Poole on Revelation 8:3: Incense and Atonement

Verse 3:[1] And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with (Rev. 5:8) the prayers (or, add it to the prayers[2]) of all saints upon (Ex. 30:1; Rev. 6:9) the golden altar which was before the throne.

[Another Angel] The Angel of the prayers of the Church, as it is understood from what follows. Of such an Angel mention is made by the Hebrew Sefer Hasidim,[3] and Tertullian[4] in his work Concerning Prayer[5] (Grotius). Concerning him the Hebrews speak in Elle Shemoth Rabba[6] 21, Individual synagogues pray separately, but when all synagogues have finished all their prayers, an Angel, who is put in charge of prayers, carries the prayers, and makes them crowns, and places them upon the head of God, etc. (Cartwright’s[7] Hebrew Honey-making[8] 3052). They understand Angel here, either, 1. as Angels in general, by whose ministry our prayers are offered to God (Beza in Cappel[9]); which does not satisfy (Cappel): or, 2. as the Ecclesiastical Ministry (certain interpreters in Gravius); or, 3. Constantine the Great (other interpreters in Gravius); or, 4. Michael (Ribera, Menochius), to whom the entire Church was entrusted (Ribera, similarly Gagnæus[10]); or, 5. Christ (Zegers, Gagnæus, Menochius, Cotterius, Cluverus, Forbes, Durham, Gravius, Pareus out of Andreas Cæsarius), unto whom alone square what things follow here (Cotterius). He alone is able to offer the prayers of the Saints, and to give efficacy to them (Durham): He alone is High Priest in the Church (Pareus, Durham). All the rites made use of here have regard unto the High Priest (Durham), who was a type, not of Angels (Cappel), but of Christ (Cappel, thus Durham). Objection 1: Christ is nowhere called an Angel without qualification (Ribera). Response: On the contrary, He is called an Angel in Genesis 48:16, as it appears from a comparison with Genesis 28:15; 32:9, 11, and the Angel of the covenant in Malachi 3:1 (Pareus). Now, Angel here is a designation of His office, not of His nature (Forbes), that is to say, Legate, as elsewhere He is called Mediator, Prophet, and High Priest (Cluverus). Objection 2: This Angel John makes similar to the others by saying, another Angel (Ribera). Response: He is called another, that is, with respect to kind (Pareus). Objection 3: It hinders that incense was given to this Angel (certain interpreters in Durham). Response: Both the Mediatorial office, and the powers necessary for it, are said to be given to Christ. Add that he speaks here of Christ with expressions agreeing with the High Priest on earth, for in heaven there are no altars, incense, etc. Now, in this place the Intercession of Christ is described, which comes between the opening of the Seal and the exhibition of the Trumpets, and the sounding of the Trumpets: it consists of two parts, and has regard to, both, 1. His own people, verses 3 and 4, for whom He reveals His care, and, before He looses the reins of the following evils, He intercedes for them, that God would not impute sins to them, nor allow them to be carried away by the waves of error; but that He would preserve them, lest anything of a nuisance to them should thereupon occur, as in Luke 22:32: and, 2. His enemies, against whom He casts fire, etc., verse 5, and, after He has provided for His own, He commands the Angels to sound (Durham).


[He stood (like the others, for He also in a certain regard is a minister: but He stands in the place of the High Priest [Forbes]) before, etc., ἐπὶ, etc.] Near (or, before [Erasmus[11]], upon [Piscator, Cotterius], in the presence of [Beza, Piscator], close to, as in Revelation 7:9 [Grotius]) the altar (Montanus[12]), either, 1. of Burnt Offering, so that it might be signified that Christ is a Priest, and at that same time that He is the victim offered upon the altar (Piscator). Or, rather, 2. of Incense (Piscator, thus Grotius, Mede’s Works 568, Hammond, Ribera); as show, both, the censer (Piscator), and, that it is next called golden, while that of burnt offerings was bronze (Ribera). The sense: He attended to the Altar, or to God before the Altar (Drusius[13]), as the high priest and advocate of the Church in the presence of God (Cluverus). I interpret the altar here as the worship of God, over which Christ was put in charge in the Church: for there gifts and sacrifices were offered, which were the very height of legal worship (Cotterius). By the Altar he understands pious souls (Clement[14] and Origen[15] in Grotius).

