Chapter 8

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Pattern Recognition in the Apocalypse

Chapter 8

Historical background of the Trumpets

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Historical background of the Trumpets

 

Internal evidence presents a compelling case for dating the Apocalypse before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  From the viewpoint of a first century believer the return of Christ was imminent. The faithful were at the cusp of the Nero persecution and expected Jerusalem to be punished shortly.

 

Passover is the structuring thematic underlying the seals which commence with a vision of the victorious Lamb who is uniquely qualified to open them.  From the perspective of the first century believer the past is being viewed retrospectively (from the point of reception of the Apocalypse), by looking backwards to the foot of the cross. The crucifixion sets all subsequent eschatological events in motion. The seals are a Christo-centric vision that commence with a Lamb “as it had been slain” (Rev 5.6) and conclude with the “wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6.16).

 

First century believers were able to endure the present crisis and even overcome the revealed persecution and martyrdom that would soon arrive (Nero persecution, fall of Jerusalem and the end of the first Roman war) because they understand that all events from the Passover-crucifixion onwards were being directed by the conquering Lamb, thereby ensuring their own ultimate triumph if they are willing to follow him even into death.

 

After the end of the sixth seal we have a half hour silence before the trumpets commence.

 

Atonement is the structuring thematic underlying the trumpets which commence with the Day of Atonement ritual that is associated with trumpet blowing. However, instead of national forgiveness, divine retribution is meted out. Many commentators understand the trumpets as a continuation of the seals, a sort of more detailed recapitulation of previous events. This is unlikely because the last trumpet incorporates the seven vial-plagues and the plague theme is reinforced by also calling the last three trumpet-woes “plagues” delivering a total of ten plagues reminiscent of the ten Exodus plagues, with the first three plagues affecting both the Jews and the Egyptians, but the last seven only affecting the gentiles. Moreover, the trumpet section is interrupted by a witnessing narrative, a birth narrative and a narrative describing the transformations and reincarnations of the beast.  This section is introduced by a commission from the covenant angel who instructs the “son of thunder” (John) to seal up the “seven thunders” although they are later revealed in chapter 14. 

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A struggle with cosmic overtones is depicted in these chapters. An epic contest occurs between the true and the false and the eschatological enemy is depicted as Babylon.  Neither Jerusalem, nor Rome is mentioned in the book of Revelation.  1    One might ask why the “enemy” is not better defined.  Perhaps it is a deliberate ruse to protect Christian readers from the wrath of Rome or of Jerusalem.  That explanation is however unlikely as the narrative makes it clear that persecution and martyrdom are inevitable results of the contest.  Although there are episodes were the saints are protected (don’t harm), ultimately the road to victory passes initially through what the world regards as defeat. The witnesses mirror the martyrdom of their Lord and through him they emerge triumphant on the other side of death.

 

Another explanation must be sought to explain the interpreter’s conundrum of having no clear indication of Rome or Jerusalem as the central protagonist. It might be argued that “seven hills” are a subtle allusion to Rome but even there the woman riding the beast is called Babylon. The beast is being directed and controlled by Babylon.  Jerusalem is also subtly alluded to as spiritually Sodom and Egypt were the Lord was crucified.  However, the trumpets, in which these references are found, are also replete with allusions to Babylon.

 

It seems then that both Rome and Jerusalem morph into a supra-historical entity known as Babylon.  From a scriptural perspective Babylon is significant as the place of national Jewish exile, a place where the prophets warned of the establishment of wickedness.  Rabbinical Judaism was developed in Babylon initially as a competitor with temple worship that finally replaced it altogether.  Destruction of the temple was the ultimate victory of the Pharisees over the Sadducees!  First century Pharisaism won the day and endured the centuries as it developed into fully fledged Rabbanism. Most importantly, the exile of Israel to a “dry place” (Babylon) alludes to the sending away of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement, the very ritual that introduces the trumpets.

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Already/Not yet:

A synchronous approach to partial preterism

 

This section will develop the already/not yet paradigm as a synchronous approach to partial preterism. By partial preterism is understood that some (though not all) of the realization lies in the past (in the first century). The difficulty for the interpreter is determining the transition from past to future.  The already/not yet model is encountered in all prophetic narratives and a synchronous approach relates to contemporaneous or parallel events, actions occurring simultaneously.  Time itself is an issue, for example the visionary prolepsis of victory before the actual occurrence of the plagues  2     -- salvic events collectively constitute the eschatological “Day of the Lord” as that day repeatedly punctuates secular history over time.  3     Apocalyptic ambiguity and pattern repetition (which is not a flaw but the result of a deliberate divine construct) allow flexibility of meaning, ensuring that revelation is germane to the past and to the future, both to Rome and to Jerusalem, to the first century and to our generation.

 

The point is emphasised by the reuse of the Old Testament in the woof and weave of the Apocalypse --- the original context of these allusions, echoes and types reach beyond mere language connections, indicating that the whole of scripture is a progressive revelation with patterns reinforcing and complementing each other.  This challenges interpreters to reach beyond linear models, approaching the interpretation laterally (rather than literally) in order to achieve new meanings so that the “Day of the Lord” is not categorized as either “past” or “future”, recognizing that it has an enduring relevance without falling into the trap of an “idealized” (abstract spiritual) interpretation, as all scripture is embedded in the concrete history and reality of God’s people. The constant recycling of patterns demands that we open up fresh readings.

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The Trumpets and Babylon

 

Trumpets are associated with the introduction of the New Year and with the Atonement ritual practiced ten days later, but they also function as a warning signal and a call to war. In Joshua’s time the blowing of trumpets was followed by a great earthquake that decimated Jericho. In similar fashion the city of Rev 11 is destroyed by earthquake at the sounding of the last trump and Babylon is also visited by a great quake in Rev 16.

