to come out or to go out (went forth).
{Conquering} (nik“n). Present active participle of nika“.
{And to conquer} (kai hina nikˆsˆi). Purpose clause with hina and the first aorist active subjunctive of nika“. Here h“s nikˆs“n (future active participle with h“s) could have been used. The aorist tense here points to ultimate victory. Commentators have been busy identifying the rider of the white horse according to their various theories. "It is tempting to identify him with the Rider on the white horse in 19:11f., whose name is 'the Word of God'" (Swete). Tempting, "but the two riders have nothing in common beyond the white horse."

6:3 {The second seal} (tˆn sphragida tˆn deuteran). "The seal the second." The white horse with his rider vanished from the scene bent on his conquering career.

6:4 {A red horse} (hippos purros). Old adjective from pur (fire), flame-coloured, blood-red (2Ki 3:22), in N.T. only here and 12:3, like Zec 1:8; 6:2 (roan horse).
{To take peace from the earth} (labein tˆn eirˆnˆn ek tˆs gˆs). Second aorist active infinitive of lamban“, and here the nominative case, the subject of edothˆ (see verse 2), "to take peace out of the earth." Alas, how many red horses have been ridden through the ages.
{And that they should slay one another} (kai hina allˆlous sphaxousin). Epexegetical explanatory purpose clause with hina and the future active of sphaz“ (5:6) instead of the more usual subjunctive (verse 2). Cf. Robertson, "Grammar", p. 998f. This is what war does to perfection, makes cannon fodder (cf. Joh 14:27) of men.
{A great sword} (machaira megalˆ). Machaira may be a knife carried in a sheath at the girdle (Joh 18:10) or a long sword in battle as here. Romphaia, also a large sword, is the only other word for sword in the N.T. (Re 1:16; 2:12,16; 6:8; 19:15,21).

6:5 {A black horse} (hippos melas). Lust of conquest brings bloodshed, but also famine and hunger. "The colour of mourning and famine. See Jer 4:28; 8:21; Mal 3:14, where "mournfully" is, literally, in black" (Vincent).
{Had} (ech“n) as in verse 2.
{A balance} (zugon). Literally, a yoke (old word from zeugnumi, to join), of slavery (Ac 15:10; Ga 5:1), of teaching (Mt 11:29), of weight or measure like a pair of scales evenly balancing as here (Eze 5:1; 45:10). The rider of this black horse, like the spectral figure of hunger, carries in his hand a pair of scales. This is also one of the fruits of war.

6:6 {As it were a voice} (h“s ph“nˆn). "This use of h“s, giving a certain vagueness or mysteriousness to a phrase, is one of the characteristics of the writer's style, e.g., 8:1; 14:3; 19:1,6" (Beckwith). This voice comes from the midst of the four living creatures, "the protest of nature against the horrors of famine" (Swete).
{A measure} (choinix). Old word for less than a quart with us, here only in N.T.
{Of wheat} (sitou). Old word for wheat, a number of times in N.T., in Rev. only here and 18:13. This was enough wheat to keep a man of moderate appetite alive for a day.
{For a penny} (dˆnariou). Genitive of price, the wages of a day laborer (Mt 20:2), about eighteen cents in our money today.
{Of barley} (krith“n). Old word krithˆ, usually in plural as here. Barley was the food of the poor and it was cheaper even in the famine and it took more of it to support life. Here the proportion is three to one (cf. 2Ki 7:18). The proclamation forbids famine prices for food (solid and liquid). {Hurt thou not} (mˆ adikˆsˆis). Prohibition with and the ingressive first aorist active subjunctive of adike“. See 7:3; 9:4 for adike“ for injury to vegetable life. "The prohibition is addressed to the nameless rider who represents Dearth" (Swete). Wheat and barley, oil and the vine, were the staple foods in Palestine and Asia Minor.

6:8 {A pale horse} (hippos chl“ros). Old adjective. Contracted from chloeros (from chloˆ, tender green grass) used of green grass (Mr 6:39; Re 8:7; 9:4), here for yellowish, common in both senses in old Greek, though here only in N.T. in this sense, greenish yellow. We speak of a sorrel horse, never of a green horse. Zechariah (Zec 6:3) uses poikilos (grizzled or variegated). Homer used chl“ros of the ashen colour of a face blanched by fear (pallid) and so the pale horse is a symbol of death and of terror.
{His name was Death} (onoma aut“i ho thanatos). Anacoluthon in grammatical structure like that in Joh 3:1 (cf. Re 2:26) and common enough. Death is the name of this fourth rider (so personified) and there is with Death "his inseparable comrade, Hades (1:16; 20:13f.)" (Swete). Hades (hƒidˆs, alpha privative, and idein, to see, the unseen) is the abode of the dead, the keys of which Christ holds (Re 1:18).
{Followed} (ˆkolouthei). Imperfect active of akolouthe“, kept step with death, whether on the same horse or on another horse by his side or on foot John does not say.
{Over the fourth part of the earth} (epi to tetarton tˆs gˆs). Partitive genitive gˆs after tetarton. Wider authority (exousia) was given to this rider than to the others, though what part of the earth is included in the fourth part is not indicated.
{To kill} (apokteinai). First aorist active infinitive of apoktein“, explanation of the exousia (authority). The four scourges of Eze 14:21 are here reproduced with instrumental en with the inanimate things (romphaiƒi, lim“i thanat“i) and hupo for the beasts (thˆri“n). Death here (thanat“i) seems to mean pestilence as the Hebrew does (loimos -- cf. limos famine). Cf. the "black death" for a plague.

