Revelation Part 6: The Seventh Seal, Six Trumpets, and Two Woes (Revelation 8-9)
(New American Standard Bible, 1995):
Rev. 8:1 ¶ When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Rev. 8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Rev. 8:3 ¶ Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.
Rev. 8:4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand.
Rev. 8:5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Rev. 8:6 ¶ And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.
Rev. 8:7 ¶ The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
Rev. 8:8 ¶ The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood,
Rev. 8:9 and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Rev. 8:10 ¶ The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters.
Rev. 8:11 The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.
Rev. 8:12 ¶ The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.
Rev. 8:13 ¶ Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, "Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!"
Rev. 9:1 ¶ Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.
Rev. 9:2 He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.
Rev. 9:3 Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
Rev. 9:4 They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
Rev. 9:5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man.
Rev. 9:6 And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.
Rev. 9:7 ¶ The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.
Rev. 9:8 They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions.
Rev. 9:9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle.
Rev. 9:10 They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.
Rev. 9:11 They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.
Rev. 9:12 ¶ The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things.
Rev. 9:13 ¶ Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
Rev. 9:14 one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."
Rev. 9:15 And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind.
Rev. 9:16 The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.
Rev. 9:17 And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone.
Rev. 9:18 A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths.
Rev. 9:19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.
Rev. 9:20 ¶ The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk;
Rev. 9:21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.
Novum Testamentum Graece (New Testament in Greek)
Nestle-Aland, 27th Edition, prepared by Institut für neutestamentliche Testforschung Münster/Westfalen, Barbara and Kurt Aland (Editors). Copyright © 1898 and 1993 by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
Used by permission.
Morphological tagging by William D. Mounce and Rex A. Koivisto
Copyright © 2003 William D. Mounce.
Copyright © 2006 OakTree Software, Inc.
All rights reserved.
(You must have the Helena font installed in order to see the Greek text rendered correctly; it can be obtained here: http://www.accordancebible.com/)
Rev. 8:1 ¼ Kai« o¢te h¡noixe th\n sfragida th\n ebdo/mhn, ege÷neto sigh\ en tw× oujranw× wJß hJmiw¿rion.
Rev. 8:2 kai« eidon tou\ß epta» aÓgge÷louß oi enw¿pion touv Qeouv esth/kasi, kai« edo/qhsan aujtoiß epta» sa¿lpiggeß.
Rev. 8:3 ¼ Kai« aýlloß aýggeloß hlqe, kai« esta¿qh epi« to\ qusiasth/rion, e¶cwn libanwto\n crusouvn: kai« edo/qh aujtw× qumia¿mata polla¿, iºna dw¿shØ taiß proseucaiß tw×n aJgi÷wn pa¿ntwn epi« to\ qusiasth/rion to\ crusouvn to\ enw¿pion touv qro/nou.
Rev. 8:4 kai« aÓne÷bh oJ kapno\ß tw×n qumiama¿twn taiß proseucaiß tw×n aJgi÷wn ek ceiro\ß touv aÓgge÷lou enw¿pion touv Qeouv.
Rev. 8:5 kai« ei¶lhfen oJ aýggeloß to\ libanwto/n, kai« ege÷misen aujto\ ek touv puro\ß touv qusiasthri÷ou, kai« e¶balen eiß th\n ghvn: kai« ege÷nonto fwnai« kai« brontai« kai« aÓstrapai« kai« seismo/ß.
Rev. 8:6 ¼ Kai« oi epta» aýggeloi oi e¶conteß ta»ß epta» sa¿lpiggaß hJtoi÷masan eautou\ß iºna salpi÷swsi.
Rev. 8:7 ¼ Kai« oJ prw×toß aýggeloß esa¿lpise, kai« ege÷neto ca¿laza kai« puvr memigme÷na aiºmati, kai« eblh/qh eiß th\n ghvn: kai« to\ tri÷ton tw×n de÷ndrwn kateka¿h, kai« pa×ß co/rtoß clwro\ß kateka¿h.
Rev. 8:8 ¼ kai« oJ deu/teroß aýggeloß esa¿lpise, kai« wJß o¡roß me÷ga puri« kaio/menon eblh/qh eiß th\n qa¿lassan: kai« ege÷neto to\ tri÷ton thvß qala¿sshß aima:
Rev. 8:9 kai« aÓpe÷qane to\ tri÷ton tw×n ktisma¿twn tw×n en thØv qala¿sshØ, ta» e¶conta yuca¿ß, kai« to\ tri÷ton tw×n ploi÷wn diefqa¿rh.
Rev. 8:10 ¼ Kai« oJ tri÷toß aýggeloß esa¿lpise, kai« e¶pesen ek touv oujranouv aÓsth\r me÷gaß kaio/menoß wJß lampa»ß, kai« e¶pesen epi« to\ tri÷ton tw×n potamw×n, kai« epi« ta»ß phga»ß uJda¿twn.
Rev. 8:11 kai« to\ o¡noma touv aÓste÷roß le÷getai Ayinqoß: kai« gi÷netai to\ tri÷ton tw×n uJda¿twn eiß aýyinqon, kai« polloi« aÓnqrw¿pwn aÓpe÷qanon ek tw×n uJda¿twn, o¢ti epikra¿nqhsan.
Rev. 8:12 ¼ Kai« oJ te÷tartoß aýggeloß esa¿lpise, kai« eplh/gh to\ tri÷ton touv hJli÷ou kai« to\ tri÷ton thvß selh/nhß kai« to\ tri÷ton tw×n aÓste÷rwn, iºna skotisqhØv to\ tri÷ton aujtw×n, kai« hJ hJme÷ra mh\ fai÷nhØ to\ tri÷ton aujthvß, kai« hJ nu\x oJmoi÷wß.
Rev. 8:13 ¼ Kai« eidon, kai« h¡kousa eno\ß aÓgge÷lou petwme÷nou en mesouranh/mati, le÷gontoß fwnhØv mega¿lhØ, Oujai÷, oujai÷, oujai« toiß katoikouvsin epi« thvß ghvß, ek tw×n loipw×n fwnw×n thvß sa¿lpiggoß tw×n triw×n aÓgge÷lwn tw×n mello/ntwn salpi÷zein.
Rev. 9:1 ¼ Kai« oJ pe÷mptoß aýggeloß esa¿lpise, kai« eidon aÓste÷ra ek touv oujranouv peptwko/ta eiß th\n ghvn, kai« edo/qh aujtw× hJ klei«ß touv fre÷atoß thvß aÓbu/ssou.
Rev. 9:2 kai« h¡noixe to\ fre÷ar thvß aÓbu/ssou kai« aÓne÷bh kapno\ß ek touv fre÷atoß wJß kapno\ß kami÷nou mega¿lhß, kai« eskoti÷sqh oJ h¢lioß kai« oJ aÓh\r ek touv kapnouv touv fre÷atoß.
Rev. 9:3 kai« ek touv kapnouv exhvlqon aÓkri÷deß eiß th\n ghvn, kai« edo/qh aujtaiß exousi÷a, wJß e¶cousin exousi÷an oi skorpi÷oi thvß ghvß.
Rev. 9:4 kai« erre÷qh aujtaiß iºna mh\ aÓdikh/swsi to\n co/rton thvß ghvß, oujde« pa×n clwro\n, oujde« pa×n de÷ndron, ei mh\ tou\ß aÓnqrw¿pouß mo/nouß oiºtineß oujk e¶cousi th\n sfragida touv Qeouv epi« tw×n metw¿pwn aujtw×n.
Rev. 9:5 kai« edo/qh aujtaiß iºna mh\ aÓpoktei÷nwsin aujtou/ß, aÓll iºna basani÷sqwsi mhvnaß pe÷nte: kai« oJ basanismo\ß aujtw×n wJß basanismo\ß skorpi÷ou, o¢tan pai÷shØ aýnqrwpon.
Rev. 9:6 kai« en taiß hJme÷raiß ekei÷naiß zhth/sousin oi aýnqrwpoi to\n qa¿naton, kai« oujc euJrh/sousin aujto/n: kai« epiqumh/sousin aÓpoqanein, kai« feu/xetai oJ qa¿natoß aÓp aujtw×n.
Rev. 9:7 kai« ta» oJmoiw¿mata tw×n aÓkri÷dwn o¢moia iºppoiß hJtoimasme÷noiß eiß po/lemon, kai« epi« ta»ß kefala»ß aujtw×n wJß ste÷fanoi o¢moioi crusw×, kai« ta» pro/swpa aujtw×n wJß pro/swpa aÓnqrw¿pwn.
Rev. 9:8 kai« eicon tri÷caß wJß tri÷caß gunaikw×n, kai« oi ojdo/nteß aujtw×n wJß leo/ntwn hsan.
Rev. 9:9 kai« eicon qw¿rakaß wJß qw¿rakaß sidhrouvß, kai« hJ fwnh\ tw×n pteru/gwn aujtw×n wJß fwnh\ aJrma¿twn iºppwn pollw×n treco/ntwn eiß po/lemon.
Rev. 9:10 kai« e¶cousin oujra»ß oJmoi÷aß skorpi÷oiß, kai« ke÷ntra hn en taiß oujraiß aujtw×n: kai« hJ exousi÷a aujtw×n aÓdikhvsai tou\ß aÓnqrw¿pouß mhvnaß pe÷nte.
Rev. 9:11 kai« e¶cousin ep aujtw×n basile÷a to\n aýggelon thvß aÓbu/ssou: o¡noma aujtw× ÔEbrai¦sti« Abaddw¿n, kai« en thØv ÔEllhnikhØv o¡noma e¶cei Apollu/wn.
Rev. 9:12 hJ oujai« hJ mi÷a aÓphvlqen: idou/, e¶rcontai e¶ti du/o oujai« meta» tauvta.
Rev. 9:13 ¼ Kai« oJ eºktoß aýggeloß esa¿lpise, kai« h¡kousa fwnh\n mi÷an ek tw×n tessa¿rwn kera¿twn touv qusiasthri÷ou touv crusouv touv enw¿pion touv Qeouv,
Rev. 9:14 le÷gousan tw× eºktw aÓgge÷lw o§ß eice th\n sa¿lpigga, Luvson tou\ß te÷ssaraß aÓgge÷louß tou\ß dedeme÷nouß epi« tw× potamw×× tw× mega¿lw Eujfra¿thØ.
Rev. 9:15 kai« elu/qhsan oi te÷ssareß aýggeloi oi hJtoimasme÷noi eiß th\n wran kai« hJme÷ran kai« mhvna kai« eniauto/n, iºna aÓpoktei÷nwsi to\ tri÷ton tw×n aÓnqrw¿pwn.
Rev. 9:16 kai« oJ aÓriqmo\ß strateuma¿twn touv ippikouv du/o muria¿deß muria¿dwn. kai« h¡kousa to\n aÓriqmo\n aujtw×n.
Rev. 9:17 kai« ou¢twß eidon tou\ß iºppouß en thØv oJra¿sei, kai« tou\ß kaqhme÷nouß ep aujtw×n e¶contaß qw¿rakaß puri÷nouß kai« uJakinqi÷nouß kai« qeiw¿deiß: kai« ai kefalai« tw×n iºppwn wJß kefalai« leo/ntwn, kai« ek tw×n stoma¿twn aujtw×n ekporeu/etai puvr kai« kapno\ß kai« qeion.
Rev. 9:18 uJpo\ tw×n triw×n tou/twn aÓpekta¿nqhsan to\ tri÷ton tw×n aÓnqrw¿pwn, ek touv puro\ß kai« ek touv kapnouv kai« ek touv qei÷ou touv ekporeuome÷nou ek tw×n stoma¿twn aujtw×n.
Rev. 9:19 hJ ga»r exousi÷a aujtw×n en tw× sto/mati aujtw×n esti÷, kai« en taiß oujraiß aujtw×n: ai ga»r oujrai« aujtw×n o¢moiai o¡fesin, e¶cousai kefala¿ß, kai« en aujtaiß aÓdikouvsi.
Rev. 9:20 kai« oi loipoi« tw×n aÓnqrw¿pwn, oi oujk aÓpekta¿nqhsan en taiß plhgaiß tauvtaiß, ou¡te ouj meteno/hsan ek tw×n e¶rgwn tw×n ceirw×n aujtw×n, iºna mh\ proskunh/swsi ta» daimo/nia, kai« ei¶dwla ta» crusa× kai« ta» aÓrgura× kai« ta» calka× kai« ta» li÷qina kai« ta» xu/lina, a± ou¡te ble÷pein du/natai, ou¡te aÓkou/ein, ou¡te peripatein:
Rev. 9:21 kai« ouj meteno/hsan ek tw×n fo/nwn aujtw×n, ou¡te ek tw×n farmakeiw×n aujtw×n, ou¡te ek thvß pornei÷aß aujtw×n, ou¡te ek tw×n klemma¿twn aujtw×n.
IV. The Seventh Seal (8:1-8:5)
A. Seventh Seal: Silence in Heaven and Seven Trumpets (8:1-5)
V. The Seven Trumpets (8:6-11:19)
A. First Trumpet: Hail and Fire Mixed with Blood (8:6-7)
B. Second Trumpet: A Mountain Thrown into the Sea (8:8-9)
C. Third Trumpet: A Star Falls From the Sky (8:10-11)
D. Fourth Trumpet: A Third of the Sun, Moon, and Stars Becomes Dark (8:12-13)
E. Fifth Trumpet: Locusts From the Abyss (9:1-12)
F. Sixth Trumpet: The Four Angels and Their Army (9:13-21)
This is the Day of Our Lord, and the Hour of God, when sin is vanquished, the righteous redeemed, Satan brought to heal, and Christ glorified.
There are some interesting (and unlikely) opinions as to other possible explanations as to the length and character of this period of silence, E.B. Elliott, for one, determined that one-half hour in heaven is precisely the equivalent of seventy years of Roman history!
The seven angels mentioned in 8:2 are very high ranking, who have stood before God for some time. The seven possibly include Gabriel, who had told Zacharias and Mary that he was among those who "stands in the presence of God." (Luke 1:19) In one of the apocryphal books, the other six are named as Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqâêl, and Remiel (1 Enoch 20:2-8; Enoch is generally considered to be a pseudepigraphical book), but of course this is highly speculative.
"To stand before God" does not necessarily mean literally before His throne, it means the same as the military term, "stand to": to prepare oneself and maintain readiness for immediate service.
We have spoken often before about the four main approaches, or methods of interpreting Revelation, and the serious differences between them manifest themselves most sharply in these passages:
- Historicist: The trumpets are the invasions of Rome by the Vandals, Huns, Saracens and Turks. The sixth trumpet is the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. The "little book" is the Bible made available to the masses by the invention of the printing press.
- Preterist: The first four trumpets are specific battles lost by the Jews to the Romans in the 1st (or Great) Jewish Revolt (66-70 AD). The fifth trumpet represents the demonic spirits who made the Jews behave irrational and self-destructive during the periods of revolts against the Romans. The sixth trumpet represents the Roman legions who destroyed Jerusalem and killed or deported all its inhabitants.
- Futurist: Can be either literal or symbolic trumpets representing various disasters to be endured by unrepentant people during the upcoming seven-year Great Tribulation period. These can be supernatural (coming from God), natural disasters, or man-made destruction.
- Spiritualist: May be literal or figurative disasters that represent God's displeasure with the unrepentant, and warn of worse things to come with their continued defiance of Him. The unrepentant typically respond in defiance to such warning, coming from man (pastors) or God ("natural" disasters).
While all the trumpet judgments are interesting to consider in their own right and implication, perhaps the most interesting is the 4th:
Rev. 8:12 ¶ The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.
This not only recalls the darkness that befell Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23), it serves as a blatant warning to the world that without the light of Christ (John 8:12), the people will perish in the darkness that evil cherishes.
Three of the other trumpet judgments directly recall the Egyptian plagues, the plague of hail (Exodus 9:13-35), the plague of water turned to blood (Exodus 7:14-24), and the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1-20).
The first "woe," a plague of locusts that is unleashed in Revelation 9 is not the same as the one in Exodus, however. These are clearly demonic creatures who attack unrepentant men instead of crops. The scene starts with a "star" that falls to earth, apparently an angel of the Lord with the power to open the gates of Hell. They even have a specific leader, in Greek his name is Apollyon, in Hebrew it is Abaddon, in both it translates out to "Destroyer." This is most likely one of the angels who revolted against God with Lucifer, and was cast down.
The second "woe" is fascinating to military historians, because of what is implied. The "four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates" (Rev. 9:14) are demonic beings who God kept from inflicting their wrath on humans, until this point. There are 200,000,000 "mounted troops" (Rev. 9:16) who have colorful breastplates, with large heads that resemble lions, and who belch forth "fire, smoke and sulfur." (Rev. 9:17) They kill one-third of all humans on earth, with the "fire, smoke and sulfur" and another weapon in their snake-like tails.
It is exceptionally dangerous to state a modern equivalent of what John saw, but still interesting to ruminate on the possibilities. First, I am far from the first commentator to speculate that what John saw as these "horses and riders" more than slightly resemble modern battle tanks. Secondly, in October 2007, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and India, plus Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, signed a mutual defense treaty (or at least expressed strong interest in joining such a pact) that some military commentators have referred to as Warsaw Pact II. ( http://www.kommersant.com/p812422/CIS_CSTO_Russia_Lebedev/ ). The total military strength currently under arms of this organization is over 25,000,000 troops. China alone, however, has a potential force available of well over 343,000,000. The United States, just for comparison, has a total military force available of 1,938,210, and a total potential force of roughly 130,000,000. You may draw your own conclusions as to how much (or little) validity these figures have to John's visions!
IVP-Hard Sayings of the Bible
9:1 What Is the Abyss?
The term Abyss occurs nine times in five different passages in the New Testament. In Luke 8:31 it is the place to which demons do not wish to be sent. In Romans 10:7 it is translated "the deep" and is the opposite of heaven, the one being above the earth and the other below. In Revelation 9:12 the "shaft [or well or pit] of the Abyss" is opened. In Revelation 11:7 there is a "beast that comes up from the Abyss." And finally in Revelation 20:13 Satan is chained and thrown into the Abyss for one thousand years, the shaft being locked and sealed over him. This is the New Testament data that we have to work with.
The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses "Abyss" to translate "the deep" (Gen 1:2; Ps 42:7; 107:26) and "the depths of the earth" (Ps 71:20). In the first group of passages it refers to the deep seas or primeval deep from which solid ground is separated and which in some Hebrew cosmologies lie under the earth. In the second passage it refers to the place of the dead. These probably give us the background of Romans 10:7 (either the place of the dead into which no living person can go or the deep as opposed to the heights of heaven), but they do not help us with Revelation.
In the intertestamental literature we discover what a first-century Jew like the author of Revelation thought of when he wrote "the Abyss." In 1 Enoch 10:4 a rebellious angel is bound and cast into darkness in a hole. This hole seems to be distinguished from the final place of judgment, a place of fire mentioned in 1 Enoch 18:11 and 21:7, although this is also a pit. Likewise in Jubilees 5:611 the fallen angels are bound in a pit. With this background we can now understand John's image.
The Abyss is apparently the prison of demons and fallen angelic beings (some Jews believed demons were fallen angels, while others distinguished them as being their offspring). This explains the fear of the demons in Luke 8:31. They wanted to remain free, not be placed in prison. Jesus apparently allows them freedom because the time of judgment has not yet arrived. Likewise it explains why Satan is imprisoned in the Abyss, for it is the standard place to imprison such beings.
