Revelation 6:12-17 (YLT):


And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and lo, a great earthquake came, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood,

and the stars of the heaven fell to the earth -- as a fig-tree doth cast her winter figs, by a great wind being shaken --

and heaven departed as a scroll rolled up, and every mountain and island -- out of their places they were moved;

and the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich, and the chiefs of thousands, and the mighty, and every servant, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains,

and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of Him who is sitting upon the throne, and from the anger of the Lamb,'

because come did the great day of His anger, and who is able to stand?

Isaiah contains very similar imagery which appears to refer to the Medo-Persian empire.

Isaiah 13:1-19

The burden of Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz hath seen:

'On a high mountain lift ye up an ensign, Raise the voice to them, wave the hand, And they go in to the openings of nobles.

I have given charge to My sanctified ones, Also I have called My mighty ones for Mine anger, Those rejoicing at Mine excellency.'

A voice of a multitude in the mountains, A likeness of a numerous people, A voice of noise from the kingdoms of nations who are gathered, Jehovah of Hosts inspecting a host of battle!

They are coming in from a land afar off, From the end of the heavens, Jehovah and the instruments of His indignation, To destroy all the land.

Howl ye, for near is the day of Jehovah, As destruction from the Mighty it cometh.

Therefore, all hands do fail, And every heart of man doth melt.

And they have been troubled, Pains and pangs they take, As a travailing woman they are pained, A man at his friend they marvel, The appearance of flames -- their faces!

Lo, the day of Jehovah doth come, Fierce, with wrath, and heat of anger, To make the land become a desolation, Yea, its sinning ones He destroyeth from it.

For the stars of the heavens, and their constellations, Cause not their light to shine, Darkened hath been the sun in its going out, And the moon causeth not its light to come forth.

And I have appointed on the world evil, And on the wicked their iniquity, And have caused to cease the excellency of the proud, And the excellency of the terrible I make low.

I make man more rare than fine gold, And a common man than pure gold of Ophir.

Therefore the heavens I cause to tremble, And the earth doth shake from its place, In the wrath of Jehovah of Hosts, And in a day of the heat of his anger.

And it hath been, as a roe driven away, And as a flock that hath no gatherer, Each unto his people -- they turn, And each unto his land -- they flee.

Every one who is found is thrust through, And every one who is added falleth by sword.

And their sucklings are dashed to pieces before their eyes, Spoiled are their houses, and their wives lain with.

Lo, I am stirring up against them the Medes, Who silver esteem not, And gold -- they delight not in it.

And bows dash young men to pieces, And the fruit of the womb they pity not, On sons their eye hath no pity.

And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, The glory, the excellency of the Chaldeans, Hath been as overthrown by God, With Sodom and with Gomorrah.

Daniel 5 records God saying the Babylonian Empire would be given to the Medes and the Persians. In verse 28 Daniel tells the Babylonian king:


Divided -- Divided is thy kingdom, and it hath been given to the Medes and Persians.'


Then in verse 30-31, the kingdom passes to a Mede:


In that night Belshazzar king of the Chaldeans is slain,

and Darius the Mede hath received the kingdom, when a son of sixty and two years.

The Sixth Seal also seems to plagarize Isaiah 34:1-8 (not saying it was stolen, just that it is so similar):

Come near, ye nations, to hear, And ye peoples, give attention, Hear doth the earth and its fulness, The world, and all its productions.

For wrath is to Jehovah against all the nations, And fury against all their host, He hath devoted them to destruction, He hath given them to slaughter.

And their wounded are cast out, And their carcases cause their stench to ascend, And melted have been mountains from their blood.

And consumed have been all the host of the heavens, And rolled together as a book have been the heavens, And all their hosts do fade, As the fading of a leaf of a vine, And as the fading one of a fig-tree.

For soaked in the heavens was My sword, Lo, on Edom it cometh down, On the people of My curse for judgment.

A sword is to Jehovah -- it hath been full of blood, It hath been made fat with fatness, With blood of lambs and he-goats. With fat of kidneys of rams, For a sacrifice is to Jehovah in Bozrah, And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.