[Having a golden censer (thus Beza, Piscator, Erasmus, Pagnine,[16] Montanus, Castalio,[17] etc.)] By which he understands (Cotterius) Christ’s soul (Cluverus), and body (Cluverus, Gagnæus, Menochius), mortal, which was offered after the fashion of incense (Menochius), as a most pleasant aroma to God (Gagnæus); or, Christ’s precious passion and death (Pareus, similarly Cotterius), by the eternal force of which He Himself appears in heaven before God for us as High Priest, Hebrews 9:24 (Pareus).


[Λιβανωτὸν, etc.] Rightly, as appears from verse 5[18] (Beza); elsewhere it signifies frankincense (Erasmus, similarly Beza, Grotius), as in 1 Chronicles 9:29,[19] and in Herodotus,[20] Theophrastus,[21] Galen,[22] also the Scholiast of Aristophanes,[23] and Ammonius.[24] [whose words see in Grotius]. I think, therefore, that here and in verse 5, λιβανωτὶν[25] is to be read, in such a way that χρυσοῦν/golden[26] is used in accordance with the Attic dialect. For λιβανωτὶς is a casket for incense, a censer, in the Glossary. We said above that he expresses the solemn matter of Heaven by the words of the Temple, 1 Kings 7:50, הַמַּחְתּוֹת/ censers, θυΐσκαι in Greek, thuribula in Latin (Grotius).


[And was given to Him (namely, by the One sitting upon the Throne [Piscator]: Odours were wont to be given by another to the one that was doing the incense, as it is evident from Masechet תמיד[27] [Cappel]) substances used for fumigation, or incenses (that is, aromatic spices [Menochius]), many[28] (it denotes both the abundance and variety of aromatic spices [Cappel]: These things denote, either, 1. Christ’s merits [Cotterius, similarly Beza, Glassius[29]], sufficiencies and surpluses [Cotterius]; or, intercession [Durham]: or, His plenitude of grace and εὐωδίας/fragrance, and His spirit interceding for us, and guiding and moving us marvelously [Cluverus]: Or, 2. the prayers and groans of the Church militant [Pareus, similarly Gravius, Cappel], which are after the likeness of incense, Psalm 141:2, most agreeable to God: For it was the custom that, while the Priest was burning the incense, the people would pray outside in the Courtyard, so that these might ascend at the same time to God, namely, as the type and the matter adumbrated by the type [Cappel]) so that He might offer (or, give [Piscator]: To give unto the ark is the proper expression in sacred things [Grotius]: To give and to offer explain each other among the Latins, Greeks, and Hebrews[30] [Drusius]) those with (an ellipsis of the particle ἅμα, together with [Piscator], or, σὺν/with, as in Leviticus 26:42, of my covenant Jacob,[31] etc., that is, with Jacob, etc.; in Deuteronomy 32:43, Sing, O nations, עַמּוֹ, His people, that is, אֶת עַמּוֹ, with His people, as it is explained in Romans 15:10[32] [Glassius’ “Grammar” 3:6:16:565]) the prayers (that is, so that He might offer them to God [Cluverus out of Primasius[33] and Albinus,[34] Ribera], and render them acceptable to Him [Cluverus out of Albinus, thus Ribera, Cotterius]: Others: In the place of προσευχαῖς is to be read προσευχὰς[35] [Castalio, thus Grotius]: Thus the Vulgate reads it when it translates, of the prayers: For it is an expression in which are mixed the thing signifying and the thing signified; that is to say, He received many incenses, so that those incenses, which are the prayers of all the Saints, He might put on the altar: Thus in Revelation 5:8 incenses are said to be prayers: Concerning such a mixture of the members of comparison we spoke on Matthew 23:25 and Hebrews 11:15 [Grotius]: Or, of the prayers [Erasmus, thus Pareus out of the Vulgate], materially, as in Genesis 4:4, of the firstlings, and in Proverbs 3:9, from our substance [Pareus]; either, because He does not offer all, but those of all that are legitimately conceived: for often the saints do not pray rightly [Rupertus[36] in Pareus]: Which appears quite subtle: There is here an Ellipsis of the preposition of, or with: Yet it can be understood without an Ellipsis, that the incenses were given to Christ, ἵνα δώσῃ, which He would give, that is, add to, collect with, the prayers of the Saints; so that the incense here might be pleasantness, that is, the merit of Christ, by which prayers are made acceptable [Pareus]) of all the saints (namely, dwelling on earth [Beza], faithful confessors of the Gospel [Piscator]; who, having been exceedingly afflicted by the impious, were desiring the punishment of the impious and their own liberation [Ribera, similarly Mede’s Works 568]: He says of all, for He neglects no saint [Pareus]) upon the golden altar which was before the throne (Piscator, similarly Beza, etc.)] This was the altar of incense (Ribera, Cluverus, similarly Grotius), which was gilded with gold, Exodus 30:3, 6, 7 (Cluverus), which is called θυσιαστήριον/altar, for, not only sacrificial victims, but whatever is offered to God, is called θυσία, an offering (Grotius). Now, this Altar was figuring, either Christ (Cluverus, similarly Gagnæus), who is Priest, and Sacrifice, and Altar: or, the decree of the Divine good pleasure, that prayers be offered and at the same time acceptable in the name of Christ (Cluverus). Just as the altar of Incenses was near to the Innermost Sanctuary (Grotius), and before the Holy of Holies (Cluverus), so here it is shown near to the Throne of God, which corresponds to the Innermost Sanctuary (Grotius).


