Seven Stars In His Hand (rev. 1:19-20)

19 Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven assemblies, and the seven lampstands are the seven assemblies.

In verse 19 John is told to write three things: 1) the things he saw, 2) the things which are, and 3) the things which will take place after these things. This is the very first clue that we as readers of the Letter of Revelation get about the possible structure of John’s composition. There will be others too and we will address those as we come upon them in the text.

In verse 20 the Son of Man explains to John and by extension to his readers that the symbolism of seven stars in his hand and seven lamp stands among which he was seen walking earlier (Rev.1:12-13) is intricately connected with the seven Jesus-believing assemblies in Asia Minor and their angels/messengers.

There is often a confusion about the word “angel” in biblical texts and Revelation is not an exception. Angels are always seen as heavenly beings. Thus every time the word angel comes up in biblical context the presence of supernatural heavenly beings is assumed (usually looking the way we’ve been thought they look). But in Hebrew the word MALACH also means a human messenger. The same is the case in Koine Judeo-Greek’s meaning of ANGELOS.

Can one make a case for human messengers/angels delivering and reading letters to their congregations? Yes. On the other hand apocalyptic literature is rich with heavenly messengers delivering messages to humans. This is a common feature of this type of Jewish literature. John writes within this apocalyptic genre.

Just like verses in John’s Revelation in the book of Jubilees Jacob receives seven tablets from an angel. He reads them and discovers in these seven tablets information about the future of his family and things to come in general. We read in Jubilees 32:20-21:

“And He finished speaking with him, and He went up from him, and Jacob looked till He had ascended into heaven. And he saw in a vision of the night, and behold an angel descended from heaven with seven tablets in his hands, and he gave them to Jacob, and he read them and knew all that was written therein which would befall him and his sons throughout all the ages.

As other apocalyptic Jewish books John’s letter of Revelation includes prediction of the future events that are meant to be a comfort in the time of discouragement and persecution especially. At the time of brutal persecution of followers of Jesus by the Roman government the true King of Israel Jesus, the Son of Man and the high priest of heavenly tabernacle affirms that all those who trust in him can be confident in their future. Christ holds them in his right hand of strength and authority. They have nothing to be afraid of. Their future is secure.

(The image used in this post is part of Jerusalem Wall of Life mural – www.jerusalemwalloflife.org)

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  1. gracegifted

    Thank you for engaging my cerebral cortex! Our challenge is not our ability to define words and interpret contextual meaning rather in this case our natural ability to differentiate between vessel and being. I am a human being in this vessel of flesh. However the vessel does not determine the being no more than the being determines the vessel. Angelic beings are recorded in scripture to assume a vessel that appears like Adam. However this does not make them a human being. Because I have a form of a man this does not make me a Human. Ontologically we understand being from the point of reference that God is the Supreme Being and He created (at least) two kinds of Beings: human and angelic. The form or the vessel they are placed or assume is of no consequence to the kind of being.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Very true. Thanks.

  2. Kat H

    You make learning so exciting  The messenger of the 7 churches offers a message of repentance similar to the description of the messenger described in Malachi 3:1. The encouragement or warning it gives says something about God and his desire for our restoration. The messenger in Jubilees seems disconnected from the vision. This makes me wonder if a vision is a prophecy (truth) or understanding (Spiritual Illumination).

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Michael Broughton

    Hey Doc greetings from Stellenbosch (we corresponded some time ago on Messianic assemblies here) anyway, any possibility to John paying reference in this passage to the Greek mythology re the seven stars? I remember doing some reading on this and a credable source (think it was Ray Van Derlaan) mentioned John was also talking to the new “Christians with a Greek background) re the seven stars and the Greek journey in their afterlife? Look forward to your comment.
    Best
    Michael

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Shalom, Michael. If this was not a Jewish apocalyptic prophetic message warped in so much cultural material I would have considered such context, but given the deeply Jewish style and wrapping I am skeptical or pagan afterlife traditions being blended with this.

  4. Richard Leigh

    Mightn’t it be that “messengers of the the assemblies” (in Greek) translates the Hebrew Schaliach tzibur?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Not exactly, but close, Read my next blog post in a couple of days to see a fuller explanation.

      1. Richard Leigh

        Oohhh! I can hardly wait!

  5. Sonja

    Excellent thank you!

  6. Deborah Lee

    …without knowing that they are angels.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      You are welcome. This passage on angels gives us not one, but two possibilities.

  7. Deborah Lee

    Shalom Dr. Eli,

    Thank you for your insightful study. It appears that there is a distinction made between humans and angels as Jesus made a distinction between the two when indicating that angels are neither given or taken in marriage in Matthew 22:30. It does appear, however, that angels are able to take on an unglorified human-like form since it is possible to interact with them without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2).

    1. Richard Leigh

      In Luke 9:52 Jesus sent messengers (translating the Greek “angelos”) ahead of him to a town in Samaria he was headed for. These were James and John, “sons of thunder” because they wanted to call down fire from heaven on the poor town as did the spirit-being angels in Genesis 19.

    2. Richard Leigh

      With regard to those “angels of heaven” (note the qualifier) that aren’t given or taken in marriage; the Hebrew of Genesis 6:2 uses a term we translate “sons of God” and its Septuagint (LXX, or Gk. translation) equivalent does the same, for those who took the daughters of men for marriage just prior to the flood. I know some take these “sons” to be the descendants of Seth (so the books of Adam and Eve) but some for “spirit-beings” (“watchers” of the books of Jubilees and Enoch). Not until Jude v.6 are the Gen.6:2 “sons of God” rendered in Greek, “the angels…who left their proper habitation.” So I would say it apparently is not their being that keeps them from being given in marriage, but there habitation (where they live).

      1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

        Dear Richard, this is a great point on Luke 9:52! Love it… And on you second post, yes, angels are powerful supernatural being capable of all kinds of things and in the least imitating humans to the last detail of physiology is necessary I presume. The fact that they do not take liberties with their power does not mean they cannot!

  8. Edward

    Interesting, wld like to do a full study

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Edward, previous posts on Revelation here – http://iibsblogs.wpengine.com/category/revelation/

  9. jane z. mazzola

    Would you elaborate on the “book of Jubilees” included & quoted in this article? Thank you.
    Jane M

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Jane, its a non-canonical Jewish book from about 2nd century BCE. Full text here – http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/jub/

      1. Richard Leigh

        Jubilees is canonical to the Ethiopian Orthodox, along with Enoch and various others. No, I’m not EO; I just want to bring to everyone’s attention that canonicity may well be determined by the judgment of each church.

  10. nkiru

    It never crossed my mind that the seven stars in God’s hands could mean human messengers.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      That possibility raises the potential importance of humans, doesn’t it?