When the second creature calls out, a red horse emerges from the opened heaven, with a rider who receives the ability to remove peace, to set men against each other, using a “great sword” (machaira megale, Revelation 6:4).

Only a few “great swords” appear elsewhere in Scripture. Yahweh promises that He will punish Leviathan the fleeing and twisting serpent, the dragon of the sea, with his “fierce and great and mighty sword” (Isaiah 27:1; Heb. charebo . . . haggedolah; LXX, ten machairan ten agian kai ten megalen kai ischuran). The LXX of Jeremiah 32:38 (MT, 25:38) speaks of the face of the Lord’s might sword (apo prosopon tes macharas tes megales). 

Typically, Yahweh defeats His enemies with a strong (Heb. chazaq) hand. At the exodus, he used only his great (gadol) arm against the monsters, Egypt and Pharaoh (Exodus 15:16). The sword of Isaiah 27:1 is an extension of Yahweh’s hand and arm, an extension of power to defeat the dragon.

It’s heavy artillery for the rider on the red horse. What does he need a “great sword” if all he’s doing is setting people against each other? 

It’s heavy artillery to use on the land (ek tes ges, Revelation 6:4). Yahweh’s enemies are usually sea monsters, great Gentile empires that try to swallow up His land-people Israel. But Revelation 6, the red rider uses sea-monster weapons against the land, perhaps because the land has turned into sea and Israel herself has become monstrous.

The removal of peace is analogous to Yahweh’s defeat of the great serpent Leviathan. Removing peace requires the same tools as slaying a dragon. Turning people to slaughter one another is like chasing down a twisting serpent in the sea. 

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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