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Poole on Revelation 6:4: The Second Seal, Part 2

Verse 4:[1] (Zech. 6:2) And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

[A red horse[2]] This signifies without obscurity an effusion of Blood (Grotius, similarly Gravius), as it appears from the Greek of 2 Kings 3:22[3] (Grotius); or, wars and slaughters (Ribera, similarly Piscator); or, the Church becoming red with martyrdoms (Pareus, similarly Camerarius); or, the persecutors of the Church, who, with the Gospel growing in power, rushed against the preachers of it with the utmost fury, so that they might impede the progress of the Gospel (Ribera), Nero (certain interpreters in Pareus), or Trajan (Cluverus), or rather all the Emperors (Pareus, similarly Gagnæus, Menochius), from Nero unto Constantine, reddened and bespattered with the blood of the martyrs (Gagnæus, similarly Pareus): or, bloody wars sent by God as a punishment for the persecution of the Gospel (Forbes). This second remarkable state of the Roman Empire, the emblem of the second Seal, is Ἀλληλοσφαγία, the slaying of one another, slaughters and domestic butchery, under Trajan and Hadrian, to which there is hardly anything similar, in all the Roman history, as testify Dion,[4] Orosius,[5] Eusebius, and Jewish writers. Of this seal the sign is the Ox, situated to the West: by which we are advised that this Seal begins when Trajan, a Spaniard, seizes the reigns of power, an Emperor from the West (Mede’s Works 547).

[And, etc., καὶ τῷ καθημένῳ—αὐτῷ, etc.] In a manuscript it is ἐν τῷ καθημένῳ,[6] by the one sitting (Grotius). And to the one sitting upon that (that is, either, 1. to Christ, who sits upon the red horse, Zechariah 1:8, who said that He had come so that He might send a sword, Matthew 10:34, who ceases not to be present with and go before the Church in persecutions [Pareus]: Or, 2. to an Angel [Grotius]; or, 3. to the Devil [Ribera, Zegers, Cluverus, Gagnæus], who is a murderer, John 8:44, and the author of dissensions, hostilities, and wars, Abaddon, Revelation 9:11, who, grieving exceedingly over the success of the Gospel, employed all arts of harming, etc. [Ribera]: It confirms this, both, that the Dragon is called red, Revelation 12:3, and, that the Beast [to whom the Dragon gives his power, Revelation 13:2] makes war against the saints, Revelation 13:7, 12, 17 [Cluverus]; or, 4. to Tyrants persecuting the Church, and sitting upon this horse by turns, as Nero, Domitian, Trajan, etc. [Tirinus]) it was given to him (here, the αὐτῷ, to him, is redundant, after the custom of the Hebrews [Grotius out of Beza], but is missing in a manuscript[7] [Grotius]: that is to say, God permitted to him [Menochius out of Ribera, similarly Cluverus, Tirinus]) to take (or, to carry away [Grotius, similarly Beza, Piscator]) peace (namely, of this world [Zegers, Ribera], in which the Church rejoices [Menochius]) from the earth (Montanus, etc.). In such a way that the very persecutors and enemies of the Church might fight amongst themselves with most deadly wars, by the just judgment of God, on account of the persecution directed against Christians (Gravius). Others: From the land, namely, Judea, and the places where Jews were. He speaks here of the wars of the Jews with their neighbors or those inhabiting the same towns, of which sort was the war of the Jews dwelling in Perea against the Philadelphians, concerning which Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 20:1,[8] which preceded the rising price of provisions, concerning which it is next treated (Grotius). Others: From the earth, that is, out of the Church, which, as it is elsewhere called heaven, as it is distinguished from the world; so it is sometimes called the earth, as the Church militant is distinguished from the Church triumphant, which chiefly happens when speech is made concerning its afflictions, which reach only that part which is on earth. Thus men on the earth, Revelation 13:14, are members of the Church. Thus earth is taken in Revelation 7:1; 12:9; 13:14; 14:16; etc. I think, therefore, that the Church militant is understood, which is called the earth, 1. from a comparison with Matthew 10:34, where almost the same words are found, and to which place this passage appears to have regard: 2. so that it might signify that the peace, which persecutions might bring, is not spiritual and eternal, John 16:33, but earthly: 3. because by the persecutions of the Church the whole world is agitated, etc.: 4. because the Prophets often thus call the Church, as if it were the most excellent part of the earth or world. This place denotes the persecutions which followed the rising Gospel, but especially the first two persecutions under Nero and Domitian; which is suggested by the order of the Seals, and by the nature of these persecutions, which were the sharpest and cruelest (Durham).

