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Revelation 2:17: Hidden Manna, a White Stone, a New Name

Verse 17:[1] (Rev. 2:7, 11) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone (Rev. 3:12; 19:12) a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

[What the Spirit saith, etc.] That is, What vision He wills to be delivered to the Church of Pergamos and her daughters. See Revelation 2:7, 11 (Grotius).

[To him that overcometh] That is, persevering in the true faith (Pareus), and strenuously opposing the Nicolaitans (Grotius, similarly Pareus, Ribera).

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh: see the annotations on Revelation 2:7.

[I will give, etc., δώσω αὐτῷ φαγεῖν, etc.] I will give to him to eat (for victories were wont to be followed by a feast, Genesis 14:18 [Grotius]) of that Manna hidden (Piscator), that is, from the Manna true and heavenly, John 6 (Lapide). It alludes to Psalm 105:40 and John 6 (Beza). By this Manna He understands, either, 1. a more exact knowledge, not only of the precepts of God, but also of His dispensations. See what things are said on John 6:33. This matter has within itself a great sweetness, which is shadowed forth by the sweetness of Manna (Grotius). Or, 2. spiritual consolation (Menochius, Tirinus, Hammond), which God exhibits to Christians in this life; which arises from the practice of Christian virtues, especially from the confession of Christ and suffering for Him (Hammond). Or, 3. the grace of God brought forth through the death of Christ (Piscator). Or, 4. Jesus Christ (Gagnæus, Pareus, Durham, Cluverus, Gomar), whom God promised to the overcomer, who is the true bread from heaven, John 6:32, 33 (Gagnæus), and the full enjoyment of Christ in heaven (Gomar). He calls the Manna hidden,[2] either, 1. that is to say, τὸ νοητόν, that falling within the province of the mind. See what things concerning similar expressions we said on Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:16. Thus ὁ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ, which is in secret, Romans 2:29;[3] ὁ κρυπτὸς ἄνθρωπος, the hidden man, 1 Peter 3:4[4] (Grotius). Or, 2. by allusion to the urn of Manna hidden at the commandment of God in the Sanctuary next to the Ark of the Covenant[5] (Louis Cappel, similarly Cotterius, Pareus); or, 3. that is to say, stored out of the way, as those things which are preserved in a secret place are wont to be. See Psalm 31:20 (Menochius). Or, 4. because, as the Manna was unknown to the Israelites, whence also it had its name, Exodus 16:15[6] (Gomar, similarly Ribera), [so also] this Manna is unknown to the inexperienced (Menochius, similarly Pererius), and to the impious (Pareus), and to all to whom it was not revealed by the Father, Matthew 11:25, 27; 16:17 (Gomar); or, 5. because it was not given to all, but reserved for the elect (Ribera).

Will I give to eat of the hidden manna; here is a manifest allusion to that bread from heaven, with which God fed his people in the wilderness, called angels’ food, Psalm 78:25. The story of it we have, Exodus 16:31, 32; a pot of which God ordained to be kept in the ark, for a memorial of God’s mercy, Hebrews 9:4. It was a type of Christ, who was the true bread that came down from heaven, John 6:32, 33. It here signifies Christ himself, with all the influences of his grace, whether for strength or comfort. As a feast was wont to follow a victory; so Christ promiseth to those that fought, and overcame in the spiritual fight, to feast them with himself and the influences of his Spirit.