Yet the Abyss can be opened. In Revelation 9 it is opened to let out what are apparently demonic beings to torment people. These beings are not unorganized, but have "as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon" (Rev 9:11). The name means "destroyer" in either language. The identity of this ruler is unclear. Is he an angel, perhaps the one who opens the pit and then is sent to control the host he allows out? John normally uses "angel" for one of those loyal to God; there is also plenty of evidence in Scripture to accept the idea of a destroying angel. Or is he one of the host allowed out, himself a fallen angel or demon? The evidence is fairly well balanced, but given John's use of the term "angel," we suspect that the first suggestion is correct.2
Not only do these demonic beings come up out of the Abyss, but "the beast" does as well. Revelation 11 does not explain this being, but given the connection of "the deep" with the sea, John identifies him as the beast "coming out of the sea" in Revelation 13:1, a world ruler who is inspired by Satan himself. This identification is repeated in Revelation 17:8, which combines elements of both the previous passages. In Revelation 11 he fights against God's witnesses, although they are protected by God until the time of their martyrdom.
The Abyss does not appear in the final two chapters of Revelation because it is no longer needed. After Revelation 20 there is no need for a prison. The time of the final judgment has arrived, and both the devil and those belonging to him are cast into their final place of torment, the lake of fire (Rev 20:10).
How should Christians relate to this information? Certainly the images in these passages are fearful. But other elements are at work as well. As previously noted, the witnesses in Revelation 11 are protected until such a time as God allows them to be injured. In all of the passages it is God and his angels who have the keys to the Abyss. Nothing comes out that God does not allow out. The beings that get out are not released to do their own will (although they may think that that is what they are doing), but to serve God's purposes. Finally, in Revelation 9:4 we read that the demonic beings from the Abyss are not allowed to touch those who have "the seal of God on their foreheads." Who are these? They are "the servants of our God" (Rev 7:3), who remain faithful to God and the Lamb (Rev 14:45). These people are not necessarily protected from martyrdom, but they are not able to be tormented or truly injured by the creatures of the pit. God remains in control even of the devil and his hosts. Thus, those who serve God should have no fear of the creatures of the Abyss, but instead should have a concern for others who do not walk under the protection of their Lord. This is an implied call to evangelism and to total faithfulness, even in the face of martyrdom.
 The Intertestamental period is the period between the last of the Old Testament writings, and the first of the New Testament canon, roughly 400 BC to 5 BC.
2 John uses "angel" in Revelation almost as many times as it appears in the whole rest of the New Testament put together. While there is one time when it does refer to fallen angels (Rev 12:7, 9, the dragon's angels) and one time when it might do so (Rev 9:1415), the vast majority of the time it refers to God's angels.
IVP-New Bible Commentary
8:1-5 The seventh seal
1 A silence in heaven occurred. In the light of vs 3-4 it is likely that it was to enable the prayers of the saints to be heard. In the Talmud seven heavens are distinguished; in the fifth heaven there are companies of ministering angels, who utter songs by night, and are silent by day for the sake of Israel's glory', i.e. they are silent in order that the praises of Israel may come before God. We have read in chs. 4 and 5 of the exultant worship of the angelic companies; here heaven is silenced in order that the cries for deliverance from the suffering Christians on earth may be heard. 3-4 Incense offered with the prayers of all the saints serves to make them acceptable before God; they must be cleansed from all taint of selfishness and sin. 5 Their prayers are answered. The fire that burned the incense is thrown to earth and becomes a means of judgment. There follow the phenomena that indicate that the Lord comes and the kingdom of God is established in power (see 11:19, consequent on the seventh trumpet, and 16:18, following the seventh cup of wrath).
8:6-11:19 The seven trumpets
Trumpets have many associations in the OT. At the manifestation of God at Sinai a prolonged sounding of a trumpet took place, terrifying the people (Ex. 19:16-19). A trumpet blast heralded the accession of a king to his rule (1 Ki. 1:39-40), and the celebration of God's kingship was so marked (Ps. 47:5-9). Trumpets were blown to announce declaration of war (Jdg. 3:26-28; 7:19-20; Ne. 4:18), and the day of the Lord was so to be announced (Joel 2:1; Zp. 1:16). All the festivals of Israel were announced with trumpet blasts (Nu. 10:10); in these there was a strange mixture of joy and judgment. To the rabbis of Israel the Day of Atonement was the day of judgment. Caird pointed out that in the Mishnah it is stated that God judges the world at Passover in respect of produce, at Pentecost in respect of fruit, and at Tabernacles in respect of rain, but Tishri 1 (the beginning of the preparation for the Day of Atonement) is the day when he judges all mankind (The Revelation of St. John, [Black, 1985] 109110). Some passages in the NT represent the coming of Christ in his kingdom as heralded by a trumpet (Mt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thes. 4:16). These multiple assocations of trumpets would have been known to John, above all their connections with the day of the Lord and the kingdom of God. In his employment of them, the judgments announced by trumpets fall into two groups of four and three (as with the seven seals). The first four are reminiscent of the Egyptian plagues at the exodus; the fifth and sixth less clearly so. In 15:3 the coming of Christ is tacitly compared to the exodus (the redeemed sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb); it is comprehensible, therefore, that the final redemption, the second exodus, is heralded by similar plagues as at the first exodus.
8:6-12 The first, second, third and fourth trumpets
The first trumpet affects one third of the earth (cf. the plague of hail and fire in Ex. 9:24). All the green grass was burned up, i.e. in the third part of the earth which was affected; the locusts of 9:4 are forbidden to hurt the grass of the earth, which would not have existed if this were a universal judgment.
8 The second trumpet affects one third of the sea. As the Nile was turned into blood in the first Egyptian plague (Ex. 7:20-21) so is the third part of the sea here.
10-11 The third trumpet causes a third part of fresh waters to become poisonous and so [p. 1437] continues the thought of the previous plague (cf. 16:3-7). Since the star that falls at the sounding of the fifth trumpet (9:1) is an angelic being, it is possible that Wormwood is also an angel. For the bitter waters cf. Je. 9:15.
12 The fourth trumpet darkens a third part of the heavens, so that a third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. Again we are reminded of the Egyptian plague of darkness (Ex. 10:21-23), which is perhaps the reason why the striking of the heavenly bodies results in a reduction of their length of shining rather than of their intensity of light. Is it that John hints that people experience darkness in the day and intensified darkness in the night because of their sins, but the Lord gives them light enough by day and by night that they may forsake their moral darkness for life in the light of his presence?
8:13-9:21 The fifth trumpet
13 An eagle now announces in midair (that the whole world may hear his cry) a threefold Woe to those who dwell on the earth. The three woes correspond to the three trumpets yet to sound; they will be more drastic than the former trumpet judgments, since they are directed not to the elements but to the rebellious of humanity. Ch. 9 will describe the first two woes, but the third is not described, only its consequence in the revelation of the kingdom (11:15-19). That woe is reflected in 11:18, more explicitly stated in 16:17-20, depicted in greater detail in 17:12-18, celebrated in the dirge of ch. 18 and the hymns of 19:1-10, and finally portrayed in 19:11-21. The exodus typology is evident in the first woe, having a parallel in the Egyptian plague of locusts (Ex. 10:1-20), but less so in the second, which may be compared with the slaying of the firstborn in Egypt, the ultimate judgment of God on the nation.
9:1 On the sounding of the fifth trumpet a star that had fallen received the key to the shaft of the Abyss. The star is an angel; if fallen, he yet remains an instrument for doing God's will (the key to the Abyss was given by authority from God). The Abyss represents the chaos of waters; in the mythology of the ancient orient they were personified in a power of evil that opposed the powers of heaven, and so came to denote the abode of demonic agencies. In 20:1-3 it is the place into which Satan is thrown and imprisoned. So here the reference to the key indicates that all its inhabitants are firmly under God's control.
2-4 That clouds like the smoke from a gigantic furnace arose is intended to convey the impression of an advancing cloud of locusts. The comparison of these demon hosts to locusts echoes the vision of Joel 2:1-10, where it is said that the locust armies look like war horses running to battle, rattle like chariots, charge like mighty men, darken the heavens, and have fangs like lions. In addition to these features John declares that the locusts have power to inflict pain like scorpions (cf. 9:10). Locusts eat vegetation and do no harm to human beings, but these demonic locusts ignore vegetation and attack people, more precisely those who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads (they, on the contrary, have the mark of the beast; see 13:16). Five months is the normal length of a locust's life (spring and summer), but their visitation of any one place is naturally more limited in time.
7-9 The description of the locusts recalls Joel 1:6; 2:4-9, but it is common in Arab traditions. C. Niebuhr in 1772 reported an Arab's depiction of a locust: He compared the head of a locust with the head of a horse, its breast with the breast of a lion, its feet with the feet of a camel, its body with the body of a snake, its tail with the tail of a scorpion, its antennae with the hair of a maiden'.
11 Their king is named Abaddon in Hebrew but Apollyon in Greek. The former in the OT denotes the depths of Sheol and means destruction'. The latter is close to the Greek verb apollumi, to destroy', but may well be intended as a variant of Apollo, which Greek writers have derived from apollumi. The cult of Apollo used (among others) the symbol of the locust, and the emperors Caligula, Nero and Domitian claimed to be incarnations of Apollo. If this was in John's mind, the irony of the fifth trumpet is mindblowing: the destructive host of hell had as its king the emperor of Rome! (This is factually paralleled in 17:16-18.)
13-14 When the sixth trumpet is sounded a voice comes from the golden altar that is before God. It is thus linked with the cries of the martyrs beneath the altar in heaven (6:9-10) and the prayers of the saints on earth for deliverance (8:4-5), though it is to be understood as that of God who answers the prayers of his people. The four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates are to be released. This river and the Nile formed the ideal limits of the land promised to Israel (Gn. 15:18). It also formed the eastern limit of the Roman Empire, and beyond it lay the Parthian (or Persian) Empire, the only military power in the world which had decisively defeated Roman armies and which Rome had cause to fear. Jews looked to this area for armies from the north to invade Palestine (1 Enoch 56:5-8 appears to interpret the Gog prophecy of Ezk. 38-39 as fulfilled through the Parthians and Medes). The four angels, however, command no human army but a terrifying demonic force, invading not the promised land but the godless world.
15 Nothing in the programme of God is accidental. The precise [p. 1438] moment of this invasion is fixed.
16 The number of the mounted troops is given as two hundred million. This and other computations like it are inspired by Ps. 68:17 (the number of the chariots of God as he came from Sinai) and Dn. 7:10 (the number of angels who come with God for judgment). The demonic army as truly serves the purpose of God as the angelic company.
17-19 The description of the horses and riders is horrifying, inconceivable and revolting. Strangely it is the horses which terrify and destroy; the riders and horses seem to melt into a unity, but their destructive power (from fire, smoke and sulphur) issues from the horses' mouths. These creatures are not of the earth; fire and sulphur belong to hell (19:20; 21:8), just as smoke is characteristic of the Abyss (9:2).
20-21 The plague fails to produce a salutary effect on the Godopposing world; people persist in idolatry, with its attendant evils, and find no place of repentance. How are we to interpret these extraordinary depictions of the first two woes'? G. B. Caird suggested that in them lies a most important theological affirmation: that the powers of evil have an immense reserve army, from which they can be steadily reinforced, so that no earthly order can find security from attacks from beyond the frontier, except in the final victory of God. In a world in which evil is virulent and tenacious, the programme of the gospel must not be expected to produce a steady whittling away of Satan's power, until he is reduced to impotence, but rather a steady hardening of resistance, leading inexorably to a last great battle' (Revelation, p. 123).
Preparing for the Trumpet Plagues
8:1. There are a number of possible ways to interpret "silence" here. In this context of worship (7:9-12) and intercession (6:9-11; 8:4) in heaven, "silence" could mean a brief delay in God's reception of his people's prayers for vindication (Ps 50:3, 21; 83:1), or silencing heaven's praises to receive his people's prayers (Rev 8:4), as in some later Jewish texts.
Perhaps more likely, it could be a form of awed worship (Ps 65:1) or perhaps of fear, grief or shame, as with the muzzled mouths of the guilty with nothing to say in their defense at the judgment (Hab 2:20; Zeph 1:7; Zech 2:13; cf. Ps 31:17-18; 76:8-10; Is 23:2; 41:1; 47:5). Silence could also characterize the end of the present world to form a new world (4 Ezra and 2 Baruch; cf. Pseudo-Philo) or (often in ancient literature) the end of a speech, conversation or announcement; it was also the appropriate state of a court before the accuser began to speak.
8:2. Trumpets were used for celebrations, to call sacred or military assemblies, and as alerts, often warning of impending invasions. It is in this last sense that the prophets usually employed the image, and this is probably also why Revelation uses it. Although John undoubtedly would have used "seven" anyway (given his three sets of seven judgments each), commentators note that series of seven trumpeters appear in the Old Testament (Josh 6:6, 13), probably regularly in the temple cult (1 Chron 15:24; Neh 12:41). Between the Old Testament and the New Testament Judaism had settled on seven archangels (adding five to the two important angels named in Daniel), and they are probably in view here.
8:3. The angel fulfills a task assigned to a priest in the earthly temple. For the heavenly temple in Revelation, see comment on 4:6-7; as in some other Jewish texts (including in the Old Testament, in Ps 141:2), prayers are presented as incense (some texts portrayed them also as sacrifices). For the heavenly temple in Jewish texts in general, see comment on Hebrews 8:1-5.
8:4-5. In this context, the continual prayers of the saints for vengeance (6:9-11) are the direct cause of their eventual vindication through judgments on the earth (8:6-9:21). On the image of atmospheric phenomena caused by angelic activity, see comment on 4:5; cf. 11:19 and 16:18.
The First Four Trumpet Plagues
The sorts of judgments characterizing the judgments of the trumpets and bowls are mainly taken directly from the ten plagues of the exodus (except that they are numerically adjusted to seven; see comment on Jn 2:11, the first of probably seven signs in John). As in other Jewish texts (e.g., Pseudo-Philo, Artapanus), the sequence and even number of the plagues is not important for the point of the image. Some of the plagues are echoed in other judgment texts (especially Sibylline Oracles) but never as systematically as here.
8:6. see comment on 8:2.
8:7. This plague echoes the seventh plague in Exodus 9:24-25.
8:8-9. Waters running with blood would normally indicate war (e.g., Is 15:9), but these verses also echo the first plague in Exodus 7:20-21. The mountain hurled into the sea characterizes the sort of imagery standard in this type of literature (e.g., the burning star hurled into the sea in a roughly contemporary oracle in Sibylline Oracles). (The suggested parallel to Babylon as a burning mountain in Jer 51:25, 42 is not as obvious, although it would have been more available than the Sibylline Oracles; it is doubtful if either Revelation or the Sibylline Oracles depends on the other, but the writers of both had access to Jeremiah.)
This plague addresses contamination of the water supply, effecting not only many swift deaths by dehydration but also long-term devastation by destruction of Egypt's irrigation and fishing (Ex 7:18) resources.
8:10-11. Like the preceding plague, this judgment alludes to the poisoned water of Exodus 7:20-21, but through a sort of poisoning or embittering agent called "wormwood" (Jer 9:15; 23:15; cf. Jer 8:14), often used figuratively (for idolatry- Deut 29:18; fruits of adultery- Prov 5:4; suffering- Lam 3:19). This plague strikes local fresh-water supplies and would naturally worry John's readers in Asia, especially in Laodicea (see comment on Rev 3:15-16).
8:12. This plague echoes the ninth plague in Exodus 10:22-23; many ancient texts speak of darkness as a dreaded judgment, and the Old Testament (see comment on Rev 6:12-13) and some other Jewish texts also associate it with the end time.
The Fifth Trumpet Plague
8:13. The announcement of three impending woes indicates that as negative as the first four trumpet plagues were, the worst is yet to come. "Woe" often begins a new oracle in 1 Enoch and probably serves a similar function here.
The eagle was a symbol of imperial Rome carried by the legions and used on Herod's temple, but that symbolism is probably irrelevant here. Perhaps more to the point, eagles were used as messengers in some texts (4 Baruch); they could symbolize God's protection (Rev 12:14), ormost likelythe term here means (as it often does, including in the LXX) "vulture," indicating a bird of prey (see 19:17), and thus imminent doom. "Midheaven" (NASB, NRSV) is the level of heaven between God's throne and the lowest atmosphere (in the minimal three-heaven scheme of some ancientson which see comment on 2 Cor 12:2-4 but also in some other schemes, e.g., in 2 Enoch).
9:1-2. Many Jewish traditions spoke of evil angels imprisoned in dungeons or rivers, awaiting their time to come out and wreak havoc. Some ancient writers assumed that the "abyss" (NIV, TEV; "bottomless pit" NASB, KJV, NRSV) was a real geographical place that could be found on earth (1 Enoch); angels were assigned over such sites and given keys. The Dead Sea Scrolls also spoke of the wicked as "men of" or "sons of the pit" (probably meaning those destined for death in the grave). Most pagans held stars to be divinities, and many Jews held them to be angels; stars could naturally symbolize angels in Jewish texts, as in this case. John exploits the standard imagery to make his point.
9:3. This plague recalls the eighth plague in Exodus 10:12, the locusts; but maintaining the imagery characteristic of much apocalyptic and prophetic revelation, John's vision transmutes these locusts into something far more terrifying. Joel describes an imminent locust plague in terms of the armies of the final war (1:4-2:27) and also describes the final war (3:9-17). John borrows Joel's imagery here to amplify the imagery of a locust plague into a terrible invasion.
9:4. see comment on 7:3. Ordinary locusts would have feasted on the vegetation and left the people alone.
9:5. Scorpions' stings were among the most intense pains (1 Kings 12:11; 2 Chron 10:14); but a pain lasting five months (9:10, unless this is simply the duration of the plague; one commentator says that five months fits the approximate lifespan of a normal kind of locust) was unheard-of. Jewish texts often included scorpions as one of God's means of judgment.
9:6. Only the severest sufferings prompted a preference for death over life (Jer 8:3); but even death will be withheld during this plague.
9:7. An invasion of locusts could be described as warhorses (Joel 2:4), and horses could be described as being as numerous as locusts (Jer 51:27; cf. 51:14). The crowns might reflect prior military exploits. The image of human-faced scorpions derived from nightmarish traditions from the East, and Mediterranean zodiacs eventually applied it to Sagittarius, who was often portrayed with long hair (see comment on 9:8). Although the image is not meant literally, it draws on the most terrible, repressed images of that culture's unconscious fears to evoke horror at the impending judgments.
9:8. Joel 1:6 described locusts with "teeth like lions" to emphasize their destructiveness to the crops and everything else. In Joel, the image would terrify an agrarian society; in Revelation, it would remind readers of the lion's proverbial ferocity. The "hair like women" would be a more obvious allusion to most of John's readers: everyone in the Roman Empire knew that "barbarians" outside the Empire, unlike most people in Greco-Roman society, had long hair. In the context of a military invasion, the readers would immediately think of the Parthians (or, in apocalyptic terms, perhaps the evil spiritual realities behind them). By way of illustration, the reigning emperor Domitian's father was reportedperhaps fictitiouslyto have joked about the Parthians' long hair in view of a long-tailed comet portending his death.
