Revelation 5:4
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) And I wept much, because no man (better, no one) was found worthy to open . . . the book (omit, “and to read”).—The Apostle is not ashamed to call attention to his tears. I, indeed, for my part (the “I” is emphatic) wept much. It was not a failure of faith; it was the outburst of an earnest heart, to which the knowledge of God and the destinies of his fellowmen were very dear. Those who have longed to see the end of oppression, fraud, and sorrow on the earth, to know something of the laws which govern the present, and of their issue in the future, will understand these tears. “The words, ‘ I wept much,’ can only be understood by those who have lived in great catastrophes of the Church, and entered with the fullest sympathy into her sufferings Without tears the Revelation was not written, neither can it without tears be understood.”

Revelation 5:4-5. And I wept much — Being greatly affected with the thought that no being whatsoever was to be found able to understand, reveal, and accomplish the divine counsels, fearing they would still remain concealed from the church. This weeping of the apostle sprang from greatness of mind. The tenderness of heart which he always had, appeared more clearly now he was out of his own power. The Revelation was not written without tears: neither without tears will it be understood. How far are they from the temper of St. John, who require after any thing rather than after the contents of this book! Yea, who applaud their own clemency, if they excuse those that do inquire into them! And one of the elders — One of the four and twenty mentioned chap. Revelation 4:4; saith unto me, Weep not — He relieved my fears, and comforted me, saying, Behold, the Lion, &c. — Though no one is yet found able to reveal and execute these purposes of God, respecting future events, there is one person described in ancient prophecy as the Lion of the tribe of Juda — The victorious Prince, who is, like a lion, able to tear his enemies in pieces; the Root of David — As God, the root and source of David’s family Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10; hath prevailed to open the book — Hath overcome all obstructions, and obtained the honour and the power to disclose the divine counsels to the church, and ensure their accomplishment.5:1-7 The apostle saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, a roll of parchments in the form usual in those times, and sealed with seven seals. This represented the secret purposes of God about to be revealed. The designs and methods of Divine Providence, toward the church and the world, are stated, fixed, and made a matter of record. The counsels of God are altogether hidden from the eye and understanding of the creature. The several parts are not unsealed and opened at once, but after each other, till the whole mystery of God's counsel and conduct is finished in the world. The creatures cannot open it, nor read it; the Lord only can do so. Those who see most of God, are most desirous to see more; and those who have seen his glory, desire to know his will. But even good men may be too eager and hasty to look into the mysteries of the Divine conduct. Such desires, if not soon answered, turn to grief and sorrow. If John wept much because he could not look into the book of God's decrees, what reason have many to shed floods of tears for their ignorance of the gospel of Christ! of that on which everlasting salvation depends! We need not weep that we cannot foresee future events respecting ourselves in this world; the eager expectation of future prospects, or the foresight of future calamities, would alike unfit us for present duties and conflicts, or render our prosperous days distressing. Yet we may desire to learn, from the promises and prophecies of Scripture, what will be the final event to believers and to the church; and the Incarnate Son has prevailed, that we should learn all that we need to know. Christ stands as Mediator between God and both ministers and people. He is called a Lion, but he appears as a Lamb slain. He appears with the marks of his sufferings, to show that he pleads for us in heaven, in virtue of his satisfaction. He appears as a Lamb, having seven horns and seven eyes; perfect power to execute all the will of God, and perfect wisdom to understand it, and to do it in the most effectual manner. The Father put the book of his eternal counsels into the hand of Christ, and Christ readily and gladly took it into his hand; for he delights to make known the will of his Father; and the Holy Spirit is given by him to reveal the truth and will of God.And I wept much, because no man was found worthy ... - Greek, as in Revelation 5:3, no one. It would seem as if there was a pause to see if there were any response to the proclamation of the angel. There being none, John gave way to his deep emotions in a flood of tears. The tears of the apostle here may be regarded as an illustration of two things which are occurring constantly in the minds of people:

(1) The strong desire to penetrate the future; to lift the mysterious veil which shrouds what is to come; to find some way to pierce the dark wall which seems to stand up before us, and which shuts from our view what is to be hereafter. There have been no more earnest efforts made by people than those which have been made to read the scaled volume which contains the record of what is yet to come. By dreams, and omens, and auguries, and astrology, and the flight of birds, and necromancy, people have sought anxiously to ascertain what is to be hereafter. Compare, for an expression of that intense desire, Foster's Life and Correspondence, vol. i. p. 111, and vol. ii. pp. 237, 238.

(2) The weeping of the apostle may be regarded as an instance of the deep grief which people often experience when all efforts to penetrate the future fail, and they feel that after all they are left completely in the dark. Often is the soul overpowered with grief, and often are the eyes filled with sadness at the reflection that there is an absolute limit to the human powers; that all that man can arrive at by his own efforts is uncertain conjecture, and that there is no way possible by which he can make nature speak out and disclose what is to come. Nowhere does man find himself more fettered and limited in his powers than here; nowhere does he feel that there is such an intense disproportion between his desires and his attainments. In nothing do we feel that we are more absolutely in need of divine help than in our attempts to unveil the future; and were it not for revelation man might weep in despair.

