on Revelation 13 :1
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea - Before we can proceed in the interpretation of this chapter, it will be highly necessary to ascertain the meaning of the prophetic symbol beast, as the want of a proper understanding of this term has probably been one reason why so many discordant hypotheses have been published to the world. In this investigation it is impossible to resort to a higher authority than Scripture, for the Holy Ghost is his own interpreter. What is therefore meant by the term beast in any one prophetic vision, the same species of thing must be represented by the term whenever it is used in a similar manner in any other part of the sacred oracles. Having therefore laid this foundation, the angel's interpretation of the last of Daniel's four beasts need only be produced, an account of which is given in the seventh chapter of this prophet. Daniel being very desirous to "know the truth of the fourth beast which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, and of the ten horns that were on his head," the angel thus interprets the vision: "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise," etc. In this scripture it is plainly declared that the fourth beast should be the fourth kingdom upon earth; consequently, the four beasts seen by Daniel are four kingdoms: hence the term beast is the prophetic symbol for a kingdom.
As to the nature of the kingdom which is represented by the term beast, we shall obtain no inconsiderable light in examining the most proper meaning of the original word חיה chaiyah. This Hebrew word is translated in the Septuagint by the Greek word θηριον, and both words signify what we term a wild beast; and the latter is the one used by St. John in the Apocalypse. Taking up the Greek word θηριον in this sense, it is fully evident, if a power be represented in the prophetical writings under the notion of a wild beast, that the power so represented must partake of the nature of a wild beast. Hence an earthly belligerent power is evidently designed. And the comparison is peculiarly appropriate; for as several species of wild beasts carry on perpetual warfare with the animal world, so most governments, influenced by ambition, promote discord and depopulation. And, also, as the carnivorous wild beast acquires its strength and magnitude by preying upon the feebler animals; so most earthly monarchies are raised up by the sword, and derive their political consequence from the unsuccessful resistance to the contending nations. The kingdom of God, on the other hand, is represented as "a stone cut out of the mountain without hands;" and is never likened to a beast, because it is not raised up by the sword as all other secular powers are, but sanctifies the persons under its subjection; in which last particular it essentially differs from all other dominations.
This beast is said to rise up out of the sea, in which particular it corresponds with the four beasts of Daniel; the sea is therefore the symbol of a great multitude of nations, as has already been proved; and the meaning is, that every mighty empire is raised upon the ruins of a great number of nations, which it has successfully contended against and incorporated with its dominions. The sea, here, is doubtless the same against the inhabiters of which a wo was denounced, Revelation 12:12; for St. John was standing upon the sand of the sea when the vision changed from the woman and the dragon to that recorded in this chapter. It therefore follows that the kingdom or empire here represented by the beast, is that which sprung up out of the ruins of the Western Roman empire.
Having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns - The beast here described is the Latin empire, which supported the Romish or Latin Church; for it has upon his horns ten crowns, i.e., is an empire composed of ten distinct monarchies in the interest of the Latin Church. See the heads and horns fully explained in the notes on Revelation 17:10 (note), Revelation 17:12 (note), and Revelation 17:16 (note).
