Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The whole heavenly host give glory to God, because he has judged the great whore, and avenged the blood of his saints, Rev 19:1-6. The marriage of the Lamb and his bride, Rev 19:7-9. John offers to worship the angel, but is prevented, Rev 19:10. Heaven is opened, and Jesus the Word of God appears on a white horse; he and his armies described, Rev 19:11-16. An angel in the sun invites all the fowls of heaven to come to the supper of the great God, Rev 19:17, Rev 19:18. The beast, the false prophet, and the kings of the earth, gather together to make war with him who sits on the white horse; but they are all discomfited, and utterly destroyed, Rev 19:19-21.
I heard a great voice of much people in heaven - The idolatrous city being destroyed, and the blood of the martyred saints being avenged, there is a universal joy among the redeemed of the Lord, which they commence with the word הללו יה Hallelu-Yah, praise ye Jah or Jehovah; which the Septuagint, and St. John from them, put into Greek letters thus: Αλληλουΐα, Allelou-ia, a form of praise which the heathens appear to have borrowed from the Jews, as is evident from their paeans, or hymns in honor of Apollo, which began and ended with ελελευ ιη, eleleu ie; a mere corruption of the Hebrew words. It is worthy of remark that the Indians of North America have the same word in their religious worship, and use it in the same sense. "In their places of worship, or beloved square, they dance sometimes for a whole night always in a bowing posture, and frequently singing halleluyah Ye ho wah; praise ye Yah, Ye ho vah:" probably the true pronunciation of the Hebrew יהוה, which we call Jehovah. See Adair's History of the American Indians.
Salvation - He is the sole author of deliverance from sin; the glory of this belongs to him, the honor should be ascribed to him, and his power is that alone by which it is effected.
For true and righteous - His judgments displayed in supporting his followers, and punishing his enemies, are true - according to his predictions; and righteous, being all according to infinite justice and equity.
Her smoke rose up - There was, and shall be, a continual evidence of God's judgments executed on this great whore or idolatrous city; nor shall it ever be restored.
The four and twenty elders - The true Church of the Lord Jesus converted from among the Jews. See Rev 4:10; Rev 5:14.
Praise our God, etc. - Let all, whether redeemed from among Jews or Gentiles, give glory to God.
The voice of a great multitude - This is the catholic or universal Church of God gathered from among the Gentiles.
The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth - Εβασιλευσε Κυριος ὁ Θεος ὁ παντοκρατωρ. Many excellent MSS., most of the versions, with Andreas and Arethas, the two most ancient commentators on this book, add ἡμων, our, after ὁ Θεος· and according to this the text reads emphatically thus: Our Lord God, the Almighty, reigneth. What consolation to every genuine Christian that His Lord and God is the Almighty, and that this Almighty never trusts the reins of the government of the universe out of his hands! What therefore has his Church to fear?
The marriage of the Lamb is come - The meaning of these figurative expressions appears to be this: After this overthrow of idolatry and superstition, and the discomfiture of antichrist, there will be a more glorious state of Christianity than ever was before.
Arrayed in fine linen - A prediction that the Church should become more pure in her doctrines, more pious in her experience, and more righteous in her conduct, than she had ever been from her formation.
The fine linen here spoken of is not the righteousness of Christ imputed to believers, for it is here called the righteousness of the saints - that which the grace and Spirit of Christ has wrought in them.
Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper - This is an evident allusion to the marriage of the king's son, Mat 22:2, etc., where the incarnation of our Lord, and the calling of Jews and Gentiles, are particularly pointed out. See the notes on Mat 22:2. Blessed are all they who hear the Gospel, and are thus invited to lay hold on everlasting life.
I fell at his feet to worship him - Great as this angel was, St. John could not mistake him either for Jesus Christ, or for God the Father; nor was his prostration intended as an act of religious worship. It was merely an act of that sort of reverence which any Asiatic would pay to a superior. His mistake was, the considering that he was under obligation to the angel for the information which he had now received. This mistake the angel very properly corrects, showing him that it was from God alone this intelligence came, and that to him alone the praise was due.
