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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Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. RamonAntonio

    Seven stars in his hands which are seven angels.

    Jesus was served by angels in various Gospels. In fact, I don’t recall Him being served by disciples or apostles ever. Followed yes. So for me, when Jesus talks about angels He is talking about His servants. If there is a clearer case, when about to be killed under trial He clearly started that He had command of hours of angels who would protect and fight for Him.

    The seven stars may be related to the Pleiades which were central to Egipt worship and piramid orientation in regards to the way to heaven for Pharaoh. For a teckton, ie, a builder, this powerful image of the role of stars as guides to heaven may mean avery concrete statement of who holds the path to Heaven in His hands. Him, the hand that Enoch saw… “so big that it covered the stars of Heaven embracing and protecting Him. 2Enoch

  2. jane z. mazzola

    Give me a brrreakk! I just read or “hear” Mr. Ryan’s statement, that other ancient cultures had similar symbols, as well as Hebrew culture. And isn’t that so?

    But we are looking at the Hebrew people as the people of the promise/Covenant and the Hebrew Scripture & NT as sacred, with your scholarly/enlightened understanding of Hebrew-Greek language & culture, to continue to peel back the layers of the NT “onion” to better understanding.

    So, I think you may have been reading in what may not be intended…having fun, as you said!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      When we study the background it is helpful to be aware of multiple cultural views of symbols. There is some “bleeding” of these ideas from culture to culture since Jews were a part of the greater near eastern acumen.

  3. ryan71

    As grandiose as we want to interpret this type of symbolism it is important to remember that the symbolism that is being written- more than likely is derived from ancient Mesopotamia where 7 stars is a common symbol on ancient cylinders and other artifacts (that remain). The seven stars in those days was a device used and is interpreted as the 7 stars of the Pleiades.

    A good comparison in time would be like using the Christian fish symbol (Ichthys) (100-300 AD) on brochures today compared to the writing of text. The symbol is familiar but the original meaning and original usage is still up for debate.

    If you are into ancient coins (which I hope people will explore), you will find many times where the seven stars or dots are present on coinage leading up to and during the writing of the original texts. And seven stars as someone mentioned earlier is know in Latin as Septuagint.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Ryan, fascinating, thank you. Are you saying that the idea here of the seven stars some how “talking” to the mind that was familiar with ancient non-Jewish ideas about the “seven starts/seven sisters of the Pleiades” and then saying that – no, the seven starts are the seven messengers to the seven congregations of the Asia Minor in this letter (Rev. 1:20). Did I have too much fun with what you wrote or is this more less what you are saying? (FOR ANYONE READING THIS: You can do your own simple and complex search but this could be be a very basic place to start – http://www.naic.edu/~gibson/pleiades/pleiades_myth.html)

  4. cesar

    Obrigado pelad riquezas de informçoes

  5. Eve Ward

    Hi Dr Eli, I am new to your link and am no theologian or translator, but a simple minded believer. I often take the view of ambiguity where both meanings could be possible. Heavenly beings yes, and of course human beings reading, teaching and delivering these scriptures.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      It is a healthy practice to think that way.

  6. David CY Fung

    When does Angelos mean human messenger and when does it mean God’s heavenly beings as Angels have confused Bible translators. It can mean either one depending on the context. All the mainstream English and Chinese Bibles translated the word angelos as God’s heavenly beings. In the book of Revelation, some verses are easy to tell because the setting is at God’s throne in heaven, e.g. the angels in Rev 3:5 and Rev 7:11 are heavenly beings. In Rev 12:9, the angels were heavenly beings who rebelled against Jesus and followed Satan. The angels in Rev 1:10 to Rev 2 are likely to be human messengers appointed by Jesus to send his warning, admonition, and teachings to His churches. The hardest verses lie in Rev 14 because the angelos here seem to mean heavenly angels. However, Seventh-Day Adventists understand that John was describing a religious movement in Rev 14:6-11. Hence these verses are using heavenly angels as symbols of God’s prophets who ask people to repent because Jesus’ judgement has started. Then the context changes beginning from Rev 14:14. This time the setting is in heaven where the Son of Man (Jesus) is visible and the heavenly angels here are not symbolizing human messengers anymore because their task is not about delivering God’s messages but Jesus’s command to separate the weed from the wheat.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, David. That is the point. most of the time context leads us to the right conclusion. But sometimes we have to guess and many people are split about guessing about these messengers who are supposed to deliver the message from Jesus. Are they people or not? there is some disagreement.

  7. Susila Kirubavathy

    My future is secure in Christ

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Indeed!

  8. suresh samuel

    Wonder full & precious,Revelation my favorite book Loved to teach & know more about Revelation.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Study with us. Thanks.

  9. Jo Gray

    Praise God for the apocalyptic book of Revelation. A perceptive article!

    The whole article is true but my focus is on the last paragraph.

    “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.”

    A perceptive reader will ask these questions!

