on Revelation 10 :3
Seven thunders - Seven being a number of perfection, it may here mean many, great, loud, and strong peals of thunder, accompanied with distinct voices; but what was said, St. John was not permitted to reveal, Revelation 10:4.
on Revelation 10 :3
And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth - The lion is the monarch of the woods, and his roar is an image of terror. The point of the comparison here seems to be the loudness with which the angel cried, and the power of what he said to awe the world - as the roar of the lion keeps the dwellers of the forest in awe. What he said is not stated; nor did John attempt to record it. Prof. Stuart supposes that it was "a loud note of woe, some interjection uttered which would serve to call attention, and at the same time be indicative of the judgments which were to follow." But it is not necessary to suppose that this particular thing was intended. Any loud utterance - any solemn command - any prediction of judgment - any declaration of truth that would arrest the attention of mankind, would be in accordance with all that is said here. As there is no application of what is said, and no explanation made by John, it is impossible to determine with any certainty what is referred to.
But, supposing that the whole refers to the Reformation, would not the loud and commanding voice of the angel properly represent the proclamation of the gospel as it began to be preached in such a manner as to command the attention of the world, and the reproof of the prevailing sins in such a manner as to keep the world in awe? The voice that sounded forth at the Reformation among the nations of Europe, breaking the slumbers of the Christian world, awaking the church to the evil of the existing corruptions and abominations, and summoning princes to the defense of the truth, might well be symbolized by the voice of an angel that was heard afar. In regard to the effect of the "theses" of Luther, in which he attacked the main doctrines of the papacy, a contemporary writer says, "In the space of a fortnight they spread over Germany, and within a month they had run through all Christendom, as if angels themselves had been the bearers of them to all men." To John it might not be known beforehand - as it probably would not be - what this symbolized; but could we now find a more appropriate symbol to denote the Reformation than the appearance of such an angel; or better describe the impression made by the first announcement of the great doctrines of the Reformation, than by the loud voice of such an angel?
And when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices - Prof. Stuart renders this, "the seven thunders uttered their voices," and insists that the article should be retained, which it has not been in our common version. So Elliott, Dr. Middleton, and others. Dr. Middleton says, "Why the article is inserted here I am unable to discover. It is somewhat remarkable that a few manuscripts and editions omit it in both places Revelation 10:3-4. Were the seven thunders anything well known and pre-eminent? If not, the omission must be right in the former instance, but wrong in the latter; if they were pre-eminent, then is it wrong in both. Bengel omits the article in Revelation 10:3, but has it in Revelation 10:4." He regards the insertion of the article as the true reading in both places, and supposes that there may have been a reference to some Jewish opinion, but says that he had not been able to find a vestige of it in Lightfoot, Schoettgen, or Meuschen. Storr supposes that we are not to seek here for any Jewish notion, and that nothing is to be inferred from the article (Middleton, on the Greek Article, p. 358).
The best editions of the New Testament retain the article in both places, and indeed there is no authority for omitting it. The use of the article here naturally implies either that these seven thunders were something which had been before referred to, either expressly or impliedly; or that there was something about them which was so well known that it would be at once understood what was referred to; or that there was something in the connection which would determine the meaning. Compare the notes on Revelation 8:2. It is plain, however, that there had been no mention of "seven thunders" before, nor had anything been referred to which would at once suggest them. The reason for the insertion of the article here must, therefore, be found in some pre-eminence which these seven thunders had; in some well-known facts about them; in something which would at once suggest them when they were mentioned - as when we mention the sun, the moon, the stars, though they might not have been distinctly referred to before. The number "seven" is used here either:
(a) as a general or perfect number, as it is frequently in this book, where we have it so often repeated - seven spirits; seven angels; seven seals; seven trumpets; or,
(b) with some specific reference to the matter in hand - the case actually in view of the writer.
It cannot be doubted that it might be used in the former sense here, and that no law of language would be violated if it were so understood; as denoting many thunders; but still it is equally true that it way be used in a specific sense as denoting something that would be well understood by applying the number seven to it. Now let it be supposed, in regard to the application of this symbol, that the reference is to Rome, the seven-hilled city, and to the thunders of excommunication, anathema, and wrath that were uttered from that city against the Reformers; and would there not be all that is fairly implied in this language, and is not this such a symbol as would he appropriately used on such a supposition? The following circumstances may be referred to as worthy of notice on this point:
(a) the place which this occupies in the series of symbols - being just after the angel had uttered his voice as symbolical of the proclamation of the great truths of the gospel in the Reformation, if the interpretation above given is correct. The next event, in the order of nature and of fact, was the voice of excommunication uttered at Rome.
(b) The word "thunder" would appropriately denote the bulls of excommunication uttered at Rome, for the name most frequently given to the decrees of the papacy, when condemnatory, was that of papal thunders. So LeBas, in his Life of Wycliffe, p. 198, says: "The thunders which shook the world when they issued from the seven hills sent forth an uncertain sound, comparatively faint and powerless, when launched from a region of less devoted sanctity."
(c) The number seven would, on such a supposition, be used here with equal propriety. Rome was built on seven hills; was known as the "seven-hilled" city, and the thunders from that city would seem to echo and re-echo from those hills. Compare Revelation 17:9.
(d) This supposition, also, will accord with the use of the article here, as if those thunders were something well known - "the seven thunders"; that is, the thunders which the nations were accustomed to hear.
(e) This will also accord with the passage before us, inasmuch as the thunders would seem to have been of the nature of a response to what the angel said, or to have been sent forth because he had uttered his loud cry.
In like manner, the anathemas were hurled from Rome because the nations had been aroused by the loud cry for reformation, as if an angel had uttered that cry. For these reasons there is a propriety in applying this language to the thunders which issued from Rome condemning the doctrines of the Reformation, and in defense of the ancient faith, and excommunicating those who embraced the doctrines of the Reformers. If we were now to attempt to devise a symbol which would be appropriate to express what actually occurred in the Reformation, we could not think of one which would be better suited to that purpose than to speak of seven thunders bellowing forth from the seven-hilled city.
on Revelation 10 :3
10:3 And he cried - Uttering the words set down, verse 6. Rev 10:6 And while he cried, or was crying - At the same instant. Seven thunders uttered their voices - In distinct words, each after the other. Those who spoke these words were glorious, heavenly powers, whose voice was as the loudest thunder.