I am thy fellow servant - No higher in dignity than thyself; employed by the same God, on the same errand, and with the same testimony; and therefore not entitled to thy prostration: worship God - prostrate thyself to him, and to him give thanks.
The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy - As this is a reason given by the angel why he should not worship him, the meaning must be this: I, who have received this spirit of prophecy, am not superior to thee who hast received the testimony of Christ, to preach him among the Gentiles; for the commission containing such a testimony is equal to the gift of the spirit of prophecy. Or, the spirit of prophecy is a general testimony concerning Jesus, for he is the scope and design of the whole Scripture; to him gave all the prophets witness. Take Jesus, his grace, Spirit, and religion out of the Bible, and it has neither scope, design, object, nor end.
A white horse - This is an exhibition of the triumph of Christ after the destruction of his enemies. The white horse is the emblem of this, and Faithful and True are characters of Christ. See Rev 3:14.
In righteousness he doth judge and make war - The wars which he wages are from no principle of ambition, lust of power, or extension of conquest and dominion; they are righteous in their principle and in their object. And this is perhaps what no earthly potentate could ever say.
His eyes were as a flame of fire - To denote the piercing and all-penetrating nature of his wisdom.
On his head were many crowns - To denote the multitude of his conquests, and the extent of his dominion.
A name written, that no man knew - This is a reference to what the rabbins call the shem hammephorash, or tetragrammaton, יהוה Yhvh; or what we call Jehovah. This name the Jews never attempt to pronounce: when they meet with it in the Bible, they read אדני Adonai for it; but, to a man, they all declare that no man can pronounce it; and that the true pronunciation has been lost, at least since the Babylonish captivity; and that God alone knows its true interpretation and pronunciation. This, therefore, is the name which no man knew but he himself.
He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood - To show that he was just come from recent slaughter. The description is taken from Isa 63:2, Isa 63:3, where Judas Maccabeus, or some other conqueror, is described.
The Word of God - Written in the Targum, and in other Jewish writings, מימרא דיי meimera daiya, "the word of Jehovah;" by which they always mean a person, and not a word spoken. See the notes on Joh 1:1, etc.
The armies which were in heaven - Angels and saints over whom Jesus Christ is Captain,
Clothed in fine linen - All holy, pure, and righteous.
Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword - See on Rev 1:16 (note). This appears to mean the word of the Gospel, by which his enemies are confounded, and his friends supported and comforted.
With a rod of iron - He shall execute the severest judgment on the opposers of his truth.
He treaded the winepress - As the grapes are trodden to express the juice, so his enemies shall be bruised and beaten, so that their life's blood shall be poured out.
On his vesture and on his thigh a name written - Dr. Dodd has well observed on this passage, that "it appears to have been an ancient custom among several nations to adorn the images of their deities, princes, victors at public games, and other eminent persons, with inscriptions, expressing either the character of the persons, their names, or some other circumstance which might contribute to their honor; and to that custom the description here given of Christ may possibly have some allusion.
"There are several such images yet extant, with an inscription written either on the garment, or on one of the thighs, or on that part of the garment which was over the thigh; and probably this is the meaning of the apostle. And as these inscriptions are placed on the upper garment, Grotius seems very justly to have explained the words επι το ἱματιον, by his imperial robe, that his power in this victory might be conspicuous to all. But as a farther confirmation of this sense of the passage it may not be improper here to describe briefly several remarkable figures of this sort, which are still extant." This description I shall give from my own examination.