6:9 {Under the altar} (hupokat“ tou thusiastˆriou). "Under" (hupokat“), for the blood of the sacrifices was poured at the bottom of the altar (Le 4:7). The altar of sacrifice (Ex 39:39; 40:29), not of incense. The imagery, as in Hebrews, is from the tabernacle. For the word see Mt 5:23f., often in Rev. (Re 8:3,5; 9:13; 11:1; 14:18; 16:7). This altar in heaven is symbolic, of course, the antitype for the tabernacle altar (Heb 8:5). The Lamb was slain (5:6,9,12) and these martyrs have followed the example of their Lord.
{The souls} (tas psuchas). The lives, for the life is in the blood (Le 17:11), were given for Christ (Php 2:17; 2Ti 4:6).
{Of the slain} (t“n esphagmen“n). See 5:6. Christians were slain during the Neronian persecution and now again under Domitian. A long line of martyrs has followed.
{For the word of God} (dia ton logon tou theou). As in 1:9, the confession of loyalty to Christ as opposed to emperor-worship.
{And for the testimony which they held} (kai dia tˆn marturian hˆn eichon). See also 1:9. Probably kai equals "even" here, explaining the preceding. The imperfect tense eichon suits the repetition of the witness to Christ and the consequent death.

6:10 {How long} (he“s pote). "Until when." Cf. Mt 7:17; Joh 10:24.
{O Master} (ho despotˆs). Nominative articular form, but used as vocative (despota) as in 4:11 (Joh 20:28). On despotˆs (correlative of doulos) see Lu 2:29. Here (alone in the Apocalypse) it is applied to God as in Lu 2:29; Ac 4:24, but to Christ in Jude 1:4; 2Pe 2:1.
{The holy and true} (ho hagios kai alˆthinos). See 3:7 for these attributes of God. {Avenge our blood on them that dwell upon the earth} (ekdikeis to haima hˆm“n ek t“n katoikount“n epi tˆs gˆs). This same idiom in 19:2 and see it also in Lu 18:7f., "a passage which goes far to answer many questions in theodicy" (Swete). We find ekdike“, late compound, used with ek as here in De 18:19; 1Sa 24:13, but with apo in Lu 18:3. For epi tˆs gˆs (upon the earth) see 3:10.

6:11 {A white robe} (stolˆ leukˆ). Old word from stell“, to equip, an equipment in clothes, a flowing robe (Mr 12:38). For the white robe for martyrs see 3:4f.; 4:4; 7:9,13; 19:14.
{That they should rest} (hina anapausontai). Sub-final clause with hina and the future indicative (as in 3:9; 6:4) middle rather than the aorist middle subjunctive anapaus“ntai of Aleph C. {Yet for a little time} (eti chronon mikron). Accusative of extension of time as in 20:3. Perhaps rest from their cry for vengeance and also rest in peace (14:13). For the verb anapau“ see on »Mt 11:28.
{Until should be fulfilled} (he“s plˆr“th“sin). Future indefinite temporal clause with he“s and the first aorist passive subjunctive of plˆro“, to fill full (Mt 23:32; Col 2:10), "until be filled full" (the number of), regular Greek idiom.
{Which should be killed} (hoi mellontes apoktennesthai). Regular construction of articular present active participle of mell“ (about to be, going to be) with the present passive infinitive of apoktenn“, Aeolic and late form for apoktein“, to kill (also in Mr 12:5). John foresees more persecution coming (2:10; 3:10).

6:12 {There was a great earthquake} (seismos megas egeneto). "There came a great earthquake." Jesus spoke of earthquakes in his great eschatological discourse (Mr 13:8). In Mt 24:29 the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Seismos is from sei“, to shake, and occurs also in Re 8:5; 11:13,19; 16:18. The reference is not a local earthquake like those so common in Asia Minor.
{As sackcloth of hair} (h“s sakkos trichinos). Sakkos (Attic sakos), Latin "saccus", English "sack", originally a bag for holding things (Ge 42:25,35), then coarse garment of hair (trichinos, old word from thrix, here only in N.T.) clinging to one like a sack, of mourners, suppliants, prophets leading austere lives (Mt 3:4; 11:21; Lu 10:13). Here the hair is that of the black goat (Isa 50:3). Cf. Joe 2:10; Eze 32:7f.; Isa 13:10; Mr 13:24f. See Ec 12:2 for eclipses treated as symbols of old age. Apocalyptic pictures all have celestial phenomena following earthquakes.
{As blood} (h“s haima). In Ac 2:20 we find Peter interpreting the apocalyptic eschatological language of Joe 2:31 about the sun being turned into darkness and the moon into blood as pointing to the events of the day of Pentecost as also "the great day of the Lord." Peter's interpretation of Joel should make us cautious about too literal an exegesis of these grand symbols.

