on Revelation 17 :10
And there are seven kings - Και βασιλεις ἑπτα εισιν· They are also seven kings. Before, it was said, they are seven mountains; here, they are also seven kings, which is a demonstration that kingdoms are not here meant by mountains: and this is a farther argument that the seven electorates are represented by seven mountains, for though the sovereigns of these states ranked with kings, they were not kings: that is to say, they were not absolute and sole lords of the territories they possessed, independently of the emperor, for their states formed a part of the Germanic body. But the seven heads of the beast are also seven kings, that is to say, the Latin empire has had seven supreme forms of government; for king is used in the prophetical writings for any supreme governor of a state or people, as is evident from Deuteronomy 33:5, where Moses is called a king. Of these seven kings, or supreme forms of Latin government, the angel informs St. John: -
Five are fallen, and one is - It is well known that the first form of Latin government was that of kings, which continued after the death of Latinus 428 years, till the building of Rome, b.c. 753. After Numitor's decease the Albans or Latins instituted the form of a republic, and were governed by dictators. We have only the names of two, viz., Cluilius and Metius Fufetius or Suffetius; but as the dictatorship continued at least eighty-eight years, there might have been others, though their names and actions are unknown. In the year before Christ 665 Alba, the metropolis of the Latin nation, was destroyed by Tullus Hostilius, the third king of the Romans, and the inhabitants carried to Rome. This put an end to the monarchical republic of the Latins; and the Latins elected two annual magistrates, whom Licinius calls dictators, but who are called praetors by other writers. This form of government continued till the time of P. Decius Mus, the Roman consul; for Festus, in his fourteenth book, informs us "that the Albans enjoyed prosperity till the time of King Tullus; but that, Alba being then destroyed, the consuls, till the time of P. Decius Mus, held a consultation with the Latins at the head of Ferentina, and the empire was governed by the council of both nations." The Latin nation was entirely subjugated by the Romans b.c. 336, which put an end to the government by praetors, after it had continued upwards of three hundred years. The Latins from this time ceased to be a nation, as it respects the name; therefore the three forms of government already mentioned were those which the Latins had during that period which the angel speaks of, when he says, The beast which thou sawest Was. But as five heads, or forms of government, had fallen before St. John's time, it is evident that the two other forms of government which had fallen must be among those of the Romans; first, because though the Latin nation so called, was deprived of all authority by the Romans, yet the Latin power continued to exist, for the very conquerors of the Latin nation were Latins; and, consequently the Latins, though a conquered people, continued to have a Latin government. Secondly, the angel expressly says, when speaking to St. John, that one is, that is, the sixth head, or Latin form of government, was then in existence; which could be no other than the imperial power, this being the only independent form of Latin government in the apostolic age. It therefore necessarily follows, that the Roman forms of government by which Latium was ruled must be the remaining heads of the beast. Before the subjugation of the Latins by the Romans four of the Roman or draconic forms of government had fallen, the regal power, the dictatorship, the decemvirate, and the consular power of the military tribunes, the last of which was abolished about 366 years before the commencement of the Christian era; none of these, therefore, ruled over the Whole Latin nation. But as the Latins were finally subdued about 336 b.c., the consular government of the Romans, which was then the supreme power in the state, must be the fourth head of the beast. This form of government continued, with very little interruption, till the rising up of the triumvirate, the fifth head of the beast, b.c. 43. The dictatorship of Sylla and Julius Caesar could not be considered a new head of the beast, as the Latins had already been ruled by it in the persons of Cluilius and Fufetius. The sixth head of the beast, or that which existed in the time of St. John, was consequently, as we have already proved, the imperial power of the heathen Caesars, or the seventh draconic form of government.
