Poole on Revelation 7:4: The 144,000

Verse 4:[1] (Rev. 9:16) And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed (Rev. 14:1) an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

[And I heard (thus he makes clear the certainty of his testimony [Durham]) the number of those sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand, etc.] Namely, twelve thousand individuals of twelve Tribes (Piscator). Twelve thousand twelve times makes this sum. Which sum afterwards our Writer divides among twelve Tribes (Grotius). Now, this number, either, 1. is to be understood precisely, inasmuch as twelve thousand, neither more nor less, of the Jews were to be sealed and saved, in the end of the world (Ribera, etc., in Menochius). It is evident that not all Jews, but only one hundred and forty-four thousand of them, are sealed, 1. for the Jews far surpass this number, Hosea 1:10; 2. for these are called first-fruits, Revelation 14:4; 3. for it is not likely that there will be the same number of Jews in the individual tribes, when this Prophecy shall be fulfilled. And these appear to have been only the men, not the women, both, because women are not wont to be reckoned in a census, as in Genesis 46:8, 9; Numbers 1:2, 20; and, because the first-fruits of men were males alone, Exodus 13:2, 12, 15; and, because they are said not to be defiled with women, Revelation 14:4, that is, to be virgins (Anonymous). Or, 2. is certain and definite number for an uncertain and indefinite (Zegers, Piscator, Pareus, Napier, Pererius out of a great many, Durham), but exceedingly great (Pererius, thus Piscator). Does this show, both the exact equality of the number of those to be saved from each tribe, and that the Tribe of Dan is passed over, from which there will be no believer (Pererius)? Therefore, this was not precisely the number of all, or equal in the individual tribes, but by such a number is expressed an exceedingly vast multitude, as in the Greek language by μυρίους/innumerable, or μυρίαδες/myriads, Acts 21:20[2] (Grotius). Now, the number was set down as of the most perfect sum, out of twelve and ten in a certain way multiplied out into this. For twelve, multiplied by ten makes one hundred and twenty. This, multiplied by ten, makes twelve thousand. Which, again multiplied out against twelve, makes one hundred and forty-four thousand (Pareus). This number is composed of one hundred and twenty multiplied out against itself, and thus it is squared, and indicates the certain and perfect, and stable abundance of those (Camerarius). Others: The number twelve is an emblem of the Apostolic class, and denotes the legitimate offspring of the Apostles, as it is evident from a comparison with Revelation 21, where this number is employed in the structure of the new Jerusalem, and in the dimensions of its gates, and foundations, etc., upon which it is expressely said that the names of the twelve Apostles were inscribed, verse 14. So afterwards the Beastly race, or the follower of the Beast, has the number of the Beast[3] (Mede’s Works 564). Now, this Assembly of the Sealed is Ἀντίστοιχον, the counterpart, even indeed a coeval one, of the Beast or of the corporate body of the followers of the Beast, as it is evident from the Text; that is, troops of holy soldiers bearing the name of their Emperor, and, when the other inhabitants of the Earth had received the character of turncoats and deserters to the Beast, still continuing in the faith of the Lamb (Mede’s Works 525). A definite number is here set down, and distributed among those tribes, so that it might be signified, 1. that the numbers of those to be sealed is known to God and determined by God, not only in general, but even unto individual persons: 2. that their number will indeed be great, yet less than that of the followers of the Beast: 3. the supreme right of God in selecting some of whatever family and tribe (Durham). Others: I am unwilling that this number be taken indefinitely; for this number, 1. is divided; 2. is placed opposite to an indefinite number, verse 9; 3. declared exactly, and reduced unto a sum total. Now, in such things nowhere is a definite number taken for an indefinite, otherwise whence would we know that a certain number is to be taken definitely (Anonymous)?