9:9. The "noise of chariots" is borrowed from the military imagery for locusts in Joel 2:5; the swarms would be so intense that they would sound like an invading army, a sound great enough to make a land quake (Jer 8:16). The scales of a kind of locust's thorax are compared with scaled armor in a later Jewish text; here John uses a more updated armor image.
9:10. Their tails may be mentioned simply because that was the weapon of scorpions (9:5), but the reverse could also be true; scorpions could be mentioned because of the tails. It may be of interest that the Parthians (9:8) had become famous for their rearward archery: they had retreated up hills mounted on horseback, and when unwary Roman legions had followed them, the Parthians had released a backward hail of arrows, wiping out several legions before the Romans learned not to follow them up hills.
9:11. "Abaddon" is a Hebrew name for the lowest depths of the earth, the realm of the dead (cf. Job 31:12; Ps 88:11; Prov 27:20); the Dead Sea Scrolls also linked the "spirit of Abaddon" with the "angel of the pit." "Apollyon" means "destruction" in Greek. (Some scholars have secondarily connected the name to Apollo, a Greek deity one of whose totems was the locust, and whose incarnation the emperor claimed to be; cf. Rev 2:18. Because Apollyon as a name is otherwise unattested, it is not impossible that readers in Asia could have suspected this allusion; in this case, the emperor's supposed patron deity is in reality an evil angel who, in the sovereignty of God, will be used against him; cf. Ex 12:12; Num 33:4. But the allusion is not altogether clear.) The final, terrifying touch to this description of an army with elements from Joel's locusts, from Parthians and from scorpions is that these are the armies of hell, sent by death itself to fill its bowels.
The Sixth Trumpet Plague
Parthians were Rome's most feared enemies in this period. They were portrayed as untrustworthy, and the authority of their monarchs was absolute. Older Greek prophecies about an eastern invasion of the Roman Empire still made some Romans nervous, and the Jewish Sibylline Oracles prophesied that Nero would return, leading Parthian hordes in vengeance on Rome. (Many Jewish people lived in Parthian territory, and many Jews in the Roman Empire felt no more allegiance to Rome than they would have to Parthia; in the Jewish-Roman war of 66-70 many Jews expected Parthia to intervene on their behalf, but their hopes were disappointed.)
9:12. see comment on 8:13.
9:13. On the temple imagery, see comment on 4:6-7.
9:14. Ancient literature indicates that it was common knowledge that the river Euphrates (16:12) was, above all else, the traditional boundary between the Roman and Parthian empires. Some other Jewish texts speak of fallen angels being bound in the depths of various seas, able to be released only at the command of God or one of his angels.
9:15. For all their recognition of demonic forces in this age, apocalyptic writers recognized also the standard Jewish doctrine that God ultimately rules all of history. Casualty statistics like this one are also familiar in Jewish judgment oracles (see the Sibylline Oracles).
9:16. Parthians were noted horsemen; in contrast to Rome, whose only cavalry contingents were drawn from its auxiliary (non-Roman) units, the Parthians were renowned for their cavalry. "Two hundred million" would be a huge standing army even today (nearly the entire population of the United States, almost four times that of Great Britain, over twice that of Nigeria, and eight times that of Canada); in the first century it may have represented more than the population of the entire world.
9:17-18. The "dark blue" (NIV; "hyacinth" NASB; or "sapphire" NRSV) might allude to the color of the smoke of sulfur's flame. Cf. 9:7-8 for the source of the image of horses and lions; lions were considered the most ferocious and regal of beasts, which no one cared to meet. In a widely read Jewish wisdom book, a writer had declared that God could have punished idolatry by sending lions or newly created, fire-breathing and smoke-belching monsters (Wisdom of Solomon 11:17-20). But again this imagery may be mixed with the threat of a Parthian invasion: Parthian archers often used flaming arrows.
9:19. The power "in their tails" may allude to scorpions or to the Parthian cavalry's rearward archery (see comment on 9:10).
9:20-21. Jewish people commonly regarded the unrepentance of the world in the face of obvious judgments (e.g., Ex 7:22-23) as a sign of stupidity. (Even some pagan philosophers pointed out that divine judgments were acts of mercy, to bring the wicked to repentance, as well as acts of justice; in this view they agreed with the Old Testament -e.g., Ex 8:10; 9:14, 29; 10:2; 14:4; Amos 4:6-11.) Old Testament prophets and later Jewish writers frequently ridiculed the worship of idols (cf. Rev 2:14, 20) that were less powerful than those who made them (e.g., Ps 135:15-18; Is 46:6-7). That pagans worshiped demons was also widely accepted in Jewish circles (e.g., 1 Enoch; 1 Cor 10:20). Idolatry and immorality were standard parts of Greco-Roman culture; thieves and sorcerers were, however, considered dangerous by common consent.
Revelation 8:1-13. SEVENTH SEAL. PREPARATION FOR THE SEVEN TRUMPETS. THE FIRST FOUR AND THE CONSEQUENT PLAGUES.
1. was Greek, "came to pass"; "began to be." silence in heaven about . . . half an hour The last seal having been broken open, the book of God's eternal plan of redemption is opened for the Lamb to read to the blessed ones in heaven. The half hour's silence contrasts with the previous jubilant songs of the great multitude, taken up by the angels (Revelation 7:9-11). It is the solemn introduction to the employments and enjoyments of the eternal Sabbath-rest of the people of God, commencing with the Lamb's reading the book heretofore sealed up, and which we cannot know till then. In Revelation 10:4, similarly at the eve of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when the seven thunders uttered their voices, John is forbidden to write them. The seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19) winds up God's vast plan of providence and grace in redemption, just as the seventh seal brings it to the same consummation. So also the seventh vial, Revelation 16:17. Not that the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials, though parallel, are repetitions. They each trace the course of divine action up to the grand consummation in which they all meet, under a different aspect. Thunders, lightnings, an earthquake, and voices close the seven thunders and the seven seals alike (compare Revelation 8:5, with Revelation 11:19). Compare at the seventh vial, the voices, thunders, lightnings, and earthquake, Revelation 16:18. The half-hour silence is the brief pause GIVEN TO JOHN between the preceding vision and the following one, implying, on the one hand, the solemn introduction to the eternal sabbatism which is to follow the seventh seal; and, on the other, the silence which continued during the incense-accompanied prayers which usher in the first of the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:3-5). In the Jewish temple, musical instruments and singing resounded during the whole time of the offering of the sacrifices, which formed the first part of the service. But at the offering of incense, solemn silence was kept ("My soul waiteth upon God," Psalms 62:1; "is silent," Margin; Psalms 65:1, Margin ), the people praying secretly all the time. The half-hour stillness implies, too, the earnest adoring expectation with which the blessed spirits and the angels await the succeeding unfolding of God's judgments. A short space is implied; for even an hour is so used (Revelation 17:12; 18:10, 19).
2. the seven angels Compare the apocryphal Tobit 12:15, "I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One." Compare Luke 1:19, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God." stood Greek, "stand." seven trumpets These come in during the time while the martyrs rest until their fellow servants also, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled; for it is the inhabiters of the earth on whom the judgments fall, on whom also the martyrs prayed that they should fall (Revelation 6:10). All the ungodly, and not merely some one portion of them, are meant, all the opponents and obstacles in the way of the kingdom of Christ and His saints, as is proved by Revelation 11:15, 18, end, at the close of the seven trumpets. The Revelation becomes more special only as it advances farther (Revelation 13:1-18; 16:10; 17:18). By the seven trumpets the world kingdoms are overturned to make way for Christ's universal kingdom. The first four are connected together; and the last three, which alone have Woe, woe, woe (Revelation 8:7-13).
3. another angel not Christ, as many think; for He, in Revelation, is always designated by one of His proper titles; though, doubtless, He is the only true High Priest, the Angel of the Covenant, standing before the golden altar of incense, and there, as Mediator, offering up His people's prayers, rendered acceptable before God through the incense of His merit. Here the angel acts merely as a ministering spirit (Hebrews 1:4), just as the twenty-four elders have vials full of odors, or incense, which are the prayers of saints (Revelation 5:8), and which they present before the Lamb. How precisely their ministry, in perfuming the prayers of the saints and offering them on the altar of incense, is exercised, we know not, but we do know they are not to be prayed TO. If we send an offering of tribute to the king, the king's messenger is not allowed to appropriate what is due to the king alone. there was given unto him The angel does not provide the incense; it is given to him by Christ, whose meritorious obedience and death are the incense, rendering the saints' prayers well pleasing to God. It is not the saints who give the angel the incense; nor are their prayers identified with the incense; nor do they offer their prayers to him. Christ alone is the Mediator through whom, and to whom, prayer is to be offered. offer it with the prayers rather as Greek, "give it TO the prayers," so rendering them efficacious as a sweet-smelling savor to God. Christ's merits alone can thus incense our prayers, though the angelic ministry be employed to attach this incense to the prayers. The saints' praying on earth, and the angel's incensing in heaven, are simultaneous. all saints The prayers both of the saints in the heavenly rest, and of those militant on earth. The martyrs' cry is the foremost, and brings down the ensuing judgments. golden altar antitype to the earthly.
4. the smoke . . . which came with the prayers . . . ascended up rather, "the smoke of the incense FOR (or given TO': given' being understood from Revelation 8:3) the prayers of the saints ascended up, out of the angel's hand, in the presence of Gods" The angel merely burns the incense given him by Christ the High Priest, so that its smoke blends with the ascending prayers of the saints. The saints themselves are priests; and the angels in this priestly ministration are but their fellow servants (Revelation 19:10).
5. cast it into the earth that is, unto the earth: the hot coals off the altar cast on the earth, symbolize God's fiery judgments about to descend on the Church's foes in answer to the saints' incense-perfumed prayers which have just ascended before God, and those of the martyrs. How marvellous the power of the saints' prayers! there were "there took place," or "ensued." voices, and thunderings, and lightnings B places the "voices" after "thunderings." A places it after "lightnings."
6. sound blow the trumpets.
7. The common feature of the first four trumpets is, the judgments under them affect natural objects, the accessories of life, the earth, trees, grass, the sea, rivers, fountains, the light of the sun, moon, and stars. The last three, the woe-trumpets (Revelation 8:13), affect men's life with pain, death, and hell. The language is evidently drawn from the plagues of Egypt, five or six out of the ten exactly corresponding: the hail, the fire (Exodus 9:24), the WATER turned to blood (Exodus 7:19), the darkness (Exodus 10:21), the locusts (Exodus 10:12), and perhaps the death (Revelation 9:18). Judicial retribution in kind characterizes the inflictions of the first four, those elements which had been abused punishing their abusers. mingled with A, B, and Vulgate read, Greek, ". . . IN blood." So in the case of the second and third vials (Revelation 16:3, 4). upon the earth Greek, "unto the earth." A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac add, "And the third of the earth was burnt up." So under the third trumpet, the third of the rivers is affected: also, under the sixth trumpet, the third part of men are killed. In Zechariah 13:8, 9 this tripartite division appears, but the proportions reversed, two parts killed, only a third preserved. Here, vice versa, two-thirds escape, one-third is smitten. The fire was the predominant element. all green grass no longer a third, but all is burnt up.
8. as it were not literally a mountain: a mountain-like burning mass. There is a plain allusion to Jeremiah 51:25; Amos 7:4. third part of the sea became blood In the parallel second vial, the whole sea (not merely a third ) becomes blood. The overthrow of Jericho, the type of the Antichristian Babylon, after which Israel, under Joshua (the same name as Jesus ), victoriously took possession of Canaan, the type of Christ's and His people's kingdom, is perhaps alluded to in the SEVEN trumpets, which end in the overthrow of all Christ's foes, and the setting up of His kingdom. On the seventh day, at the seventh time, when the seven priests blew the seven ram's horn trumpets, the people shouted, and the walls fell flat: and then ensued the blood-shedding of the foe. A mountain-like fiery mass would not naturally change water into blood; nor would the third part of ships be thereby destroyed.
9. The symbolical interpreters take the ships here to be churches. For the Greek here for ships is not the common one, but that used in the Gospels of the apostolic vessel in which Christ taught: and the first churches were in the shape of an inverted ship: and the Greek for destroyed is also used of heretical corruptings (1 Timothy 6:5).
10. a lamp a torch.
11. The symbolizers interpret the star fallen from heaven as a chief minister (ARIUS, according to BULLINGER, BENGEL, and others; or some future false teacher, if, as is more likely, the event be still future) falling from his high place in the Church, and instead of shining with heavenly light as a star, becoming a torch lit with earthly fire and smouldering with smoke. And "wormwood," though medicinal in some cases, if used as ordinary water would not only be disagreeable to the taste, but also fatal to life: so "heretical wormwood changes the sweet Siloas of Scripture into deadly Marahs" [WORDSWORTH]. Contrast the converse change of bitter Marah water into sweet, Exodus 15:23. ALFORD gives as an illustration in a physical point of view, the conversion of water into firewater or ardent spirits, which may yet go on to destroy even as many as a third of the ungodly in the latter days.
12. third part not a total obscuration as in the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12, 13). This partial obscuration, therefore, comes between the prayers of the martyrs under the fifth seal, and the last overwhelming judgments on the ungodly under the sixth seal, at the eve of Christ's coming. the night likewise withdrew a third part of the light which the bright Eastern moon and stars ordinarily afford.
13. an angel A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read for "angel," which is supported by none of the oldest manuscripts, "an eagle": the symbol of judgment descending fatally from on high; the king of birds pouncing on the prey. Compare this fourth trumpet and the flying eagle with the fourth seal introduced by the fourth living creature, "like a flying eagle," Revelation 4:7; 6:7, 8: the aspect of Jesus as presented by the fourth Evangelist. John is compared in the cherubim (according to the primitive interpretation) to a flying eagle: Christ's divine majesty in this similitude is set forth in the Gospel according to John, His judicial visitations in the Revelation of John. Contrast "another angel," or messenger, with "the everlasting Gospel," Revelation 14:6. through the midst of heaven Greek, "in the mid-heaven," that is, in the part of the sky where the sun reaches the meridian: in such a position as that the eagle is an object conspicuous to all. the inhabiters of the earth the ungodly, the "men of the world," whose "portion is in this life," upon whom the martyrs had prayed that their blood might be avenged (Revelation 6:10). Not that they sought personal revenge, but their zeal was for the honor of God against the foes of God and His Church. the other Greek, "the remaining voices."
Revelation 9:1-21. THE FIFTH TRUMPET: THE FALLEN STAR OPENS THE ABYSS WHENCE ISSUE LOCUSTS. THE SIXTH TRUMPET. FOUR ANGELS AT THE EUPHRATES LOOSED.
1. The last three trumpets of the seven are called, from Revelation 8:13, the woe-trumpets. fall rather as Greek, "fallen." When John saw it, it was not in the act of falling, but had fallen already. This is a connecting link of this fifth trumpet with Revelation 12:8, 9, 12, "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, for the devil is come down," etc. Compare Isaiah 14:12, "How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning!" the bottomless pit Greek, "the pit of the abyss"; the orifice of the hell where Satan and his demons dwell.
3. upon Greek, "unto," or "into." as the scorpions of the earth as contrasted with the "locusts" which come up from hell, and are not "of the earth." have power namely, to sting.
4. not hurt the grass . . . neither . . . green thing . . . neither . . . tree the food on which they ordinarily prey. Therefore, not natural and ordinary locusts. Their natural instinct is supernaturally restrained to mark the judgment as altogether divine. those men which Greek, "the men whosoever." in, etc. Greek, "upon their forehead." Thus this fifth trumpet is proved to follow the sealing in Revelation 7:1-8, under the sixth seal. None of the saints are hurt by these locusts, which is not true of the saints in Mohammed's attack, who is supposed by many to be meant by the locusts; for many true believers fell in the Mohammedan invasions of Christendom.
5. they . . . they The subject changes: the first "they" is the locusts; the second is the unsealed. five months the ordinary time in the year during which locusts continue their ravages. their torment the torment of the sufferers. This fifth verse and Revelation 9:6 cannot refer to an invading army. For an army would kill, and not merely torment.
6. shall desire Greek, "eagerly desire"; set their mind on. shall flee So B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read. But A and a read, "fleeth," namely continually. In Revelation 6:16, which is at a later stage of God's judgments, the ungodly seek annihilation, not from the torment of their suffering, but from fear of the face of the Lamb before whom they have to stand.
7. prepared unto battle Greek, "made ready unto war." Compare Note, see note on Joel 2:4, where the resemblance of locusts to horses is traced: the plates of a horse armed for battle are an image on a larger scale of the outer shell of the locust. crowns (Nahum 3:17). ELLIOTT explains this of the turbans of Mohammedans. But how could turbans be "like gold?" ALFORD understands it of the head of the locusts actually ending in a crown-shaped fillet which resembled gold in its material. as the faces of men The "as" seems to imply the locusts here do not mean men. At the same time they are not natural locusts, for these do not sting men (Revelation 9:5). They must be supernatural.
8. hair of women long and flowing. An Arabic proverb compares the antlers of locusts to the hair of girls. EWALD in ALFORD understands the allusion to be to the hair on the legs or bodies of the locusts: compare "rough caterpillars," Jeremiah 51:27. as the teeth of lions (Joel 1:6, as to locusts).
9. as it were breastplates of iron not such as forms the thorax of the natural locust. as . . . chariots (Joel 2:5-7). battle Greek, "war."
10. tails like unto scorpions like unto the tails of scorpions. and there were stings There is no oldest manuscript for this reading. A, B, a, Syriac, and Coptic read, "and (they have) stings: and in their tails (is) their power (literally, authority': authorized power) to hurt."
11. And so Syriac. But A, B, and a, omit "and." had Greek, "have." a king . . . which is the angel English Version, agreeing with A, a, reads the (Greek ) article before "angel," in which reading we must translate, "They have as king over them the angel," etc. Satan (compare Revelation 9:1). Omitting the article with B, we must translate, "They have as king an angel," etc.: one of the chief demons under Satan: I prefer from Revelation 9:1, the former. bottomless pit Greek, "abyss." Abaddon that is, perdition or destruction (Job 26:6; Proverbs 27:20). The locusts are supernatural instruments in the hands of Satan to torment, and yet not kill, the ungodly, under this fifth trumpet. Just as in the case of godly Job, Satan was allowed to torment with elephantiasis, but not to touch his life. In Revelation 9:20, these two woe-trumpets are expressly called "plagues." ANDREAS OF CAESAREA, A.D. 500, held, in his Commentary on Revelation, that the locusts mean evil spirits again permitted to come forth on earth and afflict men with various plagues.
12. Greek, "The one woe." hereafter Greek, "after these things." I agree with ALFORD and DE BURGH, that these locusts from the abyss refer to judgments about to fall on the ungodly immediately before Christ's second advent. None of the interpretations which regard them as past, are satisfactory. Joel 1:2-7; 2:1-11, is strictly parallel and expressly refers (Joel 2:11) to THE DAY OF THE LORD GREAT AND VERY TERRIBLE: Joel 2:10 gives the portents accompanying the day of the Lord's coming, the earth quaking, the heavens trembling, the sun, moon, and stars, withdrawing their shining: Joel 2:18, 31, 32, also point to the immediately succeeding deliverance of Jerusalem: compare also, the previous last conflict in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and the dwelling of God thenceforth in Zion, blessing Judah. DE BURGH confines the locust judgment to the Israelite land, even as the sealed in Revelation 7:1-8 are Israelites: not that there are not others sealed as elect in the earth; but that, the judgment being confined to Palestine, the sealed of Israel alone needed to be expressly excepted from the visitation. Therefore, he translates throughout, "the land" (that is, of Israel and Judah), instead of "the earth." I incline to agree with him.