 

It is fitting that Elijah was snatched to heaven near Jericho and that the Baptist commenced his Elijah mission at the same location (the point where Israel entered the kingdom) --- but the Baptist was not recognized as “second Elijah” (due to the negative response of the nation) and so that honour is still reserved for the Elijah witnessing of Revelation, whose martyrs also ascend to heaven. 

 

The second and third trumpet form a doublet based on Babylon as the burning mountain and the burning star (Lucifer) alluded to in Jer.51: 25, 42 and in Isa.14:4, 12-20. The sixth trumpet is located at the river Euphrates (Rev 9.14) whose waters are later dried up during the plague-vials of Rev 16.12.  Babylon will sink into the Euphrates under the weight of the curses spoken against her (Jer.51:63, 64). The fall of Babylon is announced in Rev 14.8 by one of the seven “thunders” (voices) of 14.6-20, the thunders being the vision that was sealed in the interrumpo interruptum of the trumpet section of Rev 10.3-4 and therefore (at that point in time) left unexplained (write not).

 

Does this leave the option that a positive response to the witnessing would avoid the seven thunder judgement? This would balance the principle of foreordained destiny with that of freewill. Commentators have noted that the seals are intertextually linked with the prophecies of Jeremiah (concerned with the judgement of Israel by Babylon) but the trumpets are also intertextually correlated with Jeremiah.

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At first sight this suggests that the seals and the trumpets are highlighting different aspects of the same events (because they use similar subtexts) but that is not necessarily the case as the patterns are recurring. The identity of Babylon in the trumpets is also a problem, is it literally Babylon or is it Jerusalem or perhaps Rome?

 

Jeremiah 4 Revelation

Blow ye the trumpet in the land (v.5)… the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war (v.19)

 

Seven angels given seven trumpets (8.1)

The heavens and they had no light (v.23)

 

Sun smitten heavens darkened (8.12)

Woe unto us for we are spoiled (v.13)

 

Woe, woe, woe (8.13)

Destruction upon destruction is cried (v.20)

Abaddon or Apollyon  indicating double destruction  (9.11)

 

Gird ye with sackcloth lament and howl (v.8)

 

Witnesses clothed in sackcloth (11.3)

Thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life (v.30)

These shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and shall burn her with fire (17.6)

 

 

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Patterns and more Patterns

 

From a first century (pre-70) Christian perspective the kingdom of God and the fulfilment of Daniel’s seventy week prophecy was imminent. This presupposes that the Apocalypse was received before 70 CE (as is amply attested by the internal evidence).  The history of this period is easily accessed both from scripture and through the Jewish historian Josephus. The outworking of the early seals is recorded in scripture with the conquering Christ-gospel and conversion of Paul (Acts 9.3-8) followed by the Herodian persecution and death of James (Acts 12.1 cf. Jam 4.2) and the Claudian Famine (Acts 11.28) all documented in the book of Acts. The Nero persecution is not mentioned in Acts although Peter refers to Nero as the “devil” who as a roaring seeks to devour them (1 Pet.5.8). This certainly qualifies as describing the death of Christians thrown to the lions in the coliseum calling out for vengeance in the fifth seal (Rev 6.10). Jerusalem and Rome corroborated in crucifying Jesus and also in persecuting the saints. Nero blamed the fire of Rome on the Christians and it is no coincidence that his favourite mistress was a Jewish proselyte.  History informs us of the almost simultaneous judgements of Jerusalem (destroyed in 70) and Rome (civil war in 69).  From a pre-70 perspective Nero was the beast, attested by the gematria of his name 666 and even by the alternative reading 616.  The fall of Masada the day after Passover ends a period that began forty two years earlier (6 x 7) with the crucifixion of the Passover Lamb.

 

Rather than understanding the trumpets as a repeat of the seals perhaps they initiate a new series of judgements against Israel?  The fact that many of the trumpets resemble the seals allows the divine plan to retain flexibility.  In other words interpretation of the Apocalypse is able to respond to repentance and therefore the Apocalypse could have been completely realized in the first century and in that case the trumpets would simply be seen as an elaboration on the seals. However, the desired response was not forthcoming and therefore another series of judgements is activated against the Jews. 

 

The fall of Jerusalem was not the end of Jewish tribulations as the post-70 CE horrors that followed were even worse.  Whereas a pre-70 Christian might see Nero as the embodiment of 666, a post-70 Christian would understand the false Messiah Bar Kochba as 666.  However, these two protagonists do not exhaust the reading as the last days anti-Christ is yet to be revealed. A composite picture (archetype) is being established using repeat patterns.

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For example, the five months of torment mentioned in the fifth trumpet (Rev 9.5, 10) is taken by some commentators as a reference to the last five months of the siege in 70 CE which were particularly gruesome and ended with the fall of Jerusalem on the 9th of Ab.  4     Few realize that the Bar Kochba revolt also ended with horrendous results in 135 CE on the 9th of Ab (after five months of siege).  What is the chance of both events ending on the same day after five months of siege? 

 

Moreover, the five month (150 day) period is biblically important because the Pentateuch informs us that “…the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days”(Gen 7.24), after which they abated (Gen 8.1) and God set a rainbow in the cloud as a covenant with the earth (Gen 9.13-17).  This is the “rainbow covenant” of mercy that John saw (Rev 10.1) that reassures John (and his readers) that despite the terrible punishments meted out God would remember his mercy towards his people and preserve a remnant (the new Israel a consequence of the witnessing work of Rev 11).  

