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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 11 - Verse 8

Verse 8. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street. Professor Stuart, "Shall be in the street." The words "shall lie" are supplied by the translators, but not improperly. The literal rendering would be, "and their corpses upon the street of the great city;" and the meaning is, that there would be a state of things in regard to them which would be well represented by supposing them to lie unburied. To leave a body unburied is to treat it with contempt, and among the ancients nothing was regarded as more dishonourable than such treatment. See the Ajax of Sophocles. Among the Jews also it was regarded as a special indignity to leave the dead unburied, and hence they are always represented as deeply solicitous to secure the interment of their dead. See Ge 23:4. Compare 2 Sa 21:9-13; Ec 6:3 Isa 14:18-20; 22:16; 53:9.

The meaning here is, that, for the time specified, those who are here referred to would be treated with indignity and contempt. In the fulfilment of this, we are not, of course, to look for any literal accomplishment of what is here said, but for some treatment of the "witnesses" which would be well represented by this; that is, which would show that they were treated, after they were silenced, like unburied corpses putrefying in the sun.

Of the great city. Where these transactions would occur. As a great city would be the agent in putting them to death, so the result would be as if they were publicly exposed in its streets. The word "great" here supposes that the city referred to would be distinguished for its size—a circumstance of some importance in determining the place referred to.

Which spiritually is calledpneumatikwv. This word occurs only in one other place in the New Testament, 1 Co 2:14—"because they are spiritually discerned"—where it means, "in accordance with the Holy Spirit," or "through the aid of the Holy Spirit." Here it seems to be used in the sense of metaphorically, or allegorically, in contradistinction from the literal and real name. There may possibly be an intimation here that the city is so called by the Holy Spirit to designate its real character; but still the essential meaning is, that that was not its literal name. For some reason, the real name is not given to it; but such descriptions are applied as are designed to leave no doubt as to what is intended.

Sodom. Sodom was distinguished for its wickedness, and especially for that vice to which its abominations have given name. For the character of Sodom, see Genesis 18-19. Compare 2 Pe 2:6. In inquiring what "city" is here referred to, it would be necessary to find in it such abominations as characterized Sodom, or so much wickedness that it would be proper to call it Sodom. If it shall be found that this was designed to refer to Papal Rome, no one can doubt that the abominations which prevailed there would justify such an appellation. Compare See Barnes "Re 9:20".

See Barnes "Re 9:21".

 

And Egypt. That is, it would have such a character that the name Egypt might be properly given to it. Egypt is known, in the Scriptures, as the land of oppression—the land where the Israelites, the people of God, were held in cruel bondage. Compare Exodus 1-15. See also Eze 23:8. The particular idea, then, which seems to be conveyed here is, that the "city" referred to would be characterized by acts of oppression and wrong towards the people of God. So far as the language is concerned, it might apply either to Jerusalem or to Rome—for both were eminently characterized by such acts of oppression toward the true children of God as to make it proper to compare their cruelties with those which were inflicted on the Israelites by the Egyptians. Of whichever of these places the course of the exposition may require us to understand this, it will be seen at once that the language is such as is strictly applicable to either; though, as the reference is rather to Christians than to the ancient people of God, it must be admitted that it would be most natural to refer it to Rome. More acts authorizing persecution, and designed to crush the true people of God, have gone forth from Rome than from any other city on the face of the earth; and taking the history of the church together, there is no place that would be so properly designated by the term here employed.

Where also our Lord was crucified. If this refers to Jerusalem, it is to be taken literally; if to another, city, it is to be understood as meaning that he was practically crucified there: that is, that the treatment of his friends—his church—was such that it might be said that he was "crucified afresh" there; for what is done to his church may be said to be done to him. Either of these interpretations would be justified by the use of the language. Thus in Heb 6:6, it is said of apostates from the true faith, (compare Barnes on "Heb 6:6") that "they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh." If the passage before us is to be taken figuratively, the meaning is, that acts would be performed which might properly be represented as crucifying the Son of God; that, as he lives in his church, the acts of perverting his doctrines, and persecuting his people, would be, in fact, an act of crucifying the Lord again. Thus understood, the language is strictly applicable to Rome; that is, if it is admitted that John meant to characterize that city, he has employed such language as a Jewish Christian would naturally use. While, therefore, it must be admitted that the language is such as could be literally applied only to Jerusalem, it is still true that it is such language as might be figuratively applied to any other city strongly resembling that, and that in this sense it would characterize Rome above all other cities of the world. The common reading of the text here is "our Lord"—hmwn; the text now regarded as correct, however, (Griesbach, Tittmann, Hahn,) is "their Lord"— autwn. This makes no essential difference in the sense, except that it directs the attention more particularly to the fact that they were treated like their own Master.

{c} "street" Heb 13:12 {d} "Sodom" Isa 1:10 {e} "Egypt" Ex 20:2

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