1. Herodotus, Euterpe, lib. ii. p. 127, edit. Gale, speaking of the actions of Sesostris, and of the images he set up in the countries which he conquered, has the following words: Εισι δε περι Ιωνιην δυο τυποι εν πετρῃσι εγκεκολαμμενοι τουτου του ανδρος, κ. τ. λ. "Two images likewise of this man are seen in Ionia, on the way that leads from Ephesus to Phocaea, and from Sardis to Smyrna. The figure is five palms in height; in his right hand he holds a dart, in his left a bow, armed after the manner of the Egyptians and Ethiopians. On a line drawn across the breast, from one shoulder to the other, are these words, written in Egyptian hieroglyphics: Εγω τηνδε την χωρην ωμοισι τοισι εμοισι εκτησαμην· 'I obtained this country by these my shoulders;'" i.e., by my own power.
2. In the Etruria Regalis of Dempster, in the appendix at the end of vol. ii., there is a beautiful female figure of brass, about twelve inches high, the hair gracefully plaited, and the head adorned with a diadem. She has a tunic without sleeves, and over that a sort of pallium. On the outside of the right thigh, close to the tunic, and probably on it, in the original, is an inscription in Etruscan characters. What these import I cannot say. Dempster has given a general explanation of the image in the appendix to the above volume, p. 108. The plate itself is the eighty-third of the work.
3. There are two other images found in the same author, vol. i., p. 91, tab. xxiv.; the first is naked, with the exception of a short loose jupe, or petticoat, which goes round the loins, and over the left arm. On the left thigh of this image there is an inscription in Etruscan characters. The second has a similar jupe, but much longer, which extends to the calf of the leg, and is supported over the bended left arm. Over the right thigh, on this vesture, there is an Etruscan inscription in two lines.
4. Montfaucon, Antiquite Expliquee, vol. iii., part 2, p. 268, has introduced an account of two fine images, which are represented tab. CLVII. The first is a warrior entirely naked, except a collar, one bracelet, and boots. On his left thigh, extending from the groin to a little below the knee, is an inscription in very ancient Etruscan characters, in two lines, but the import is unknown.
The second is a small figure of brass, about six inches long, with a loose tunic, which is suspended from the left shoulder down to the calf of the legs. On this tunic, over the left thigh, is an inscription (perhaps) in very ancient Latin characters, but in the Etruscan language, as the learned author conjectures. It is in one line, but what it means is equally unknown.
5. In the same work, p. 269, tab. CLVIII., another Etruscan warrior is represented entirely naked; on the left thigh is the following words in uncial Greek letters, ΚΑΦΙΣΟΔΩΡΟΣ, and on the right thigh, ΑΙΣΧΛΑΜΙΟΥ, i.e., "Kaphisodorus, the son of Aischlamius." All these inscriptions are written longitudinally on the thigh.
6. Gruter, vol. iii., p. DCCCCLXXXIX, sub. tit. Affectus Servorum et Libertinorum inter se, et in suos, gives us the figure of a naked warrior, with his left hand on an axe, the end of whose helve rests on the ground, with the following inscription on the inside of his left thigh, longitudinally written, as in all other cases: -
A. Poblicius. D. L. Antioc.
Ti. Barbius. Q. P. L. Tiber.
7. The rabbins say, that "God gave to the Israelites a sword, on which the ineffable name יהוה Yehovah was inscribed; and as long as they held that sword the angel of death had no power over them." Shemoth Rabba, sec. 51, fol. 143, 2. Bemidbar Rabba, sec. 12, fol. 214, 2.
In the latter tract, sec. 16, fol. 232, 3, and in Rab. Tanchum, fol. 66, mention is made of the guardian angels of the Israelites, who were clothed with purple vestments, on which was inscribed שם המפורש shem hammephorash, the ineffable name. See more in Schoettgen.
8. But what comes nearer to the point, in reference to the title given here to Christ, is what is related of Sesostris by Diodorus Siculus, lib. i. c. 55, p. 166, edit. Bipont, of whom he says: "Having pushed his conquests as far as Thrace, he erected pillars, on which were the following words in Egyptian hieroglyphics: Τηνδε την χωραν ὁπλοις κατεστρεψατο τοις ἑαυτου Βασιλευς Βασιλεων, και Δεσποτης Δεσποτων, Σεσοωσις·" This province, Sesoosis, (Sesostris), King of Kings and Lord of Lords, conquered by his own arms. This inscription is conceived almost in the words of St. John. Now the Greek historian did not borrow the words from the apostle, as he died in the reign of Augustus, about the time of our Lord's incarnation. This cannot be the same inscription mentioned above by Herodotus, the one being in Ionia, the other in Thrace: but as he erected several of those pillars or images, probably a nearly similar inscription was found on each.