And another angel came; by this angel I understand Christ, as do many very valuable authors; nor, indeed, can what is said of this angel agree to any other but him, who is called an Angel, Genesis 48:16, and the Angel of the covenant, Malachi 3:1. Here is a manifest allusion to the order of the Jewish worship; they had an altar of incense, Exodus 30:1, upon which the high priest was to burn incense every morning and evening, Exodus 30:7, 8. Whilst the priest was burning incense, as appears, Luke 1:10, the people, were without, praying. Christ is here represented as having a golden censer. The high priest’s censer amongst the Jews was of brass; but he was a more excellent High Priest. And there was given unto him much incense; by which is meant the infinite merit of his death, to be offered up by himself (who is the golden altar) with the prayers of all his saints. By all this Christ is represented to us, as interceding for his saints that were to live after this time, during all troubles that were immediately to begin, and to follow on, during the reign of antichrist.

[1] Greek: Καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἦλθε καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον, ἔχων λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν· καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ θυμιάματα πολλά, ἵνα δώσῃ ταῖς προσευχαῖς τῶν ἁγίων πάντων ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ χρυσοῦν τὸ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου. [2] Greek: δώσῃ ταῖς προσευχαῖς. [3]Sefer Hasidim (or, Book of the Pious), which presents the religious life of pious, Medieval Jews, was written by Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg (1140-1217), the progenitor of Chassidei Ashkenaz, a Jewish mystical movement emphasizing prayer and moral conduct. [4] Tertullian was a Latin Father of the second century. He labored as an apologist during times of persecution, and was important in the development of the Trinitarian vocabulary in the Latin-speaking West. [5]De Oratione. [6]Elle Shemoth Rabba, or Exodus Rabbah, is an eleventh or twelth century midrash on Exodus. [7] Christopher Cartwright (1602-1658) was an English divine, a rabbinic scholar, and a Presbyterian, ministering at York. He wrote A Plaine Explanation of the Whole Revelation of Saint John. [8]Mellificium Hebraicum, sive Observationes ex Hebræorum Antiquiorum Monumentis Desumptæ. [9] Louis Cappel (1585-1658) was a Huguenot divine of broad and profound learning. He served as a minister of the gospel and Professor of Hebrew and Theology at Saumur. Although his expertise in the Hebrew language was beyond question, his denial of the authority of the vowel points and of the absolute integrity of the Hebrew texts were hotly contested. [10] Johannes Gagnæus (d. 1549) was a French Roman Catholic theologian, librarian to King Francis I, and Chancellor of the University of Paris, who wrote Brevissima et Facillima in Omnes Divini Pauli Epistolas Scholia, ultra Priores Editiones, ex Antiquissimis Græcorum Authoribus, abundè Locupletata: itidem in Septem Canonicas Epistolas et Divini Ioannis Apocalypsin, Brevissima Scholia Recens Edita. [11] Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536) was a Dutch humanist, a classical scholar, and a Roman Catholic theologian. Although he never left the Roman Church, he sought the reformation of its corruptions, and he contributed greatly to the Reformation through the production of his various editions of the Greek New Testament and his Annotationes in Novum Testamentum. He was certainly one of the greatest and most influential scholars of his time. [12] Benedict Arias Montanus (1527-1598) was a Spanish Benedictine Monk. He attended the Council of Trent, and he was heavily involved in the production of the Polyglot Bible. [13] John Drusius (1550-1616) was a Protestant, who excelled in Oriental studies, Biblical exegesis, and critical interpretation, as is evident from his Annotationes in Pentateuchum, Josuam, Judices, Ruth, Samuelem, Estheram, Jobum, Coheleth, seu Ecclesiasten, Prophetas