John, the Chronicler and the number of the Beast

Posted: 16th August 2007 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Most everyone, regardless of their eschatological persuasion, should be familiar with this passage:

“This calls for wisdom. Let those who have insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.” Revelation 13:18 (TNIV)

Now, there have been innumerable guesses made as to the identity of the beast based on the number 666, even up to the Pope and Adolf Hitler in the past century by historical end-timers. Conventional preterist wisdom states that the beast’s number is identified with the Emperor Nero, a position corroborated by alternate manuscripts that have the number as 616, associated to a variant spelling of Nero’s name [see Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, for a complete discussion]. I believe that is a logical conclusion based on the contemporary evidence for John’s writing just before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

All that said, I was browsing 2 Chronicles earlier today reading about the queen of Sheba , trying to guess if all that Solomon gave the queen included a son, and came across a reference that may be just startling coincidence, but worth noting at the least:

“The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, not including the revenues brought in by merchants and traders. Also all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the territories brought gold and silver to Solomon.” 2 Chronicles 9:13-14 (TNIV, see also 1 Kings 10:14-15)

There are a number of parallels and allusions that are worth noting: first, obviously the reference to 666 in both passages. Second, John’s call for wisdom and insight, two qualities directly associated with King Solomon. Finally, the Chronicler includes mention of revenues from merchants, traders, kings and governors… bringing to mind the lament over fallen Babylon by the samesuch persons in Revelation 18:

“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:

‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
you mighty city of Babylon!
In one hour your doom has come!’

The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore … Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.” Revelation 18:9-11, 17b (TNIV)

** Update **

Since drawing up most of the above post earlier this evening, I’ve had a chance to search this topic out and have discovered that this is in fact a recognized link between the Old Testament and Revelation, of which I was previously unaware.

These allusions are clarified further if you accept, as do most early-date preterists, that Babylon is John’s code for Jerusalem’s corrupt priesthood (not the city of Rome) and the beast is the political power of the Roman emperor. An allusion to Solomon, king of Israel, in Revelation would then underscore the corruption of the rulers of Jerusalem, who, like their distant predecessor, had fallen into apostasy, leading to God’s destruction of Jerusalem and repeat exile of the Jewish people from the Promised Land.

  1. Ray Chandler says:

    If you will check Ireaneus’ work ” Against Heresies” you wil find that he sites the ” 616 ” variant as being the work of heretics who were modifying the text of Revelations for their own purposes.
    Although this variant was known it was generally ignored until the first edition of the RSV introduced it into a footnote.
    Your overall presentation is good, but it’s risky to rest the arguement on a historicly disputed variant.
    Particularly one with such early counter testimony.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Ray. It’s been a while since I formally went through the evidence for 666/616, so I appreciate the note and will look forward to reviewing that. In the end, “666” is the tie here, regardless of whom and when you identify the beast. It’s the allusion to Solomon’s wisdom and later apostasy that struck me most and strengthens those as themes already in John’s work.

  3. […] Next: After a devil of a time, we’ll finally wrap this up. Get it? A devil of a time? Man, this crowd sure is beastly Note: For a post on the the allusions between 666 in Revelation and the Old Testament, check out Elshaddai Edwards’ post […]