Poole on Revelation 4:3: Glory of the Covenant God

Verse 3:[1] And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: (Ezek. 1:28) and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

[He that was sitting, etc.] God the Father in the guise of a King. Therefore, that throne is called by the Hebrews the Royal throne (Grotius). Here the Father is described, not by human members and features, as the Son was just a little before, but by precious stones figuring His nature (Gagnæus). Here is signified God’s most exact providence concerning the Church and human affairs, which providence is marked especially by two virtues, Mercy and Justice (Pererius).

And he that sat, etc.: This is all but a description of the glory of God, as he appeared to John in this vision.

[Like, etc., ὅμοιος ὁράσει λίθῳ ἰάσπιδι] The former Dative[2] is of Mode, the other[3] of Relation (Erasmus). In aspect (or, appearance [Camerarius, Menochius], or, sight [Ribera], complexion [Menochius]) He was like (he does not say what He is, nor sketch His face, whom he did not see clearly and distinctly [Ribera]) a Jasper stone (Beza, Piscator). Not in splendor, for the brightness of it is minimal; neither in color, which is not fixed (Cotterius), for the types of Jasper are various (Zegers, similarly Cotterius), as Pliny testifies in his Natural History 37:7; but in that which is proper and universal to Jasper, namely, it is of a variegated color: by which it is signified (Cotterius) that God, either His essence or nature (which is rightly expressed by His face), is with all perfections provided and, as it were, συγκεκραμμένην/united (Cotterius), each one of which is most beautiful. Jasper is translucent, for God is light and altogether obviously visible (Ribera). Others: This stone is adorned with veins and spots. It signifies that the Majesty of God, although in itself pure and splendid, appears dark to us on account of our imbecility (Napier). Others: The Septuagint translators call the gem in Exodus 28:18;[4] 39:11[5] ἰάσπιδα/Jasper, which is יַהֲלֺם, so called because it resists blows.[6] Which sort of Jasper Virgil also appears to put on the hilt of the sword that he gives to Æneas.[7] By this is signified the invincible power of God (Grotius).

The jasper stone is famous for its transparency, and variety of colours it offereth to the eye, and may signify the various and infinite perfections of God.

[And, etc., καὶ σαρδίῳ[8]] And a Sardius (Erasmus, Beza, Piscator, etc.). Which is of a red and bloody color (Tirinus), or fiery (Cotterius, Gagnæus, Menochius, Zegers, Ribera out of Arethas). The Septuagint puts σάρδιον in Exodus 28:17; 39:10, where in Hebrew it is אֺדֶם, from red.[9] This signifies [either] the active power of God, which sort is in fire; [or] the terrible power of God (Cotterius), or the justice (Menochius, Ribera), and dread of the judgments of God (Gagnæus).

The sardine stone is red, and of a bloody colour, which may signify the power, justice, and terror of God.

[And, etc., καὶ ἶρις—ὁμοία—σμαραγδίνῳ] Supply λίθῳ/stone (Grotius). And about the circuit of the throne (that is, above [Piscator, similarly Cluverus], or, on every side: for rainbows are round [Cluverus]) was a rainbow (a sign of mercy and peace or reconciliation [Ribera, similarly Menochius, Tirinus, Gagnæus, Cluverus]; or, a symbol of the covenant entered into by God with men never to be destroyed by an inundation of waters [Cotterius, similarly Cluverus, Grotius, Ribera], Genesis 9:12, 13: The rainbow in Ezekiel 1:28 signifies the Covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but here the Evangelical Covenant: Now, the Rainbow is about the throne, for God in judgments is always mindful of His covenant [Grotius]: or, it is the Promise, with which we ought to conceive of God as clothed; so that we might be able to recline upon Him and to call upon His name with faith [Cotterius]) in aspect (that is, color [Piscator]) like (this is to be referred, either, 1. to the One sitting, so that these words, there was a rainbow about the circuit of the throne, would be a certain parenthesis [Ribera]: Or, 2. to the rainbow [certain interpreters in Ribera, Menochius]: Objection: But a rainbow is not of the color of an emerald, but of many colors [Ribera]: Response: Among the various colors of a Rainbow, green is principal [Grotius, similarly Menochius, Tirinus out of Lyra, Cluverus]) an emerald (Piscator), or, an emerald-green, understand, stone (Erasmus, Piscator, Camerarius, Vatablus). This gem was especially green (Ribera, similarly Cotterius), most pleasing to the eye (Ribera). The appearance of no color is more pleasing, says Pliny[10] in praise of the emerald. By this he signifies [either] that the Evangelical covenant is most kind (Grotius); [or] that the mercy of God never grows old, but is always green, fresh, and new (Menochius): [or] the firmness of the promises of God. For verdure, because it is a most certain indication of life in plants, is used as a symbol of duration (Cotterius). [Or] that the immortality of God never fades: or, the sweetness of the contemplation of the Divine nature (Ribera). Many manuscripts, even that most ancient one, have ὅμοιος Attically[11] (Grotius), just as κλυτὸς ἱπποδάμεια, renowned Hippodameia,[12] is used by Homer[13] (Cotterius).

The rainbow was the sign of God’s covenant with Noah, signifying his being so far reconciled to the world, as that he would not again destroy it by water, Genesis 9:13. The emerald is green, and pleasant to the eye. So as this vision of God represents God powerful, just, and good, and of various and infinite perfections.

[1] Greek: καὶ ὁ καθήμενος ἦν ὅμοιος ὁράσει λίθῳ ἰάσπιδι καὶ σαρδίνῳ· καὶ ἶρις κυκλόθεν τοῦ θρόνου ὁμοία ὁράσει σμαραγδίνῳ. [2] That is, ὁράσει/appearance. [3] That is, λίθῳ ἰάσπιδι, jasper stone. [4] Exodus 28:18: “And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond (וְיָהֲלֹם; καὶ ἴασπις, and a jasper, in the Septuagint).[5] Exodus 39:11: “And the second row, an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond (וְיָהֲלֹם; καὶ ἴασπις, and a jasper, in the Septuagint).[6] יַהֲלֺם is derived from the verbal root הָלַם, to hammer. [7] Æneid 4. [8] The Textus Receptus and some Byzantine manuscripts read σαρδίνῳ/sardine; there is no difference in signification. [9] אֺדֶם is related to the verb אָדֺם, to be red, as is אֱדוֹם/Edom. [10] Natural History 9:54, 56. [11] Codex Alexandrinus and some Byzantine manuscripts read ὅμοιος. [12] Κλυτὸς/renowned is a masculine adjective modifying a feminine noun, ἱπποδάμεια/ Hippodameia; ὅμοιος/like is a masculine adjective modifying a feminine noun, ἶρις/ rainbow. [13] Iliad 2:742.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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