Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Thunders (10.1–4)


And I saw another strong angel descending from heaven, dressed with a cloud, and with a rainbow on his head. And his face was like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And he had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot in the sea and his left on the earth. And he shouted in a loud voice, like a lion roaring. And when he shouted the seven thunders spoke their own voice. And when the seven thunders spoke I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Seal what the seven thunders spoke, and do not write.’


The ‘little scroll’ is the same scroll seen earlier in the book. The scroll’s chain of transmission—from God to the lamb in chapter 4, then from an angel to John in chapter 10, with John told to write what he sees—corresponds to the book’s introduction, in which the titular revelation passes from God to Jesus to an angel to John to his readers. While the scroll’s contents are seen in chapter 6, in a meta sense the scroll represents the titular revelation as a whole (i.e. the scroll recursively represents the very book we are reading). The angel in this chapter is sometimes interpreted as an understated christophany, due to the theological connotations of the rainbow and the pillars of fire, and the similarity of his face with that of Jesus in chapter 1. However, the author’s narrativization of that chain of transmission situates this angel as the mediator of the revelation between Jesus and John.

The seven thunders, perhaps entirely by coincidence, resemble the concept of an ancient Southwest Asian storm god (e.g. Baal Hadad) having seven thunders and lightnings. Most interpreters infer that these seven thunders were meant to represent a fourth set of seven judgments in the book (alongside the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls), though if this were the case it would be the only instance of one set of seven being introduced before the previous one finished.



18.9, 13 He bowed the heavens, and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. […] He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water. […] Yhwh also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice.

29.3–9 The voice of Yhwh is over the waters; the god of glory thunders, Yhwh, over mighty waters. The voice of Yhwh is powerful; the voice of Yhwh is full of majesty. The voice of Yhwh breaks the cedars; Yhwh breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of Yhwh flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of Yhwh shakes the wilderness; Yhwh shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of Yhwh causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, ‘Glory!’


2.9 I looked, and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it.


13.21 Yhwh went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.


8.26 ‘As for you, seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.’

12.4, 9 ‘But you, Daniel, keep the words secret and the book sealed until the time of the end.’ […] He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end.’


L 33–34 He stands with his feet on the earth. He stretches out his right hand to the ends of the ocean.

Ascension of Isaiah

9.21–22 behold one of the angels who were standing by […] showed me scrolls, but not like the scrolls of this world

Revelation of Zephaniah

6.8, 11 That same instant I stood up, and I saw a great angel before me. […] Then I arose and stood, and I saw a great angel standing before me

4 Ezra

6.20 ‘When the seal is placed upon the age that is about to pass away, then I will show these signs: the books shall be opened before the face of the firmament, and all shall see my judgement together.’

14.5–6, 45–48 Then I commanded him, saying, ‘These words you shall publish openly, and these you shall keep secret.’ […] And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, ‘Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the river of knowledge.’ And I did so.

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