 

This example suggests the possibility that we are dealing with action-response rhetoric, with different responses producing different outcomes.  So the seals together with the trumpets could have been completely realized in the forty-two years between 31-73 CE, or, the seals could be realized in the first century and the trumpets in the second century.  However, if the trumpets are second century events then they were obviously not completely realized as the last trump introduces the kingdom.  A further repeat of the pattern is therefore dictated by negative first and second century action-response outcomes (they repented not cf. Rev 9.20-21).

 

The pattern is set to repeat once again in the future and this can only occur if certain criteria are met, the most important being the return of Israel to the land, as without a national existence there can be no national reconciliation.  5     We have already seen the return of Israel, setting the stage for another action-response drama.  

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Bar Kochba and the Rabbinical Calendar

 

Bar Kochba was supported by the “chief sage” of his day Rabbi Akiva, who declared him to be the awaited Messiah. The Jewish calendar Seder Olam Rabbah was also compiled around this time. This calendar has already been examined in the Daniel commentary, God is Judge, where it was noted that the Seder Olam is based on a false Jewish Chronology that attempts to “fit” the Maccabee period into a model of the Seventy Week prophecy.  It seems then that the rabbi’s had a penchant for manipulating history to make events fit their prophecies.

 

They also did this with Bar Kochba in order to demonstrate that Daniel (and their calendar) “predicted” that Bar Kochba was the messiah who had come to restore temple worship. The appearance of Bar Kochba was a sort of Maccabees redux, a militant messianic uprising against a foreign power who had desecrated the temple and it is not surprising then that Kochba adopted much of the symbology (the imagery on his coins) from that era. In his classic chronology James Ussher states the following:

 

“[…]the Seder Olem is held in such veneration and why the Jews still use it for their national dating. Yet the fact remains that it is a dishonest attempt to conceal the truth with regard to the Dan 9:24-27 prophecy by removing the 164 (or 165) years from the duration of the Persian Empire. Rabbi Halafta was able to make the 483 year 9:24-27 prophecy fall reasonably close to the years prior to the 132 AD revolt during which liar Kokhba rose to prominence as Israel’s military and economic leader, Then with Akiva proclaiming. ‘This is the King Messiah’ followed by all the contemporary sages regarded him as the King Messiah,” the Jewish populace united around this false hope”.  6    

 

More recently Clover (et al) states;

 

“There has been a failure to recognize the motive of the rabbis who originated the chronology system upon which popular rabbinical chronology is built. These rabbis were supporters of Bar Kochba, a man who claimed to be the promised messiah and who had a large following among the masses. Bar Kochba’s supporters read into the Second Revolt a fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel, 9:24–27, which states that the messiah would come after 483 weeks (incorrectly interpreted to mean 483 years), i.e. in the 484th year of the building of the second Temple. In their calculations, the destruction of Jerusalem (70 C.E.) took place in the 421st year of this era”.  7    

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Wacholder notes the use of “Sabbatical cycles” in his article on Chronomessianism. In other words, messianic uprisings were deliberately timed to coincide with the Jubilee cycles (year of release) and this spurred on false (and true) messianic movements.  This is not surprising, as pointed out in God is Judge, the Daniel prophecy is also based on a Jubilee cycle (490 years = 70x7). Wacholder introduces his article as follows:

 

“The locus classicus of chronomessianic doctrine is found in Daniel 9, particularly in the mysterious verses 24-27. This study will trace the impact of Daniel 9 on the literature of ensuing centuries. A fascinating question arising from this investigation is whether chronomessianic doctrine was a factor in the timing of the launching of certain movements, such as John the Baptist's ministry or Bar Kochba’s rebellion against the Romans”.  8    

 

Although there is no complete scholarly consensus on the “sabbatical cycles” all are in agreement on the importance of the great Jubilee (every 49 years) and many of the scholarly observations converge. The reader is recommended to peruse the sources (in the footnotes) for further investigation into this phenomenon and to determine which of the schema’s best fit the available data. Wacholder states, “Bar Kochba’s revolt appears to synchronize with the season of shemittah”(Jubilee).   9    After examining the primary evidence and comparing the various proposed schema’s Clover (et al) puts forward the following chronology for the revolt (p.355):

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chart k

 

The question whether or not the revolt lasted 3½ or 2½ years is also discussed as we have contradictory sources on this issue. Obviously it depends when the revolt started and the rabbinical sources had a propagandistic imperative to make the period conform typologically to Daniel’s 3½ year (42 month) period.  That said, the presence of coins dated from year one to four suggests a 3½ year period although the above schema opts for a 2½ year interpretation of the coin data. Fitzmyer states the case for 3½ years as follows:

 

“Rabbinical tradition has preserved the notice that Bar Cochba’s revolt lasted for three and a half years (mlkwt bn kwzyb’ ŝlŝ snym wmHch). This has often been suspected, because the same tradition ascribes three and a half years to Vespasian’s and Titus’ siege of Jerusalem, and also because it is reminiscent of the apocalyptic passages in Dn 7:25 and 9:27, which are thought to have been operative in the creation of this tradition. However, one of the new texts from Murabba‘ât is dated in the ‘third year of the freedom of Jerusalem’ (Mur 25 i 1) and two Aramaic contracts from the cave in the Wâdi Seiyâl are reported to be dated in the ‘third year of the liberation of lsrael’. Finally, and best of all, there is Mur 30:8, which contains the date the ‘21st of Tiŝri of the fourth year of the Redemption of Israel’. This puts an end to a puzzling problem about the duration of the revolt as posed by the coins of the period”.  10    

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An updated version of the schema presented in God is Judge (with the Bar Kochba revolt added, including the traditional Christian interpretation  11  ) looks like this:

 

seder

 

In the above schema the revolt starts in 133/4, the consensus seems to be 132/3 but Chart K places the beginning of the revolt in Abib of 131 and has the overall conflict lasting 3½ years with the significant Judean portion lasting 2½ years.  This may explain discrepancies; however, the fragmentary nature of the historical sources precludes dogmatic interpretation.

