Revelation 19:11-16 – King of Kings and Lord of Lords

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POSTED 11 FEBRUARY, 2018

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume II

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’”

When the Messiah returns to Planet Earth, a scene of intense judgment will be witnessed (Revelation 19:11-15). The Messiah possesses an extreme distinction as He arrives and issues Divine vindication upon His enemies. It is frequently concluded that the description of the Messiah witnessed here is broadly taken from the description of God seen previously in Isaiah 63:1-4:

“Who is this who comes from Edom, with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, this One who is majestic in His apparel, marching in the greatness of His strength? ‘It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? I have trodden the wine trough alone, and from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath; and their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, and I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and My year of redemption has come.’”

Of significance is how Revelation 19:16 communicates, “On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords’” (TLV), Basileus basileōn kai kurios kuriōn. It is properly recognized how the title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” possessed by Yeshua the Messiah, is something directly appropriated from descriptions of the LORD or YHWH seen in the Tanach. Mounce generally summarizes how “This name emphasizes the universal sovereignty of the warrior Christ in his eschatological triumph over all the enemies of God. The title, as it occurs here and elsewhere in Scripture (Rev 17:14; I Tim 6:15; Dan 2:47), goes back to Moses’ declaration to Israel, ‘The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords’ (Deut 10:17; cf. I Enoch 9:4).”[1]

It does have to be recognized how this is a title witnessed for human leaders in the Tanach:

“Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace” (Ezra 7:12).

“For thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry and a great army’” (Ezekiel 26:7).

“You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory” (Daniel 2:37).

Human monarchs are witnessed being called “king of kings,” even though the Lord God of Israel is actually the Only True King of Kings. For a commentator like Beale, “Just as the Babylonian king was wrongly addressed by this title, so that king of latter-day Babylon (Rome) in John’s day was similarly addressed.”[2] The original late-First and early-Second Century C.E. recipients of the Book of Revelation needed to be reminded that even though Caesar may have claimed supremacy, that Yeshua the Messiah was truly supreme. The status of “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” is most imperatively seen as a title for the One God of Israel as ruler:

“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17).

“Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalm 136:3).

“The king answered Daniel and said, ‘Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery’” (Daniel 2:47).

“And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one” (Zechariah 14:9).

“…which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15).

Recognizing how the One God of Israel is called “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” the application of this title to Yeshua the Messiah should be taken as strong evidence of His integration into the Divine Identity. A supernatural yet ultimately created being or entity, should not be expected to be called “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” In the view of Aune, “Since the title ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ is one associated primarily with Yahweh, the transfer of this title to the Messiah appears to cohere with the enhanced Christology…”[3] Osborne further details,

“The Antichrist is ruler over his vassal kings (chap. 17), but Christ is sovereign over all….The title occurs in the LXX (Dan. 4:37 Theodotion; cf. Deut. 10:17; Dan. 2:37), intertestimental literature (1 Enoch 9.4; cf. 2 Macc. 13:4; 1 Enoch 63.4), and NT (1 Tim. 6:15), where it is always used of God. Thus, this is another place where the divinity of Christ is stressed—the Warrior Messiah is God himself!”[4]

One interesting feature of Revelation 19:16 is deducing what is intended by “He wears upon his mantle and upon his thigh the name written…” (Lattimore). Frequently, this has been approached with these royal titles being embroidered on the clothing of the Messiah, as would likely have been the case of other ancient dignitaries.[5] There are, however, some who have suggested that the title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” is actually branded on the physical thigh of Yeshua. Keener is one who thinks, “That the name was written on Jesus’ thigh need not have puzzled ancient hearers; thus, commentators observe that the Greeks sometimes branded horses on their thighs and some wrote names on statues in Rome.”[6] Morris takes the ascriptions of Revelation 19:16 in a more metaphorical direction, indicating, “That on the thigh is more difficult, but Psalm 45:3 speaks of the sword girded on the thigh and this may be a way of saying that the sword is the Word (vv. 13,15,21).”[7] Noting how some have proposed textual corruption issues for Revelation 19:16, Beale offers the further possibility,

“[A] conjectural emendation {suggests}…that the text originally had MITPAN (‘girdle’) in place of MHPON (‘thigh’), but that ‘thigh’ arose from ‘girdle’ by a confusion of IT with H….[T]he original two phrases of v. 16…[reflect] the same kind of parallelism found in Isa. 11:5: ‘he will have his loins girded with righteousness and his sides clothed with truth.’”[8]

Aune, noting some of the thoughts of C.C. Torrey, interjects another approach to Revelation 19:16:

“{Torrey} has proposed that since…r and… d are not distinguished in written Aram[aic], the translator has mistaken… dglh, ‘his banner,’ for… rglh, ‘his leg,’ and then has located the name inscribed as high on the ‘leg’ as possible, on the [mēros], the thigh.”[9]

Here, it has been suggested that the title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” being written on the thigh of the Messiah is not correct, and instead that this statement was originally communicated in a Semitic language, and later mistranslated. This thought has actually been picked up by the Sacred Name Only Bible, The Scriptures (2009). Noting the instruction of Leviticus 19:28 which prohibits tattooing, its publishers have claimed that the Book of Revelation was originally written in Hebrew, and that Revelation 19:16 contains a mistranslation, with the suggestion that “thigh” should actually be “banner.” In their view,

“If this word was written in Hebrew, it would have been regel. It’s possible though, that the copiers of Revelation could have overlooked the small extension on the dalet, which would have made it a resh. If the word was degel[10] it would have meant ‘banner.’”[11]

It cannot go unnoticed how three major Hebrew New Testament versions render the Greek mēros or “thigh” with yarekh (Salkinson-Ginsburg, Delitzsch, 1991 UBSHNT) in Revelation 19:16. This appears in Torah passages such as Genesis 24:2 or 47:29, where swearing to one’s elder takes place, or in Genesis 32:25 when Jacob’s hip is dislocated. Given the rather symbolic or allegorical functions of much of the vocabulary of the Book of Revelation, it would seem somewhat out of place to insist on “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (which the Sacred Name ISR Scriptures has as, “SOVEREIGN OF SOVEREIGNS AND MASTER OF MASTERS”) being actually tattooed on the Messiah’s literal thigh. Some other, more representative interpretations of what the “thigh” represents, should be considered, such as His fidelity to Divine promises.


NOTES

[1] Mounce, Revelation, 347.

[2] Beale, pp 963-964.

[3] Aune, 56c:1063.

[4] Osborne, Revelation, 686.

[5] Beasley-Murray, Revelation, 281; Ladd, 256.

[6] Keener, Revelation, 455.

[7] Morris, Revelation, 225.

[8] Beale, 964.

[9] Aune, 56c:1044.

[10] “standard, banner” (BDB, 186).

[11] The Scriptures, third edition (Northriding, South Africa: Institute for Scripture Research, 2009), 1229.