Minores, Ecclesiasticum, Tobit, 1 Librum Machabæorum; Notæ Majores in Genesin, Exodum, Leviticum, et Priora 18 Capita Numerorum; Annotata in Novum Testamentum. He served as Professor of Oriental Languages at Oxford (1572), at Louvain (1577), and at Franeker (1585). [14] Titus Flavius Clemens Alexandrinus (died c. 215) was the head of the Christian catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt. He was trained in pagan philosophy before his conversion to Christianity. [15] Origen (c. 185-c. 254) succeeded Clement of Alexandria as the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria. He was perhaps the greatest scholar of his age. [16] Pagnine (1466-1541) was an Italian Dominican. He was gifted as a Hebraist, exegete, and preacher. He was commissioned by Pope Leo X to produce a new Latin translation of the Scripture. [17] Sebastian Castalio (1515-1563) distinguished himself as a scholar by means of his linguistic talents, evident in his Annotationes in Vetus et Novum Testamentum. However, the greatness of Castalio’s talents did not extend to the logico-synthetic work of theology, and he ran into controversy with Calvin. He was inclined towards Pelagianism, and his views were influential in the development of Socinianism. As a translator of the Bible, he takes overmuch liberty, attempting to mold the speech of the prophets to comply with the standards of classical Latin. [18] Revelation 8:5a: “And the angel took the censer (τὸ λιβανωτόν), and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth…” [19] 1 Chronicles 9:29: “Some of them also were appointed to oversee the vessels, and all the instruments of the sanctuary, and the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense (וְהַלְּבוֹנָה; τοῦ λιβανωτοῦ, in the Septuagint), and the spices.” [20]The Histories 1:183; 2:40. Herodotus (c. 484-c. 425) was a Greek historian, sometimes called “The Father of History”. [21]History of Plants 1:9:6; 4:4:14. Theophrastus (372-287 BC) was a disciple of Aristotle and his successor at the Lyceum. [22] Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (129-200 AD) was an innovative Greek physician. [23]Clouds 426; Wasps 96; Frogs 871. Aristophanes (c. 448-c. 385 BC) was a writer of comedies. [24] Ammonius of Alexandria (third century) was a Christian philosopher. [25] Feminine in gender. [26] Masculine in gender. [27]Masechet Tamid is one of the sixty-three volumes of the Talmud. It outlines the procedures of the daily sacrifice. [28] Greek: θυμιάματα πολλά. [29] Solomon Glassius (1593-1656) was a German Lutheran divine and critic. He was Professor of Divinity at the University of Jena. His Philologia Sacra was a groundbreaking work in Biblical Hebrew. [30] See what things are written on Revelation 3:8. [31] Leviticus 26:42a: “Then will I remember my covenant Jacob (a wooden rendering of אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י יַעֲק֑וֹב, which seems to require that a preposition be supplied)…” [32] Romans 15:10: “And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people (μετὰ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ).” [33] Primasius (sixth century) was Bishop of Adrumentum in Africa, and a disciple of Augustine. He wrote Commentarium in Apocalypsim. [34] Alcuin of York, also known as Albinus (c. 735-804), was an English scholar who taught at St. Peter’s School in York and in the Palace School of Charlegmagne. He wrote commentaries on Genesis, Psalms, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, John, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, and Revelation. [35] Revelation 8:3b: “…and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer with the prayers (δώσῃ ταῖς προσευχαῖς; in the absence of a direct object, one might expect προσευχὰς, in the Accusative case, that is, that he should offer the prayers) of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” [36] Rupertus (1091-1135) was a learned Benedictine, Abbot of Tuits on the Rhine. The citation is likely taken from his commentary In Apocalypsim.

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