Excerpts From E.B. Elliott's
THE 'GREAT EARTHQUAKE' AND THE FALL OF
THE TENTH PART OF THE CITY
A further result of the earthquake is thus predicted; “And there were slain in it seven chiliads, names of men.”
The reader will observe that it is not the numeral adjective ἑπτακισχιλιοι that is here used; but, ἑπτα χιλιαδες, seven chiliads, or thousands. This is a point important to be observed; being that upon which, in my own judgment, the true solution of the prophetic intimation turns.
For, if we look to the use of the word χιλιας in the Septuagint, and that of its Hebrew original אֶלֶף, we shall find that, besides meaning numerically a thousand, (in which sense of the word no expositor has been able to give any satisfactory explanation to the clause about the seven thousands in the verse before us,) the word also signified the most notable popular subdivision in the Jewish commonwealth, under the larger division of a tribe.—It seems that it was first introduced into the Israelitish administrative system by Moses in the wilderness. We read in Exodus that he was counselled by his father-in-law, Jethro, to divide the nation into thousands, hundreds, and tens; in order to the appointment over each of rulers and officers, who might relieve him in part of the intolerable weight incumbent on him of judicial and administrative business. “So Moses,” it is said, “chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people; rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” Henceforth the chiliad, which numerically averaged about one fiftieth of a tribe, became a most notable subdivision in Israel: and the rulers of thousands are mentioned, after the heads of tribes, as among the high officers of the host. They seem scarcely however at first to have attained to the dignity of being enrolled, and called by name, as members of the great national Council. It is of the phylarchs, or heads of tribes, distinctively, that the statement is made, on the first numbering of Israel near the Mount of Sinai; “These were the renowned [literally, the called by name] of the congregation; princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel. And Moses and Aaron took these men, which were expressed by names.” The chiliad in this instance was not as yet, in the highest sense of the word, an ονομα ανθρωπων, or distinctive title to the men that ruled it.—On the settlement of Israel however in the land of Canaan, two changes passed on the chiliad:—first, its numerical augmentation; the tribe multiplying, while the number of chiliads in the tribe remained the same, (as seems probable,) each of them embracing the families originally numbered in it:—secondly, its territorial endowment: a portion of territory belonging to the tribe being allotted to each one of its constituent chiliads; so that, like the hundred in an English county, these chiliads became identified with districts; each with its little capital, or chief town or village, included in it.—It would seem too as if the chiliarch now derived from his chiliad more of the ονομα, i. e. a higher name and station in the commonwealth; being so noted both in Zech. 9:7, and in St. Matthew’s version of the prophecy in Micah. For the Evangelist’s, “Thou art not the least among the princes of Judah,” (εν ἡγεμοσιν Ιουδα,) is in the Hebrew original, as observed in a Note preceding, “the least among the chiliads of Judah.”
Such being the Jewish original,—and the propriety of explaining the chiliads here mentioned by reference to this original being inferable, as I conceive, from the previous Apocalyptic figuration of the population of Roman Christendom under the symbol of the twelve tribes of Israel,—what we have to do, in order to the solution on this principle of the prophetic clause before us, is simply to inquire for some septenary of subdivisions, popular and territorial, in the commonwealth of Western Christendom; which, bearing proportion thereto each one somewhat the same as the Hebrew chiliad to all Israel, and constituting therein more markedly than their prototype titles of high office, dignity, and command, were conjointly destroyed as members of the Papal kingdom: (political slaughter being here, as elsewhere, the apparent meaning of αποκτεινω:)—destroyed in the same political earthquake, attendant on the Reformation, in the which Papal England fell; by the same hostile agency too, it would seem in the main, viz. that of Protestantism; and not very long after it in time.—Such are the prophetic conditions that have to be satisfied in history. Nor, as we look therein for the fulfilment, does it seem to me possible, to mistake its directing us to that memorable revolution, by which, during the English Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the seven Dutch United Provinces were emancipated from the Spanish yoke, and at the same time the Papal rule and religion destroyed in them.—Let us consider the case, and compare.
