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There are two references to these "little books" or "scrolls", one in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 10:2: "and having in his hand a little scroll being open. And he placed his right foot upon the sea, and the left upon the earth."

Revelation 10:10: "I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter."

Another appears in the Book of Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 2:9-3:3: "Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. 10When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe."

Ezekiel 3:1-3:3: "Then He said to me, 'Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.' 2So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. 3He said to me, 'Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.' Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth."

What is the significance of the little book/scroll? Why is it sweet in the mouth and bitter to the stomach, and why do they appear in both Revelation and Ezekiel?

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  • While there are certainly some parallel concepts between these two "little books," they are separate messages and should probably be addressed in separate questions. I answered the question regarding the "little book" in Revelation where it was (perhaps less clearly) asked earlier: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/66110/…. What is one supposed to do? copy/paste that answer to the new question again?
    – Polyhat
    Aug 3, 2021 at 8:58
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    Books or scrolls signify the knowledge written therein; knowledge or wisdom might bring sadness to their receiver, as pointed out by Solomon in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
    – Lucian
    Aug 3, 2021 at 9:05
  • Even outside of scripture, whether Greek myth or Hollywood blockbuster, one of the curses, so to speak, awaiting those possessing (prophetic) knowledge is that they might either be disbelieved by others, or that their efforts might ultimately prove pointless.
    – Lucian
    Aug 3, 2021 at 9:16
  • @Polyhat If you think to copy-paste your earlier answer, please omit all promotion of William Miller / Seventh-Day-Adventism and just stick to a hermeneutical answer.
    – Anne
    Aug 3, 2021 at 9:41
  • @Anne I said nothing of Seventh-day Adventists. I'm not sure where you're getting that. William Miller was a Baptist. In any case, I am not one to hide truth under a bushel if I know it is truth, whether or not it may be popular. Jesus gave us good instruction in that regard in Matthew 10. The hermeneutics have nothing to do with any denomination and everything to do with the prophecies themselves and their fulfillments. No denomination has a monopoly on truth--we all have the Bible and can read it for ourselves.
    – Polyhat
    Aug 3, 2021 at 12:26

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It’s always a good idea to collate biblical references to a topic/word/subject, in order to get a full picture of the significance of the matter, especially if it is about prophecies and/or visions. A sound hermeneutical approach does this. Then similarities and differences can be spotted, and when context is taken into account, the understanding becomes more clear. There absolutely is significance with this symbolic eating of scrolls by God’s prophets both in the Old and New Testaments.

With Ezekiel, he’d just had an astounding vision which included seeing four living creatures, then wheels within wheels, full of eyes. Above all that, he then saw the throne of God – amber, fire, a rainbow – and “the likeness of the glory of the Lord”. He fell, prostrate. The Spirit lifted him up, instructing him to give a message to the rebellious children of Israel. A hand appeared before him, holding a roll of a book, writing of lamentations on both sides. He was told to eat it, then go to the house of Israel to speak to them that message of lamentations.

“Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness… Then the Spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, ‘Blessed be the glory of the Lord from this place, also the noise of the wings of the living creatures... and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.”

Parallels with John’s visions and commission are staggering. The book of the Revelation describes four living creatures before the throne of God in heaven – amber, fire, a rainbow – and all the others in and around that glorious throne. John fell prostrate before the glorious resurrected Son of Man but was lifted up and told what to write regarding the judgments to come (starting with that on the Household of God) leading up to more and more dreadful plagues poured out on the earth upon the ungodly. He, too, was told to take a scroll from the hand of an angel, eat it, and find it sweet as honey in his mouth, yet bitter in his belly.

Other parts in the Bible show points of interpretation that are significant. In Jeremiah 15:16-21 that prophet wrote, “Thy words were found” [prophecies about the Babylonian captivity and promised release after 70 years] “and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts… I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation…” Then he spoke of his pain and his wound, God assuring him that he was with Jeremiah, to save and deliver him.

Jeremiah did not literally eat the words he found. He mentally assimilated them and believed them.

Ezekiel did not literally eat the words on the scroll given to him. He mentally assimilated and believed them.

John did not literally eat the words on the scroll he took. He mentally assimilated, believed them, then wrote it all down (as did Jeremiah and Ezekiel) to pass on to others, even down till this very day.

Their prophetic warnings resound throughout the centuries following, and provide harmonious links with John’s vision as even now the plagues build up to Christ's sudden appearing. We need such visionary strength and sustenance to be prepared for that day.

In Psalm 119 we read of longing after God’s written precepts, meditating upon them, remembering God’s word to his servant, being comforted in affliction due to God’s word enlivening one, hoping in God’s word. We are also told (vs. 11) “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee’, and (vs. 89), “For ever, O Lord, they word is settled in heaven”. And here is the ultimate link with the words of the prophets:

“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth” Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (vss. 103-105)

It’s now clear what all those words on visionary scrolls mean, both to the prophets who imbibe them (spiritually), and impart them to us (literally). Now we too can agree that those biblical words of God are as sweet as honey in our (symbolic) mouths. But what about the bitterness that follows?