13. a voice literally, "one voice." from Greek, "out of." the four horns A, Vulgate (Amiatinus manuscript), Coptic, and Syriac omit "four." B and CYPRIAN support it. The four horns together gave forth their voice, not diverse, but one. God's revelation (for example, the Gospel), though in its aspects fourfold (four expressing world-wide extension: whence four is the number of the Evangelists), still has but one and the same voice. However, from the parallelism of this sixth trumpet to the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9, 10), the martyrs' cry for the avenging of their blood from the altar reaching its consummation under the sixth seal and sixth trumpet, I prefer understanding this cry from the four corners of the altar to refer to the saints' prayerful cry from the four quarters of the world, incensed by the angel, and ascending to God from the golden altar of incense, and bringing down in consequence fiery judgments. a omits the whole clause, "one from the four horns."
14. in, etc. Greek, "epi to potamo "; "on," or "at the great river." Euphrates (Compare Revelation 16:12). The river whereat Babylon, the ancient foe of God's people was situated. Again, whether from the literal region of the Euphrates, or from the spiritual Babylon (the apostate Church, especially ROME), four angelic ministers of God's judgments shall go forth, assembling an army of horsemen throughout the four quarters of the earth, to slay a third of men, the brunt of the visitation shall be on Palestine.
15. were "which had been prepared" [TREGELLES rightly]. for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year rather as Greek, "for (that is, against) THE hour, and day, and month, and year," namely, appointed by God. The Greek article (teen ), put once only before all the periods, implies that the hour in the day, and the day in the month, and the month in the year, and the year itself, had been definitely fixed by God. The article would have been omitted had a sum-total of periods been specified, namely, three hundred ninety-one years and one month (the period from A.D. 1281, when the Turks first conquered the Christians, to 1672, their last conquest of them, since which last date their empire has declined). slay not merely to "hurt" (Revelation 9:10), as in the fifth trumpet. third part (See on Revelation 8:7-12). of men namely, of earthy men, Revelation 8:13, "inhabiters of the earth," as distinguished from God's sealed people (of which the sealed of Israel, Revelation 7:1-8, form the nucleus).
16. Compare with these two hundred million, Psalms 68:17; Daniel 7:10. The hosts here are evidently, from their numbers and their appearance (Revelation 9:17), not merely human hosts, but probably infernal, though constrained to work out God's will (compare Revelation 9:1, 2). and I heard A, B, a, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and CYPRIAN omit "and."
17. thus as follows. of fire the fiery color of the breastplates answering to the fire which issued out of their mouths. of jacinth literally, "of hyacinth color," the hyacinth of the ancients answering to our dark blue iris: thus, their dark, dull-colored breastplates correspond to the smoke out of their mouths. brimstone sulphur-colored: answering to the brimstone or sulphur out of their mouths.
18. By these three A, B. C, and a read (apo for kupo ), "From"; implying the direction whence the slaughter came; not direct instrumentality as "by" implies. A, B, C, a also add "plagues" after "three." English Version reading, which omits it, is not well supported. by the fire Greek, "owing to the fire," literally, "out of."
19. their A, B, C and a read, "the power of the horses." in their mouth whence issued the fire, smoke, and brimstone (Revelation 9:17). Many interpreters understand the horsemen to refer to the myriads of Turkish cavalry arrayed in scarlet, blue, and yellow (fire, hyacinth, and brimstone ), the lion-headed horses denoting their invincible courage, and the fire and brimstone out of their mouths, the gunpowder and artillery introduced into Europe about this time, and employed by the Turks; the tails, like serpents, having a venomous sting, the false religion of Mohammed supplanting Christianity, or, as ELLIOTT thinks, the Turkish pachas' horse tails, worn as a symbol of authority. (!) All this is very doubtful. Considering the parallelism of this sixth trumpet to the sixth seal, the likelihood is that events are intended immediately preceding the Lord's coming. "The false prophet" (as Isaiah 9:15 proves), or second beast, having the horns of a lamb, but speaking as the dragon, who supports by lying miracles the final Antichrist, seems to me to be intended. Mohammed, doubtless, is a forerunner of him, but not the exhaustive fulfiller of the prophecy here: Satan will, probably, towards the end, bring out all the powers of hell for the last conflict (see note on Revelation 9:20, on "devils"; compare Revelation 9:1, 2, 17, 18). with them with the serpent heads and their venomous fangs.
20. the rest of the men that is, the ungodly. yet So A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic. B and a read, "did not even repent of," namely, so as to give up "the works," etc. Like Pharaoh hardening his heart against repentance notwithstanding the plagues. of their hands (Deuteronomy 31:29). Especially the idols made by their hands. Compare Revelation 13:14, 15, "the image of the beast" Revelation 19:20. that they should not So B reads. But A, C, and a read "that they shall not": implying a prophecy of certainty that it shall be so. devils Greek, "demons" which lurk beneath the idols which idolaters worship.
21. sorceries witchcrafts by means of drugs (so the Greek ). One of the fruits of the unrenewed flesh: the sin of the heathen: about to be repeated by apostate Christians in the last days, Revelation 22:15, "sorcerers." The heathen who shall have rejected the proffered Gospel and clung to their fleshly lusts, and apostate Christians who shall have relapsed into the same shall share the same terrible judgments. The worship of images was established in the East in A.D. 842. fornication singular: whereas the other sins are in the plural. Other sins are perpetrated at intervals: those lacking purity of heart indulge in one perpetual fornication [BENGEL].
Analysis of the Chapter
ONE seal of the mysterious roll Rev. 5:1 remains to be brokensix having already disclosed the contents of the volume relating to the future. It was natural that the opening of the seventh, and the last, should be attended with circumstances of peculiar solemnity, as being all that remained in this volume to be unfolded, and as the events thus far had been evidently preparatory to some great catastrophe. It would have been natural to expect that, like the six former, this seal would have been opened at once, and would have disclosed all that was to happen at one view. But, instead of that, the opening of this seal is followed by a series of events, seven also in number, which succeed each other, represented by new symbolsthe blowing of as many successive trumpets. These circumstances retard the course of the action, and fix the mind on a new order of eventsevents which could be appropriately grouped together, and which, for some reason, might be thus more appropriately represented than they could be in so many successive seals. What was the reason of this arrangement will be more readily seen on an examination of the particular events referred to in the successive trumpet-blasts.
The points in the chapter are the following:
(1.) The opening of the seventh seal, Rev. 8:1. This is attended, not with an immediate exhibition of the events which are to occur, as in the case of the former seals, but with a solemn silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. The reason of this silence, apparently, is found in the solemn nature of the events which are anticipated. At the opening of the sixth seal (Rev. 6:12, seq.) the grand catastrophe of the world's history seemed about to occur. This had been suspended for a time as if by the power of angels holding the winds and the storm, (Rev. 7) and now it was natural to expect that there would be a series of overwhelming calamities. In view of these apprehended terrors, the inhabitants of heaven are represented as standing in awful silence, as if anticipating and apprehending what was to occur. This circumstance adds much to the interest of the scene, and is a forcible illustration of the position which the mind naturally assumes in the anticipation of dreaded events. Silencesolemn and awful silenceis the natural state of the mind under such circumstances. In accordance with this expectation of what was to come, a series of new representations is introduced, adapted to prepare the mind for the fearful disclosures which are yet to be made.
(2.) Seven angels appear, on the opening of the seal, to whom are given seven trumpets, as if they were appointed to perform an important part in introducing the series of events which was to follow, Rev. 8:2.
(3.) As a still farther preparation, another angel is introduced, standing at the altar with a golden censer, Rev. 8:3-5. He is represented as engaged in a solemn act of worship, offering incense and the prayers of the saints before the throne. This unusual representation seems to be designed to denote that some extraordinary events were to occur, making it proper that incense should ascend, and prayer be offered to deprecate the wrath of God. After the offering of the incense, and the prayers, the angel takes the censer and casts it to the earth; and the effect is that there are voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. All these would seem to be symbolical of the fearful events which are to follow. The silence; the incense-offering; the prayers; the fearful agitations produced by the casting of the censer upon the earth, as if the prayer was not heard, and as if the offering of the incense did not avail to turn away the impending wrath,all are appropriate symbols to introduce the series of fearful calamities which were coming upon the world on the sounding of the trumpets.
(4.) The first angel sounds, Rev. 8:7. Hail and fire follow, mingled with blood. The third part of the trees and of the green grassthat is, of the vegetable worldis consumed.
(5.) The second angel sounds, Rev. 8:8, 9. A great burning mountain is cast into the sea, and the third part of the sea becomes blood, and a third part of all that is in the seafishes and shipsis destroyed.
(6.) The third angel sounds, Rev. 8:10, 11. A great star, burning like a lamp, falls from heaven upon a third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters, and the waters become bitter, and multitudes of people die from drinking the waters.
(7.) The fourth angel sounds, Rev. 8:12. The calamity falls on the sources of lightthe sun, the moon, and the starsand the third part of the light is extinguished, and for the third part of the day there is no light, and for the third part of the night also there is no light.
(8.) At this stage of things, after the sounding of the four trumpets, there is a pause, and an angel flies through the midst of heaven, thrice crying woe, by reason of the remaining trumpets which are to sound, Rev. 8:13. Here would seem to be some natural interval, or something which would separate the events which had occurred from those which were to follow. These four, from some cause, are grouped together, and are distinguished from those which are to followas if the latter appertained to a new class of events, though under the same general group introduced by the opening of the seventh seal.
A few general remarks are naturally suggested by the analysis of the chapter, which may aid us in its exposition and application.
(a) These events, in their order, undoubtedly succeed those which are referred to under the opening of the first six seals. They are a continuation of the series which is to occur in the history of the world. It has been supposed by some that the events here symbolized are substantially the same as those already referred to under the first six seals, or that, at the opening of the sixth seal, there is a catastrophe; and, one series being there concluded, the writer, by a new set of symbols, goes back to the same point of time, and passes over the same period by a new and parallel set of symbols. But this is manifestly contrary to the whole design. At the first, (Rev. 5:1,) a volume was exhibited sealed with seven seals, the unrolling of which would manifestly develope successive events, and the whole of which would embrace all the events which were to be disclosed. When all these seven seals were broken, and the contents of that volume were disclosed, there might indeed be another set of symbols going over the same ground with another design, or giving a representation of future events in some other point of view; but Clearly the series should not be broken until the whole seven seals are opened, nor should it be supposed that there is, in the opening of the same volume, an arresting of the course of events, in order to go back again to the same beginning. The representation in this series of symbols is like drawing out a telescope. A telescope might be divided into seven parts, as well as into the usual number, and the drawing out of the seventh part, for example, might be regarded as a representation of the opening of the seventh seal. But the seventh part, instead of being one unbroken piece like the other six, might be so constructed as to be subdivided into seven minor parts, each representing a smaller portion of the seventh part. In such a case, the drawing out of the seventh division would succeed that of the others, and would be designed to represent a subsequent order of events.
(b) There was some reason, manifestly, why these seven last events, or the series represented by the seven trumpets, should be grouped together as coming under the same general classification. They were sufficiently distinct to make it proper to represent them by different symbols, and yet they had so much of the same general character as to make it proper to group them together. If this had not been so, it would have been proper to represent them by a succession of seals extending to thirteen in number, instead of representing six seals in succession, and then, under the seventh, a new series extending also to the number seven, In the fulfilment, it will be proper to look for some events which have some such natural connexion and bearing that, for some reason, they can be classed together, and yet so distinct that, under the same general symbol of the seal, they can be represented under the particular symbol of the trumpets.
(c) For some reason, there was a further distinction between the events represented by the first four trumpets, and those which were to follow. There was some reason why they should be more particularly grouped together, and placed in close connexion, and why there should be an interval (Rev. 8:13) before the other trumpet should sound. In the fulfilment of this, we should naturally look for such an order of events as would be designated by four successive symbols, and then for such a change, in some respects, as to make an interval proper, and a proclamation of woe, before the sounding of the other three, Rev. 8:13. Then it would be natural to look for such events as could properly be grouped under the three remaining symbolsthe three succeeding trumpets.
(d) It is natural, as already intimated, to suppose that the entire group would extend, in some general manner at least, to the consummation of all things; or that there would be, under the last One, a reference to the consummation of all thingsthe end of the world. The reason for this has already been given, that the apostle saw a volume Rev. 5:1 which contained a sealed account of the future, and it is natural to suppose that there would be a reference to the great leading events which were to occur in the history of the church and of the world. This natural anticipation is confirmed by the events disclosed under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, Rev. 11:15, seq. "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken thy great power, and hast reigned," etc. At all events, this would lead us on to the final triumph of Christianityto the introduction of the millennium of gloryto the period when the Son of God should reign on the earth, After that, (Rev. 11:19, seq.,) a new series of visions commences, disclosing, through the same periods of history, a new view of the church to the time also of its final triumph:the church internally; the rise of Antichrist, and the effect of the rise of this formidable power, See the Analysis of the Book, part fifth.
1. And when he had opened the seventh seal. See Note on Rev. 5:1.
There was silence in heaven. The whole scene of the vision is laid in heaven, (chapter 4) and John represents things as they seem to be passing there. The meaning here is, that on the opening of this seal, instead of voices, thunderings, tempests, as perhaps was expected from the character of the sixth seal, (Rev. 6:12, seq.,) and which seemed only to have been suspended for a time, (chapter 7) there was an awful stillness, as if all heaven was reverently waiting for the development. Of course, this is a symbolical representation, and is designed not to represent a pause in the events themselves, but only the impressive and fearful nature of the events which are now to be disclosed.
About the space of half an hour. He did not profess to designate the time exactly. It was a brief periodyet a period which in such circumstances would appear to be longabout half an hour. The word here usedhmiwriondoes not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It is correctly rendered half an hour; and as the day was divided into twelve parts from the rising to the setting of the sun, the time designated would not vary much from half an hour with us. Of course, therefore, this denotes a brief period. In a state, however, of anxious suspense, the moments would seem to move slowly; and to see the exact force of this, we are to reflect on the scenes representedthe successive opening of seals disclosing most important eventsincreasing in interest as each new one was opened; the course of events which seemed to be leading to the consummation of all things, arrested after the opening of the sixth seal; and now the last in the series to be opened, disclosing what the affairs of the world would be at the consummation of all things. John looks on this; and in this state of suspense, the half hour may have seemed an ageWe are not, of course, to suppose that the silence in heaven is produced by the character of the events which are now to follow for they are as yet unknown. It is caused by what, from the nature of the previous disclosures, was naturally apprehended, and by the fact that this is the last of the seriesthe finishing of the mysterious volume. This seems to me to be the obvious interpretation of this passage, though there has been here, as in other parts of the book of Revelation, a great variety of opinion as to the meaning. Those who suppose that the whole book consists of a triple series of visions designed to prefigure future events, parallel with each other, and each leading to the consummation of all thingsthe series embracing the seals, the trumpets, and the vials, each seven in numberregard this as the proper ending of the first of this series, and suppose that we have on the opening of the seventh seal the beginning of a new symbolical representation, going, over the same ground, under the representations of the trumpets in a new aspect or point of view. Eichhorn and Rosenmuller suppose that the silence introduced by the apostle is merely for effect, and that, therefore, it is without any special signification. Grotius applies the whole representation to the destruction of Jerusalem, and supposes that the silence in heaven refers to the restraining of the winds referred to in Rev. 7:1the wrath in respect to the city, which was now suspended for a short time. Professor Stuart also refers it to the destruction of Jerusalem, and supposes that the seven trumpets refer to seven gradations in the series of judgments that were coming upon the persecutors of the church. Mr. Daubuz regards the silence here referred to as a symbol of the liberty granted to the church in the time of Constantine; Vitringa interprets it of the peace of the millennium which is to succeed the overthrow of the beast and the false prophet; Dean Woodhouse and Mr. Cunninghame regard it as the termination of the series of events which the former seals denote, and the commencement of a new train of revelations; Mr. Elliott, as the suspension of the winds during the sealing of the servants of God; Mr. Lord, as the period of repose which intervened between the close of the persecution by Diocletian and Galerius, in 311, and the commencement, near the close of that year, of the civil wars by which Constantine the Great was elevated to the imperial throne. It will be seen at once how arbitrary and unsatisfactory most of those interpretations are, and how far from harmony expositors have been as to the meaning of this symbol. The most simple and obvious interpretation is likely to be the true one; and that is, as above suggested, that it refers to silence in heaven as expressive of the fearful anticipation felt on opening the last seal that was to close the series, and to wind up the affairs of the church and the world. Nothing would be more natural than such a state of solemn awe on such an occasion; nothing would introduce the opening of the seal in a more impressive manner; nothing would more naturally express the anxiety of the church, the probable feelings of the pious on the opening of these successive seals, than the representation that incense, accompanied with their prayers, was continually offered in heaven.
2. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God. Professor Stuart supposes that by these angels are meant the "presence-angels" which he understands to be referred to, in Rev. 1:4, by the "seven spirits which are before the throne." If, however, the interpretation of that passage above proposed, that it refers to the Holy Spirit, with reference to his multiplied agency and operations, be correct, then we must seek for another application of the phrase here. The only difficulty in applying it arises from the use of the article"the seven angels"toußas if they were angels already referred to; and as there has been no previous mention of "seven angels," unless it be in the phrase "the seven spirits which are before the throne," in Rev. 1:4, it is argued that this must have been such a reference. But this interpretation is not absolutely necessary. John might use this language either because the angels had been spoken of before; or because it would be sufficiently understood, from the common use of language, who would be referred toas we now might speak of "the seven members of the cabinet of the United States?" or "the thirty-one governors of the states of the Union," though they had not been particularly mentioned; or he might speak of them as just then disclosed to his view, and because his meaning would be sufficiently definite by the circumstances which were to followtheir agency in blowing the trumpets. It would be entirely in accordance with the usage of the article for one to say that he saw an army, and the commander-in-chief, and the four staff-officers, and the five bands of music, and the six companies of sappers and miners, etc. It is not absolutely necessary, therefore, to suppose that these angels had been before referred to. There is, indeed, in the use of the phrase "which stood before God," the idea that they are to be regarded as permanently standing there, or that that is their proper placeas if they were angels who were particularly designated to this high service, Compare Luke 1:19: "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God." If this idea is involved in the phrase, then there is a sufficient reason why the article is used, though they had not before been mentioned.
And to them were given seven trumpets. One to each. By whom the trumpets were given is not said. It may be supposed to have been done by Him who sat on the throne. Trumpets were used then, as now, for various purposes; to summon an assembly; to muster the hosts of battle; to inspirit and animate troops in conflict. Here they are given to announce a series of important events producing great changes in the worldas if God summoned and led on his hosts to accomplish his designs.
3. And another angel came. Who this angel was is not mentioned, nor have we any means of determining. Of course, a great variety of opinion has been entertained on the subject (see Poole's Synopsis)some referring it to angels in general; others to the ministry of the church; others to Constantine; others to Michael; and many others to the Lord Jesus. All that we know is, that it was an angel who thus appeared, and there is nothing inconsistent in the supposition that any one of the angels in heaven may have been appointed to perform what is here represented. The design seems to be, to represent the prayers of the saints as ascending in the anticipation of the approaching series of wonders in the worldand there would be a beautiful propriety in representing them as offered by an angel, feeling a deep interest in the church, and ministering in behalf of the saints.