[Out of every tribe of the sons of Israel] He understands Israelites here, either, 1. according to the flesh (Cotterius, thus Pererius out of Irenæus, Anonymous). This is proven, 1. because they are distinguished from Gentiles, verse 9 (Anonymous, Pererius): 2. because these are wont to be understood by the name of the tribes of Israel, as in Genesis 49:16, 28; Exodus 24:4, especially when they are reckoned by the names of the tribes, as in Genesis 49:3, 5; Numbers 1:5, 6; 10:14, 15, etc.; 34:19, 20, etc.; Deuteronomy 33:6, 7; Joshua 21:4, 5, etc.: 3. If Gentiles be here understood, which nation or Church, I ask, is denoted by the tribe of Judah? and which by Reuben, Gad, etc. (Anonymous). Or, 2. according to the spirit (Cluverus, similarly Forbes, Durham, Piscator, Menochius), or the spiritual seed of Abraham (Durham), out of all peoples (Piscator). This is proven, 1. from this use of the word Israel in the Sacred Scripture, as in Romans 9-11; Galatians 6:16. So also Revelation 21:12, Inscribed on the gates of New Jerusalem are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, where nevertheless it is evident that the Gentiles have a portion (Cluverus). 2. From condition of the New Testament, in which the distinction of the tribes ceases, Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:14: 3. From the scope of this Prophecy, which is not to treat of the preservation of the Jews alone, but of all the faithful (Cluverus); and the end of this sealing is that it makes these immune to that defection and calamity, in which all the unsealed are involved, and therefore this sealing comprehends all the elect (Durham). And if it is here treated of the Jews alone, what would be here of consolation to the nations? If you should posit again that in verse 9, it is to be understood that that entire assembly of souls is now dwelling in heaven, as the text evinces (Cluverus). Now, it is certain that God also had and preserved His elect among the nations. Add that this entire Prophecy was given to the Church of Gentiles, inasmuch as it was specifically delivered to the Churches of Asia (Piscator). 4. As in the beginning the Theater of the Visions was described according to the likeness and condition of the old Synagogue, and a great part of this book of Types has regard to the same, even as Pseudo-Christians are also called Pseudo-Jews in the Epistles to the Church for this reason: so also here the catholic Church of the nations, about to be fortified with the Seal of God, is figured by the type of Israel; with the twelve Apostles of the former aptly corresponding to the same number of Patriarchs of the latter. Neither is this done without justification, both on account of other reasons, and especially because the Church, which after the rejection of the Jews is hitherto gathered out of the Gentiles, succeeded into the place of Israel, and is, as they say, the surrogate of Israel; while, with His own ancient people obtaining mercy again, the fullness of the Gentiles entered,[4] that is, that innumerable Crowd, concerning which soon in verse 9 (Mede’s Works 563). 5. From a comparison of other passages, both, Revelation 9:4, where the sealed are excepted from the plague of Abaddon; which it is a crime to understand of the Jews alone (Cluverus): and, Revelation 7:9 (Piscator, Durham), where the fruit of this sealing is related, namely, the martyrdom of many faithful men. Now, it is certain that those martyrs, at least the majority, were of the Gentiles (Piscator). However, that innumerable crowd, etc., is distinguished from the Israelites, not by race, but by time; and it denotes the diverse state of the Church succeeding, and that the Evangelical Church, although in the beginning confined within close boundaries, nevertheless afterwards would burst forth and flourish among the nations, and finally surpass even the Antichristian Church in number (Durham): then finally, Revelation 14:1-4 (Durham, Cluverus), where the same sealed ones in the same number are again introduced without any distinction of tribes, with a suggestion also added as to why they were reckoned here according to tribes, namely, because in the place of the first born they were purchased from the earth as a peculiar possession for God, etc. [which sort of peculiar possession was the δωδεκατημόριον/ twelfth-part of Israel]. Those one hundred and forty-four thousand are there mentioned as the viriginal Church, distinguished from the adulterous world, which God preserved in that universal Apostasy; which privilege was not at all to be restricted to the Jews (Durham). Now, the faithful Gentiles are compared to the twelve tribes of Israel, for they succeed into the place of them. Therefore, they are spoken of as on twelve thrones about to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, as Apostate from God and Christ. With the individual tribes Apostate, God, as it were, substituted other individual nations, out of which He has a certain number of those sealed, that is, to be saved. Now, it is evident that the twelve tribes are not to be understood here literally, for those at this time were entirely confused, and certain of them had completely perished (Pareus). It is indicated here that elect Christains were selected from the Church, which was extended throughout all regions of the earth; just as formerly in the Land of Canaan the Israelitish Tribes had been distributed throughout the South, East, North, West, and the places in between (Gravius).

[1] Greek: καὶ ἤκουσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν τῶν ἐσφραγισμένων, ρμδ χιλιάδες, ἐσφραγισμένοι ἐκ πάσης φυλῆς υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ. [2] Acts 21:20b: “…Thou seest, brother, how many thousands (μυριάδες/myriads) of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law…” [3] Revelation 13:16-18. [4] See Romans 11:25.