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Poole on Revelation 6:10: The Fifth Seal, Part 2

Verse 10:[1] And they cried with a loud voice, saying, (see Zech. 1:12) How long, O Lord, (Rev. 3:7) holy and true, (Rev. 11:18; 19:2) dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

[They cried with a great voice] Which indicates, either the multitude of those crying (Cluverus), or the fervency of their desire (Cluverus, thus Menochius, Ribera out of Gregory). That cry heard shows what the matter itself appears to require (Grotius). This argues that souls neither die with their bodies, nor after withdrawal sleep or snore, but remain awake (Pareus).

[How long, etc., Ἕως πότε, ὁ δεσπότης, etc.] In the place of ὦ δεσπότα, O Lord[2] (Piscator, similarly Camerarius). It is a Hebraism and Atticism (Piscator). It appears from Revelation 3:7, 14 that this is to be referred to Christ, who is called δεσπότης in 2 Peter 2:1[3] also. For this entire dispensation of patience and severity towards the Jews was delivered to Christ, Matthew 21:44; 22:7; Luke 19:12, 14, 27 (Grotius). Κύριος/kurios/Lord communicates a benevolent disposition; δεσπότης/despotes/Lord, dominion only. Wherefore the saints, crying out to God for vengeance upon the impious, address Him as δεσπότην (Cotterius). [Thus they translate it:] How long (they do not complain of God, neither do they lack confidence in Him, as the subsequent titles demonstrate; but they indicate that their afflictions were of great duration and most grievous [Durham]), O Lord (they implore the One sitting on the Throne and the Lamb [Pareus]), holy (or, who art holy [Beza, Piscator], who hatest sin [Cotterius, thus Cluverus, Durham], Habakkuk 1:13 [Durham], and the barbarity of tyrants [Pareus]; and therefore wilt both vindicate our innocence and just cause, and punish their violence [Durham]) and true (that is, constant in keeping promises and threats [Pererius, thus Durham]; who hast said that thou art going to punish sins [Cotterius, thus Durham], and art going to liberate thine own [Durham]), dost thou not judge and avenge (that is, κρίνων ἐκδικεῖς [Grotius], judging dost thou avenge: Judgment pertains to an investigation of the case, vengeance to pursuing with punishment the matter judged [Menochius]; that is to say, thou dost not punish with judicial vengeance [Cotterius]) our blood (as that of Stephen,[4] of James of Zebedee, who was the brother of this John,[5] and of others whose names lie hidden to us [Grotius]: understand, by requiring it [Beza, Piscator], which supplement the preposition ἀπὸ/from[6] requires [Beza, similarly Piscator]: Thus in Luke 18:3:[7] Although even without the Ellipsis it is said, ἐκδικεῖν τινα ἀπὸ τινος, to avenge someone of someone [Piscator]) on those dwelling on the earth? (Montanus), that is, in Judea, which was called γῆ, the earth, and οἰκουμένη, the world, par excellence (Grotius). Others: On the impious Pagans that shed their blood (Piscator). Thus it is spoken, not as if all inhabitants of the earth are here denoted, of which many were saints; but partly because most of those in some way were bound together by the guilt of these persecutions, partly so that he might show those designated by him, namely, the men of this world, etc., Psalm 17:14, compared with John 17:6 [Durham], partly by μυκτηρισμὸν/sarcasm, that is to say, on the children of the earth, who through foolish rage did not fear to rise up against heaven, to their own hurt. They tacitly congratulate themselves that the rage of earthly men is not able to reach unto heavenly men (Pareus). Heaven is our habitation; the earth is the seat of sinners (Cotterius). Regard is here paid to the judgment of God brought against them, either, 1. by Constantine the Great, who overthrew, etc., the tyrants, Maximinus, Licinius, and Maxentius (certain interpreters in Cluverus); or rather, 2. the final and general judgment on the day of judgment (Durham, similarly Cluverus out of Cyprian): and it suggests, 1. that many of the persecutors had already been killed, and to such an extent placed beyond the bounds of temporal vengeance; 2. that the vengeance sought is such that would fix an end to the persecutions, as the subjoined response demonstrates; 3. that the decision of the quarrel between the people of God and their enemies will be complete. Nevertheless, the saints were vindicated in part by the special and temporal judgments upon their persecutors, which sort are under the following Seal. Moreover, the inhabitants of heaven have no sense of delays; but thus they speak so that they might express, 1. their affection toward Christ, for whom they earnestly desire a full and final victory; 2. their sympathy with the remaining members of Christ in the earth; 3. the guilt of their blood which cleaves to their persecutors and cries for vengeance (Durham). Question: How do the Saints now seek vengeance on those whom, as their neighbors, they were obliged to love (Ribera, Pererius, Pareus)? Responses: 1. The souls are said to cry out, that is, the martyrs themselves, whose blood cries out, like that in Genesis 4 (certain interpreters in Ribera). 2. The Saints desire this vindication not for itself and primarily, but consequently (Pererius): that is, they desire the kingdom of sin to be altogether destroyed, and the Kingdom of God to be brought over all (Pererius, similarly Ribera out of Augustine and Ambrose and Bede and Primasius); but because these things are not done without the final judgment of the impious, they are said to also desire this. 3. The saints do sometimes seek vindication from God, as it is evident in David and Jeremiah; but that out of zeal for justice, and out of the singular impulse of the Holy Spirit (Pererius). 4. The reasoning of living Saints is different than that of the Blessed (Ribera, similarly Gravius): for to the latter, who are able neither to be moved by hatred, nor to decline from the will of God, nothing is commanded concerning the love of enemies: rightly, therefore, do those desire what they see to be pleasing to God, namely, that the impious might be punished, unless they repent (Pererius): this, however, they seek not from carnal passion, but from divine appointment, and heroic spirit, so that the just judgments of God might be made clearly evident to the entire world (Gravius).

And they cried with a loud voice; their blood cried, or their souls cried to God, saying, How long, O Lord, holy; and therefore thou canst not abide iniquity, and of all iniquity canst least abide innocent blood, which is the blood of thy saints, whose blood is precious in thy sight. And true; and who art true to thy word of threatenings against bloodthirsty men, and to thy promises for the deliverance of thy people. Dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? Dost thou not judge our cause, and avenge us, who have committed vengeance to thee, not daring to avenge ourselves upon wicked men, who dwelling upon the earth are seen, and their practices known to and by thee, and are under thy power, so as thou canst at pleasure do it.

[1] Greek: καὶ ἔκραζον φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, λέγοντες, Ἕως πότε, ὁ δεσπότης, ὁ ἅγιος καὶ ὁ ἀληθινός, οὐ κρίνεις καὶ ἐκδικεῖς τὸ αἷμα ἡμῶν ἀπὸ τῶν κατοικούντων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς; [2] Here, the Nominative (the case indicating subject) stands in the place of the Vocative (the case indicating direct address). [3] 2 Peter 2:1: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord (δεσπότην) that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” [4] Acts 7:54-60. [5] Acts 12:2. [6] Revelation 6:10b: “…How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on (ἀπὸ, in some Byzantine manuscripts and the Textus Receptus; ἐκ, in a great many Byzantine manuscripts and Codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Ephræmi Rescriptus) them that dwell on the earth?” [7] Luke 18:3: “And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of (ἀπὸ) mine adversary.”

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