That speaks of some of the consequences of God’s people believing and obeying those heavenly words. Hatred and persecution were always the portion of the prophets of God when they obediently proclaimed God’s warnings to the wicked. Even within the Household of God (ancient Israel in the Old Testament, and the Church of the New Testament), many turn on those who will not keep silent about God’s word (as Jeremiah, who couldn’t keep silent as God’s word in him was like a fire in his bones and fire in his mouth (Jer. 20:9 & 1:9 with 5:14). How Jeremiah suffered, and Isaiah, and Ezekiel and John, all because they were faithful to the vision and the word. Yet their affliction was momentary and light, compared with the joy of the Lord that remained their portion while in the flesh, and eternally.

But the Revelation shows most clearly the hatred of the ungodly, stirred up by the symbolic red dragon that failed in trying to destroy the seed of God’s symbolic ‘woman’ (Christ), only to turn on the remnant of her seed left on the earth. Such vitriol is hard to bear; it is a bitter thing. This has been happening ever since the first century A.D., through every century to this very day, and will continue until the first reaping of the harvest of the earth – when the firstfruits to God and Christ are gathered in before the reaping of the vine of the earth, for crushing and destruction. Bitter hatred is poured out on all those imbibing God’s words of truth and life, but the promise holds good to all who keep the sayings of this book: “Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book… Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:7, 9, 14) All of this shows the need to assimilate, believe, and do the words of the scolls of prophecy in the Bible, as they apply to us in this day and age. The situations may have their differences in different centuries, but the principles remain the same. Hear, believe and do – in faith. The sweetness of God’s word will sustain us and remain in us eternally, no matter what brief bitterness in this ungodly world initially results.

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  • This is a great response. My thoughts were that, as you say, the Word is sweet in the mouth (Psa. 119:103: "How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"). But, the message is bitter due to the judgments associated with the words. +1.
    – Xeno
    Aug 3, 2021 at 17:56
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The scroll in Ezekiel provides the prophet with a warning message of judgement. I would maintain that the scroll in Revelation has the same effect.

The reason for obliging Ezekiel to take the scroll is explained in ch3 v1; "Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel" (RSV). The second action follows on from the first. The contents of the scroll are to be given out again as the content of the message he speaks. The nature of the message is indicated in vv4-11. It is a message which the house of Israel will refuse to hear (vv7-9). They "will not listen to you". They have "a stubborn heart". They will give the prophet looks which are meant to dismay him. So we may recognise the bitter aftertaste as an allusion to the bitterness of the message. The point is spelled out even more clearly in the word of the Lord given to him in vv16-21. "Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me" (v16). The message is that the wicked should turn away from their wickedness, or judgement will follow.

When John has eaten his own scroll, he is told "You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings" (Revelation ch10 v11). That word, "again". We ought to allow a double meaning here. Yes, the previous chapters have been prophesying about "many peoples and nations", but this is only the first time that John has been told to eat a scroll as preparation. So I would understand this verse as meaning (also) "This is the second time that someone has been told to eat a scroll and prophesy afterwards". We are meant to appreciate the cross-reference to Ezekiel. And the bitter aftertaste is there again. The implication is that John is being instructed to give a message warning of judgement, directed this time to the world at large. Presumably the "testimony" of the Two Witnesses is carrying out this instruction in the next chapter, and more generally that is part of the function of the book of Revelation as a whole.

Finally, I suggest that the scroll is "sweet" in the prophet's mouth (that is, to himself) because it is God's word, regardless of the content.

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The bitter-sweet scroll that John had to swallow in chapter 10 of Revelation represents the bitter-sweet message that the prophet Elijah (as the "two" witnesses) has to deliver to God's people as the messenger of Malachi 3:1 and 4:5,6. The prophesying of that prophet for 3.5 years happens right after in chapter 11, but there is a build up for quite some time before as the prophet learns of his commission. That is when he realizes that this wonderful message he has been given will not be heard by his people and he will be an outcast forced to work and live alone - "a voice of one crying out in the wilderness." The prophets speak of the stubbornness and stiff-necked attitude of those whom Jehovah calls his own.

He also quickly comes to understand that in order to "restore all things" he has to deliver both good news and bad news (Matt. 17:11). Truly a bitter-sweet message. At first it tasted so sweet in his mouth but when it had been "digested" it became bitter. Some of the message of this final prophet is similar to the one that Ezekiel had to deliver: God's people are in serious error. A part of that message can be found at Malachi 4:5,6 where the prophet is directed to remove the unchristian practice of shunning which has infested the Christian congregation causing much suffering to individuals and harming the bonds within precious families, not to mention the profanation of God's name among the nations who (rightly) view the Christian congregation as acting like a cult.

But the message is also very sweet because it sets a person free from Babylon the Great (Rev. 18:4). And I mean truly free (John 8:32). It has within it some wonderful knowledge of cosmology and Jehovah's creation which has been hidden by the ancient mystery schools who control science and who deceive the masses (including God's people) with fake science.

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