And stood at the altar. In heavenrepresented as a temple, with an altar, and with the usual array of things employed in the worship of God. The altar was the appropriate place for him to stand when about to offer the prayers of the saintsfor that is the place where the worshipper stood under the ancient dispensation. Compare Notes on Matt. 5:23-24; Luke 1:11.
In the latter place, an angel is represented as appearing to Zacharias "on the right side of the altar of incense."
Having a golden censer. The fire-pan, made for the purpose of carrying fire, on which to burn incense in time of worship. See it described and illustrated in See Note on Heb. 9:4.
There seems reason to suppose that the incense that was offered in the ancient worship was designed to be emblematic of the prayers of saints, for it was the custom for worshippers to be engaged in prayer at the time the incense was offered by the priest. See Luke 1:10.
And there was given unto him much incense. See Note on Luke 1:9.
A large quantity was here given to him, because the occasion was one on which many prayers might be expected to be offered.
That he should offer it with the prayers. Marg., "add it to." Gr., "that he should give it with"dwsh. The idea is plain, that, when the prayers of the saints ascended, he would also burn the incense, that it might go up at the same moment, and be emblematic of them. Compare Note on Rev. 5:8.
Of all saints. Of all who are holy; of all who are the children of God. The idea seems to be, that, at this time, all the saints would unite in calling on God, and in deprecating his wrath. As the events which were about to occur were a matter of common interest to the people of God, it was to be supposed that they would unite in common supplication.
Upon the golden altar. The altar of incense. This in the tabernacle and in the temple was overlaid with gold.
Which was before the throne. This is represented as a temple-service, and the altar of incense is, with propriety, placed before his seat or throne, as it was in the tabernacle and temple. In the temple, God is represented as occupying the mercy-seat in the holy of holies, and the altar of incense is in the holy place before that. See the description of the temple in See Note on Matt. 21:12.
4. And the smoke of the incense, etc. The smoke caused by the burning incense. John, as he saw this, naturally interpreted it of the prayers of the saints. The meaning of the whole symbol, thus explained, is that, at the time referred to, the anxiety of the church in regard to the events which were about to occur would naturally lead to much prayer. It is not necessary to attempt to verify this by any distinct historical facts, for no one can doubt that, in a time of such impending calamities, the church would be earnestly engaged in devotion. Such has always been the case in times of danger; and it may always be assumed to be true, that when danger threatens, whether it be to the church at large or to an individual Christian, there will be a resort to the throne of grace.
5. And the angel took the censer. Rev. 8:3, This is a new symbol, designed to furnish a new representation of future events. By the former it had been shown that there would be much prayer offered; by this it is designed to show that, notwithstanding the prayer that would be offered, great and fearful calamities would come upon the earth. This is symbolized by casting the censer upon the earth, as if the prayers were not heard any longer, or as if prayer were now in vain.
And filled it with fire of the altar. An image similar to this occurs in Ezek. 10:2, where the man clothed in linen is commanded to go between the wheels under the cherub, and fill his hands with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and to scatter them over the city as a symbol of its destruction. Here the coals are taken, evidently, from the altar of sacrifice. See Note on Isa. 61:1.
On these coals no incense was placed, but they were thrown at once to the earth. The new emblem, therefore, is the taking of coals, and scattering them abroad as a symbol of the destruction that was about to ensue.
And cast it into the earth. Marg., upon. The margin expresses undoubtedly the meaning. The symbol, therefore, properly denoted that fearful calamities were about to come upon the earth. Even the prayers of saints did not prevail to turn them away, and now the symbol of the scattered coals indicated that terrible judgments were about to come upon the world.
And there were voices. Sounds, noises. See Note on Rev. 4:5.
The order is not the same here as there, but lightnings, thunderings, and voices are mentioned in both.
And an earthquake. Rev. 6:12. This is a symbol of commotion. It is not necessary to look for a literal fulfilment of it, any more than it is for literal "voices," "lightnings," or "thunderings."
6. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. See also Rev. 8:7. Evidently in succession, perhaps by arranging themselves in the order in which they were to sound. The way is now prepared for the sounding of the trumpets, and for the fearful commotions and changes which would be indicated by that. The last seal is opened; heaven stands in suspense to know what is to be disclosed; the saints, filled with solicitude, have offered their prayers; the censer of coals has been cast to the earth, as if these judgments could be no longer stayed by prayer; and the angels prepare to sound the trumpets indicative of what is to occur.
7. The first angel sounded. The first in order, and indicating the first in the series of events that were to follow.
And there followed hail. Hail is usually a symbol of the Divine vengeance, as it has often been employed to accomplish the Divine purposes of punishment. Thus in Exod. 9:23, "And the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt." So in Psa. 105:32, referring to the plagues upon Egypt, it is said, "He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land." So again, Psa. 78:48, "He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts." As early as the time of Job, hail was understood to be an emblem of the Divine displeasure, and an instrument in inflicting punishment:
"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow,
Or hast thou seen the treasure of the hail?
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble,
Against the days of battle and war?Job 38:22-23
So also the same image is used in Psa. 18:13:
"The Lord also thundered in the heaven,
And the Most High gave forth his voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire."
Compare Hag. 2:17. The destruction of the Assyrian army, it is said, would be accomplished in the same way, Isa. 30:30. Compare Ezek. 13:11; 38:22.
And fire. Lightning. This also is an instrument and an emblem of destruction.
Mingled with blood. By blood, "we must naturally understand," says Professor Stuart, "in this case, a shower of coloured rain; that is, rain of a rubidinous aspect, an occurrence which is known sometimes to take place, and which, like falling stars, eclipses, etc., was viewed with terror by the ancients, because it was supposed to be indicative of blood that was to be shed." The appearance, doubtless, was that of a red shower, apparently of hail or snowfor rain is not mentioned. It is not a rain storm, it is a hail storm that is the image here; and the image is that of a driving hail storm, where the lightnings flashed, and where there was the intermingling of a reddish substance that resembled blood, and that was an undoubted symbol of blood that was to be shed. I do not know that there is red rain, or red hail, but red snow is not very uncommon; and the image here would be complete if we suppose that there was an intermingling of red snow in the driving tempest. This species of snow was found by Captain Ross at Baffin's Bay on the 17th of August, 1819. The mountains that were dyed with the snow were about eight miles long, and six hundred feet high. The red colour reached to the ground in many places ten or twelve feet deep, and continued for a great length of time. Although red snow had not until this attracted much notice, yet it had been long before observed in Alpine countries. Saussure discovered it on mount St. Bernard in 1778. Ramond found it on the Pyrenees; and Summerfield discovered it in Norway. "In 1818, red snow fell on the Italian Alps and Apennines. In March, 1808, the whole country about Cadore, Belluno, and Peltri, was covered with a red-coloured snow, to the depth of six and a half feet; but a white snow had fallen both before and after it, the red formed a stratum in the middle of the white. At the same time a similar fall took place in the mountains of the Valteline, Brescia, Carinthia, and Tyrol."Edin. Encyclo. Art. Snow. These facts show that what is referred to here in the symbol might possibly occur. Such a symbol would be properly expressive of blood and carnage.
And they were cast upon the earth. The hail, the fire, and the blooddenoting that the fulfilment of this was to be on the earth.
And the third part of trees was burnt up. By the fire that came down with the hail and the blood.
And all green grass was burnt up. Wherever this lighted on the earth. The meaning would seem to be, that, wherever this tempest beat, the effect was to destroy a third partthat is, a large portion of the trees, and to consume all the grass. A portion of the treestrong and mightywould stand against it; but that which was so tender, as grass is, would be consumed. The sense does not seem to be that the tempest would be confined to a third part of the world, and destroy all the trees and the grass there; but that it would be a sweeping and general tempest, and that wherever it spread it would prostrate a third part of the trees and consume all the grass. Thus understood, it would seem to mean that, in reference to those things in the world which were firm and established like trees, it would not sweep them wholly away, though it would make great desolation; but in reference to those which were delicate and feeblelike grassit would sweep them wholly away.This would not be an inapt description of the ordinary effects of invasion in time of war. A few of those things which seem most firm and established in societylike trees in a forestweather out the storm; while the gentle virtues, the domestic enjoyments, the arts of peace, like tender grass, are wholly destroyed. The fulfilment of this we are undoubtedly to expect to find in the terrors of invasion; the evils of war; the effusion of blood; the march of armies. So far as the language is concerned, the symbol would apply to any hostile invasion; but, in pursuing the exposition on the principles on which we have thus far conducted it, we are to look for the fulfilment in one or more of those invasions of the Northern hordes that preceded the downfall of the Roman empire and that contributed to it.In the "Analysis" of the chapter, some reasons were given why these four trumpet signals were placed together, as pertaining to a series of events of the same general character, and as distinguished from those which were to follow. The natural place which they occupy, or the events which we should suppose, from the views taken above of the first six seals, would be represented, would be the successive invasions of the Northern hordes which ultimately accomplished the overthrow of the Roman empire. There are four of these "trumpets," and it would be a matter of inquiry whether there were four events of sufficient distinctness that would mark these invasions, or that would constitute periods or epochs in the destruction of the Roman power.
At this point in writing, I looked on a chart of history, composed with no reference to this prophecy, and found a singular and unexpected prominence given to four such events extending from the first invasion of the Goths and Vandals at the beginning of the fifth century, to the fall of the Western empire, A.D. 476. The first was the invasion of Alaric, king of the Goths, A.D. 410; the second was the invasion of Attila, king of the Huns, "scourge of God," A. D. 447; a third was the sack of Rome by Genseric, king of the Vandals, A. D. 455; and the fourth, resulting in the final conquest of Rome, was that of Odoacer, king of the Heruli, who assumed the title of King of Italy, A.D. 476. We shall see, however, on a closer examination, that although two of theseAttila and Gensericwere, during a part of their career, contemporary, yet the most prominent place is due to Genseric in the events that attended the downfall of the empire, and that the second trumpet probably related to him; the third to Attila. These were, beyond doubt, four great periods or events attending the fall of the Roman empire, which synchronize with the period before us. If, therefore, we regard the opening of the sixth seal as denoting the threatening aspect of these invading powersthe gathering of the dark cloud that hovered over the borders of the empire, and the consternation produced by that approaching storm; and if we regard the transactions in the seventh chapterthe holding of the winds in check, and the sealing of the chosen of Godas denoting the suspension of the impending judgments in order that a work might be done to save the church, and as referring to the Divine interposition in behalf of the church; then the appropriate place of these four trumpets, under the seventh seal, will be when that delayed and restrained storm burst in successive blasts upon different parts of the empirethe successive invasions which were so prominent in the overthrow of that vast power. History marks four of these eventsfour heavy blowsfour sweepings of the tempest and the stormunder Alaric, Genseric, Attila, and Odoacer, whose movements could not be better symbolized than by these successive blasts of the trumpet.
The first of these is the invasion of Alaric; and the inquiry now is, whether his invasion is such as would be properly symbolized by the first trumpet. In illustrating this, it will be proper to notice some of the movements of Alaric, and the alarm consequent on his invasion of the empire; and then to inquire how far this corresponds with the images employed in the description of the first trumpet. For these illustrations, I shall be indebted mainly to Mr. Gibbon. Alaric, the Goth, was at first employed in the service of the emperor Theodosius, in his attempt to oppose the usurper Arbogastes, after the murder of Valentinian, emperor of the West. Theodosius, in order to oppose the usurper, employed, among others, numerous barbariansIberians, Arabs, and Goths. One of them was Alaric, who, to use the language of Mr. Gibbon, (ii. 179,) "acquired in the school of Theodosius the knowledge of the art of war, which he afterwards so fatally exerted in the destruction of Rome," A.D. 392-394. After the death of Theodosius, (A. D. 395,) the Goths revolted from the Roman power, and Alaric, who had been disappointed in his expectations of being raised to the command of the Roman armies, became their leader.Dec. and Fall, ii. 213. "That renowned leader was descended from the noble race of the Balti; which yielded only to the royal dignity of the Omali; he had solicited the command of the Roman armies; and the imperial court provoked him to demonstrate the folly of their refusal, and the importance of their loss. In the midst of a divided court and a discontented people, the emperor Arcadius was terrified by the aspect of the Gothic arms," etc. Alaric then invaded and conquered Greece, laying it waste in his progress, until he reached Athens, ii. 214, 215. "The fertile fields of Phocis and Boeotia were instantly covered by a deluge of barbarians, who massacred the males of age to bear arms, and drove away the beautiful females, with the spoil and cattle of the flaming villages." Alaric then concluded a treaty with Theodosius, the emperor of the East, (ii. 216;) was made master-general of Eastern Illyricum, and created a magistrate, (ii. 217;) soon united under his command the barbarous nations that had made the invasion, and was solemnly declared to be the king of the Visigoths, ii. 217. "Armed with this double power, seated on the verge of two empires, he alternately sold his deceitful promises to the courts of Arcadius and Honorius, till he declared and executed his purpose of invading the dominion of the West. The provinces of Europe which belonged to the Eastern empire were already exhausted; those of Asia were inaccessible; and the strength of Constantinople had resisted his attack. But he was tempted by the beauty, the wealth, and the fame of Italy, which he had twice visited; and he secretly aspired to plant the Gothic standard on the walls of Rome, and to enrich his army with the accumulated spoils of three hundred triumphs," ii. 217-218. In describing his march to the Danube, and his progress towards Italy, having increased his army with a large number of barbarians, Mr. Gibbon uses the remarkable language expressive of the general consternation, already quoted, in the description of the sixth seal. Alaric approached rapidly towards the imperial city, resolved to "conquer or die before the gates of Rome." But he was checked by Stilicho, and compelled to make peace, and retired, (Dec. and Fall, ii. 222,) and the threatening storm was for a time suspended. See Note on Rev. 7:1, seq. So great was the consternation, however, that the Roman court, which then had its seat at Milan, thought it necessary to remove to a safer place, and became fixed at Ravenna, ii. 224. This calm, secured by the retreat of Alaric, was, however, of short continuance. In A.D. 408, he again invaded Italy, in a more successful manner, attacked the capital, and more than once pillaged Rome. The following facts, for which I am indebted to Mr. Gibbon, will illustrate the progress of the events, and the effects of this blast of the "first trumpet" in the series that announced the destruction of the Western empire.
(a) The effect, on the destiny of the empire, of removing the Roman court to Ravenna from the dread of the Goths. As early as A. D. 303, the court of the emperor of the West was, for the most part, established at Milan. For some time before, the "sovereignty of the capital was gradually annihilated by the extent of conquest," and the emperors were required to be long absent from Rome on the frontiers, until, in the time of Diocletian and Maximin, the seat of government was fixed at Milan, "whose situation on the foot of the Alps appeared far more convenient than that of Rome, for the important purpose of watching the motions of the barbarians of Germany."Gibbon, i. 213. "The life of Diocletian and Maximin was a life of action, and a considerable portion of it was spent in camps, or in those long and frequent marches; but whenever the public business allowed them any relaxation, they seem to have retired with pleasure to their favourite residences of Nicomedia and Milan. Till Diocletian, in the twentieth year of his reign, celebrated his Roman triumph, it is extremely doubtful whether he ever visited the ancient capital of the empire."Gibbon, i. 214. From this place the court was driven away, by the dread of the Northern barbarians, to Ravenna, a safer place, which thenceforward became the seat of government; while Italy was ravaged by the Northern hordes, and while Rome was besieged and pillaged. Mr. Gibbon, under date of A.D. 404, says, "The recent danger to which the person of the emperor had been exposed in the defenceless palace of Milan [from Alaric and the Goths] urged him to seek a retreat in some inaccessible fortress in Italy, where he might securely remain, while the open country was covered by a deluge of barbarians."Vol, ii. p. 224. He then proceeds to describe the situation of Ravenna, and the removal of the court thither, and then adds, (p. 225,) "The fears of Honorius were not without foundation, nor were his precautions without effect. While Italy rejoiced in her deliverance from the Goths, a furious tempest was excited among the nations of Germany, who yielded to the irresistible impulse that appears to have been generally communicated from the eastern extremity of the continent of Asia." That mighty movement of the Huns is then described, as the storm was preparing to burst upon the Roman empire, ii. 225. The agitation, and the removal of the Roman government, were events not inappropriate to be described by symbols relating to the fall of that mighty power.
(b) The particulars of that invasion, the consternation, the siege of Rome, and the capture and pillage of the imperial city, would confirm the propriety of this application to the symbol of the first trumpet. It would be too long to copy the accountfor it extends through many pages of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Empire; but a few selected sentences may show the general character of the events, and the propriety of the symbols, on the supposition that they referred to these things. Thus Mr. Gibbon (ii. 226, 227) says, "The correspondence of the nations was, in that age, so imperfect and precarious, that the revolutions of the North might escape the knowledge of the court of Ravenna; till the dark cloud which was collected along the coast of the Baltic burst in thunder upon the banks of the Upper Danube. The king of the confederate Germans passed, without resistance, the Alps, the Po, and the Apennine; leaving on the one hand the inaccessible palace of Honorius securely buried among the marshes of Ravenna; and on the other the camp of Stilicho, who had fixed his head quarters at Ticinium, or Pavia, but who seems to have avoided a decisive battle till he had assembled his distant forces. Many cities of Italy were pillaged, or destroyed. The senate and people trembled at their approach within a hundred and eighty miles of Rome; and anxiously compared the danger which they had escaped, with the new perils to which they were exposed," etc. Rome was besieged for the first time by the Goths, A. D. 408. Of this siege, Mr. Gibbon (ii. 252-254) has given a graphic description. Among other things he says, "That unfortunate city gradually experienced the distress of scarcity, and at length the horrid calamity of famine." "A dark suspicion was entertained, that some desperate wretches fed on the bodies of their fellow-creatures whom they had secretly murdered; and even motherssuch were the horrid conflicts of the two most powerful instincts implanted by nature in the human breasteven mothers are said to have tasted the flesh of their slaughtered infants. Many thousands of the inhabitants of Rome expired in their houses, or in the streets, for want of sustenance; and, as the public sepulchres without the walls were in the power of the enemy, the stench, which arose from so many putrid and unburied carcases, infected the air; and the miseries of famine were succeeded and aggravated by a pestilential disease." The first siege was raised by the payment of an enormous ransom.Gibbon, ii. 254. The second siege of Rome by the Goths occurred A.D. 409. This siege was carried on by preventing the supply of provisions, Alaric having seized upon Ostia, the Roman port, where the provisions for the capital were deposited. The Romans finally consented to receive a new emperor at the hand of Alaric, and Attalus was appointed in the place of the feeble Honorius, who was then at Ravenna, and who had abandoned the capital. Attalus, an inefficient prince, was soon publicly stripped of the robes of office, and Alaric, enraged at the conduct of the court at Ravenna towards him, turned his wrath a third time on Rome, and laid siege to the city. This occurred A. D, 410. "The king of the Goths, who no longer dissembled his appetite for plunder and revenge, appeared in arms under the walls of the capital; and the trembling senate, without any hope of relief, prepared, by a desperate effort, to delay the ruin of their country. But they were unable to guard against the conspiracy of their slaves and domestics; who, either from birth or interest, were attached to the cause of the enemy. At the hour of midnight, the Salarian gate was silently opened, and the inhabitants were awakened by the tremendous sound of the Gothic trumpet. Eleven hundred and sixty-three years after the foundation of Rome, the imperial city, which had subdued and civilized so considerable a part of mankind, was delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia."Gibbon, ii. 26O.
