on Revelation 2 :17
The hidden manna - It was a constant tradition of the Jews that the ark of the covenant, the tables of stone, Aaron's rod, the holy anointing oil, and the pot of manna, were hidden by King Josiah when Jerusalem was taken by the Chaldeans; and that these shall all be restored in the days of the Messiah. This manna was hidden, but Christ promises to give it to him that is conqueror. Jesus is the ark, the oil, the rod, the testimony, and the manna. He who is partaker of his grace has all those things in their spiritual meaning and perfection.
And will give him a white stone -
I. It is supposed that by the white stone is meant pardon or acquittance, and the evidence of it; and that there is an allusion here to the custom observed by judges in ancient times, who were accustomed to give their suffrages by white and black pebbles; those who gave the former were for absolving the culprit, those who gave the latter were for his condemnation. This is mentioned by Ovid, Metam. lib. xv., ver. 41:
Mos erat antiquus, niveis atrisque lapillis,
His damnare reos, illis absolvere culpa.
Nunc quoque sic lata est sententia tristis.
"A custom was of old, and still remains,
Which life or death by suffrages ordains:
White stones and black within an urn are cast,
The first absolve, but fate is in the last."
II. Others suppose there is an allusion here to conquerors in the public games, who were not only conducted with great pomp into the city to which they belonged, but had a white stone given to them, with their name inscribed on it; which badge entitled them, during their whole life, to be maintained at the public expense. See Pind., Olymp. vii. 159, and the Scholia there; and see the collections in Wetstein, and Rosenmuller's note. These were called tesserae among the Romans, and of these there were several kinds.
1. Tesserae conviviales, which answered exactly to our cards of invitation, or tickets of admission to a public feast or banquet; when the person invited produced his tessera he was admitted. The mention of the hidden manna here may seem to intimate that there is a reference to these convivial tesserae, whether given to the victor in the public games, entitling him to be fed at the public expense, or to a particular friend, inviting him to a family meal or to a public banquet.
2. There were tesserae inscribed with different kinds of things, such as provisions, garments, gold or silver vessels, horses, mares, slaves, etc. These were sometimes thrown by the Roman emperors among the crowd in the theatres, and he that could snatched one; and on producing it he received that, the name of which was inscribed on it. But from Dio Cassius it appears that those tesserae were small wooden balls, whereas the tesserae in general were square, whence they had their name, as having four sides, angles, or corners. Illi τεσσαρην , vel τεσσαραν, vocabant figuram quamvis quadratam, quae quatuor angulos haberet; and these were made of stone, marble, bone, or ivory, lead, brass, or other metal. See Pitiscus.
on Revelation 2 :17
He that hath an ear ... - notes on Revelation 2:7.
To him that overcometh - notes on Revelation 2:7.
Will I give to eat of the hidden manna - The true spiritual food; the food that nourishes the soul. The idea is, that the souls of those who "overcame," or who gained the victory in their conflict with sin, and in the persecutions and trials of the world, would be permitted to partake of that spiritual food which is laid up for the people of God, and by which they will be nourished forever. The Hebrews were supported by manna in the desert Exodus 16:16-35; a pot of that manna was laid up in the most holy place, to be preserved as a memorial Exodus 16:32-34; it is called "angels' food" Psalm 78:25, and "corn of heaven" Psalm 78:24; and it would seem to have been emblematical of that spiritual food by which the people of God are to be fed from heaven, in their journey through this world. By the word "hidden," there would seem to be an allusion to what was laid up in the pot before the ark of the testimony, and the blessing which is promised here is that they would be nourished as if they were sustained by that manna thus laid up before the ark: by food from the immediate presence of God. The language thus explained would mean that they who overcome will be nourished through this life as if by that "hidden manna"; that is, that they will be supplied all along through the "wilderness of this world" by that food from the immediate presence of God which their souls require.
As the parallel places in the epistles to the churches, however, refer rather to the heavenly world, and to the rewards which they who are victors shall have there, it seems probable that this has immediate reference to that world also, and that the meaning is, that, as the most holy place was a type of heaven, they will be admitted into the immediate presence of God, and nourished forever by the food of heaven - what the angels have; what the soul will need to sustain it there. Even in this world their souls may be nourished with this "hidden manna"; in heaven it will be their constant food forever.
And will give him a white stone - There has been a great variety of opinion in regard to the meaning of this expression, and almost no two expositors agree. Illustrations of its meaning have been sought from Grecian, Hebrew, and Roman customs, but none of these have removed all difficulty from the expression. The general sense of the language seems plain, even though the allusion on which it is founded is obscure, or even unknown. It is, that the Saviour would give him who overcame a token of his favor which would have some word or name inscribed on it, and which would be of use to him alone, or intelligible to him only: that is, some secret token which would make him sure of the favor of his Redeemer, and which would be unknown to other people. The idea here would find a correspondence in the evidences of his favor granted to the soul of the Christian himself; in the pledge of heaven thus made to him, and which he would understand, but which no one else would understand,
The things, then, which we are to look for in the explanation of the emblem are two - what would thus be a token of his favor, and what would explain the fact that it would be intelligible to no one else. The question is, whether there is any known thing pertaining to ancient customs which would convey those ideas. The word rendered "stone" - ψῆφον psēphon - means, properly, a small stone, as worn smooth by water - a gravel-stone, a pebble; then any polished stone, the stone of a gem, or ring (Robinson's Lexicon). Such a stone was used among the Greeks for various purposes, and the word came to have a signification corresponding to these uses. The following uses are enumerated by Dr. Robinson, Lexicon: the "stones," or "counters" for reckoning; "dice," "lots," used in a kind of magic; a vote, spoken of the black and white stones or pebbles anciently used in voting - that is, the white for approval, and the black for condemning.
