In Revelation 6 the Lamb begins to open the seven seals of a scroll. Six seals are opened in this section. After the sixth seal is opened and its judgements unleashed, everyone hides from the wrath of the Lamb. There is then an interlude in which John hears of the sealing of 144,000 and then witness a great multitude before the throne of the Lamb. Finally in 8:1 the Lamb opens the seventh seal; yet when he does the only seeming effect is that there is silence in heaven for half an hour.

What is signified, if anything, by this silence? Is something happening on the earth too dreadful for heaven to make a sound? Is it a long pause, a deep breath before the plunge of the seven trumpets? How are we to understand the seventh seal?

  • A little late for the challenge...
    – Soldarnal
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 20:51
  • The 7th seal is the last 7 years (Trumpet 1-3 is the first half, Trumpet 4 is Satan cast out of heaven, the woes are the last 3 1/2 years + 75 days of Daniel, or the wrath of God)
    – Marinus
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 15:52

6 Answers 6


Revelation is not the most perspicuous book of the Bible.

John Gill has some interesting thoughts on it. He notes that it is false that "this silence the sum of this seal, or the only thing in it". Rather, it probably "includes the preparation of the seven angels to take their trumpets," in verse 2, "though none of them were sounded during this period." Also, some think it encompassing verse three, refering

to the time which elapsed, while the angel, who had incense given him to offer it with the prayers of saints, did so, and took fire off the altar with his censor, and cast it on the earth.

Others think it was a time of reflection or amazement, he notes. This also has merit; silence can be a profound experience, particularly in the presence of a King, of a great and holy one who is judging the earth in power. John's entire vision is only on the edge of the communicable; it may be that he was unable to express in human language the full meaning of this silence.

In terms of applying the book, some have interpreted this a period of peace in the church. But that gets into deep water where I don't want to go in one little post!

Whatever the precise meaning of the silence, it was certain a time of worship and awe. Sometimes we can benefit from the awesomeness of Scripture even without understanding the precise meaning, particularly in prophecy.

The opening of the seventh seal certainly was not impotent. Matthew Henry writes,

This was to introduce a new set of prophetical iconisms and events; there is a continued chain of providence, one part linked to another (where one ends another begins), and, though they may differ in nature and in time, they all make up one wise, well-connected, uniform design in the hand of God.

The reason that the seventh seal does not seem to have one main thing associated with it is that it introduced the next whole chain of events.

  • Having worked to digest the idea of silence in the passages I discussed in this post, I wonder, given the fact that Revelation is something of a patchwork quilt of Old Testament passages, whether this episode in Revelation has a connection to those prophecies.
    – Kazark
    Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 1:03

Your question "What is signified, if anything, by this silence?"

Seems to be answered by the context:

3Another angel, holding a golden incense vessel, arrived and stood at the altar, and a large quantity of incense was given him to offer it with the prayers of all the holy ones on the golden altar that was before the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense from the hand of the angel ascended with the prayers of the holy ones before God."
-- Revelation 8:3-4 (NWT)

This suggests that the silence was so that the prayers of the holy ones might be heard by God.


Strong's G4602 - "hush" is used only twice in the NT.

Rev. 8:1 - (AV) "And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence (sigE) in heaven about the space of half an hour."

Acts 21:40 - (AV) "And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence (sigEs), he spake unto [them] in theHebrew tongue, saying,"

Silence—dumiyya- appears 4 times, all in Psalms.

While not directly related, someone did a word study for Psa., 65 and perhaps some of the comments may be relevant to the NT passages.


"I asked them to help me understand why dumiyya seemed to be absent in so many translations.

"The answers came back quickly. Two friends pointed me to an Orthodox Jewish translation, the Stone/Artscroll Tanach (Hebrew Bible). It rendered this verse as 'To you, silence is praise, O God in Zion: and unto You shall the vow be fulfilled.'" ...

"A footnote in the Stone/Artscroll Tanach includes this fascinating commentary from a medieval rabbinic scholar Rashi (1040-1105), who said, 'The praises of infinite God can never be exhausted. Silence is his most eloquent praise, since elaboration must leave glaring omissions.'"