 

This section can be summarised as follows (1) The Jubilee Cycles were important triggers for messianic uprisings (2) The Jews manipulated their calendar to ensure a fulfilment of Dan 9.24-27 in Bar Kochba.

 

Finally, and most importantly, the seals, trumpets and vials with their seven-fold structuring element are reminiscent of the 49 (7x7) year “super jubilee cycle”. That does not mean that they naturally follow the jubilee cycles calculated by the Seder Olam, or follow historically “knowable” jubilee dates. In fact, the seals are only 6x7 (and not 7x7) because they are interrupted by a half-hour silence (more on this anon) and the “last seven” of the trumpets includes the vial-plagues. 

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In the last instance Daniel typologically envisaged a comprehensive 490 year cycle that is completed with a Great Jubilee culminating with a Great Day of Atonement, thus starting the Jubilee year  of release and freedom : “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan 9.24).  The trumpets are then based on the idea of a cycle of Jubilee Sabbath punishments ending with the Great Jubilee, culminating with a national Great Day of Atonement, of Jubilee release and freedom from enemies (the greatest enemy being sin). It is ironic that the Bar Kochba coins are inscribed with the motif of “freedom” and “redemption” and that Rabbi Akiva, the “chief sage” who legitimized Kochba’s messianic pretentions was tortured to death by the Romans on the eve of the Day of Atonement.  It seems then that just as the seals were bracketed by the Passover, this period is bracketed by the Day of Atonement. 

 

The trumpets were not completely fulfilled in the second century (no arrival of the kingdom) and therefore we are dealing with a delay such as Daniel experienced (21 days) during his prophetic career.  12     The Bar Kochba revolt and punishments did not lead to repentance, just as the destruction of the temple did not lead to repentance.  The national response to divine action was negative- the Jews doubled down on their apostasy in Babylon producing the Babylonian Talmud that even superseded the Law of Moses. Such stubborn obstinacy demonstrates that the already/not yet model of action-response is not yet complete – there will be further repeat patterns of these apocalyptic memes.

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Nero or Bar Kochba as 666?

 

The apocalypse was received during Nero’s reign (this is attested by Rev 17.10). Nero was an extremely cruel tyrant and persecutor of Christians, towards the end of his reign even the Romans thought him quite mad as he murdered his mother after an incestuous relationship and even killed his favourite mistress (kicking her to death while she was pregnant), replacing her with a castrated male look alike. Nero became a “bogeyman” of the Roman Empire, a zombie that could not be killed and various impersonators emerged from Parthia to take on the role of Nero Redivius (returns).   13     The Myth of Nero Redivius is thought to lie behind the wounded and resurrected beast of Rev.13.3. This approach is seemingly confirmed by the gamatria of Nero Caesar (Neron kaisar transliterated into Hebrew) adding up to 666 or in an alternative reading to 616. The imperial cult is thought to lie behind the “worshipping” aspect of these chapters, with believers forced to deny Christ and worship an image of the Emperor. Moreover, some of these “gods” were rigged with devices to shake them, make noise, or belch fire etcetera.

 

This article proposes that for a first century (pre-70) Christian the beast (as Nero) had only a limited fulfilment. In a very perceptive article (recommended reading) Sigve Tonstad  14     makes the case that Nero is too pedestrian a figure to portray the cosmic battle in heaven (Rev 12.7), where it is possible that even the very elect can be deceived by a false messiah (Matt 24.24). It is doubtful that a man of the character of Nero would be able to deceive anyone with his credentials. Nero held sway through tyranny, whereas the beast of the earth mimics Christ with “two horns like a lamb” (Rev 13.11) but speaking with the subtlety and deceit of a dragon (the serpent in Eden).  This is a portrait of a false messiah, or false system fronted by two propagandists (contrast the two faithful witness) who disseminate the message of the serpent (ye shall be as gods). Sigve Tonstad notes that, “[…] even more than the wound is a constituent of the identity of the beast, it is the healing of the wound that is the source of the beast’s amazing resurgence. Its mortal wound had been healed (13:3) whose mortal wound had been healed (13:12) that had been wounded by the sword and yet came back to life (13:14). As Minear points out, the emphasis on the impact of the healing of the wound makes the Nero hypothesis particularly vulnerable”.  15    

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If, however, Bar Kochba is examined using the criteria proposed by Tonstad then we have a cosmic battle for the heart and soul of the nation, including the deception of Jewish Christian believers. Bar Kochba was recognised as the messiah (the lamb) by the “chief sage” Akiva. The two horns are therefore the Pharisees (rabbis) and Sadducees (priests)  16     who are the counterpart of the two witnesses. They are propagandists of the false messiah and together with Kochba these “two horns” attempt to re-establish temple worship combined with a form of Rabbinical (pharisaic) Judaism that emerged from the Babylonian abyss (sea). Rabbinical Halakha was the Law on steroids –salvation by works to the nth degree. On this see the digression  Babylonian Rabbanism

 

The dragon that had been cast out of “heaven” in 70 CE re-emerges from the Persian sea with its wound healed, the statement of Rev 13.4 (No one was able to make war against him) is reminiscent of the wicked priests (sons of Belial) who weaponized the ark, eliciting Philistine terror (1 Sam 4.8): “Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods?”  The ark was not intended to be degraded as an instrument to advance an agenda by wicked priests, nor was the temple intended as a rallying cry for a messianic movement that denied the true messiah. In this scenario the temple becomes the “image of the beast” the outward manifestation of a Babylonian kingdom of lies that has corrupted the truth (covenants concerning the messiah cf. Micah 7.20), “that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness”(2 Thess 2:12), for God has “sent them a strong delusion” (v.11) when the man of sin “as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (v.4).  Bar Kochba had a coin minted with his “star” (Num 24.17) depicted above the temple.

