Part I, Chapter II: Of the Prophetic Language
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- 1 January 2001
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- Notes on the Electronic Edition
Of the Prophetic Language.
For understanding the Prophecies, we are, in the first place, to acquaint our-selves with the figurative language of the Prophets. This language is taken from the analogy between the world natural, and an empire or kingdom considered as a world politic.
Accordingly, the whole world natural consisting of heaven and earth, signifies the whole world politic, consisting of thrones and people, or so much of it as is considered in the Prophecy: and the things in that world signify the analogous things in this. For the heavens, and the things therein, signify thrones and dignities, and those who enjoy them; and the earth, with the things thereon, the inferior people; and the lowest parts of the earth, called Hades or Hell, the lowest or most miserable part of them. Whence ascending towards heaven, and descending to the earth, are put for rising and falling in power and honour: rising out of the earth, or waters, and falling into them, for the rising up to any dignity or dominion, out of the inferior state of the people, or falling down from the same into that inferior state; descending into the lower parts of the earth, for descending to a very low and unhappy estate; speaking with a faint voice out of the dust, for being in a weak and low condition; moving from one place to another, for translation from one office, dignity, or dominion, to another; great earthquakes, and the shaking of heaven and earth, for the shaking of kingdoms, so as to distract or overthrow them; the creating a new heaven and earth, and the passing away of an old one, or the beginning and end of the world, for the rise and ruin of the body politic signified thereby.
In the heavens, the Sun and Moon are, by interpreters of dreams, put for the persons of Kings and Queens; but in sacred Prophecy, which regards not single persons, the Sun is put for the whole species and race of Kings, in the kingdom or kingdoms of the world politic, shining with regal power and glory; the Moon for the body of the common people, considered as the King's wife; the Stars for subordinate Princes and great men, or for Bishops and Rulers of the people of God, when the Sun is Christ; light for the glory, truth, and knowledge, wherewith great and good men shine and illuminate others; darkness for obscurity of condition, and for error, blindness and ignorance; darkning,smiting, or setting of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, for the ceasing of a kingdom, or for the desolation thereof, proportional to the darkness; darkning the Sun, turning the Moon into blood, and falling of the Stars, for the same; new Moons, for the return of a dispersed people into a body politic or ecclesiastic.
Fire and meteors refer to both heaven and earth, and signify as follows; burning any thing with fire, is put for the consuming thereof by war; a conflagration of the earth, or turning a country into a lake of fire, for the consumption of a kingdom by war; the being in a furnace, for the being in slavery under another nation; the ascending up of the smoke of any burning thing for ever and ever, for the continuation of a conquered people under the misery of perpetual subjection and slavery; the scorching heat of the sun, for vexatious wars, persecutions and troubles inflicted by the King; riding on the clouds, for reigning over much people; covering the sun with a cloud, or with smoke, for oppression of the King by the armies of an enemy; tempestuous winds, or the motion of clouds, for wars; thunder, or the voice of a cloud, for the voice of a multitude; a storm of thunder, lightning, hail, and overflowing rain, for a tempest of war descending from the heavens and clouds politic,on the heads of their enemies; rain, if not immoderate, and dew, and living water, for the graces and doctrines of the Spirit; and the defect of rain, for spiritual barrenness.
In the earth, the dry land and congregated waters, as a sea, a river, a flood, are put for the people of several regions, nations, and dominions; embittering of waters, for great affliction of the people by war and persecution; turning things into blood, for the mystical death of bodies politic, that is, for their dissolution; the overflowing of a sea or river, for the invasion of the earth politic, by the people of the waters; drying up of waters, for the conquest of their regions by the earth; fountains of waters for cities, the permanent heads of rivers politic; mountains and islands, for the cities of the earth and sea politic, with the territories and dominions belonging to those cities; dens and rocks of mountains, for the temples of cities; the hiding of men in those dens and rocks, for the shutting up of Idols in their temples; houses and ships, for families, assemblies, and towns, in the earth and sea politic; and a navy of ships of war, for an army of that kingdom that is signified by the sea.