4. and to read—inserted in English Version Greek text without good authority. One oldest manuscript, Origen, Cyprian, and Hilary omit the clause. "To read" would be awkward standing between "to open the book" and "to look thereon." John having been promised a revelation of "things which must be hereafter," weeps now at his earnest desire being apparently frustrated. He is a pattern to us to imitate, as an eager and teachable learner of the Apocalypse. As it is the nature of man to desire to know secret and hidden things, especially such as we apprehend of concernment to ourselves, or those whom we love, or are interested in it; and to be troubled, if we know they may be known, and are at a loss for due means whereby to come to the knowledge of them. And I wept much,.... Not so much on his own account, because he feared his curiosity would not be gratified, and that strong desire answered, which were raised in him upon sight of the book, and increased by the angel's proclamation; but for the sake of the church of God, whose representative he was, and to whom the knowledge of this book, and the things contained in it, he judged must be very useful and profitable. The Ethiopic version reads, "and many wept"; many of those that were about the throne, as well as John:

because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book,

neither to look thereon; because there was no creature in heaven, earth, or under it, that were of dignity and authority, as well as of ability, to open the book by unsealing it; and read and deliver out the prophecies in it upon the taking off of every seal; and so not to look into it, and foresee and foretell what was hereafter to come to pass, in the church and world: the phrase of being worthy to look on it seems to be Jewish; of the book of the generation of Adam, Genesis 5:1, the Jews say (e) that

"it descended to the first man, and by it he knew the wisdom which is above; and this book came to the sons of God, the wise men of the age, , "whoever is worthy to look in it", knows by it the wisdom which is from above.''

The whole verse is left out in the Alexandrian copy; and the phrase, "to read", is neither in the Vulgate Latin, nor in any of the Oriental versions.

(e) Zohar in Gen. fol. 28. 2.

And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 5:4. καὶ ἐγώ ἔκλαιον πολύ. This expressly emphasizes what John on his part (ἐγώ) did under the circumstances described in Revelation 5:2-3. His violent[1872] weeping is caused simply by the fact that it seems as though the revelation ardently expected, and, according to Revelation 4:1, to be hoped for, would not follow. “John did not observe any one advancing at the call of the angel, to render this office for the Church.” So Vitr. correctly, who nevertheless, in violation of the context, precipitately interprets[1873] it chiefly of purely personal interests of John, which in no way are here “represented by the church.”[1874]

Inapplicable is the remark of Hengstenb.: “The weeping of John has his weakness of faith as its foundation. Without it, he would not have wept at the impossibility for all creatures to loose the seals, but would, on the contrary, have triumphed in Christ. Without it, also, the book of the future, according to all which the prophets of the O. T. and the Lord had said, would not have been absolutely closed to him.” John was satisfied, rather, in all humility of faith, even though weeping, that, according to what he had just heard, the book must remain closed to him.[1875] The Lamb had not as yet entered to open the book. But the reference to the predictions of the O. T. prophets, and of the Lord himself, is inapposite; because, if the entire scene is not to be senseless, it treats of such revelations as had not as yet been made. The only objection against the weeping of John that could be raised from the context is, that after Revelation 4:1 sqq., he need not at all have been anxious about being compelled to be without the revelation as to the contents of the sealed book; but even this objection can be raised only from the standpoint of a reflection which is here entirely out of place.[1876]

[1872] πολύ, Luke 7:47.

[1873] Cf. N. de Lyra, Beng., Ebrard, etc.

[1874] Hengstenb.

[1875] Cf. Acts 1:7; Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32.

[1876] Against Klief., who does not hesitate to ascribe to John a harassing doubt as to whether, because of the unworthiness of creatures, the Divine ultimate purpose, at least with respect to God’s will of love, must remain unaccomplished.Revelation 5:4. A naïve expression of disappointment, the expectation of Revelation 4:1 being apparently thwarted. The sense of consolation and triumph is so strong in this book that no tears are shed in self-pity. The prophet only weeps at the apparent check to revelation.4. And I] The pronoun is emphatic: “no one could open it: I for my part wept for the impossibility.” Why he wept will be variously explained, according to the view taken of the meaning of the Book. If it be the Book of Life, the reason is obvious: if it be the future purposes of God, the impossibility of opening it threatened to disappoint the promise of Revelation 4:1.Revelation 5:4. Ἔκλαιον, I wept) By an excellent example, John places himself as an eager and teachable learner of the Apocalypse. Comp. ch. Revelation 10:10, Revelation 17:1, Revelation 21:9, Revelation 22:8. They are far from perceiving the meaning of John, in this part at any rate, who seek anything rather than the argument of this book, as opened by the Lamb; and who think themselves indulgent, if they concede a pardon to others who do seek it. The very things which even angels had desired to look into during the time of the Divine silence, now, after they have been brought to light and shine forth in the word of prophecy, though they ought to be known and admired to the glory of God, are despised by wayfaring men as circumstantial and useless.—πολὺ) So πολὺ, Luke 7:47.—ἀνοῖξαι) See App. Crit., Ed. ii., on this passage. An inelegant arrangement of the words is produced, not to open, not to read, not to see. In Revelation 5:1, John saw the book; in Revelation 5:4, he says that the book could not be seen, an expression which itself means, be read: although the language, without the word read (ἀναγνῶναι[65]), is more royal, and better adapted to the majesty of the Lamb.

[65] So Rec. Text, without good authority, reads. B Vulg. Orig. 2,525c, Cypr. Hil. omit ἀναγνῶναι.—E.Verse 4. - And I wept much (ἔκλαιον); I burst into tears, and continued weeping. A strong expression in the imperfect tense. Because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. The words, "and to read? should be omitted. They are found in few manuscripts. The equivalent phrase follows, "neither to look thereon." I wept (ἔκλαιον)

Audible weeping. See on Luke 6:21.

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