For their first constitution then as provinces, we must refer back to the early record of the invasion and conquest of Roman Gaul by the Prankish tribes. The Netherlands, including what was in later times called French Flanders, as well as Dutch Flanders, formed part of the new Frank empire; and were soon divided into seventeen Provinces, constituting as many partially independent states, fiefs of the empire; viz. the four Duchies of Brabant, Limburg, Luxemburg, Guelders, the Marquisate of Antwerp, the seven Counties of Flanders, Artois, Hainault, Namur, Zutphen, Holland, Zealand, and six Lordships of Malines, Utrecht, Overyssel, Friezeland, Groningen:—each being an allodium, or territorial domain, assigned to some chieftain and subdivision of a tribe, in nearly independent sovereignty, just like the territorial chiliads assigned to the tribual subdivisions of Israel on its settlement in Canaan; and furnishing to the chief, whether as its Lord, Count, Duke, or Marquis, his title of dignity and command.—In the course of the 700 years that intervened between Charlemagne and Charles the Vth, many changes of course occurred affecting them. In the xvth century at length they had become attached to the Dukedom of Burgundy, then passed by marriage to the Austrian Emperor Maximilian; and so to his grandson Charles V, and afterwards his great grandson Philip the IInd: but still as Provinces separate and distinct; and constituting titles of dignity and command, ονοματα ανθρωπων.
Now into these Provinces of the Netherlands the doctrines of the Reformation soon found their way. Ere the year 1524 Luther had the satisfaction to hear, not only of the gospel being preached in them, but of martyrs sealing the truth of what was preached with their blood. Still the leaven worked, the new opinions continued to spread, and martyrs to suffer in the Netherlands; though the fires of the Inquisition, and the strong arm of power, prevented a popular religious outbreak. At length under Philip the IInd political oppressions were added to religious; and war began. The earthquake, under which the tenth kingdom of the Popedom had just before fallen, began to convulse and threaten its supremacy in these lesser districts. The commencement of the war was in 1569. In 1579, (the other Provinces adhering to Spain and the Papacy,) the union of the Seven United Provinces was formed by Deputies from Holland, Zealand, Utrecht, Friezeland, Groningen, Overyssel, Guelderland. To human eye the cause of the Protestant insurgents might well have seemed hopeless.6 For Philip’s was the mightiest monarchy in Europe: and the seven Provinces, besides defect in all military organization and armament, bore, in regard even of territory and population, scarce so great a proportion to it, as seven of the Hebrew chiliads to the largest of the tribes of Israel. But the energy and fortitude imparted to them by religion was indomitable. It was felt by the Spaniards at the sieges of Haarlem and Leyden. Moreover the example of England, now Protestant under its Queen Elizabeth, was before them; and its sympathy, and partial succour, at hand:—a sympathy and succour well repaid by the struggling Provinces soon after, at the crisis of Protestant England’s extreme peril on the imminent conjunction, as intended, of the Spanish Armada and army under the Prince of Parma, with a view to its invasion. Above all, God’s support was with them. His purpose (if I rightly judge) had been declared that seven chiliads of the Papal city, as well as one of its ten kingdoms, should be overthrown. After a protracted and bloody war of 37 years the impossibility of recovering the seven Provinces to itself, and to the Popedom, was fully recognised by Spain. In 1609 their independence was virtually acknowledged by it: and, out of the ruins of the seven old Papal Lordships and Counties, (now slain, just like the third of men, or Greek Christendom, in their political character,) there arose the Protestant Republic of Holland.
Such were the two grand and permanent political changes in Europe, that arose out of the earthquake attendant on the Reformation. And let me not here pass on without observing, that the predictive verse before us seems to me to embrace in its comprehensive sketch a period reaching downward as late as that selfsame memorable epoch of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. For not until near about it did the results predicted receive in Northern Germany and England their final settlement. In 1629, the Emperor Ferdinand II having issued the terrible Restitution Edict,—an Edict by which German Protestants were required to restore to the Church of Rome all the possessions they had become masters of in consequence of the Religious Peace concluded in the preceding Century,—a war arose in defence of Protestant rights, in the which Gustavus Adolphus fell victorious, A.D. 1632, at Lutzen. Nor was it till 1648 that they were re-established on a firm and permanent basis by the Peace of Westphalia. Again in England, by Charles the IInd, and yet more by James his brother and successor, advances were made to the restoration of Popery: until at length in 1688, through God’s gracious favour to this island, William of Orange superseded James the IInd in the Government. In him, at that critical conjuncture, the Seven Chiliads paid back a second time to the separated Tenth of the Great Roman Papal Civitas the aid they had earlier received from it in the battle of religious truth. And thus, just when Louis was ruthlessly crushing Protestantism and Protestants in France, the political establishment and elevation of Protestantism was finally secured and confirmed in England; and eventually in Holland also.