Animals also and vegetables are put for the people of several regions and conditions; and particularly, trees, herbs, and land animals, for the people of the earth politic: flags, reeds, andfishes, for those of the waters politic; birds and insects, for those of the politic heaven and earth; a forest for a kingdom; and a wilderness for a desolate and thin people.
If the world politic, considered in prophecy, consists of many kingdoms, they are represented by as many parts of the world natural; as the noblest by the celestial frame, and then the Moon and Clouds are put for the common people; the less noble, by the earth, sea, and rivers, and by the animals or vegetables, or buildings therein; and then the greater and more powerful animals and taller trees, are put for Kings, Princes, and Nobles. And because the whole kingdom is the body politic of the King, therefore the Sun, or a Tree, or a Beast, or Bird, or a Man, whereby the King is represented, is put in a large signification for the whole kingdom; and several animals, as a Lion, a Bear, a Leopard, a Goat, according to their qualities, are put for several kingdoms and bodies politic; and sacrificing of beasts, for slaughtering and conquering of kingdoms; and friendship between beasts, for peace between kingdoms. Yet sometimes vegetables and animals are, by certain epithets or circumstances, extended to other significations; as a Tree, when called the tree of life or of knowledge; and a Beast, when called the old serpent, or worshipped.<21>
When a Beast or Man is put for a kingdom, his parts and qualities are put for the analogous parts and qualities of the kingdom; as the head of a Beast, for the great men who precede and govern; the tail for the inferior people, who follow and are governed; the heads, if more than one, for the number of capital parts, or dynasties, or dominions in the kingdom, whether collateral or successive, with respect to the civil government; the horns on any head, for the number of kingdoms in that head, with respect to military power; seeing for understanding, and the eyes for men of understanding and policy, and in matters of religion for Ἐπισκοποι, Bishops; speaking, for making laws; the mouth, for a law-giver, whether civil or sacred; the loudness of the voice, for might and power; the faintness thereof, for weakness; eating and drinking, for acquiring what is signified by the things eaten and drank; the hairs of a beast, or man, and the feathers of a bird, for people; the wings, for the number of kingdoms represented by the beast; the arm of a man, for his power, or for any people wherein his strength and power consists; his feet, for the lowest of the people, or for the latter end of the kingdom; the feet, nails, and teeth of beasts of prey, for armies and squadrons of armies; the bones, for strength, and for fortified places; the flesh, for riches and possessions; and the days of their acting, for years; and when a tree is put for a kingdom, its branches, leaves and fruit, signify as do the wings, feathers, and food of a bird or beast.
When a man is taken in a mystical sense, his qualities are often signified by his actions, and by the circumstances of things about him. So a Ruler is signified by his riding on a beast; a Warrior and Conqueror, by his having a sword and bow; a potent man, by his gigantic stature; a Judge, by weights and measures; a sentence of absolution, or condemnation, by a white or a black stone; a new dignity, by a new name; moral or civil qualifications, by garments; honour and glory, by splendid apparel; royal dignity, by purple or scarlet, or by a crown; righteousness, by white and clean robes; wickedness, by spotted and filthy garments; affliction, mourning, and humiliation, by clothing in sackcloth; dishonour, shame, and want of good works, by nakedness; error and misery, by drinking a cup of his or her wine that causeth it; propagating any religion for gain, by exercising traffick and merchandize with that people whose religion it is; worshipping or serving the false Gods of any nation, by committing adultery with their princes, or by worshipping them; a Council of a kingdom, by its image; idolatry, by blasphemy; overthrow in war, by awound of man or beast; a durable plague of war, by a sore and pain; the affliction or persecution which a people suffers in labouring to bring forth a new kingdom, by the pain of a woman in labour to bring forth a man-child; the dissolution of a body politic or ecclesiastic, by the death of a man or beast; and the revival of a dissolved dominion, by the resurrection of the dead.
This document is part of
'Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John (London: 1733)'
- The previous part of this document is Part I, Chapter I: Introduction concerning the Compilers of the books of the Old Testament
- The next part of this document is Part I, Chapter III: Of the vision of the Image composed of four Metals