[A stone, etc., ψῆφον λευκήν] A stone (or, a pebble [Camerarius]) white, or clear (Beza, Piscator, Erasmus, etc.). The use of stones among the ancients was manifold; 1. for computation (Pererius, Ribera); 2. in trials; 3. in Elections (Pererius), and in casting votes; 4. for marking days (Pererius, Ribera); 5. in theaters and contests (Pererius). [Hence they vary:] By a white stone here He understands, either, 1. the highest dignity and blessedness (Zegers), or, the sentence of blessedness and eternal glory (Menochius, Tirinus, similarly Ribera); that most blessed life, which begins in this life, but will be possessed fully in the future life. Blessed days were numbered with white stones, unhappy days with black stones (Ribera). Or, 2. acquittal, that is, public and most full, Matthew 25:34 (Gomar); a symbol and witness of the sentence of acquittal of Christ the Judge (Piscator, similarly Pareus, Durham, Cluverus, Cotterius). Judges were making use of white stones for acquittal, black stones for condemnation (Ribera, similarly Piscator, Cluverus): concerning which see Budæus[7] in his Commentary and Erasmus on Adages (Ribera). But it hinders that ψῆφος, the stone, was not given to the defendant, but was placed in an urn (Petit’s[8] Various Readings in the Sacred Scripture[9] 8). Even so, but a stone is given to the Sons of God by which they are acquitted. Now, types are obliged to be adjusted unto the nature of the things of which they are types (Cotterius). Or, 3. a symbol of victory and of the recompense due to the one overcoming (Pererius). Here it is treated, as it is evident out of all these Epistles, of the recompense τῶν ἀθλησάντων, of those that have passed through struggles (Petit’s Various Readings in the Sacred Scripture 8), or of victors in Contests (Hammond, similarly Pererius). This is proven out of what precedes, with which these things are to be joined. There is an allusion here to the prizes of the winners of the games, for whom a feast was given at public expense. Now, they were not rashly admitted, except they gave their word by a symbol that they were τῶν ἱερῶν συσσίτων, of the messmates of the priests. Just as they were also receiving an allotment from their fellow citizens and gradilem bread[10] with tokens given. Therefore, this white stone was a symbol and token σιτήσεως, of public maintenance, so that they might be admitted unto the feast of Manna to which the Lord will receive them. Be not amazed that the token is here called a stone, since it is also called a titulus æneus, bronze title, in the Law[11] (Petit’s Various Readings in the Sacred Scripture 8). To those that had conquered in the sacred contests of the Greeks were given εἰσελαστικὰ, that is, collections of grain, or certain proceeds. Vitruvius[12] in his Concerning Architecture[13] 9 “Preface”, Pliny[14] in his Epistles 119 and 120,[15] and Justin To Zena,[16] teach us this. Concerning this matter, when they were retiring from the contest, they were receiving a token with an inscription of that degree which they were about to receive. And that this is what Arethas wishes to say. And here the Holy Spirit is compared to a token; he that has Him is certain of perpetual prosperity[17] (Grotius). Οἱ βραβευταὶ, the officials, gave to the victor a white stone, upon which his name was written with the quality of the reward. The Roman Cæsars also were wont in their games to throw wooden tokens among the people, on which was written the name of Grain, of Silver fashioned, of Slaves, of Garments, etc. Now, to him that seized any one of these, whatever was written on his token was given. Thus also Aristides the orator says that he received ψήφους/stones from Æsculapius. See Canter’s New Readings[18] 5:21 (Hammond).

And will give him a white stone: the use of stones anciently was so various, that it hath given a great liberty to interpreters to vary in their senses of the white stone here mentioned. They made use of them (as we since of counters) to count; they used them also in judgments, acquitting persons by white stones, on which their names were written, as they condemned others by black stones; they also used them in giving suffrages in elections, etc.; they also used them to mark happy or lucky days, and they used other stones to mark such days as they counted unlucky; and finally, they used them as rewards to those who conquered in their games. Hence interpreters vary in their opinions, whether this be a general promise of a reward, or a more particular promise of pardon and absolution; or, of the assurance of their election to life. It seems most properly to be interpreted of pardon, or the notification of pardon of sins, or more generally of a reward.