And the other is not yet come - Bishop Newton considers the Roman dutchy, under the eastern emperor's lieutenant, the exarch of Ravenna, the seventh head of the beast. But this cannot be the form of government signified by the seventh head, for a head of the beast as we have already shown, is a supreme, independent form of Latin government; consequently the Roman dutchy cannot be the seventh head, as it was dependent upon the exarchate of Ravenna; and the exarchate cannot be the head, as it was itself in subjection to the Greek empire. The Rev. G. Faber has ascertained the truth exactly in denominating the Carlovingian patriciate the seventh head of the beast. That this was a supreme, independent form of government, is evident from history. Gibbon, in speaking of the patriciate, observes that "the decrees of the senate and people successively invested Charles Martel and his posterity with the honors of patrician of Rome. The leaders of a powerful nation would have disdained a servile title and subordinate office; but the reign of the Greek emperors was suspended, and in the vacancy of the empire they derived a more glorious commission from the pope and the republic. The Roman ambassadors presented these patricians with the keys of the shrine of St. Peter as a pledge and symbol of sovereignty, and with a holy banner, which it was their right and duty to unfurl in defense of the Church and city. In the time of Charles Martel and of Pepin, the interposition of the Lombard kingdom covered the freedom, while it threatened the safety of Rome; and the patriciate represented only the title, the service, the alliance, of these distant protectors. The power and policy of Charlemagne annihilated an enemy, and imposed a master. In his first visit to the capital he was received with all the honors which had formerly been paid to the exarch, the representative of the emperor; and these honors obtained some new decorations from the joy and gratitude of Pope Adrian I. In the portico Adrian expected him at the head of his clergy; they embraced as friends and equals; but in their march to the altar, the king, or patrician, assumed the right hand of the pope. Nor was the Frank content with these vain and empty demonstrations of respect. In the twenty-six years that elapsed between the conquest of Lombardy and his imperial coronation, Rome, which had been delivered by the sword, was subject, as his own, to the scepter of Charlemagne. The people swore allegiance to his person and family, in his name money was coined and justice was administered, and the election of the popes was examined and confirmed by his authority. Except an original and self-inherent claim of sovereignty, there was not any prerogative remaining which the title of emperor could add to the patrician of Rome." The seven heads of the beast are therefore the following: The regal power, the dictatorship, the power of the praetors, the consulate, the triumvirate, the imperial power, and the patriciate.
And when he cometh, he must continue a short space - The seventh form of government was only to remain a short time, which was actually the case; for from its first rise to independent power to its utter extinction, there passed only about forty-five years, a short time in comparison to the duration of several of the preceding forms of government; for the primitive regal government continued at least four hundred and twenty-eight years, the dictatorship was in power about eighty-eight years, the power of the praetors was in being for upwards of three hundred years, the consulate lasted about two hundred and eighty years, and the imperial power continued upwards of five hundred years.
on Revelation 17 :10
And there are seven kings - That is, seven in all, as they are enumerated in this verse and the next. An eighth is mentioned in Revelation 17:11, but it is, at the same time, said that this one so pertains to the seven, or is so properly in one sense of the number seven, though, in another sense, to be regarded as an eighth, that it may be properly reckoned as the seventh. The word "kings" - βασιλεῖς basileis - may be understood, so far as the meaning of the word is concerned:
(a) literally, as denoting a king, or one who exercises royal authority;
(b) in a more general sense, as denoting one of distinguished honor - a viceroy, prince, leader, chief, Matthew 2:1, Matthew 2:3,Matthew 2:9; Luke 1:5; Acts 12:1;
(c) in a still larger sense, as denoting a dynasty, a form of government, a mode of administration, as what, in fact, "rules."
See the notes on Daniel 7:24, where the word "king" undoubtedly denotes a "dynasty," or "form of rule." The notion of ruling, or of authority, is undoubtedly in the word, for the verb βασιλεύω basileuō means "to rule," but the word may be applied to anything in which sovereignty resides. Thus it is applied to a king's son, to a military commander, to the gods, to a Greek archon, etc. See Passow. It would be contrary to the whole spirit of this passage, and to what is demanded by the proper meaning of the word, to insist that the word should denote literally kings, and that it could not be applied to emperors, or to dictators, or to dynasties.
Five are fallen - Have passed away as if fallen; that is, they have disappeared. The language would be applicable to rulers who have died, or who had been dethroned; or to dynasties or forms of government that had ceased to be. In the fulfillment of this, it would be necessary to find five such successive kings or rulers who had died, and who pertained to one sovereignty or nation; or five such dynasties or forms of administrations that had successively existed, but which had ceased.
And one is - That is, there is one - a sixth - that now reigns. The proper interpretation of this would be, that this existed in the time of the writer; that is, according to the view taken of the time of the writing of the Apocalypse (see Intro., section 2), at the close of the first century.
And the other is not yet come - The sixth one is to be succeeded by another in the same line, or occupying the same dominion.
And when he cometh - When that form of dominion is set up. No intimation is yet given as to the time when this would occur.
He must continue a short space - ὀλίγον oligon. A short time; his dominion will be of short duration. It is observable that this characteristic is stated as applicable only to this one of the seven; and the fair meaning would seem to be, that the time would be short as compared with the six that preceded, and as compared with the one that followed - the eighth - into which it was to be merged, Revelation 17:11.
on Revelation 17 :10