9. This custom seems to have been common among the ancient Egyptians. Inscriptions are frequently found on the images of Isis, Osiris, Anubis, etc., at the feet, on the head, on the back, on the girdle, etc., etc. Eight of those ancient images in my own collection abound with these inscriptions.
1. Osiris, four inches and a quarter high, standing on a thrones all covered over with hieroglyphics exquisitely engraved.
2. Anubis, six inches high, with a tiara, on the back of which is cut ΛΕΓΟΡΝΥΘ , in uncial Greek characters.
3. The Cercopithecus, seven inches long, sitting on a pedestal, and at his feet, in the same characters, ΧΑΔΕΟ.
4. An Isis, about eight inches high, on her back ΔΡΥΓΟ.
5. Ditto, seven inches, beautifully cut, standing, holding a serpent in her left hand, and at her feet ΕΤΑΠΥΓΙ.
6. Ditto, five inches and a quarter, round whose girdle is ΠΙΕΥΧΥΔΙ; but part of this inscription appears to be hidden under her arms, which are extended by her side.
7. Ditto, five inches high, hooded, with a loose stola, down the back of which are seven lines of Greek uncial characters, but nearly obliterated.
8. Ditto, four inches high, with a girdle going round the back immediately under the arms, the front of which is hidden under a sort of a stomacher; on the part that appears are these characters, ΧΕΝΛΑ. These may be all intended as a kind of abrasaxas or tutelary deities; and I give this notice of them, and the inscriptions upon them, partly in illustration of the text, and partly to engage my learned and antiquarian readers in attempts to decipher them. I would have given the Etruscan characters on the other images described above, but have no method of imitating them except by an engraving.
As these kinds of inscriptions on the thigh, the garments, and different parts of the body, were in use among different nations, to express character, conduct, qualities, and conquests, we may rest assured that to them St. John alludes when he represents our sovereign Lord with an inscription upon his vesture and upon his thigh; and had we not found it a custom among other nations, we should have been at a loss to account for its introduction and meaning here.
An angel standing in the sun - Exceedingly luminous; every part of him emitting rays of light. From this representation, Milton has taken his description of Uriel, the angel of the sun. Paradise Lost, b. iii. l. 648 -
"The Archangel Uriel, one of the seven Who, in God's presence, nearest to his throne Stands ready at command and are his eyes That run through all the heavens, or down to the earth Bears his swift errands over moist and dry, Over sea and land."
All the fowls that fly - The carcasses of God's enemies shall be food for all the fowls of heaven. This is according to a Jewish tradition, Synopsis Sohar, p. 114, n. 25: "In the time when God shall execute vengeance for the people of Israel, he shall feed all the beasts of the earth for twelve months with their flesh and all the fowls for seven years." It is well known that both beasts and birds of prey are accustomed to frequent fields of battle, and live upon the slain.
That ye may eat the flesh of kings - There shall be a universal destruction; the kings, generals, captains, and all their host, shall be slain.
I saw the beast - See the notes on Revelation 12 (note), Revelation 13 (note) and Revelation 17 (note).
And the beast was taken, and - the false prophet - See the notes on Rev 17:8, etc.
That worshipped his image - The beast has been represented as the Latin empire; the image of the beast, the popes of Rome; and the false prophet, the papal clergy.
Were cast alive into a lake of fire - Were discomfited when alive - in the zenith of their power, and destroyed with an utter destruction.
With the sword of him that sat upon the horse - He who sat on the white horse is Christ; and his sword is his word - the unadulterated Gospel.