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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 10 - Verse 9

Verse 9. And I went unto the angel. This is symbolic action, and is not to be understood literally. As it is not necessary to suppose that an angel literally descended, and stood upon the sea and the land, so it is not necessary to suppose that there was a literal act of going to him, and taking the book from his hand, and eating it.

Give me the little book. In accordance with the command in Re 10:8. We may suppose, in regard to this,

(a) that the symbol was designed to represent that the book was to be used in the purpose here referred to, or was to be an important agent or instrumentality in accomplishing the purpose. The book is held forth in the hand of the angel as a striking emblem. There is a command to go and take it from his hand for some purpose not yet disclosed. All this seems to imply that the book—or that which is represented by it—would be an important instrument in accomplishing the purpose here referred to.

(b) The application for the book might intimate that, on the part of him who made it, there would be some strong desire to possess it. He goes, indeed, in obedience to the command; but, at the same time, there would naturally be a desire to be in possession of the volume, or to know the contents, (compare Re 5:4) and his approach to the angel for the book would be most naturally interpreted as expressive of such a wish.

And he said unto me, take it. As if he had expected this application; or had come down to furnish him with this little volume, and had anticipated that the request would be made. There was no reluctance in giving it up; there was no attempt to withhold it; there was no prohibition of its use. The angel had no commission, and no desire to retain it for himself, and no hesitation in placing it in the hands of the seer on the first application. Would not the readiness with which God gives his Bible into the hands of men, in contradistinction from all human efforts to restrain its use and to prevent its free circulation, be well symbolized by this act?

And eat it up. There is a similar command in Eze 3:1. Of course, this is to be understood figuratively, for no one would interpret literally a command to eat a manuscript or volume. We have in common use a somewhat similar phrase, when we speak of devouring a book, which may illustrate this, and which is not liable to be misunderstood. In Jer 15:16, we have similar language: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Thus in Latin, the words propinare, imbibere, devorare, deglutire, etc., are used to denote the greediness with which knowledge is acquired. Compare in the Apocrypha, 2 Esdras xiv. 88-40. The meaning here, then, is plain. He was to possess himself of the contents of the book; to receive it into his mind; to apply it, as we do food, for spiritual nourishment—truth having, in this respect, the same relation to the mind which food has to the body. If the little book was a symbol of the Bible, it would refer to the fact that the truths of that book became the nourisher and supporter of the public mind.

And it shall make thy belly bitter. This is a circumstance which does not occur in the corresponding place in Eze 3:1-3. The expression here must refer to something that would occur after the symbolical action of "eating" the little book, or to some consequence of eating it—for the act of eating it is represented as pleasant: "in thy mouth sweet as honey." The meaning here is, that the effect which followed from eating the book was painful or disagreeable—as food would be that was pleasant to the taste, but that produced bitter pain when eaten. The fulfilment of this would be found in one of two things.

(a) It might mean that the message to be delivered in consequence of devouring the book, or the message which it contained, would be of a painful or distressing character: that with whatever pleasure the book might be received and devoured, it would be found to contain a communication that would be indicative of woe or sorrow. This was the case with the little book that Ezekiel was commanded to eat up. Thus, in speaking of this book, it is said, "And it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe," Eze 2:10. Compare Re 3:4-9, where the contents of the book, and the effect of proclaiming the message which it contained, are more fully stated. So here the meaning may be, that, however gladly John may have taken the book, and with whatever pleasure he may have devoured its contents, yet that it would be found to be charged with the threatening of wrath, and with denunciations of a judgment to come, the delivery of which would be well represented by the "bitterness" which is said to have followed from "eating" the volume. Or

(b) it may mean, that the consequence of devouring the book, that is, of embracing its doctrines, would be persecutions and trouble—well represented by the "bitterness" that followed the "eating" of the volume. Either of these ideas would be a fulfilment of the proper meaning of the symbol; for, on the supposition that either of these occurred in fact, it would properly be symbolized by the eating of a volume that was sweet to the taste, but that made the belly bitter.

But it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. So in Eze 3:3. The proper fulfilment of this it is not difficult to understand. It would well represent the pleasure derived from Divine truth—the sweetness of the word of God—the relish with which it is embraced by those that love it. On the supposition that the "little book" here refers to the Bible, and to the use which would be made of it in the times referred to, it would properly denote the relish which would exist for the sacred volume, and the happiness which would be found in its perusal: for this very image is frequently employed to denote this. Thus in Ps 19:10: "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Ps 119:103: "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth." We are then to look for the fulfilment of this in some prevailing delight or satisfaction, in the times referred to, in the word of the Lord, or in the truths of revelation.

{a} "it" Eze 3:1-3,14

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