    1. At what time was the brutal persecution of followers of Jesus? At the time when Rome was the One World Government!
    2. Who was the true king of Israel? Jesus, the Son of Man and the High Priest of the Heavenly Tabernacle.
    3. What affirmation did He make to His persecuted followers? All those who trust in Him can be confident in their future.
    4. What reason was given? Christ holds them in his right hand of strength and authority.
    5. What have Jesus followers got to be afraid of? They have nothing to be afraid of.
    6. How secure is the future of the followers of Jesus? Their future is secure. (Very, very secure.)

    Future Scenario:
    1. At what time again will the brutal persecution of the followers of Jesus be? At the time when the “Rome based One World Government” governs the world again – soon!
    2. But it shall be cut short by who? It will be cut short by the true king of Israel Jesus, the Son of Man and the High Priest of the Heavenly Tabernacle. (Mat. 24: 29 & 30)
    3. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and for ever. The affirmation: the reason and the future of His followers is secure in Him.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Jo, shalom. Jewish tradition looks at history in a very cyclical way. What has happened before in some way will be repeated. This is the foundation of prophecy. How much of this all history and how much of it prophecy we can debate into the next millennium. 🙂

      1. Stanley Loper

        That is something about Jewish thought I didn’t know. The implications of that are astounding. I won’t ask the obvious questions which occur to me here. It gives me some food for thought. Thanks!

    2. jsusnme

      beautiful

  10. petro /cephas/peter- pedro sanchez

    Hi DR.Eli Shalom do you know any reference of canonical value about the ark if it levitate or not did the preists levitate/ Thanks God bless you shalom

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Sorry, nothing comes to mind at the moment.

  11. Demosthenes Agocoy

    Dear Dr. Eli,

    I’m a Christian Pastor, can you give me your insight/interpretation about “666” in Jewish views

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      We are not up to those verses in Revelation yet and for the sake of those who study with us I do not want to jump too far ahead. Why don’t you study together with us? We will get there!

  12. Ann Johnstone

    Thank you Dr. Eli for encouraging me to return to my Hebrew studies! I love looking at the roots of Hebrew words and pondering their derivatives. So for m-l-ch and its compounds/derivatives we get not only melech (king), and malak (to reign) but malachi (prophet, messenger – specifically from God, deputy, angel, teacher, ambassador…), malkiy’el (king appointed by God), mleketh (queen), Malkiy-Tsedeq -> Melchizedek (king of righteousness)…. And of course the Koine Greek of New Testament times includes the word ‘angelos’ which means both angel or (human) messenger.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Glad you can join us on this journey.

  13. Gert-Michiel de Niet

    Thank you very much Dr. Eli, a very useful insight again in the marvellous book of Revelation!!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      You are welcome!

  14. Elizabeth Jones

    Thank you, I am trying to understand a promise of God from a prayer warrior recently that God is giving me two messenger angels in human form that I can trust

  15. Kat H

    Since the Kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21), could humans belonging to the Kingdom also be “heavenly” messengers?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Heavenly here is a domain, as in point of origin or primary residence. We by definition of our origins are not quite heavenly, but earthly, Adam literally means “soil”. Though we may visit heaven because of our connection to God, who is heavenly. 🙂

      1. jsusnme

        Soil? I love it. Another separation from the theory of evolution. President Kennedy stated that out of the sea we came and into the sea we will return. He didn’t understand his scripture, for we came from dust and will return to it. Of course now they have the testing that shows we are made up of dirt compounds, not of the sea.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          funny 🙂

  16. Dodi Christofferson

    excellant study, the angels are sent to minister to the ones to minister to those of salvation. Hebrews 1: 14 also we entertain angels unaware. they are here all the time and only when we need, can we see them.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      True

  17. James J. DeFrancisco, PhD

    Regarding “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.” . . . This is also, as you know, a feature of the Syriac Aramaic in the Peshitta text. MALACHA is used for human messengers, teachers, and ministers to the congregations. The ministers here have delegated responsibilty from God through His Meshika (Christ). Thank you Dr. Eli for your work in this area of coordinating Jewish studies for Christians as well as Jews
    .

    1. Richard Leigh

      Yes regarding MALACHA. On the passage Rev. 1:20a, Saint Bede the Venerable says “The stars are the rulers of the Church. For the priest, as Malachi says, is ‘the angel (messenger) of the Lord of hosts [cf. Mal. 2:7].’ ”
      “The Explanation of the Apocalypse” translated by Edward Marshal, M.A., F.S.A. Oxford & London: James Parker & Co. This portion printed as endnote 37 to the passage as published in “The Orthodox New Testament” Vol. 2 Second Edition, 2000, Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Colorado. p.553.

    2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thank you for the encouraging words. I have some more ideas on this in my next post in a couple of days. It is a pleasure bringing this content forward online and thinking together. Aramaic and Hebrew are very close on this.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. Sonja

    Excellent thank you!

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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/

  26. 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.

  27. 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?