As the phrases Latin Church, Latin empire, etc., are not very generally understood at present, and will occur frequently in the course of the notes on this and the 17th chapter, it will not be improper here to explain them. During the period from the division of the Roman empire into those of the east and west, till the final dissolution of the western empire, the subjects of both empires were equally known by the name of Romans. Soon after this event the people of the west lost almost entirely the name of Romans, and were denominated after their respective kingdoms which were established upon the ruins of the western empire. But as the eastern empire escaped the ruin which fell upon the western, the subjects of the former still retained the name of Romans, and called their dominion Ἡ Ῥωμαΐκη βασιλεια, the Roman empire; by which name this monarchy was known among them till its final dissolution in 1453, by Mohammed II., the Turkish sultan. But the subjects of the eastern emperor, ever since the time of Charlemagne or before, (and more particularly in the time of the crusades and subsequently), called the western people, or those under the influence of the Romish Church, Latins, and their Church the Latin Church. And the western people, in return, denominated the eastern Church the Greek Church, and the members of it Greeks. Hence the division of the Christian Church into those of the Greek and Latin. For a confirmation of what has just been said the reader may consult the Byzantine writers, where he will find the appellations Ῥωμαιοι and Λατινοι, Romans and Latins, used in the sense here mentioned in very numerous instances. The members of the Romish Church have not been named Latins by the Greeks alone; this term is also used in the public instruments drawn up by the general popish councils, as may be instanced in the following words, which form a part of a decree of the council of Basil, dated Sept. 26, 1437: Copiosissimam subventionem pro unione Graecorum cums Latinis, "A very great convention for the union of the Greeks with the Latins." Even in the very papal bulls this appellation has been acknowledged, as may be seen in the edict of Pope Eugenius IV., dated Sept. 17, 1437, where in one place mention is made of Ecclesiae Latinorum quaesita unio, "the desired union of the Church of the Latins;" and in another place we read, Nec superesse modum alium prosequendi operis tam pii, et servandi latinae Ecclesiae honoris, "that no means might be left untried of prosecuting so pious a work, and of preserving the honor of the Latin Church." See Corps Diplomatique, tom. iii., pp. 32, 35. In a bull of the same pontiff, dated Sept., 1439, we have Sanctissima Latinorum et Graecorum unio, "the most holy union of the Greeks with the Latins." See Bail's Summa Conciliorum, in loc. By the Latin empire is meant the whole of the powers which support the Latin Church.
And upon his heads the name of blasphemy - Ονουα βλασφημιας· A name of blasphemy. This has been variously understood. Jerome and Prosper give it as their opinion that the name of blasphemy consists in the appellation urbs aeterna, eternal city, applied to Rome; and modern commentators refer it to the idolatrous worship of the Romans and papists. Before we attempt to ascertain the meaning of this passage, it must be first defined what the Holy Spirit means by a name of blasphemy. Blasphemy, in Scripture, signifies impious speaking when applied to God, and injurious speaking when directed against our neighbor. A name of blasphemy is the prostitution of a sacred name to an unholy purpose. This is evident from the 9th verse of the second chapter of the Apocalypse, where God says, "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." These wicked men, by calling themselves Jews, blasphemed the name, i.e., used it in an injurious sense; for he Only is a Jew who is one inwardly. Hence the term Jews applied to the synagogue of Satan is a name of blasphemy, i.e. a sacred name blasphemed. A name of blasphemy, or a blasphemous appellation, is said to be upon all the seven heads of the beast. To determine what this name is, the meaning of the seven heads in this place must be ascertained. If the reader refer to the notes on Revelation 17:9-11, he will find that the heads are explained to have a double meaning, viz., that they signify the seven electorates of the German empire, and also seven forms of Latin government. As this is the first place in which the heads of the beast are mentioned with any description, it is reasonable to expect that that signification of the heads which is first in order in the angel's interpretation, Revelation 17:9, must be what is here intended. This is, "the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth;" the name of blasphemy will consequently be found upon the seven electorates of Germany. This, therefore, can be no other than that which was common, not only to the electorates but also to the whole empire of Germany, or that well known one of Sacrum Imperium Romanum, "The Sacred (or Holy) Roman Empire." Here is a sacred appellation blasphemed by its application to the principal power of the beast. No kingdom can properly be called holy but that of Jesus; therefore it would be blasphemy to unite this epithet with any other power. But it must be horridly blasphemous to apply it to the German empire, the grand supporter of antichrist from his very rise to temporal authority. Can that empire be holy which has killed the saints, which has professed and supported with all its might an idolatrous system of worship? It is impossible. Therefore its assumption of sacred or holy (which appellation was originally given to the empire from its being the main support of what is termed the holy catholic Church, the emperor being styled, on this account, Christ's temporal vicar upon earth: see Caesarini Furstenerii Tractatus De Suprematu Principum Germaniae, cc. 31, 32) is, in the highest sense the word can be taken, a name of blasphemy. The name of blasphemy is very properly said to be upon the seven heads of the beast, or seven electorates of the German empire, because the electors are styled Sacri Imperii Principes Electores, Princes, Electors of the Holy Empire; Sacri Romani Imperii Electores, Electors of the Holy Roman Empire.