As I understand the sealing of the 144,000 it is the appointment of 12,000 Jews from each tribe who will be spared the temporary, partial judicial hardening on the Jewish people (particularly the leadership). The rest were to be hardened and thus fall under the curse/judgment about to ensue. These "follow the lamb where ever he goes". The rest are cut off and accursed, subject to the full fury of God and his "lamb" (son).

This passage may be employing round numbers for symbolic reasons or it indicates a divine penchant for round numbers.

It is with these 144,000 that the new covenant was ratified when his blood was shed and whom we see gathered in Jerusalem awaiting the arrival of the king from the sky to destroy Rome and establish eschatological Israel. These all have the Torah written upon their hearts and their sins are forgiven. These include the 12 apostles, the 500, apostles, and the thousands added to the [new covenant] assembly each day in big numbers. This is the fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision of dry bones.

As such I understand the half hour of silence to be:

  • an expression of the solemnity of the moment
  • an indication that God (IE: the Father) is in control (Acts 1:8)
  • an indication that (years for minutes) there would be a period of seeming inaction by God in the 30 years immediately preceding the destruction of the temple (IE: from 40AD to 70AD)

The first "option" provides some comfort in that it suggests graphically that God has compassion even on those justly condemned and punished.

The second is a point often made in scripture, that God is in control. However, for this particular situation we have explicit mention that God is not only in control but he has withheld the specific hour even from his son:

[Mar 13:32 KJV] 32 But of that day and [that] hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

The latter suggestion is particularly attractive in that it ties into other verses where the faithful are warned to not be lulled into carelessness by unexplained divine delay. Please see Luke 12 and 2 Peter 3 for examples.

The temptations of the delay of the son are reminiscent of the way the people waxed spiritually wanton when Moses delayed his return as well.

I believe all three "options" are in play.

  • 12,000 Jews from each tribe... Aren't the Jews just 1 or a combination of 2 tribes - there are still another 10! with their names on the 12 gates.
    – Steve
    Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 7:57


What is signified, if anything, by this silence?

The silence of the seventh seal

The literary structure of the seven seals gives a 4/3 division.


The four horsemen derive meaning from the horses of Zechariah (Zech 1:8) where God promises to work on behalf of his people (Zech 1:9-15). Likewise, in Revelation, the first four seals (the four horsemen) show Jesus Christ's power and willingness to work on behalf of his people.


Seal 5, shows God's people crying out for deliverance -- they desperately want God to come.

Seal 6, shows the wicked crying out -- they want to die because they can't bear to face God's judgement at his coming.

The contrast between the two groups could not be more pronounced.

Seal 7, reveals that God has come and the cries of both groups are silenced by his coming -- the righteous because they have received their long-awaited deliverance; and the wicked are silenced by death.

Compare the seventh trumpet with the seals. Note that the SEVENTH TRUMPET contains no desperate cries of the righteous like those in the Fifth Seal, but only rejoicing because God's kingdom has NOW come (Rev 11:15-19).

The power of Jesus Christ as revealed in (Rev 5) results in him engaging his horsemen (Rev 6:1-8) to fulfil his purposes (Rev 6:9-17, 8:1), and he gathers his people (Rev 7) which progression (from Chapter 5 through 11) enables the rejoicing which is described in the SEVENTH TRUMPET -- Rejoicing in the Kingdom of God (Rev 11:15-19).

  • Welcome to the BH site, Graham and thank you for your answer. Please consider improving a bit your contribuiton by adding biblical verses where possible and by adding some "painting" too. It helps if you have a look over here and, for what I mean by "painting", here. Thank you Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 8:57


The literary structure of the 5th, 6th, and 7th seals includes -- the cries of God's people (5th seal) -- the cries of the wicked (6th seal) -- silence (7th seal).

Does the silence of the seventh seal indicate that the cries of God's people during the fifth seal and the cries of the wicked during the sixth seal are silenced following Christ's return?

  • Hi Graham! Welcome to Hermeneutics.SE. You might take the tour if you have not already to get an idea of what constitutes a thorough answer.
    – colboynik
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 5:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.