And come down have reems with them, And bullocks with bulls, And soaked hath been their land from blood, And their dust from fatness is made fat.

(For a day of vengeance is to Jehovah, A year of recompences for Zion's strife,)


Is there a problem with this hermeneutic? Is there anything is the text that shows the Sixth Seal cannot refer to the Medo-Persian empire?

  • Are you suggesting that the passage refers to some historical event in the past, before Revelation was written, or at some point in the future?
    – user33515
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 19:38
  • I try hard not to suggest anything. :) The sixth seal appears to refer to an event that happened before the book of Revelation was written - but it was sealed (no one could understand why it was significant) until the book of Revelation was written and it was unsealed.
    – colboynik
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 19:46
  • Ok. I started to research an answer but realized I wasn't sure where you were coming from. War with Persia was one of the primary causes of the fall of the Western Roman Empire - defenses were weakened against the barbarians because of the large numbers of troops that were sent east to fight the Persians.
    – user33515
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 20:04
  • The fact that the two passages have words and phrases in common simply means that the later passage draws on the allusions from Israel's history. Therefore,it cannot be suggested that the 6th seal refers to Medo-Persia but only that it uses the imagery from the history.
    – user25930
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 22:07
  • KJV Revelation 1 John Writes His Revelation 1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:... As we can see, unless specified almost all things in Revelation were to happen after it was written
    – One Face
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 5:56

4 Answers 4


Does the Sixth Seal in Revelation 6:12 refer to the Medo-Persian Empire ?

It is interesting that "Community" has seen fit to resurrect this Q. at this time, just as we, but one nation, are about to enter a possible "Winter of Discontent" to be made in-glorious by not only a resurgent pandemic but also by adverse politicking, the likes of which are becoming increasingly detrimental and will no doubt not come to a head on Nov 3. The interim period between Election Day and Jan 20, 2021, will most likely be of greater concern.

The original "Babylon the Great", a phrase coined by king Nebuchadnezzar himself (Dan,4:40), in the 6th Cent. BC was indeed ran over by the Medo-Persian Empire in the year 539 BC, when the biblically foretold Cyrus the Great orchestrated its overthrow/defeat. Revelation 6:12, however, is nothing to do with this empire. Chapter and verse is portraying a yet future event, wherein the "Babylon the Great" of the future, if not today, is to be the first victim of the long awaited tribulationery period - see Rev, 18:2.

Rev, 6:12 (thru 17), is more than likely a prelude to Armageddon, when the great (symbolic) earthquake, whatever that may be, comes about and the sun and moon, whether literally or symbolically, become black as sackcloth and like blood, respectively - see also Isa, 34:4; Joel 2:30-31 and Matt, 24:29.

What will constitute "Babylon the Great" of the future, or what constitutes "Babylon the Great" today, is anyone's guess and speculation has long been rife, but if history is to tell us anything, false religion, along with ill conceived government will be two of the actors for sure, and it won't just involve one nation but will involve many.

  • Hey downvoter! You forgot to leave a comment as one is advised to do. I can take it. Either add the comment or reverse the downvote, otherwise would be to be unethical, not to mention unchristian.... Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 18:02

@Jack....Yes, there appears to be some problem(s) with this kind of hermeneutic. It's ok. First, NT ( and somewhat OT ) scholars have dealt with the imagery and language that the author of Revelation used from the OT. Often times, Revelation reuses the same imagery and language from the OT (especially the Septuagint [LXX]) but reapplies it to the then current events around the 90s CE--which is the time of composition of Revelation. I have two scholarly, critical commentaries on Revelation and only one of them notes in great details what you have noted here. Except, your question shows a mishandling of how Revelation is using the language from Isaiah 13 and 34 and applies it to the events during the Roman Empire in the 90s CE. So, just because the language in Revelation 6 was pulled or borrowed from Isaiah 13 and 34 doesn't mean Revelation 6 has anything to do with the Medo-Persian Empire. Revelation often re-purposes textual elements from the OT and reapplies them to what was happening in the 90s and what will happen in the future.