(e) It is, perhaps, only necessary to add that the invasion of Alaric was in fact but one of the great events that led to the fall of the empire, and that, in announcing that fall, where a succession of events was to occur, it would properly be represented by the blast of one of the trumpets. The expressions employed in the symbol are, indeed, such as might be applied to any invasion of hostile armies, but they are such as would be used if the design were admitted to be to describe the invasion of the Gothic conqueror. For
(1) that invasion, as we have seen, would be well represented by the storm of hail and lightning that was seen in vision;
(2) by the red colour mingled in that stormindicative of blood;
(3) by the fact that it consumed the trees and the grass. This, as we saw in the exposition, would properly denote the desolation produced by warapplicable, indeed, to all war, but as applicable to the invasion of Alaric as any war that has occurred, and it is such an emblem as would be used if it were admitted that it was the design to represent his invasion. The sweeping storm, prostrating the trees of the forest, is an apt emblem of the evils of war, and, as was remarked in the exposition, no more striking illustration of the consequences of a hostile invasion could be employed than the destruction of the "green grass." What is here represented in the symbol cannot, perhaps, be better expressed than in the language of Mr. Gibbon, when describing the invasion of the Roman empire under Alaric. Speaking of that invasion, he says: "While the peace of Germany was secured by the attachment of the Franks and the neutrality of the Alemanni, the subjects of Rome unconscious of their approaching calamities, enjoyed the state of quiet and prosperity which had seldom blessed the frontiers of Gaul. Their flocks and herds were permitted to graze in the pastures of the barbarians; their huntsmen penetrated, without fear or danger, into the darkest recesses of the Hyrcanian wood. The banks of the Rhine were crowned, like those of the Tiber, with houses and well-cultivated farms; and if a poet descended the river, he might express his doubt on which side was situated the territory of the Romans. This scene of peace and plenty was suddenly changed into a desert; and the prospect of the smoking ruins could alone distinguish the solitude of nature from the desolation of man. The flourishing city of Mentz was surprised and destroyed; and many thousand Christians were inhumanly massacred in the church. Worms perished after a long and obstinate siege; Strasburg, Spires, Rheims, Tournay, Arras, Amiens, experienced the cruel oppression of the German yoke; and the consuming flames of war spread from the banks of the Rhine over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. That rich and extensive country, as far as the ocean, the Alps, and the Pyrenees, was delivered to the barbarians, who drove before them, in a Promiscuous crowd, the bishop, the senator, and the virgin, laden with the spoils of their houses and altars," ii. 230. In reference, also, to the invasion of Alaric, and the particular nature of the desolation depicted under the first trumpet, a remarkable passage which Mr. Gibbon has quoted from Claudian, as describing the effects of the invasion of Alaric, may be here introduced. "The old man" says he, speaking of Claudian," who had passed his simple and innocent life in the neighbourhood of Verona, was a stranger to the quarrels both of kings and of bishops; his pleasures, his desires, his knowledge, were confined within the circle of his paternal farm; and a staff supported his aged steps on the same ground where he had sported in infancy. Yet even this humble and rustic felicity (which Claudinn describes with so much truth and feeling) was still exposed to the undistinguishing rage of war. His trees, his old contemporary* trees, must blaze in the conflagration of the whole country; a detachment of Gothic cavalry must sweep away his cottage and his family; and the power of Alaric could destroy this happiness which he was not able either to taste or to bestow. Fame,' says the poet, encircling with terror or gloomy wings, proclaimed the march of the barbarian army, and filled Italy with consternation,'" ii. 218. And
(4) as to the extent of the calamity, there is also a striking propriety in the language of the symbol as applicable to the invasion of Alaric. I do not suppose, indeed, that it is necessary, in order to find a proper fulfilment of the symbol, to be able to show that exactly one third part of the empire was made desolate in this way, but it is a sufficient fulfilment of desolation spread over a considerable portion of the Roman worldas if a third part had been destroyed. No one who reads the account of the invasion of Alaric can doubt that it would be an apt description of the ravages of his arms to say that a third part was laid waste. That the desolations produced by Alaric were such as would be properly represented by this symbol, may be fully seen by consulting the whole account of that invasion in Gibbon, ii. 213-266.
Ingentem meminit parvo qui germine quercum
AEquaevumque videt consenuisse nemus.
A neighbouring wood born with himself he sees,
And loves his old contemporary trees.Cowley
8. And the second angel sounded. Compare Notes on Rev. 8:2, 7.
This, according to the interpretation proposed above, refers to the second of the four great events which contributed to the downfall of the Roman empire. It will be proper in this case, as in the former, to inquire into the literal meaning of the symbol, and then whether there was any event that corresponded with it.
And as it were a great mountain. A mountain is a natural symbol of strength, and hence becomes a symbol of a strong and powerful kingdom; for mountains are not only places of strength in themselves, but they anciently answered the purposes of fortified places, and were the seats of power. Hence they are properly symbols of strong nations. "The stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth," Dan. 2:35. Compare Zech. 4:7; Jer. 51:25. We naturally, then, apply this part of the symbol to some strong and mighty nationnot a nation, necessarily, that issued from a mountainous region, but a nation that in strength resembled a mountain.
Burning with fire. A mountain in a blaze; that is, with all its woods on fire, or, more probably, a volcanic mountain. There would perhaps be no more sublime image than such a mountain, lifted suddenly from its base and thrown into the sea. One of the sublimest parts of the Paradise Lost is that where the poet represents the angels in the great battle in heaven as lifting the mountainstearing them from their baseand hurling them on the foe:
"From their foundations heaving to and fro,
They plucked the seated hills, with all their load,
Rocks, waters, woods, and by the shaggy tops
Uplifting, bore them in their hands," etc.Book vi
The poet, however, has not, as John has, represented a volcano borne along and east into the sea. The symbol employed here would denote some fiery, impetuous, destructive power. If used to denote a nation, it would be a nation that was, as it were, burning with the desire of conquestimpetuous and fierce and fiery in its assaultsand consuming all in its way.
Cast into the sea. The image is very sublime; the scene, should such an event occur, would be awfully grand. As to the fulfilment of this, or the thing that was intended to be represented by it, there cannot be any material doubt. It is not to be understood literally, of course; and the natural application is to some nation, or army, that has a resemblance in some respects to such a blazing mountain, and the effect of whose march would be like casting such a mountain into the ocean. We naturally look for agitation and commotion, and particularly in reference to the sea, or to some maritime coasts. It is undoubtedly required in the application of this, that we should find its fulfilment in some country lying beyond the sea, or in some sea-coast or maritime country, or in reference to commerce.
And the third part of the sea became blood. Resembled blood; became as red as blood. The figure here is, that as such a blazing mountain cast into the sea would, by its reflection on the waters, seem to tinge them with red, so there would be something corresponding with this in what was referred to by the symbol. It would be fulfilled if there was a fierce maritime warfare, and if in some desperate naval engagement the sea should be tinged with blood.
9. And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died. The effect was as if one third of all the fish in the sea were cut off. Of course, this is not to be taken literally. It is designed to describe an effect, pertaining to the maritime portion of the world, as if a third portion of all that was in the sea should perish. The natural interpretation would be to apply it to some invasion or calamity pertaining to the seato the islands, to the maritime regions, or to commerce. If the whole description pertains to the Roman empire, then this might be supposed to have particular reference to something that would have a bearing on the maritime parts of that empire.
And the third part of the ships were destroyed. This also pertains to the same general calamity, affecting the commerce of the empire. The destruction of the "ships" was produced, in some way, by casting the mountain into the seaeither by their being consumed by the contact with the burning mass, or by being sunk by the agitation of the waters. The essential idea is, that the calamity would be of such a nature as would produce the destruction of vessels at seaeither naval armaments, or ships of commerce. In looking now for the application or fulfilment of this, it is necessary
(a) to find some event or events which would have a particular bearing on the maritime or commercial part of the world; and
(b) some such event or events that, on the supposition that they were the things referred to, would be properly symbolized by the image here employed.
(1.) If the first trumpet had reference to the invasion of Alaric and the Goths, then in this we naturally look for the next succeeding act of invasion which shook the Roman empire, and contributed to its fall.
(2.) The next invasion was that under Genseric at the head of the Vandals.Gibbon, ii. 306, seq. This occurred A.D. 428-468.
(3.) The symbol of a blazing or burning mountain, torn from its foundation, and precipitated into the ocean, would well represent this mighty nation moved from its ancient seat, and borne along towards the maritime parts of the empire, and its desolations thereas will be shown in the following remarks.
(4.) The acts of the Vandals, under Genseric, corresponded with the ideas expressed by the symbol. In illustrating this, I shall be indebted, as heretofore, principally to Mr. Gibbon.
(a) His general account of the Vandals is this: they are supposed (i. 138) to have been originally the same people with the Goths, the Goths and Vandals constituting one great nation living on the shores of the Baltic. They passed in connexion with them over the Baltic; emigrated to Prussia and the Ukraine; invaded the Roman provinces; received tribute from the Romans; subdued the countries about the Bosphorus; plundered the cities of Bithynia; ravaged Greece and Illyrium, and were at last settled in Thrace under the emperor Theodosius.Gibbon, i. 136-166; ii. 110-150. They were then driven forward by the Huns, and having passed through France and Spain into Africa, conquered the Carthaginian territory, established an independent government, and thence through a long period harassed the neighbouring islands, and the coasts of the Mediterranean by their predatory incursions, destroying the ships and the commerce of the Romans, and were distinguished in the downfall of the empire by their ravages on the islands and the sea. Thus they were moved along from place to place until the scene of their desolations became more distinctly the maritime parts of the empire; and the effect of their devastations might be well compared with a burning mountain moved from its ancient base and then thrown into the sea.
(b) This will be apparent from the statements of Mr. Gibbon in regard to their ravages under their leader Genseric. "Seville and Carthagena became the reward, or rather the prey of the ferocious conquerors," [after they had defeated the Roman Castinus,] "and the vessels which they found in the harbour of Carthagena might easily transport them to the isles of Majorca and Minorca, where the Spanish fugitives, as in a secure recess, had vainly concealed their families and fortunes. The experience of navigation, and perhaps the prospect of Africa, encouraged the Vandals to accept the invitation which they received from Count Boniface," [to aid him in his apprehended difficulties with Rome, and to enter into an alliance with him by settling permanently in Africa.Gibbon, ii. 305, 306;] "and the death of Genseric" [the Vandal king] "served only to forward and animate the bold enterprise. In the room of a prince, not conspicuous for any superior powers of the mind or body, they acquired his bastard brother, the terrible Genserica name which, in the destruction of the Roman empire, has deserved an equal rank with the names of Alaric and Attila. "The ambition of Genseric was almost, without bounds, and without scruples; and the warrior would dexterously employ the dark engines of policy to solicit the allies who might be useful to his success, or to scatter among his enemies the seeds of enmity and contention. Almost in the moment of his departure, he was informed that Hermantic, king of the Suevi, had presumed to ravage the Spanish territories, which he was resolved to abandon. Impatient of the insult, Genseric pursued the hasty retreat of the Suevi as far as Merida; precipitated the king and his army into the river Anas, and calmly returned to the sea-shore to embark his troops. The vessels which transported the Vandals over the modern straits of Gibraltar, a channel only twelve miles in breadth, were furnished by the Spaniards, who anxiously wished for their departure; and by the African general who had implored their formidable assistance."Gibbon, ii. 306. Genseric, in the accomplishment of his purposes, soon took possession of the northern coast of Africa, defeating the armies of Boniface, and "Carthage, Cirta, and Hippo Regius were the only cities that appeared to rise above the general inundation."Gibbon, ii. 308. "On a sudden," says Mr. Gibbon, (ii. 309,) "the seven fruitful provinces, from Tangier to Tripoli, were overwhelmed by the invasion of the Vandals; whose destructive rage has perhaps been exaggerated by popular animosity, religious zeal, and extravagant declamation. War, in its fairest form, implies a perpetual violation of humanity and justice; and the hostilities of barbarians are inflamed by the fierce and lawless spirit which perpetually disturbs their peaceful and domestic society. The Vandals, where they found resistance, seldom gave quarter; and the deaths of their valiant countrymen were expiated by the ruin of the cities under whose walls they had fallen," etc. The result of the invasion was the conquest of all Northern Africa; the reduction of Hippo and Carthage, and the establishment of a government under Genseric in Africa that waged a long war with Rome.Gibbon, ii. 310, 311. The symbol before us has particular reference to maritime or naval operations and desolations, and the following extracts from Mr. Gibbon will show with what propriety, if this symbol was designed to refer to him, these images were employed. "The discovery and conquest of the Black nations, [in Africa,] that might dwell beneath the torrid zone, could not tempt the rational ambition of Genseric; but he cast his eyes towards the sea; he resolved to create a naval power, and his bold resolution was executed with steady and active perseverance. The woods of Mount Atlas afforded an inexhaustible supply of timber; his new subjects were skilled in the arts of navigation and shipbuilding; he animated his daring Vandals to embrace a mode of warfare which would render any maritime country accessible to their arms; the Moors and Africans were allured by the hope of plunder; and after an interval of six centuries, the fleets that issued from the port of Carthage again claimed the empire of the Mediterranean. The success of the Vandals, the conquest of Sicily, the sack of Palermo, and the frequent descents on the coasts of Lucania, awakened and alarmed the mother of Valentinian, and the sister of Theodosius. Alliances were formed; and armaments, expensive and ineffectual, were prepared for the destruction of the common enemy, who reserved his courage to encounter those dangers which his policy could not prevent or elude. The revolutions of the palace, which left the Western empire without a defender, and without a lawful prince, dispelled the apprehension, and stimulated the avarice of Genseric. He immediately equipped a numerous fleet of Vandals and Moors, and cast anchor at the mouth of the Tiber," etc.Gibbon, ii. 352. "On the third day after the tumult [A. D. 455, on the death of Maximus] Genseric boldly advanced from the port of Ostia to the gates of the defenceless city. Instead of a sally of the Roman youth, there issued from the gates an unarmed and venerable procession of the bishop at the head of the clergy. But Rome and its inhabitants were delivered to the licentiousness of the Vandals and the Moors, whose blind passions revenged the injuries of Carthage. The pillage lasted fourteen days and nights; and all that yet remained of public or private wealth, of sacred or profane treasure, was diligently transported to the vessels of Genseric," etc. See the account of this pillage in Gibbon, ii. 355-366. The emperor Majorian (A.D. 457) endeavoured to "restore the happiness of the Romans," but he encountered the arms of Genseric, from his character and situation, their most formidable enemy. A fleet of Vandals and Moors landed at the mouth of the Liris, or Garigliano; but the imperial troops surprised and attacked the disorderly barbarians, who were encumbered with the spoils of Campania; they were chased with slaughter to their ships; and their leader, the king's brother-in-law, was found in the number of the slain. Such vigilance might announce the character of the new reign; but the strictest vigilance, and the most numerous forces, were insufficient to protect the long-extended coast of Italy from the depredations of a naval war."Gibbon, ii. 363. "The emperor had foreseen that it was impossible, without a maritime power, to achieve the conquest of Africa. In the first Punic war, the republic had exerted such incredible diligence, that within sixty days after the first stroke of the axe had been given in the forest, a fleet of one hundred and sixty galleys proudly rode at anchor in the sea. Under circumstances much less favourable, Majorian equalled the spirit and perseverance of the ancient Romans. The woods of the Apennines were felled; the arsenals and manufactures of Ravenna and Misenium were restored; Italy and Gaul vied with each other in liberal contributions to the public service; and the imperial navy of three hundred large galleys, with an adequate proportion of transports and smaller vessels, was collected in the secure and capacious harbour of Carthagena in Spain."Gibbon, ii. 363, 364. The fate of this large navy is thus described by Mr. Gibbon: "Genseric was saved from impending and inevitable ruin by the treachery of some powerful subjects, envious or apprehensive of their master's success. Guided by their secret intelligence, he surprised the unguarded fleet in the bay of Carthagena; many of the ships were sunk, or taken, or burnt; and the preparations of three years were destroyed in a single day," ii. 364. The farther naval operations and maritime depredations of the Vandals, under Genseric, are thus stated by Mr. Gibbon: "The kingdom of Italy, a name to which the Western empire was gradually reduced, was afflicted, under the reign of Ricimer, by the incessant depredations of Vandal pirates. In the spring of each year, they equipped a formidable navy in the port of Carthage; and Genseric himself, though in very advanced age, still commanded in person the most important expeditions. His designs were concealed with impenetrable secrecy, till the moment that he hoisted sail. When he was asked by the pilot what course he should steerLeave the determination to the winds,' replied the barbarian, with pious arrogance; they will transport us to the guilty coast whose inhabitants have provoked the Divine justice: but Genseric himself deigned to issue more precise orders; he judged the most wealthy to be the most criminal. The Vandals repeatedly visited the coasts of Spain, Liguria, Tuscany, Campanic, Lucania, Bruttium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece, and Sicily; they were tempted to subdue the island of Sardinia, so advantageously placed in the centre of the Mediterranean; and their arms spread desolation, or terror, from the columns of Hercules to the mouth of the Nile. As they were more ambitious of spoil than of glory, they seldom attacked any fortified cities or engaged any regular troops in the open field. But the celerity of their motions enabled them, almost at the same time, to threaten and to attack the most distant objects which attracted their desires; and as they always embarked a sufficient number of horses, they had no sooner landed than they swept the dismayed country with a body of light cavalry," ii. 366. How far this description agrees with the symbol in the passage before us"a great mountain burning with fire cast into the sea;" "the third part of the ships were destroyed"must be left to the reader to judge. It may be asked, however, with at least some show of reason, whether, if it be admitted that it was the design of the author of the book of Revelation to refer to the movements of the Vandals under Genseric as one of the important and immediate causes of the ruin of the Roman empire, he could have found a more expressive symbol than this? Indeed, is there now any symbol that would be more striking and appropriate? If one should now undertake to represent this as one of the causes of the downfall of, the empire by a symbol, could he easily find one that would be more expressive? It is a matter that is in itself perhaps of no importance, but it may serve to show that the interpretation respecting the second trumpet was not forced, to remark that I had gone through with the interpretation of the language of the symbol, before I looked into Mr. Gibbon with any reference to the application.
10. And the third angel sounded. Indicating, according to the interpretation above proposed, some important event in the downfall of the Roman empire.
And there fell a great star from heaven. A star is a natural emblem of a prince, of a ruler, of one distinguished by rank or by talent. Compare Note on Rev. 2:28.
See Numb. 24:17. See Note on Isa. 14:12.
A star failing from heaven would be a natural symbol of one who had left a higher station, or of one whose character and course would be like a meteor shooting through the sky.