 

Kochba nearly defeated the might of Rome.  Rabbinical legends say that Bar Kochba belched fire from his mouth reminiscent of the true witnesses of Rev 11.5. However, this “messiah” produces “fire from heaven” (Rev 13.13) and establishes his messianic credentials by copying Elijah; “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee…” (2 Kgs 1:10).   Typologically this is probably referring to the reestablishment of temple sacrifice - - - “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices”. (2 Chron 7:1).

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The number 666 in scripture is found only in association with the annual revenue of Solomon the apostate temple builder (1 Kgs 10.14).   Solomon the “son of God” had corrupted himself with the “daughters of men”.  Interestingly, Dio Cassius, a late second-century Roman historian, reports that the tomb of Solomon had collapsed in his period.  17     Barkay states, “It is possible that the Davidic tombs are indeed in the general area excavated by Weill but were destroyed by the extensive quarrying in the Roman period”.  18     Dio Cassius did not elaborate on what exactly happened to Solomon’s tomb. It is certainly possible, though, that the extensive quarrying involved in the levelling of Jerusalem and the construction of Aelia Capitolina could have damaged the burial place of the kings of Judah. This supposes that Hadrians remodelling of the city was a contributing cause to the revolt but evidence suggests that Aelia Capitolina was built after the revolt as punishment. Perhaps, though it was destroyed by an earth tremor as a judgement by God and was perceived by the insurrectionists as divine anger because they had neglected to restore Solomon’s temple?  It is impossible to know, but the link between Solomon and the revolt is telling.

 

Rabbi Akiva called the messianic pretender Bar Kochba. In letters written by him that have been unearthed in archaeological excavations, we find that he signed his name Shimon bar Kusba. Apparently, the other names that he had “played off” of his actual name, known to his supporters as Bar Kochba – “the son of a star” – basing themselves on the passage recited by the prophet, Balaam (Num 24:17), “a Star out of Jacob”. Those who opposed his revolt – especially after it failed – called him Bar Kuziba – “the son of falsehood (deceit).”

 

A reference to Shimon bar Kusba’s sobriquet “Son of a star” or Bar Kochba when used with the lemma of the word forms בר כוכב שמעו (bar kôkb šimʿǔ) -- son-of star hear (-you). Bar is the Aramaic of the Hebrew ben, meaning, son-of. The root of Shimon (Simeon) is the verb for “hearing”, as in the Shema (Deut 6.4) “Hear (šĕmaʿ), O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD”, however, the qal imperative form of the verb is used, as in (Isa 1.10) - -Yahweh word-of hear you! (שִׁמְעוּ דְבַר־יְהוָה) Transliterated as, šimʿû dbr-yhwh.  There are 37 occurrences of “star” in the OT the WTM lists the constructs as follows:

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Transliterated (SBL) Occurrences (WTM) Construct Verses

kōkĕbêhem

1x

ncmpc+
S3mpExHxRx

Ezek 32.7

kkwkby

14x

ncmpn+
SxxxExHxRx

Gen. 22:17; 26:4; Exod. 32:13; Deut. 1:10; 10:22; 28:62; 1 Chr. 27:23; Neh. 9:23; Job 3:9; 38:7; Ps. 148:3; Isa. 13:10; 14:13; Nah. 3:16

hakkōwkābîm

20x

ncmpn+
SxxxExHxRx

Gen. 1:16; 15:5; 37:9; Deut. 4:19; Jdg. 5:20; Neh. 4:15; Job 9:7; 22:12; 25:5; Ps. 8:4; 136:9; 147:4; Eccl. 12:2; Isa. 47:13; Jer. 31:35; Dan. 8:10; 12:3; Joel 2:10; 4:15; Obad. 1:4

kōwkāb

1x

ncmsn+
SxxxExHxRx

Num 24.17

kōwkab

1x

ncmsc+
SxxxExHxRx

Amos 5.26

 

Whereas the WTM regards the word “star” in Num 24.17 and in Amos 5.26 as slightly different constructs the WTT does not distinguish between them.  19     It is interesting (as we shall shortly see) that the Numbers and Amos passages are thus connected. The Gematria of this phrase, represents the personal “Shema” of the false messiah and is a play on his first name (Shmn-to hear) and his last name (Kusba transformed to Kokba [star in Num24.17] then later to Kuziba [deciever]) is calculated as 666 20 

 

English Translit. Heb./Aram. Value

hear

šimʿû   21    

שמעו

 

416

son

bar (br)

 

בר

202

star

 

kôkb

כוכב

48

Total:

666

 

šimʿû bar kôkb = hear son-of star (hear the son of a star) Simeon Bar Kochba

 

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Amos and the Temple

 

The word kokb (star) is found in the same form (WTT) in Amos 5.26 as in Num 24.17 and this is the passage referred to in Stephens’ devastating polemical defence against the temple when he stood before the priests and the Sanhedrin.   22     In Acts 7.43 Stephen purposely changes his citation from Damascus to Babylon the place where rabbinical Judaism was established because he had Zech 5.11 in mind. The Jews had been exiled because of wickedness (star worship) and would shortly worship another star (Bar Kochba).  God was perfectly satisfied to dwell in a tent and had never asked David for a house, in fact God promised to build David a house (Jesus).