6:13 {Her unripe figs} (tous olunthous autˆs). An old word (Latin "grossi") for figs that grow in winter and fall off in the spring without getting ripe (So 2:11f.), here only in N.T. Jesus used the fig tree (Mr 13:28) as a sign of the "end of the world's long winter" (Swete). Cf. Isa 34:4; Na 3:12.
{When she is shaken of a great wind} (hupo anemou megalou seiomenˆ). Present passive participle of sei“, "being shaken by a great wind." See Mt 11:7 for the reed so shaken.

6:14 {Was removed} (apech“risthˆ). First aorist passive indicative of apoch“riz“, to separate, to part (Ac 15:39). "The heaven was parted."
{As a scroll when it is rolled up} (h“s biblion helissomenon). Present passive participle of heliss“, old verb, to roll up, in N.T. only here (from Isa 34:4) and Heb 1:12 (from Ps 102:27). Vivid picture of the expanse of the sky rolled up and away as a papyrus roll (Lu 4:17).
{Were moved} (ekinˆthˆsan). First aorist passive indicative of kine“, to move.
{Out of their places} (ek t“n top“n aut“n). See also 16:20 for these violent displacements in the earth's crust. Cf. Na 1:5; Jer 4:24. Jesus spoke of faith removing mountains (of difficulty) as in Mr 11:23 (cf. 1Co 13:2).

6:15 {The princes} (hoi megistƒnes). Late word from the superlative megistos, in LXX, Josephus, papyri, in N.T. only in Mr 6:21; Re 6:15; 18:23, for the grandees, the persecuting proconsuls (Swete).
{The chief captains} (hoi chiliarchoi). The commanders of thousands, the military tribunes (Mr 6:21; 19:18).
{The rich} (hoi plousioi). Not merely those in civil and military authority will be terror-stricken, but the self-satisfied and complacent rich (Jas 5:4f.).
{The strong} (hoi ischuroi). Who usually scoff at fear. See the list in 13:16; 19:18. Cf. Lu 21:26.
{Every bondman} (pƒs doulos) {and freeman} (kai eleutheros). The two extremes of society. {Hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains} (ekrupsan heautous eis ta spˆlaia kai eis tas petras t“n ore“n). Based on Isa 2:10,18f. First aorist active indicative of krupt“ with the reflexive pronoun. For the old word spˆlaion see Mt 21:13; Heb 11:38. Ore“n is the uncontracted Ionic form (for or“n) of the genitive plural of oros (mountain).

6:16 {They say} (legousin). Vivid dramatic present active indicative, as is natural here.
{Fall on us} (Pesate eph' hˆmƒs). Second aorist (first aorist ending) imperative of pipt“, tense of urgency, do it now.
{And hide us} (kai krupsate hˆmƒs). Same tense of urgency again from krupt“ (verb in verse 15). Both imperatives come in inverted order from Ho 10:8 with kalupsate (cover) in place of krupsate (hide), quoted by Jesus on the way to the Cross (Lu 23:30) in the order here, but with kalupsate, not krupsate.
{From the face of him that} (apo pros“pou tou, etc.). "What sinners dread most is not death, but the revealed Presence of God" (Swete). Cf. Ge 3:8. {And from the wrath of the Lamb} (kai apo tˆs orgˆs tou arniou). Repetition of "the grave irony" (Swete) of 5:5f. The Lamb is the Lion again in the terribleness of his wrath. Recall the mourning in 1:7. See Mt 25:41ff. where Jesus pronounces the woes on the wicked.

6:17 {The great day} (hˆ hˆmera hˆ megalˆ). The phrase occurs in the O.T. prophets (Joe 2:11,31; Zep 1:14. Cf. Jude 1:6) and is here combined with "of their wrath" (tˆs orgˆs aut“n) as in Zep 1:15,18; 2:3; Rom 2:5. "Their" (aut“n) means the wrath of God and of the Lamb put here on an equality as in 1:17f., 22:3,13; 1Th 3:11; 2Th 2:16. Beckwith holds that this language about the great day having come "is the mistaken cry of men in terror caused by the portents which are bursting upon them." There is something, to be sure, to be said for this view which denies that John commits himself to the position that this is the end of the ages.
{And who is able to stand?} (kai tis dunatai stathˆnai?). Very much like the words in Na 1:6; Mal 3:2. First aorist passive infinitive of histˆmi. It is a rhetorical question, apparently by the frightened crowds of verse 15. Swete observes that the only possible answer to that cry is the command of Jesus in Lu 21:36: "Keep awake on every occasion, praying that ye may get strength to stand (stathˆnai, the very form) before the Son of Man."


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Word Pictures in the New Testament
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