on Revelation 13 :1
And I stood upon the sand of the sea - The sand upon the shore of the sea. That is, he seemed to stand there, and then had a vision of a beast rising out of the waters. The reason of this representation may, perhaps, have been that among the ancients the sea was regarded as the appropriate place for the origin of huge and terrible monsters (Prof. Stuart, in loco). This vision strongly resembles that in Daniel 7:2 ff, where the prophet saw four beasts coming up in succession from the sea. See the notes on that place. In Daniel, the four winds of heaven are described as striving upon the great sea Daniel 13:2, and the agitated ocean represents the nations in commotion, or in a state of disorder and anarchy, and the four beasts represent four successive kingdoms that would spring up. See the notes on Daniel 7:2. In the passage before us, John indeed describes no storm or tempest; but the sea itself, as compared with the land (see the notes on Revelation 13:11), represents an agitated or unsettled state of things, and we should naturally. look for that in the rise of the power here referred to. If the reference be to the civil or secular Roman power that has always appeared in connection with the papacy, and that has always followed its designs, then it is true that it rose amidst the agitations of the world, and from a state of commotion that might well be represented by the restless ocean. The sea in either case naturally describes a nation or people, for this image is frequently so employed in the Scriptures. Compare, as above, Daniel 7:2, and Psalm 65:7; Jeremiah 51:42; Isaiah 60:5; Revelation 10:2. The natural idea, therefore, in this passage, would be that the power that was represented by the "beast" would spring up among the nations, when restless or unsettled, like the waves of the ocean.
And saw a beast - Daniel saw four in succession Daniel 7:3-7, all different, yet succeeding each other; John saw two in succession, yet strongly resembling each other, Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:11. On the general meaning of the word "beast" - θηρίον thērion - see the notes on Revelation 11:7. The beast here is evidently a symbol of some power or kingdom that would arise in future times. See the notes on Daniel 7:3.
Having seven heads - So also the dragon is represented in Revelation 12:3. See the notes on that passage. The representation there is of Satan, as the source of all the power lodged in the two beasts that John subsequently saw. In Revelation 17:9, referring substantially to the same vision, it is said that "the seven heads are seven mountains"; and there can be no difficulty, therefore, in referring this to the seven hills on which the city of Rome was built (compare the notes on Revelation 12:3), and consequently this must be regarded as designed, in some way, to be a representation of Rome.
And ten horns - See this also explained in the notes on Revelation 12:3; compare also the more extended illustration in the notes on Daniel 7:25, following The reference here is to Rome, or the one Roman power, contemplated as made up of ten subordinate kingdoms, and therefore subsequently to the invasion of the Northern hordes, and to the time when the papacy was about to rise. Compare Revelation 17:12; "And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings (marg. "kingdoms"), which have received no kingdom as yet, but receive power as kings with the beast." For a full illustration of this, see the copious notes at the close of the seventh chapter of Daniel.
And upon his horns ten crowns - Greek, "ten diadems." See the notes on Revelation 12:3. These indicated dominion or authority. In Revelation 12:3, the "dragon is represented as having seven diadems on his head"; here, the beast is represented as having ten. The dragon there represents the Roman domination, as such, the seven-hilled, or seven-headed power, and, therefore, properly described as having seven diadems; the beast here represents the Roman power, as now broken up into the ten dominations which sprung up (see the notes on Daniel as above) from the one original Roman power, and that became henceforward the supporters of the papacy, and, therefore, properly represented here as having ten diadems.
And upon his heads the name of blasphemy - That is, the whole power was blasphemous in its claims and pretensions. The word "blasphemy" here seems to be used in the sense that titles and attributes were claimed by it which belonged only to God. On the meaning of the word "blasphemy," see the notes on Matthew 9:3; Matthew 26:65. The meaning here is, that each one of these heads appeared to have a frontlet, with an inscription that was blasphemous, or that ascribed some attribute to this power that properly belonged to God; and that the whole power thus assumed was in derogation of the attributes and claims of God. In regard to the propriety of this description considered as applicable to the papacy, see the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:4.
on Revelation 13 :1