 

Stephen says, “Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 7.47-48). Idols are made with hands; “And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands” (Acts 7.41). Solomon’s hands also built a high place for Chemosh (1Kgs 11.7). The house was no longer God’s house, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt 23.38).  Babylonian Judaism would once again “take up the tabernacle of their king, the star of their god” but the “son-of a star” and his temple would fail.

 

The connection between Numbers, Amos and Revelation is not coincidental.  Revelation names Balaam in the letters to the churches in Rev 2.14. Moreover, Christ, the true messiah has the Christological title, the Morning Star (Rev 2:28; 22:16) --- a likely allusion to Numbers 24:17.  It is this very prophecy (Num 24.17) that is usurped by Bar Kochba. 

 

In Numbers chapters 22-24 seven oracles of Balaam are recorded (cf. seven letters in Revelation) and scholars note that the first three lines of the third and fourth oracles (Num 24:3-4; 15-16) are identical, like the identical openings of the seven letters. Smith writes: The prophecy of victory or defeat, found in the Balaam oracles in Numbers 24:15-24 has the most similarities with Amos.... His oracle served as a discouragement to Balak and as a message of assurance to Israel.”  23    

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A great earthquake occurred during Uzziah’s reign (Zech 14:5) and this forms the template for the great earthquake of Rev 11.13,19 in the trumpet section and the great earthquake in the vial-plagues of Rev 16.8. Isaiah was commissioned in the year that king Uzziah died (Isa 6:1). Amos commenced his career two years before the earthquake that occurred in ca 750 BCE. (Amos 1:1)   24     There are many intertextual allusions to Amos throughout Revelation but most relevant is Amos chapter 5:

 

Amos 5 Revelation

5.8 that maketh the seven stars and Orion  25    

 

The seven churches and Christ?

 

5.7 Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth

8.11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood

5.20 Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?

 

8.12  And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

5.18 Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD!

8.13  Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth

5.10 They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.

 

11.3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. (3½ years)

5:21-22   I hate, I despise your feast days….neither will I regard the peace offerings….

Bar Kochba introduces temple sacrifices (3½ years)?

5:26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god--which you made for yourselves.(NIV)

 

The shrine (tabernacle lifted up) is the temple?

The star-god is Bar Kochba)?

Son of a star (Numbers 24.17)

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A half hour silence in heaven

 

“And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”(Rev 8.1)

 

Commentators struggle with this verse and Aune in his commentary on Revelation lists a number of unconvincing options which he realises are problematic (p.507). The proposal put forward by Whittaker best suits the Day of Atonement context, namely, the people outside the temple are waiting with bated breath as the priests enters the inner sanctum in the expectation that he will announce the priestly blessing on the people when he emerges. However, there was to be no reconciliation and forgiveness on this occasion. Whittaker cites Luke 1:10, “And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense” (this was not on the DOA) and Habakkuk 2:20, “But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” and references Psalm 65.1 which has an atonement thematic, “Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed”.  This is a convincing argument in light of all the other Day of Atonement allusions.  Whittaker also has pertinent observations regarding the intra-biblical link between the seals and trumpets and the introduction of the trumpets with the word whenever;

 

“It is reasonable (though not absolutely necessary) to regard the Seventh Seal as having an application in conformity with the preceding six. If then there is good reason for interpreting the first six seals with regard to the First Century the same key should unlock the meaning of the Seventh, that is, of the Trumpets. And if the first six seals apply to the Last Days, so also the Seventh.  Similarly, if ch. 7 with its vision of the Sealed Multitude has a dual application of the kind just mentioned, one would naturally expect the same to be true of chapters 8, 9 because of the close interlocking of phrases: e.g. compare ch. 7:3 with 8:7, 8 and 9:4. There is, perhaps, a hint of more than one fulfilment in the opening phrase of the introductory vision: “And when (literally: whenever) he opened the seventh seal...,” as though implying an element of doubt as to when the seventh Seal would be opened, i.e. the fulfilment of this part of Revelation may be looked for immediately (“things which must shortly come to pass”) or at some long deferred crisis”.

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The translation offered in Aune’s Revelation commentary simply begins with the words; “When he opened….”, and the translation is accompanied with the following notes:

 

1a.The conjunction και, “and” is left untranslated because it lacks semantic value here and functions as a discourse marker indicating the beginning of a new sentence or clause (Louw-Nida, 1 vi)

 

1b. Variant: ( 1) ὅταν ] AC fam  1006 1006 1841 fam 1161; Tischendorf, NT Graece;  WHort; von Soden, Text; UBSGNT4 ; Nestle Aland 27; TCGNT 1; TCGNT 2. (2) ὅτε ] a 025 052 Andreas Byzantine. According to the plausible argument in TCGNT 1, 740, and TCGNT 2 , ὅτε resulted from the assimilation of the frequent occurrence of  ὅτε ἤνοιξεν in Rev 6. The term ὅταν, which usually means “whenever” (and implies repetition), here clearly  is used to mean “when”  (referring to a unique event)  and is used as an equivalent for  ὅτε , “when,” which occupies a similar position in the six proceeding instances in which John has narrated the opening of a seal by the Lamb (6:1, 5 ,7, 9, 12; see Mussies, Morphology, 345; Lohmeyer, 49); see 4:9; 11:7; 12:4.