In regard to the use of the word here, some have supposed that the reference is to a custom of the Roman emperors, who, in the games and spectacles which they gave to the people in imitation of the Greeks, are said to have thrown among the populace dice or tokens inscribed with the words, "Frumentum, vestes," etc.; that is, "Corn, clothing," etc.; and whosoever obtained one of these received from the emperor whatever was marked upon it. Others suppose that allusion is made to the mode of casting lots, in which sometimes dice or tokens were used with names inscribed on them, and the lot fell to him whose name first came out. The "white stone" was a symbol of good fortune and prosperity; and it is a remarkable circumstance that, among the Greeks, persons of distinguished virtue were said to receive a ψῆφον psēphon, "stone," from the gods, that is, as an approving testimonial of their virtue.
See Robinson's Lexicon, and the authorities there referred to; Wetstein, New Testament, in loco, and Stuart, in leto. Prof. Stuart supposes that the allusion is to the fact that Christians are said to be kings and priests to God, and that as the Jewish high priest had a mitre or turban, on the front of which was a plate of gold inscribed "Holiness to the Lord," so they who were kings and priests under the Christian dispensation would have that by which they would be known, but that, instead of a plate of gold, they would have a pellucid stone, on which the name of the Saviour would be engraved as a token of his favor. It is possible, in regard to the explanation of this phrase, that there has been too much effort to find all the circumstances alluded to in some ancient custom. Some well-understood fact or custom may have suggested the general thought, and then the filling up may have been applicable to this case alone. It is quite clear, I think, that none of the customs to which it has been supposed there is reference correspond fully with what is stated here, and that though there may have been a general allusion of that kind, yet something of the particularity in the circumstances may be regarded as unique to this alone. In accordance with this view, perhaps the following points will embody all that need be said:
(1) A white stone was regarded as a token of favor, prosperity, or success everywhere - whether considered as a vote, or as given to a victor, etc. As such, it would denote that the Christian to whom it is said to be given would meet with the favor of the Redeemer, and would have a token of his approval.
(2) the name written on this stone would be designed also as a token or pledge of his favor - as a name engraved on a signet or seal would be a pledge to him who received it of friendship. It would be not merely a white stone - emblematic of favor and approval - but it would be so marked as to indicate its origin, with the name of the giver on it. This would appropriately denote, when explained, that the victor Christian would receive a token of the Redeemer's favor, as if his name were engraven on a stone, and given to him as a pledge of his friendship; that is, that he would be as certain of his favor as if he had such a stone. In other words, the victor would be assured from the Redeemer, who distributes rewards, that his welfare would be secure.
(3) this would be to him as if he should receive a stone so marked that its letters were invisible to all others, but apparent to him who received it. It is not needful to suppose that in the Olympic games, or in the prizes distributed by Roman emperors, or in any other custom, such a case had actually occurred, but it is conceivable that a name might be so engraved - with characters so small, or in letters so unknown to all others or with marks so unintelligible to others - that no other one into whose hands it might fall would understand it. The meaning then probably is, that to the true Christian - the victor over sin - there is given some pledge of the divine favor which has to him all the effect of assurance, and which others do not perceive or understand. This consists of favors shown directly to the soul - the evidence of pardoned sin; joy in the Holy Spirit; peace with God; clear views of the Saviour; the possession of a spirit which is properly that of Christ, and which is the gift of God to the soul. The true Christian understands this; the world perceives it not. The Christian receives it as a pledge of the divine favor, and as an evidence that he will be saved; to the world, that on which he relies seems to be enthusiasm, fanaticism, or delusion. The Christian bears it about with him as he would a precious stone given to him by his Redeemer, and on which the name of his Redeemer is engraved, as a pledge that he is accepted of God, and that the rewards of heaven shall be his; the world does not understand it, or attaches no value to it.
And in the stone a new name written - A name indicating a new relation, new hopes and triumphs. Probably the name here referred to is the name of the Redeemer, or the name Christian, or some such appellation. It would be some name which he would understand and appreciate, and which would be a pledge of acceptance.
Which no man knoweth, ... - That is, no one would understand its import, as no one but the Christian estimates the value of that on which he relics as the pledge of his Redeemer's love.
The Epistle to the Church at Thyatira
on Revelation 2 :17
2:17 To him that overcometh - And eateth not of those sacrifices. Will I give of the hidden manna - Described, John vi. The new name answers to this: it is now hid with Christ in God. The Jewish manna was kept in the ancient ark of the covenant. The heavenly ark of the covenant appears under the trumpet of the seventh angel, Rev 11:19, where also the hidden manna is mentioned again. It seems properly to mean, the full, glorious, everlasting fruition of God. And I will give him a white stone - The ancients, on many occasions, gave their votes in judgment by small stones; by black, they condemned; by white ones they acquitted. Sometimes also they wrote on small smooth stones. Here may be an allusion to both. And a new name - So Jacob, after his victory, gained the new name of Israel. Wouldest thou know what thy new name will be? The way to this is plain, - overcome. Till then all thy inquiries are vain. Thou wilt then read it on the white stone.