[That they should kill one another] Understand, men (Mede). According to that in Matthew 10:34, etc. (Menochius). Their neighbors killed the Jews; the Jews, their neighbors (Grotius); indeed even the Jews killed the Jews (Grotius, Hammond); Zealots and seditious men, who afflicted each other with mutual and innumerable murders, as Josephus describes at length in his Jewish War 4, 5 (Hammond). [See Hammond.]

[Was given to him (namely, by God, whose dominion over persecutors, and appointment of persecutions, is here signified [Durham]) a great sword] An emblem of cruelty (Gravius), or of the ability to kill a great many (Menochius). A sword among the Prophets signifies the Massacre of war, as in Jeremiah 16:4; Ezekiel 14:21; and many other places (Grotius).

And there went out another horse that was red; signifying blood and slaughter. And power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth; either to Christ, (as some say,) or to those that ruled the affairs of the Roman empire at that time, to disturb the peace of the church. And that they should kill one another: this was a time of much blood. And there was given unto him a great sword; and therefore a sword is given to him that rode upon this horse. Some think that this period began with Nero, thirty-four years before the other ended (according to what was said before;) others make it to begin with Trajan, and to comprehend eighty years, until the time of Commodus; in which time Trajan, and Hadrian, and the three Antoninuses successively ruled the Roman empire: the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian took up near half the time,[9] in which time this prophecy was most eminently fulfilled; for in Trajan’s time the Jews rebelling, and killing many subjects of the Roman empire, to the number of twenty-two thousand in one place, and two hundred and forty thousand in another place,[10] themselves were as miserably handled by the Roman forces sent by Trajan and Hadrian, who slew of them (as histories tell us) five hundred and fourscore thousand:[11] nay, the Jews themselves say, they lost double the number of those who came out of Egypt, and more than they lost by Nebuchadnezzar, or by Titus when their city was taken: on the other side the Romans lost very many. Many Christians also were put to death during this period, during which was the third and fourth persecution.

[1] Greek: καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἄλλος ἵππος πυρρός· καὶ τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ λαβεῖν τὴν εἰρήνην ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς, καὶ ἵνα ἀλλήλους σφάξωσι· καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ μάχαιρα μεγάλη. [2] Greek: ἵππος πυρρός. [3] 2 Kings 3:22, 23: “And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as bloodאֲדֻמִּ֥ים) כַּדָּֽם׃; πυρρὰ ὡσεὶ αἷμα, in the Septuagint): and they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.” [4] Dio Cassius was a Roman historian of the third century AD. His Historiæ Romanæ is an important sourse of information concerning that period. [5] Paulus Orosius (c. 385-420) was a disciple of Augustine and active in the Pelagian controversy. His Historiæ adversum Paganos chronicled the calamities that had befallen unbelieving mankind from the fall to his own day. [6] Thus Codex Alexandrinus. [7] Thus Codex Alexandrinus. [8] There was a violent conflict between the Jews of Perea and the Philadelphians that occurred during the reign of Claudius, around the year 44 or 45 AD. [9] EmperorsReignNero54-68Trajan98-117Hadrian117-138Antonius Pius138-161Marcus Aurelius161-180Lucius Verus161-169Commodus177-192 [10] During the Kitos War (115-117), the second Jewish-Roman war, Jewish rebels massacred two hundred and twenty thousand Greeks in Cyrene, two hundred and forty thousand in Cyprus, and a great number in Egypt, according to Dio Cassius. [11] In response to the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135), Hadrian sent the Roman army. There were massive casualties on both sides.

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