 

The seventh seal opens the trumpets. It may seem tedious devoting so much effort on the subordinate conjunction ὅταν(hotan) to determine if it should read “when” or “whenever” but it is important for determining the direction of the exegesis. It is apparent that modern English translators render the Greek as, “when”. However, the notes above make it clear that the majority of reliable Greek manuscripts and critical reconstructions have ὅταν(hotan)-“whenever” with the exception of the Andreas Byzantine manuscript which has ὅτε (ote) in the original but it is argued that this variant resulted from the assimilation of the formula from all the other seals ὅτε ἤνοιξεν (ote Enoixen), literally, when-it (ote) up-opens(Enoixen) [the seal] a formula used in  Rev 6 in vv.1, 5 ,7, 9 and 12.  The translators have therefore made a choice to treat “whenever” in Rev 8.1 the same as “when” because it follows the precedent set in the previous seals, even though the manuscripts  indicate “whenever” they essential perceive  ὅταν(hotan-whenever) and ὅτε (ote-when) as functionally equivalent. They justify this by (correctly) noting the repetitive nature of “whenever” against the singly unique (one off) status of “when”.  If the other seals are “one off” events then surely the last seal (i.e., trumpet section) cannot be repetitive?

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The repetitive nature of ὅταν(hotan) can be seen, for example in 1 Cor 14.26; “brethren whenever you come together” [ ἀδελφοί; ὅταν συνέρχησθε ] transliterated as: brothers (adelphoi)  when-Ever (hotan) YE-MAY-BE-TOGETHER-COMING (sunerchEsthe). This speaks of repetitive action….meeting together happens more than once.

 

Similarly in Rev 4.9 where ὅταν(hotan) is correctly translated as “whenever” by the NKJ (but as “When” by the KJV): NKJ Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne…” The context shows that praise giving and worship is a repetitive action throughout Revelation. In light of the approach that we have adopted in recognizing the importance of pattern repetition the correct reading of ὅταν(hotan) must be “whenever” because that is how it is usually translated in other contexts and the ὅταν(hotan) form is found in all the majority Greek texts (with rare exceptions).

 

Finally we turn to a phrase neglected by the commentators --- “for half an hour” which is based on the Greek ἠμιώριον (hēmiōrion) a combination of hēmisu (semi or half) and hōra (hour). The English word for “hour” derives from the Greek hōra but the Greek term is flexible ---it can for example mean a twelfth part of a day (cf. Acts 10.3, 9; 23.23) but also a “time” or a “season” etc. The phrase in Rev 9.15, “were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year” indicates that the day is partitioned into hours, although it is a paraphrase for “were prepared for that exact (or very) moment”.

 

Vine’s has the following information on Rev 8.1:  hēmiōrion, half an hour (hēmi, half, and hōra), is used with hōs, “about,” of a period of silence in Heaven after the opening of the 7th seal, a period corresponding to the time customarily spent in silent worship in the Temple during the burning of incense.  26     This explanation supports the earlier observations made by Whittaker concerning the atonement rite but does not shed any light on the relevance of the half-hour within apocalyptic time structuring. Perhaps the duration is irrelevant to the wider context?  Closer examination of “hour” (hōra) in the Gospel of John demonstrates that the word is often connected with the time period of tribulation endured by the Lord, “his hour was not yet come” (John 8.20), “the hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified” (John 12.23), “save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12.27), “Jesus knew that his hour was come” (John 13.1).

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It is also associated with the tribulation of the nation described as giving birth to the new covenant church “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come” (John 16.21), depicted in Rev 12.2, “she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered”. Jesus encourages Philadelphia in Rev 3.10 with the words, “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” presumably this is the same hour as in Rev 14.7, “for the hour of his judgment is come” and coincides with Rev 18.10 “Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come”.  Johannine usage indicates that the word “hour” often idiomatically expresses a period of trial or a season of tribulation that falls upon the church and the inhabitants of “the earth”. Revelation is specific in relating that the “silence” lasts “about half” the time of the tribulation. Can we conclude that if the six seals lasted 42 years the “silence” lasted 21 years?  If that is the case then we can expect the six trumpets to also last 42 years (because the 7th trump is not fulfilled). This gives us the following duration:

 

6 Seals
(1 hour)
Silence
(½ hour)
6 Trumpets
(1 hour)
Total

 

42 years

21 years

42 years

105 years

31 to 73 CE

73 to 94 CE

94 to 136 CE

 

 

If this is correct then the sixth trumpet concludes when the Bar Kochba revolt ended in 135/136 CE. Note that calculations using modern calendar years is not completely transferrable to the lunar calendar with both a civic and religious start to the year (although one supposes a Tishri –Atonement start)  27     and that the half-hour period is qualified as “about” so with reasonable accuracy it can be suggested that the six trumpets commenced in ca 94/95 CE and ended in ca 135/136 CE but the seventh (last trump) was not sounded.  It seems then that the trumpets are set to repeat (whenever) as the action-response was not met. This does not mean that an exact pattern-match should be expected. However, it does mean that certain archetypes and spiritual pointers have been given to us. God has revealed his purpose as a set of patterns because this is how humans think and pattern recognition forms the basis of what we call intelligence. A great deal of empirical research indicates that human psychology is actually structured to find meaning in patterns. In his latest book, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, Kurzweil describes how he is teaching artificially intelligent machines to think, based on the stepwise refinement of patterns. According to Kurzweil, all learning results from massive, hierarchical and recursive processes taking place in the brain.  28    

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Appendix on Amos 5.26-27 and Acts 7.43

 

KJVAmos 5:26-27 But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.

LXE Amos 5:26-27 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Raephan, the images of them which ye made for yourselves. And I will carry you away beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, the Almighty God is his name.

NIV Amos 5:26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god--which you made for yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.

KJV Acts 7:43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan (Rephan NIB/NIV/RSV), figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.