Here is an excerpt from the commentary I am referring to:

12–14 The judgment of the world is depicted with stock-in-trade OT imagery for the dissolution of the cosmos. This portrayal is based on a mosaic of OT passages that are brought together because of the cosmic metaphors of judgment that they have in common. The quarry of texts from which the description has been drawn is composed primarily of Isa. 13:10–13; 24:1–6, 19–23; 34:4; Ezek. 32:6–8; Joel 2:10, 30–31; 3:15–16; and Hab. 3:6–11 (cf. secondarily Amos 8:8–9; Jer. 4:23–28; and Ps. 68:7–8). The same OT texts are also influential in Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24–25; and Acts 2:19–20 (= Joel 2:30–31), which themselves likewise form part of the apocalyptic quarry influencing the dramatic portrayal in Rev. 6:12–14 (Test. Mos. 10:3–6 and 4 Ezra 5:4–8 [cf. 7:39–40] stand in the same OT tradition). All these passages mention at least four of the following elements, which are found here in the Revelation: the shaking of the earth or mountains; the darkening or shaking of the moon, stars, sun, and/or heaven; and the pouring out of blood. The most formative influence among these texts is Isa. 34:4, after which Rev. 6:13–14a has most closely been patterned

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 396.


Is there anything in the text that shows the Sixth Seal cannot refer to the Medo-Persian empire?

The sixth seal cannot refer to the Medo-Persian Empire because Jesus breaks the seven seals one after the other and He only began to break the seals after He received the book in Revelation 5, which describes what happens in heaven when Jesus arrives after His ascension. (See - Revelation 5 is Christ's enthronement after His ascension.) That article provides three reasons for this conclusion:

  • The events described in Revelation 5 are consistent with what the NT elsewhere says happens in heaven when Jesus was enthroned at God’s right hand.
  • Revelation 3:21 provides an overview of the seven seals (4:1-8:1) and, in that overview, Revelation 5 aligns with the statement: “I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
  • The first four seals align with Jesus’ description of the church age in the Little Apocalypse (Matt 24, etc.). Therefore, Revelation 5 must precede the church age.

Further reasons that the sixth seal cannot refer to the Medo-Persian Empire are:

  • The sixth seal begins with the signs of Christ’s return (Rev 6:12-14; cf. Matt 24:29).
  • That seal concludes with Judgment Day, when the lost hide in the mountains from Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:15-17).

As user25930 stated, the fact that the two passages have words and phrases in common simply means that the later passage draws on the allusions from Israel's history. As Xegesis quoted from GK Beale:

Revelation 6:12–14 The judgment of the world is depicted with stock-in-trade OT imagery for the dissolution of the cosmos. This portrayal is based on a mosaic of OT passages that are brought together because of the cosmic metaphors of judgment that they have in common.

Furthermore, as One Face stated, unless specified almost all things in Revelation were to happen after it was written:

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place" (Rev 1:1).

Interestingly though, Revelation 5 describes an event that precedes the time that John received the book. Another is Rev 12:5, where "her child was caught up to God and to His throne." But the Christ-event is a necessary context for visions concerning the church age.


Re : the QUESTION was asked quote: "Does the sixth seal in REVELATION 6:12 (then 12 -17 quoted too) which is good,refer to the Medo Persian Empire? Asked by Jack. ANSWER: The answer is no. Keep in mind in the book of Daniel he took care of that empire .So when John wrote AD90 odd the Medo Persian Empire was "yesterday's fish and chips." "Spilt milk".It is worth a read of first of all REVELATION 1:1 and note clearly the words quote " which must shortly come to pass --" REVELATION chapter 6 verses 12 to 17 deal with the coming of Constantine around 300 AD odd.History records all the details too.It was a changing of the guard. "Out with the old political system and in with the new.The flavour now was Christianity. All the symbolism refers to the people and the system.The big shots got the sack.Christians got the jobs. Dennis user 32276

  • Hello dennis, welcome to BHSE, glad to have you with us. If you haven't already, please make sure to take our tour, to see how we are a little different from other sites you may know. Thanks! (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour)
    – sara
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 7:12
  • Thanks ,will do.Dennis
    – dennis
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 17:03

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