[And on the stone a new name[19]] That is, [either] renewed, as in John 13:34 and 1 John 2:8 (Gomar), or, rare, excellent, illustrious, as new is taken in Psalm 33:3; Revelation 3:12; 14:3 (Pareus), that is, so that he might be and be called a son and heir of God (Menochius, Tirinus, similarly Ribera, Grotius, Piscator, Zegers, Pareus, Gomar), John 1:12; Romans 8:17, 24 (Pareus). This appellation was culled out of Isaiah 62:2[20] and 65:15,[21] as it is in the Greek (Grotius). On the stones names were written, both of those to be acquitted or of those to be condemned, and of those by whom he was favored in the suffrages of the elections (Ribera out of Erasmus). Now, this name the Lord pronounced to be engraved by Himself, for it was ordered lest anyone inscribe his own name upon the token (Petit’s Various Readings in the Sacred Scripture 8).

[Which no one knoweth saving he that receiveth it] So that he alone that had it was able to inspect the token, and to whom he revealed it (Hammond): Ineffable is this name, or this blessedness, of the sons of God (Pareus). Of what value that name might be no one knows except the one that proved it (Grotius, similarly Ribera). See John 1:12; Galatians 4:6. See how much this token differs from those εἰσελαστικοῖς, collections of proceeds. On those anyone reads what they might signify; how much this might signify only he knows tath has it (Grotius).

By the new name, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it, the same thing seemeth to be signified, the Spirit witnessing with their spirits that they are the children of God. They say, that in those white stones (used in absolutions of persons, or in giving suffrages) the name of the person absolved or chosen was wont to be written, and none knew it but those that had it, unless they imparted it, to which custom this allusion is.

[1] Greek: ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ Πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ φαγεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ μάννα τοῦ κεκρυμμένου, καὶ δώσω αὐτῷ ψῆφον λευκήν, καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ψῆφον ὄνομα καινὸν γεγραμμένον, ὃ οὐδεὶς ἔγνω εἰ μὴ ὁ λαμβάνων.

[2] Revelation 2:17b: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden (κεκρυμμένου) manna…”

[3] Romans 2:29: “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly (ὁ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ, which is in secret); and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

[4] 1 Peter 3:4a: “But let it be the hidden man of the heart (ὁ κρυπτὸς τῆς καρδίας ἄνθρωπος), in that which is not corruptible…”

[5] Exodus 16:33, 34; Hebrews 9:4.

[6] Exodus 16:15: “And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna (מָ֣ן ה֔וּא): for they wist not what it was (מַה־הוּא). And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.”

[7] Gulielmus Budæus (1467-1540) was a French scholar; he wrote Commentarii Linguæ Græcæ, an extensive collection of lexicographical notes on the Greek language. It proved to be a significant contribution to the study of Greek literature in France.

[8] Samuel Petit (1594-1645) was a precocious scholar, who was so advanced in his studies at the age of seventeen that he was admitted into the ministry in Geneva. Soon afterwards, he served as Professor of Theology, Greek, and Hebrew in that city.

[9] Variæ Lectiones in Sacram Scripturam.

[10] Panis gradilis was bread distributed by the Roman government. Bakers would take their bread to a common depot, and that bread would be distributed from the gradus/ steps to those with tokens.

[11] The bronze title is mentioned in Codex Theodosianus; it was inscribed with the measure of bread allotted and the name of the recipient.

[12] Vitruvius (c. 70 BC-c. 25 AD) was a Roman engineer.

[13] De Architectura.

[14] Gaius Plinius Cæcilius Secundus (61-112), or Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer and natural philosopher, eventually serving as imperial governor of Bithynia-Pontus.

[15] Epistles 119 and 120 deal with stipends granted to victors in athletic competition.

[16] Epistola ad Zenam et Serenum.

[17] See Ephesians 1:13, 14; 4:30.

[18] Wilhelm Canter (1542-1575) was a Dutch scholar; he wrote a work on Greek philology called Novæ Lectiones.

[19] Revelation 2:17b: “…and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name (ὄνομα καινὸν) written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”

[20] Isaiah 62:2: “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name (שֵׁ֣ם חָדָ֔שׁ; τὸ ὄνομά σου τὸ καινόν, in the Septuagint), which the mouth of the Lord shall name.”

[21] Isaiah 65:15: “And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord God shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name (שֵׁ֥ם אַחֵֽר׃; ὄνομα καινόν, in the Septuagint)…”

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