What was the mark of the Beast?


In the Book of Revelation, we read a text that describes that with the arrival of the evil Beast – the enemy of God’s people, Christ-followers will be excluded from participation in local economy unless they agree to place upon their head and hand the mark of the Beast. (Rev. 13:16-18)

To understand the true meaning of the mark of the beast something needs to be kept in mind. The central Jewish text that was recited twice daily stated: “‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” But it had another, less famous, but integral part: “Bind them (God’s commandments) as a sign on your hand and they will be on your forehead.(Deut. 6:4-8)

If the Book of Revelation is read with awareness of the first-century Jewish context, it becomes clear that we ought not to imagine that one day the entire world will undergo a medical procedure that will insert a chip under the human skin. Instead we should understand the mark of the beast as some outward expression of opposing the commandment to worship the God of Israel alone.

For Christ-followers and their children in the first century an issue of great concern was precisely the limits of this commandment in Deuteronomy. The basic question was: Is possible to honor some Roman deities publicly (along with in-your-heart worship of Israel’s God in Christ)? If yes, then this would insure the economic survival and prosperity under the watchful eye of the Roman authorities. The Book of Revelation has chosen an unapologetically Israelite, anti-Roman position where only worship of One God of Israel was upheld.

This article originally appeared on the Israel Study Center and is reposted with permission.