Burning as it were a lamp. Or, as a torch. The language here is such as would describe a meteor blazing through the air; and the reference in the symbol is to something that would have a resemblance to such a meteor. It is not a lurid meteor (livid, pale, ghastly) that is here referred to, but a bright, intense, blazing staremblem of fiery energy; of rapidity of movement and execution; of splendour of appearancesuch as a chieftain of high endowments, of impetuousness of character, and of richness of apparel, would be. In all languages, probably, a star has been an emblem of a prince whose virtuese shone brightly, and who has exerted a beneficial influence on mankind. In all languages also, probably, a meteor flaming through the sky has been an emblem of some splendid genius causing or threatening desolation and ruin; of a warrior who has moved along in a brilliant but destructive path over the world; and who has been regarded as sent to execute the vengeance of heaven. This usage occurs because a meteor is so bright; because it appears so suddenly; because its course cannot be determined by any known laws; and because, in the apprehensions of men, it is either sent as a proof of the Divine displeasure, or is adapted to excite consternation and alarm. In the application of this part of the symbol, therefore, we naturally look for some prince or warrior of brilliant talents, who appears suddenly and sweeps rapidly over the world; who excites consternation and alarm; whose path is marked by desolation, and who is regarded as sent from heaven to execute the Divine purposeswho comes not to bless the world by brilliant talents well directed, but to execute vengeance on mankind.
And it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. On the phrase, "the third part," See Note on Rev. 8:7.
This reference to the "rivers" and to the "fountains of waters" seems, in part, to be for the purpose of saying that everything would be affected by this series of judgments. In the previous visions, the trees and the green grass, the sea and the ships, had been referred to. The rivers and the fountains of waters are not less important than the trees, the grass, and the commerce of the world, and hence this judgment is mentioned as particularly bearing on them. At the same time, as in the case of the other trumpets, there is a propriety in supposing that there would be something in the event referred to by the symbol which would make it more appropriate to use this symbol in this case than in the others. It is natural, therefore, to look for some desolations that would particularly affect the portions of the world where rivers abound, or where they take their rise; or, if it be understood as having a more metaphorical sense, to regard it as affecting those things which resemble rivers and fountainsthe sources of influence; the morals, the religion of a people, the institutions of a country, which are often so appropriately compared with running fountains or flowing streams.
11. And the name of the star is called Wormwood. Is appropriately so called. The writer does not say that it would be actually so called, but that this name would be properly descriptive of its qualities. Such expressions are common in allegorical writings. The Greek wordaqinqoßdenotes wormwood, a well-known bitter herb. That word becomes the proper emblem of bitterness. Compare Jer. 9:15; 23:15; Lam. 3:15, 19.
And the third part of the waters became wormwood. Became bitter as wormwood. This is doubtless an emblem of the calamity which would occur if the waters should be thus made bitter. Of course, they would become useless for the purposes to which they are mostly applied, and the destruction of life would be inevitable. To conceive of the extent of such a calamity, we have only to imagine a large portion of the wells, and rivers, and fountains of a country made bitter as wormwood. Compare Exod. 15:23-24.
And many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. This effect would naturally follow if any considerable portion of the fountains and streams of a land were changed by an infusion of wormwood. It is not necessary to suppose that this is intended to be literally true; for as, by the use of a symbol, it is not to be supposed that literally a part of the waters would be turned into wormwood by the baleful influence of a failing meteor, so it is not necessary to suppose that there is intended to be represented a literal destruction of human life by the use of waters. Great destruction and devastation are undoubtedly intended to be denoted by thisdestruction that would be well represented in a land by the natural effects if a considerable part of the waters were, by their bitterness, made unfit to drink.
In the interpretation and application, therefore, of this passage, we may adopt the following principles and rules:
(a) It may be assumed, in this exposition, that the previous symbols, under the first and second trumpet-blasts, referred respectively to Alaric and his Goths, and to Genseric and his Vandals.
(b) That the next great and decisive event in the downfall of the empire is the one that is here referred to,
(c) That there would be some chieftain or warrior who might be compared with a blazing meteor; whose course would be singularly brilliant; who would appear suddenly like a blazing star, and then disappear like a star whose light was quenched in the waters.
(d) That the desolating course of that meteor would be mainly on those portions of the world that abounded with springs of water and running streams.
(e) That an effect would be produced as if those streams and fountains were made bitter; that is, that many persons would perish, and that wide desolations would be caused in the vicinity of those rivers and streams, as if a bitter and baleful star should fall into the waters, and death should spread over the lands adjacent to them, and watered by them. Whether any events occurred of which this would be the proper emblem is now the question. Among expositors there has been a considerable degree of unanimity in supposing that Attila, the king of the Huns, is referred to, and if the preceding expositions are correct, there can be no doubt on the subject. After Alaric and Genseric, Attila occupies the next place as an important agent in the overthrow of the Roman empire, and the only question is, whether he would be properly symbolized by this baleful star. The following remarks may be made to show the propriety of the symbol:
(1.) As already remarked, the place which he occupies in history, as immediately succeeding Alaric and Genseric in the downfall of the empire. This will appear in any chronological table, or in the table of contents of any of the histories of those times. A full detail of the career of Attila may be found in Gibbon, vol. ii. pp. 314-351. His career extended from A.D. 433, to A.D. 453. It is true that he was contemporary with Genseric, king of the Vandals, and that a portion of the operations of Genseric in Africa were subsequent to the death of Attila, (A.D. 455-A.D. 467;) but it is also true that Genseric preceded Attila in the career of conquest, and was properly the first in order, being pressed forward in the Roman warfare by the Huns, A.D. 428. See Gibbon, ii. 306, seq.
(2.) In the manner of his appearance, he strongly resembled a brilliant meteor flashing in the sky. He came from the east, gathering his Huns, and poured them down, as we shall see, with the rapidity of a flashing meteor, suddenly on the empire. He regarded himself also as devoted to Mars, the god of war, and was accustomed to array himself in a peculiarly brilliant manner, so that his appearance, in the language of his flatterers, was such as to dazzle the eyes of beholders. One of his followers perceived that a heifer that was grazing had wounded her foot, and curiously followed the track of blood, till he found in the long grass the point of an ancient sword, which he dug out of the ground and presented to Attila. "That magnanimous, or rather that artful prince," says Mr. Gibbon, "accepted with pious gratitude this celestial favour; and, as the rightful possessor of the sword of Mars, asserted his divine and indefeasible claim to the dominion of the earth. The favourite of Mars soon acquired a sacred character, which rendered his conquests more easy and more permanent; and the Barbarian princes confessed, in the language of devotion or flattery, that they could not presume to gaze, with a steady eye, on the divine majesty of the king of the Huns," ii. 317. How appropriate would it be to represent such a prince by the symbol of a bright and blazing staror a meteor flashing through the sky!
(3.) There may be propriety, as applicable to him, in the expression"a great star from heaven falling upon the earth." Attila was regarded as an instrument in the Divine hand in inflicting punishment. The common appellation by which he has been known is "the scourge of God." This title is supposed by the modern Hungarians to have been first given to Attila by a hermit of Gaul, but it was "inserted by Attila among the titles of his royal dignity."Gibbon, ii, 321, footnote. To no one could the title be more applicable than to him.
(4.) His career as a conqueror, and the effect of his conquests on the downfall of the empire, were such as to be properly symbolized in this manner.
(a) The general effect of the invasion was worthy of an important place in describing the series of events which resulted in the overthrow of the empire. This is thus stated by Mr. Gibbon: "The western world was oppressed by the Goths and Vandals, who fled before the Huns; but the achievements of the Huns themselves were not adequate to their power and prosperity. Their victorious hordes had spread from the Volga to the Danube, but the public force was exhausted by the discord of independent chieftains; their valour was idly consumed in obscure and predatory excursions; and they often degraded their national dignity by condescending, for the hopes of spoil, to enlist under the banners of their fugitive enemies. In the reign of Attila, the Huns again became the terror of the world; and I shall now describe the character and actions of that formidable barbarian who alternately invaded and insulted the East and the West, and urged the rapid downfall of the Roman empire," vol. ii. pp. 314, 316.
(b) The parts of the earth affected by the invasion of the Huns were those which would be properly symbolized by the things specified at the blowing of this trumpet. It is said particularly, that the effect would be on "the rivers," and on "the fountains of waters." If this has a literal application, or if, as was supposed in the case of the second trumpet, the language used was such as had reference to the portion of the empire that would be particularly affected by the hostile invasion, then we may suppose that this refers to those portions of the empire that abounded in rivers and streams, and more particularly those in which the rivers and streams had their originfor the effect was permanently in the "fountains of waters." As a matter of fact, the principal operations of Attila were in the regions of the Alps and on the portions of the empire whence the rivers flow down into Italy. The invasion of Attila is described by Mr. Gibbon in this general language: "The whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above five hundred miles from the Euxine to the Adriatic, was at once invaded, and occupied, and desolated, by the myriads of barbarians whom Attila led into the field," ii. 319, 320. After describing the progress and the effects of this invasion, (pp. 320-331,) he proceeds more particularly to detail the events in the invasion of Gaul and Italy, pp. 331-347. After the terrible battle of Chalons, in which, according to one account, one hundred and sixty-two thousand, and, according to other accounts, three hundred thousand persons were slain, and in which Attila was defeated, he recovered his vigour, collected his forces, and made a descent on Italy. Under pretence of claiming Honoria, the daughter of the empress of Rome, as his bride, "the indignant lover took the field, passed the Alps, invaded Italy, and besieged Aquileia with an innumerable host of barbarians." After endeavouring in vain for three months to subdue the city, and when about to abandon the siege, Attila took advantage of the appearance of a stork as a favourable omen to arouse his men to a renewed effort, "a large breach was made in the part of the wall where the stork had taken her flight; the Huns marched to the assault with irresistible fury; and the succeeding generation could scarcely discover the ruins of Aquileia. After this dreadful chastisement, Attila pursued his march; and as he passed, the cities of Altinum, Concordia, and Padua, were reduced into heaps of stones and ashes. The inland towns, Vicenza, Verona, and Bergarno, were exposed to the rapacious cruelty of the Huns. Milan and Pavia submitted, without resistance, to the loss of their wealth, and applauded the unusual clemency which preserved from the flames the public as well as the private buildings, and spared the lives of the captive multitude. The popular traditions of Comum, Turin, or Modena, may be justly suspected, yet they concur with more authentic evidence to prove that Attila spread his ravages over the rich plains of modern Lombardy, which are divided by the Po, and bounded by the Alps and the Apennines," ii. pp. 343, 344. "It is a saying worthy of the ferocious pride of Attila, that the grass never grew on the spot where his horse had trod."Ibid, p. 345. Any one has only to look on a map, and to trace the progress of those desolations and the chief seats of his military operations, to see with what propriety this symbol would be employed. In these regions the great rivers that water Europe have their origin, and are swelled by numberless streams that flow down from the Alps; and about the fountains whence these streams flow were the principal military operations of the invader.
(c) With equal propriety is he represented in the symbol, as affecting "a third" part of these rivers and fountains. At least a third part of the empire was invaded and desolated by him in his savage march, and the effects of his invasion were as disastrous on the empire as if a bitter star had fallen into a third part of those rivers and fountains and had converted them into wormwood.
(d) There is one other point which shows the propriety of this symbol. It is, that the meteor, or star, seemed to be absorbed in the waters. It fell into the waters; embittered them; and was seen no more. Such would be the case with a meteor that should thus fall upon the earthflashing along the sky, and then disappearing for ever. Now, it was remarkable in regard to the Huns, that their power was concentrated under Attila; that he alone appeared as the leader of this formidable host; and that when he died all the concentrated power of the Huns was dissipated, or became absorbed and lost. "The revolution," says Mr. Gibbon, (ii. 348,) "which subverted the empire of the Huns, established the fame of Attila, whose genius alone had sustained the huge and disjointed fabric. After his death, the boldest chieftains aspired to the rank of kings; the most powerful kings refused to acknowledge a superior; and the numerous sons, whom so many various mothers bore to the deceased monarch, divided and disputed, like a private inheritance, the sovereign command of the nations of Germany and Scythia." Soon, however, in the conflicts which succeeded, the empire passed away, and the empire of the Huns ceased. The people that composed it were absorbed in the surrounding nations, and Mr. Gibbon makes this remark, after giving a summary account of these conflicts, which continued but for a few years: "The Igours of the north, issuing from the cold Siberian regions, which produced the most valuable furs, spread themselves over the desert, as far as the Boristhenes and the Caspian gates, and finally extinguished the empire of the Huns." These facts may, perhaps, show with what propriety Attila would be compared with a bright but beautiful meteor; and that, if the design was to symbolize him as acting an important part in the downfall of the Roman empire, there is a fitness in the symbol here employed.
12. And the fourth angel sounded. See Notes on Rev. 8:6, Rev. 8:7.
And the third part of the sea was smitten. On the phrase the third part, See Note on Rev. 8:7.
The darkening of the heavenly luminaries is every, where an emblem of any great calamityas if the light of the sun, moon, and stars should be put out. See Notes on Rev. 6:12, Rev. 6:13.
There is no certain evidence that this refers to rulers, as many have supposed, or to anything that would particularly affect the government as such. The meaning is, that calamity would come as if darkness should spread over the sun, the moon, and the stars, leaving the world in gloom. What is the precise nature of the calamity is not indicated by the language, but anything that would diffuse gloom and disaster would accord with the fair meaning of the symbol. There are a few circumstances, however, in regard to this symbol, which may aid us in determining its application.
(1.) It would follow in the series of calamities that were to occur.
(2.) It would be separated in some important senseof time, place, or degreefrom those which were to follow, for there is a pause here, (Rev. 8:13) and the angel proclaims that more terrible woes are to succeed this series.
(3.) Like the preceding, it is to affect "one third part" of the world; that is, it is to be a calamity as if a third part of the sun, the moon, and the stars were suddenly smitten and darkened.
(4.) It is not to be total. It is not as if the sun, the moon, and the stars were entirely blotted out, for there was still some remaining light: that is, there was a continuance of the existing state of thingsas if these heavenly bodies should still give an obscure and partial light.
(5.) Perhaps it is also intended by the symbol, that there would be light again. The world was not to go into a state of total and permanent night. For a third part of the day, and a third part of the night, this darkness reigned: but does not this imply that there would be light againthat the obscurity would pass away, and that the sun, and moon, and stars would shine again? That is, is it not implied that there would still be prosperity ill some future period?
Now, in regard to the application of this, if the explanation of the preceding symbols is correct, there can be little difficulty. If the previous symbols referred to Alaric, to Genseric, and to Attila, there can be no difficulty in applying this to Odoacer, and to his reigna reign in which, in fact, the Roman dominion in the West came to an end, and passed into the hands of this barbarian. Any one has only to open the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" to see that this is the next event that should be symbolized if the design were to represent the downfall of the empire. These four great barbarian leaders succeed each other in order, and under the last, Odoacer, the barbarian dominion was established; for it is here that the existence of the Roman power, as such, ended. The Western empire terminated, according to Mr. Gibbon, (ii. p. 380,) about A.D. 476 or 479. Odoacer was "King of Italy" from A.D. 476 to A.D. 490.Gibbon, ii. 379. The Eastern empire still lingered; but calamity, like blotting out the sun, and moon, and stars, had come over that part of the world which for so many centuries had constituted the seat of power and dominion.Odoacer was the son of Edecon, a barbarian, who was in the service of Attila, and who left two sonsOnulf and Odoacer. The former directed his steps to Constantinople; Odoacer "led a wandering life among the barbarians of Noricum, with a mind and fortune suited to the most desperate adventures; and when he had fixed his choice, he privily visited the cell of Severinus, the popular saint of the country, to solicit his approbation and blessing. The lowness of the door would not admit the lofty stature of Odoacer; he was obliged to stoop: but in that humble attitude the saint could discern the symptoms of his future greatness; and addressing him in a prophetic tone, Pursue,' said he, your design; proceed to Italy; you will cast away the coarse garment of skins; and your wealth will be adequate to the liberality of your mind.' The barbarian, whose daring spirit accepted and ratified this prediction, was admitted into the service of the Western empire, and soon obtained an honourable rank in the guards. His manners were gradually polished, his military skill improved, and the confederates of Italy would not have elected him for their general unless the exploits of Odoacer had established a high opinion of his courage and capacity. Their military acclamations saluted him with the title of king; but he abstained during his whole reign from the use of the purple and the diadem, lest he should offend those princes, whose subjects, by their accidental mixture, had formed the victorious army which time and policy might insensibly unite into a great nation."Gibbon, ii. 379, 380. In another place Mr. Gibbon says, "Odoacer was the first barbarian who reigned in Italy, over a people who had once asserted their superiority above the rest of mankind. The disgrace of the Romans still excites our respectful compassion, and we fondly sympathize with the imaginary grief and indignation of their degenerate posterity. But the calamities of Italy had gradually subdued the proud consciousness of freedom and glory. In the age of Roman virtue, the provinces were subject to the arms, and the citizens to the laws, of the republic; till those laws were subverted by civil discord, and both the city and the provinces became the property of a servile tyrant. The forms of the constitution which alleviated or disguised their abject slavery were abolished by time and violence; the Italians alternately lamented the presence or the absence of the sovereigns whom they detested or despised; and the succession of five centuries inflicted the various evils of military license, capricious despotism, and elaborate oppression. During the same period the barbarians had emerged from obscurity and contempt, and the warriors of Germany and Scythia were introduced into the provinces, as the servants, the allies, and at length the masters of the Romans, whom they insulted or protected," ii. 381, 382. Of the effect of the reign of Odoacer, Mr. Gibbon remarks: "In the division and decline of the empire, the tributary harvests of Egypt and Africa were withdrawn; the numbers of the inhabitants continually decreased with the means of subsistence; and the country was exhausted by the irretrievable losses of war, famine, and pestilence. St. Ambrose has deplored the ruin of a populous district, which had been once adorned with the flourishing cities of Bologna, Modena, Regium, and Placentia. Pope Gelasius was a subject of Odoacer; and he affirms, with strong exaggeration, that in AEmilia, Tuscany, and the adjacent provinces, the human species was almost extirpated. One third of those ample estates, to which the ruin of Italy is originally imputed, was extorted for the use of the conquerors," ii. 383. Yet the light was not wholly extinct. It was "a third part" of it which was put out; and it was still true that some of the forms of the ancient constitution were observedthat the light still lingered before it wholly passed away. In the language of another, "The authority of the Roman name had not yet entirely ceased. The senate of Rome continued to assemble as usual. The consuls were appointed yearly, one by the Eastern emperor, one by Italy and Rome. Odoacer himself governed Italy under a titlethat of Patricianconferred on him by the Eastern emperor. There was still a certain, though often faint, recognition of the supreme imperial authority. The moon and the stars might seem still to shine in the West, with a dim, reflected light. In the course of the events, however, which rapidly followed in the next half century, these too were extinguished. After above a century and a half of calamities unexampled almost, as Dr. Robertson most truly represents it,* in the history of nations, the statement of Jeromea statement couched under the very Apocalyptic figure of the text, but prematurely pronounced on the first taking of Rome by Alaricmight be considered at length accomplished: Clarissimum terrarum lumen extinctum est'The world's glorious sun has been extinguished;' or, as the modern poet Byron (Childe Harold, canto iv.) has expressed it, still under the Apocalyptic imagery-
"She saw her glories star by star expire,"
till not even one star remained to glimmer in
the vacant and dark night."Elliott, i. 360, 361.
