And when he had opened the seventh seal
That is, when the Lamb had opened the seventh and last seal of the scaled book:
there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour;
not in the third heaven, the seat of the divine Being, of angels and glorified saints, where are hallelujahs without intermission; but in the church, which is oftentimes signified by heaven in this book, and where now the throne of God was placed, in that form as described in ( Revelation 4:4-8 ) , or rather in the Roman empire: nor is this silence the sum of this seal, or the only thing in it; for it includes the preparation of the seven angels to take their trumpets, though none of them were sounded during this period. This space of time some think refers 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 censer, and cast it on the earth: and while the seven angels had their trumpets given them, and they were preparing to sound. Others are of opinion that this was only a pause, a breathing time for John between the former visions and seals, and the following; nothing being said or done, or anything exhibited to him during this interval; but he was at leisure to reflect on what he had seen, and to prepare for what was to come. Others understand it of the amazement of the saints at the judgments of God, which were coming upon the Christian empire, and of their quiet and silent preparations for these troubles and combats, both within and without, they were to be exercised with; see ( Zechariah 2:13 ) . Others have thought that this refers to the state of the saints after the day of judgment, when there will be an entire cessation from persecution and trouble, and when the souls under the altar will have done crying for vengeance; but this will be not for half an hour only, but to all eternity; nor will angels and saints be then silent. Rather this is to be understood of that peace and rest which the church enjoyed upon Constantine's having defeated all his enemies, when he brought the church into a state of profound tranquillity and ease; and this lasted but for a little while, which is here expressed by about, or almost half an hour, as the Syriac version renders it; for in a short time the Arian heresy broke out, which introduced great troubles in the church, and at last violent persecutions. The allusion is, as in the whole of the following vision of the angel at the altar, to the offering of incense; at which time the people were removed from the temple, from between the porch and altar F12, to some more distant place; and the priest was alone while he offered incense, and then prayed a short prayer, that the people might not be affrighted lest he should be dead F13: and who in the mean while were praying in a silent, manner without; see ( Luke 1:9 Luke 1:10 ) ; hence the Jews say F14, that the offering of incense atones for an ill tongue, for it is a thing that is introduced (yavxb) , "silently", and it atones for what is done silently, such as whisperings, backbitings and they call F15 silence the best of spices, even of those of which the sweet incense was made.
F12 T. Tab. Yoma, fol. 44. 1. Maimon. Hilchot Tamidin, c. 3. sect. 3.
F13 Misn. Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1.
F14 T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 44. 1. & Zebachim, fol. 88. 2.
F15 T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 18. 1.