NIV Acts 7:43 You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.

 

Stephen purposely changes the LXX of Amos 5.26 from beyond Damascus to beyond Babylon because he has Zech 5:11 in mind; “And he said unto me, to build it an house in the land of Shinar (LXX land of Babylon): and it shall be established (kwn), and set there upon her own base”.

 

Moloch derives from the same root as “king” (melech) and Chuin is thought to be a proper name (kēwān) for the planet Saturn.  However, the NIV renders the word as “pedestal” from the root kwn, be firm. Newman remarks, “It is assumed that the peculiar vowels in the Hebrew kiyyûn were substituted from šiqquc, abomination,   29    one means by which scribes expressed contempt for paganism”.  30    Whereas the Niphal form of the verb word kwn means, to be set up, be established, be fixed, the Hiphil can mean make ready, prepare, provide as in, “making preparations (e.g., meals Gen.43:6)   31     comes close to being a technical cultic term for readying sacrifices Num 23:1; Zeph 1:7)”.   32    

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In Acts 7.43 Stephen employs Remphan or Rephan from the LXX of Amos 5.26 instead of Chiun (kēwān) found in the Hebrew versions. The origin of Rephan in the LXX is unclear but most likely it is a transliteration of the Hebrew rapha' or Rephaim referring to “giants”.  The word Ραφαϊν (raphain) is found in the LXX of Gen. 15:20; Deut. 2:11, 20; 3:11, 13; Jos. 15:8; Jdt. 8:1 and is very similar to the Ραιφαν (Raephan) of Amos 5.26.  The Rephaim and Nephilim (Gen. 6:4; Nu. 13:33) of the OT are both used to refer to giants. According to Gesenius, Nephelim in Chaldean refers to the giant in the sky, i.e. the constellation Orion, plural, the greater constellations.  33    In Ugaritic the champion of Baal is called a Rephaite.  34    The LXX translators possibly attempted to play Raephan (Ραιφαν) against the rare verb raphumeo (ῥᾳθυμέω) used in 2 Macc. 6:4 to describe the sexual dalliances in the temple perpetrated by Antiochus “For the temple was filled with debauchery and revelling by the Gentiles, who dallied (ῥᾳθυμέω)  with harlots and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit (RSV)”.

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Appendix on Star names

 

Amos 5.8 in the KJV translates the stars as “seven stars and Orion” but the translators are not consistent in naming the stars. Our preferred option here would be Venus known as the morning star, the day star and also as the evening star. The LXX presents a completely different translation here and does not even mention stars or constellations: LXE Amos 5:8 “who makes all things, and changes them, and turns darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night: who calls for the water of the sea, and pours it out on the face of the earth: the Lord is his name”.  The YLT renders literally; YLT Amos 5:8 The maker of Kimah and Kesil, follows the SBL transliteration of the Hebrew,  Amos 5:8. ʿōśē kîmâ ûkĕsîl 3598 כִּימָה Kiymah  Meaning: 1) Pleiades, a constellation of seven stars and 3685 כִּסִיל Keciyl Meaning: 1) constellation, Orion. However, a short survey demonstrates the difficulty in naming the stars.  

 

First, Christocentric allusions in the Greek NT:

 

  • The day star (φωσφόρος or phosphoros) arise in your hearts” (2 Pet 1.19), Meaning: 1) light bringing, giving light 2) the planet Venus, the morning star, day star.
  • The morning star (πρωϊνός ἀστήρ or proinos aster) of Rev 2.28 and 22.16 Meaning: pertaining to the morning / a star (= Venus?)
  • A Great Star (μέγας ἀστήρ or megas aster) (Rev 8.10), Meaning: great star (a comet?) the expression “mega star” comes from the Greek!

 

A short survey of the Old Testament Hebrew and the Greek LXX:

 

KJV Job 9:9 Arcturus (עיש `Ayish),Orion (כִּסִיל Keciyl), and Pleiades (כִּימָה Kiymah)

LXE Job 9:9 Pleias (Πλειάδα pleiada), and Hesperus (ἕσπερον esperon), and Arcturus(arktouron)

KJV Job 38:31 Pleiades (Kiymah) Orion (Keciyl)

LXE Job 38:31 Pleias (Πλειάδος) Orion (Ὠρίωνος)

KJV Amos 5:8 the seven stars (Kiymah) and Orion (Keciyl)

KJV Isaiah 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer (lleyhe heylel)

JPS Isaiah 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star (lleyhe heylel)

LXE Isaiah 14:12 How has Lucifer,(ἑωσφόρος eOsphoros) that rose in the morning…

KJV Isaiah 13:10 For the stars (כּוֹכַב kowkab) of heaven and the constellations (Keciyl)

LXE Isaiah 13:10 For the stars of heaven, and Orion (Ὠρίων OriOn)

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There is no consistency of translation across the versions as Keciyl is translated as either Orion, Venus (Hesperus in LXX of Job 9.9), or simply as “constellations” in Isa 13.10. The Greek Hesperus  35    is the personification of the “evening star”, the planet Venus in the evening. His name is sometimes conflated with the names for his brother, the personification of the planet as the “morning star” Eosphorus (Greek Ἐωσφόρος, “bearer of dawn”) or Phosphorus (Ancient Greek: Φωσφόρος, “bearer of light”, often translated as “Lucifer” in Latin), since they are all personifications of the same planet Venus, “Heosphoros” in the Greek Septuagint and “Lucifer” in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate were used to translate the Hebrew “Helel” (Venus as the brilliant, bright or shining one), “son of Shahar (god) (Dawn)” in the Hebrew version of Isaiah 14:12.