I have thus endeavoured to explain the meaning of the four first trumpets under the opening of the seventh seal, embracing the successive severe blows struck on the empire by Alaric, Genseric, Attila, and Odoacer, until the empire fell to rise no more. I cannot better conclude this part of the exposition than in the words of Mr. Gibbon, in his reflections on the fall of the empire. "I have now accomplished," says he, "the laborious narrative of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, from the fortunate age of Trajan and the Antonines to its latest extinction in the West, about five centuries after the Christian era. At that unhappy period, the Saxons fiercely struggled with the natives for the possession of Britain; Gaul and Spain were divided between the powerful monarchies of the Franks and the Visigoths, and the dependent kingdoms of the Suevi and the Burgundians; Africa was exposed to the cruel persecution of the Vandals, and the savage insults of the Moors; Rome and Italy, as far as the banks of the Danube, were afflicted by an army of barbarian mercenaries, whose lawless tyranny was succeeded by the reign of Theodosia, the Ostrogoth. All the subjects of the empire, who, by the use of the Latin language, more particularly deserved the name and privileges of Romans, were oppressed by the disgrace and calamities of foreign conquest; and the victorious nations of Germany established a new system of manners and government in the western countries of Europe. The majesty of Rome was faintly represented by the princes of Constantinople, the feeble and imaginary successors of Augustus."Vol. ii. pp. 440, 441. "The splendid days of Augustus and Trajan were eclipsed by a cloud of ignorance, [a fine illustration of the language the third part of the sun was smitten, and the day shone not, and the night likewise;'] and the barbarians subverted the laws and palaces of Rome."Ibid, p. 446.
Thus ended the history of the Gothic period, and, as I suppose, the immediate symbolic representation of the affairs of the Western empire. An interval now occurs (Rev. 8:13) in the sounding of the trumpets, and the scene is transferred, in the three remaining trumpets, to the Eastern parts of the empire. After that, the attention is directed again to the West, to contemplate Rome under a new form, and exerting a new influence in the nations, under the Papacy, but destined ultimately to pass away in its spiritual power, as its temporal power had yielded to the elements of internal decay in its bosom, and to the invasions of the Northern hordes.
* "If we were called on to fix a period most calamitous, it would be that from the death of Theodosius to the establishment of the Lombards."Charles V., pp. 11, 12.
13. And I beheld. My attention was attracted by a new vision.
And heard an angel flying, etc. I heard the voice of an angel making this proclamation.
Woe, woe, woe. That is, there will be great woe. The repetition of the word is intensive, and the idea is, that the sounding of the three remaining trumpets would indicate great and fearful calamities. These three are grouped together, as if they pertained to a similar series of events, as the first four had been. The two classes are separated from each other by this interval and by this proclamationimplying that the first series had been completed, and that there would be some interval, either of space or time, before the other series would come upon the world. All that is fairly implied here would be fulfilled by the supposition that the former referred to the West, and that the latter pertained to the East, and were to follow when those should have been completed.
Analysis of the Chapter
THE three remaining trumpets (chap. 9-11.) are usually called the woe-trumpets, in reference to the proclamation of woes, Rev. 8:13.Prof. Stuart. The three extend, as I suppose, to the end of time, or, as it is supposed by the writer himself, (Rev. 11:15,) to the period when "the kingdoms of this world shall have become the kingdoms of Christ," embracing a succinct view of the most material events that were to occur, particularly in a secular point of view. See the Analysis prefixed to the book. In Rev. 11:19, as I understand it, a new view is commenced, referring to the church internally; the rise of Antichrist, and the effect of the rise of that formidable power on the internal history of the church, to the time of its overthrow, and the triumphant establishment of the kingdom of God. This, of course, synchronizes in its beginning and its close with the portion already passed over, but with a different view. See the Analysis prefixed to Rev. 11:19, seq.
This chapter contains properly three parts. First, a description of the first of those trumpets, or the fifth in the order of the whole, Rev. 9:1-12. This woe is represented under the figure of calamities brought upon the earth by an immense army of locusts. A star is seen to fall from heavenrepresenting some mighty chieftain, and to him is given the key of the bottomless pit. He opens the pit, and then comes forth an innumerable swarm of locusts that darken the heavens, and they go forth upon the earth. They have a command given them to do a certain work. They are not to hurt the earth, or any green thing, but they are sent against those men which have not the seal of God on their foreheads. Their main business, however, was not to kill them, but to torment them for a limited timefor five months. A description of the appearance of the locusts then follows. Though they are called locusts, because in their general appearance, and in the ravages they commit, they resemble them, yet, in the main, they are imaginary beings, and combine in themselves qualities which are never found united in reality. They had a strong resemblance to horses prepared for battle; they wore on their heads crowns of gold; they had the faces of men, but the hair of women, and the teeth of lions. They had breastplates of iron, and tails like scorpions, with stings in their tails. They had a mighty king at their head, with a name significant of the destruction which he would bring upon the world. These mysterious beings had their origin in the bottomless pit, and they are summoned forth to spread desolation upon the earth. Second, a description of the second of these trumpets, the sixth in order, Rev. 9:13-19. When this is sounded, a voice is heard from the four horns of the altar which is before God. The angel is commanded to loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. These angels are loosedangels which had been prepared for a definite perioda day, and a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men. The number of the army that would appearcomposed of cavalryis stated to amount to two hundred thousand, and the peculiarities of these horsemen are then stated. They are remarkable for having breastplates of fire, and jacinth, and brimstone; the heads of the horses resemble lions; and they breathe forth fire and brimstone. A third part of men fall before them, by the fire, and the smoke, and the brimstone. Their power is in their mouth and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents. Third, a statement of the effect of the judgments brought upon the world under these trumpets, Rev. 19:20, 21. The effect, so far as the reasonable result could have been anticipated, is lost. The nations are not turned from idolatry. Wickedness still abounds, and there is no disposition to repent of the abominations which had been so long practised on the earth.
1. And the fifth angel sounded. See Note on Rev. 8:6-7.
And I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth. This denotes, as was shown in the note on Rev. 8:10, a leader, a military chieftain, a warrior. In the fulfilment of this, as in the former case, we look for the appearance of some mighty prince and warrior, to whom is given power, as it were, to open the bottomless pit, and to summon forth its legions. That some such agent is denoted by the star is farther apparent from the fact that it is immediately added, that "to him [the star] was given the key of the bottomless pit." It could not be meant that a key would be given to a literal star, and we naturally suppose, therefore, that some intelligent being of exalted rank, and of baleful influence, is here referred to. Angels, good and bad, are often called stars; but the reference here, as in Rev. 8:10, seems to me not to be to angels, but to some mighty leader of armies, who was to collect his hosts, and to go through the world in the work of destruction.
And to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. Of the under-world, considered particularly of the abode of the wicked. This is represented often as a dark prison-house, enclosed with walls, and accessible by gates or doors. These gates or doors are fastened, so that none of the inmates can come out, and the key is in the hand of the keeper or guardian. In Rev. 1:18, it is said that the keys of that world are in the hand of the Saviour, (compare Note on Rev. 1:18) here it is said that for a time, and for a temporary purpose, they are committed to another. The word pitfreardenotes properly a well, or a pit for water dug in the earth; and then any pit, cave, abyss. The reference here is doubtless to the nether world, considered as the abode of the wicked dead, the prison-house of the guilty. The word bottomless, abussoßwhence our word abyssmeans properly without any bottom, (from a, pr., and buqoß, depth, bottom.) It would be applied properly to the ocean, or to any deep and dark dell, or to any obscure place whose depth was, unknown. Here it refers to Hadesthe region of the deadthe abode of wicked spiritsas a deep, dark place whose bottom was unknown. Having the key to this, is to have the power to confine those who are there, or to permit them to go at large. The meaning here is, that this master-spirit would have power to evoke the dead from these dark regions; and it would be fulfilled if some mighty genius, that could be compared with a fallen star, or a lurid meteor, should summon forth followers which would appear like the dwellers in the nether world called forth to spread desolation over the earth.
2. And he opened the bottomless pit. It is represented before as wholly confined, so that not even the smoke or vapour could escape.
And there arose a smoke out of the pit. Compare Rev. 14:11. The meaning here is, that the pit, as a place of punishment, or as the abode of the wicked, was filled with burning sulphur, and consequently that it emitted smoke and vapour as soon as opened. The common image of the place of punishment, in the Scriptures, is that of a "lake that burns with fire and brimstone." Compare Rev. 14:10; Rev. 19:20; 20:10; 21:8.
See also Psa. 11:6; Isa. 30:33; Ezek. 38:22.
It is not improbable that this image was taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Gen. 19:24. Such burning sulphur would produce, of course, a dense smoke or vapour; and the idea here is, that the pit had been closed, and that as soon as the door was opened, a dense column escaped that darkened the heavens. The purpose of this is, probably, to indicate the origin of the plague that was about to come upon the world. It would be of such a character that it would appear as if it had been emitted from hell; as if the inmates of that dark world had broke loose upon the earth. Compare Note on Rev. 6:8.
As the smoke of a great furnace. So in Gen. 19:28, whence probably this image is taken: "And he looked towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace."
And the sun and the air were darkened, etc. As will be the case when a smoke ascends from a furnace. The meaning here is, that an effect would be produced as if a dense and dark vapour should ascend from the under-world. We are not, of course, to understand this literally.
3. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth. That is, they escaped from the pit with the smoke. At first they were mingled with the smoke so that they were not distinctly seen, but when the smoke cleared away, they appeared in great numbers. The idea seems to be, that the bottomless pit was filled with vapour and with those creatures, and that as soon as the gate was opened the whole contents expanded and burst forth upon the earth. The sun was immediately darkened and the air was full, but the smoke soon cleared away, so that the locusts became distinctly visible. The appearance of these locusts is described in another part of the chapter, Rev. 9:7, seq. The locust is a voracious insect belonging to the grasshopper or grylli genus, and is a great scourge in Oriental countries. A full description of the locust may be seen in Robinson's Calmet, and in Kitto's Encyclo. vol. ii. pp. 258, seq. There are ten Hebrew words to denote the locust, and there are numerous references to the destructive habits of the insect in the Scriptures. In fact, from their numbers, and their destructive habits, there was scarcely any other plague that was so much dreaded in the East. Considered as a symbol, or emblem, the following remarks may be made in explanation:
(1.) The symbol is Oriental, and would most naturally refer to something that was to occur in the East. As locusts have appeared chiefly in the East, and as they are in a great measure an Oriental plague, the mention of this symbol would most naturally turn the thoughts to that portion of the earth. The symbols of the first four trumpets had no especial locality, and would suggest no particular part of the world; but, on the mention of this, the mind would be naturally turned to the East, and we should expect to find that the scene of this woe would be located in the regions where the ravages of locusts most abounded. Compare, on this point, Elliott, Horae. Apoc. i. 394-406. He has made it probable that the prophets, when they used symbolical language to denote any events, commonly, at least, employed those which had a local or geographical reference. Thus, in the symbols derived from the vegetable kingdom, when Judah is to be symbolized, the olive, the vine, and the fig-tree are selected; when Egypt is referred to, the reed is chosen; when Babylon, the willow. And so, in the animal kingdom, the lion is the symbol of Judah; the wild ass, of the Arabs; the crocodile, of Egypt, etc. Whether this theory could be wholly carried out or not, no one can doubt that the symbol of locusts would most naturally suggest the Oriental world, and that the natural interpretation of the passage would lead us to expect its fulfilment there.
(2.) Locusts were remarkable for their numbersso great often as to appear like clouds, and to darken the sky. In this respect, they would naturally be symbolical of numerous armies or hosts of men. This natural symbol of numerous armies is often employed by the prophets. Thus, in Jer. 6:23:
"Cut down her forest, [i.e. her people, or cities,] saith Jehovah, That it may not be found on searching; Although they surpass the locusts in multitude, And they are without number."
So in Nahum 3:15: "There shall the fire devour thee; The sword shall cut thee off; it shall devour thee as the locust, Increase thyself as the numerous locust."
So also in Nahum 3:17: "Thy crowned princes are as the numerous locust, And thy captains as the grasshoppers; Which encamp in the fences in the cold day, But when the sun ariseth they depart, And their place is not known where they were."
See also Deut. 28:38, 42; Psa. 78:46; Amos 7:1.
Compare Judg. 6:3-6; 7:12 and Joel 1-2.
(3.) Locusts are an emblem of desolation or destruction. No symbol of desolation could be more appropriate or striking than this, for one of the most remarkable properties of locusts is, that they devour every green thing, and leave a land perfectly waste. They do this even when what they destroy is not necessary for their own sustenance. "Locusts seem to devour not so much from a ravenous appetite as from a rage for destroying. Destruction, therefore, and not food, is the chief impulse of their devastations, and in this consists their utility; they are, in fact, omnivorous. The most poisonous plants are indifferent to them; they will prey even upon the crowfoot, whose causticity burns even the hides of beasts. They simply consume everything, without predilectionvegetable matter, linens, woollens, silk, leather, etc.; and Pliny does not exaggerate them when he says, fores quoque tectorumeven the doors of houses'for they have been known to consume the very varnish of furniture. They reduce everything indiscriminately to shreds, which become manure."Kitto's Enclyco. fl. 263. Locusts become, therefore, a most striking symbol of an all-devouring army, and as such are often referred to in Scripture. So also in Josephus, de Bello Jud. book v. chap. vii.: "As after locusts we see the woods stripped of their leaves, so, in the rear of Simon's army, nothing but devastation remained." The natural application of this symbol, then, is to a numerous and destructive army, or to a great multitude of people committing ravages, and sweeping off everything in their march.
And unto them was given power. This was something that was imparted to them beyond their ordinary nature. The locust in itself is not strong, and is not a symbol of strength. Though destructive in the extreme, yet neither as individuals, nor as combined, are they distinguished for strength. Hence it is mentioned as a remarkable circumstance that they had such power conferred on them.
As the scorpions of the earth have power. The phrase "the earth" seems to have been introduced here because these creatures are said to have come up from "the bottomless pit," and it was natural to compare them with some well-known objects found on the earth. The scorpion is an animal with eight feet, eight eyes, and a long, jointed tail, ending in a pointed weapon or sting. It is the largest and the most malignant of all the insect tribes. It somewhat resembles the lobster in its general appearance, but is much more hideous. See Note on Luke 10:19.
Those found in Europe seldom exceed four inches in length, but in tropical climates, where they abound, they are often found twelve inches long. There are few animals more formidable, and none more irascible, than the scorpion. Goldsmith states that Maupertius put about a hundred of them together in the same glass, and that as soon as they came into contact they began to exert all their rage in mutual destruction, so that in a few days there remained but fourteen, which had killed and devoured all the rest. The sting of the scorpion, Dr. Shaw states, is not always fatal; the malignity of their venom being in proportion to their size and complexion. The torment of a scorpion, when he strikes a man, is thus described by Dioscorides, lib. vii. cap. 7, as cited by Mr. Taylor: "When the scorpion has stung, the place becomes inflamed and hardened; it reddens by tension, and is painful by intervals, being now chilly, now burning. The pain soon rises high, and rages, sometimes more, sometimes less. A sweating succeeds, attended by a shivering and trembling; the extremities of the body become cold, the groin swells, the hair stands on end, the members become pale, and the skin feels throughout the sensation of a perpetual pricking, as if by needles."Fragments to Calmet's Dic. vol. iv. 376, 377. "The tail of the scorpion is long, and formed after the manner of a string of beads, the last larger than the others, and longer; at the end of which are, sometimes, two stings which are hollow, and filled with a cold poison, which it ejects into the part which it stings."Calm. Dic. The sting of the scorpion, therefore, becomes the emblem of that which causes acute and dangerous suffering. On this comparison with scorpions, see the remark of Niebuhr, quoted in See Note on Rev. 9:7.
4. And it was commanded them. The writer does not say by whom this command was given, but it is clearly by some one who had the direction of them. As they were evoked from the "bottomless pit" by one who had the key to that dark abode, and as they are represented in Rev. 9:11 as under the command of one who is there called Abaddon, or Apollyonthe Destroyerit would seem most probable that the command referred to is one that is given by him; that is, that this expresses one of the principles on which he would act in his devastations. At all events, this denotes what would be one of the characteristics of these destroyers. Their purpose would be to vex and trouble men; not to spread desolation over vineyards, oliveyards, and fields of grain.
That they should not hurt the grass of the earth, etc. See Note on Rev. 8:7.
The meaning here is plain. There would be some sense in which these invaders would be characterized in a manner that was not common among invaders, to wit, that they would show particular care not to carry their devastations into the vegetable world. Their warfare would be with men, and not with orchards and green fields.
But only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. See Note on Rev. 7:2-3.
They commenced war against that part of the human race only. The language here properly denotes those who were not the friends of God. It may here refer, however, either to those who in reality were not such, or to those who were regarded by him who gave this command as not being such. In the former case, the commission would have respect to real infidels in the sight of Godthat is, to those who rejected the true religion; in the latter, it would express the sentiment of the leader of this host, as referring to those who in his apprehension were infidels or enemies of God. The true interpretation must depend on the sense in which we understand the phrase "it was commanded;" whether as referring to God, or to the leader of the host himself. The language, therefore, is ambiguous, and the meaning must be determined by the other parts of the passage. Either method of understanding the passage would be in accordance with its fair interpretation.
5. And to them it was given. There is here the same indefiniteness as in the former verse, the impersonal verb being here also used. The writer does not say by whom this power was given, whether by God, or by the leader of the host. It may be admitted, however, that the most natural interpretation is to suppose that it was given them by God, and that this was the execution of his purpose in this case. Still it is remarkable that this is not directly affirmed, and that the language is so general as to admit of the other application. The fact that they did not kill them, but tormented themif such a fact should be found to existwould be in every sense a fulfilment of what is here said.
That they should not kill them. This is in accordance with the nature of the symbol. The locusts do not themselves destroy any living creature; and the sting of the scorpion, though exceedingly painful, is not usually fatal. The proper fulfilment of this would be found in that which would not be generally fatal, but which would diffuse misery and wretchedness. Compare Rev. 9:6. Perhaps all that would be necessarily meant by this would be, not that individual men would not be killed, but that they would be sent to inflict plagues and torments rather than to take life, and that the characteristic effects of their appearing would be distress and suffering rather than death. There may be included in the fair interpretation of the words, general distress and sorrow; acts of oppression, cruelty, and violence; such a condition of public suffering that men would regard death as a relief if they could find it.
But that they should be tormented. That is, that they should be subjected to ills and troubles which might be properly compared with the sting of a scorpion.
Five months. So far as the words here are concerned, this might be taken literally, denoting five months or one hundred and fifty days; or as a prophetic reckoning, where a day stands for a year. Compare Note on Dan. 9:24, seq. The latter is undoubtedly the correct interpretation here, for it is the character of the book thus to reckon time. See Note on Rev. 9:15.
If this be the true method of reckoning here, then it will be necessary to find some events which will embrace about the period of one hundred and fifty years, during which this distress and sorrow would continue. The proper laws of interpretation demand that one or the other of these periods should be foundeither that of five months literally, or that of a hundred and fifty years. It may be true, as Professor Stuart suggests, (in loc.,) that "the usual time of locusts is from May to September inclusivefive months." It may be true, also, that this symbol was chosen partly because that was the fact, and they would, from that fact, be well adapted to symbolize a period that could be spoken of as "five months;" but still the meaning must be more than simply it was "a short period," as he supposes. The phrase a few months might designate such a period; but if that had been the writer's intention, he would not have selected the definite number five.
And their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, etc. See Note on Rev. 9:3.
That is, it would be painful, severe, dangerous.
6. And in those days shall men seek death, etc. See Note on Rev. 9:5.
It is very easy to conceive of such a state of things as is here described, and, indeed, this has not been very uncommon in the world. It is a state where the distress is so great that men would consider death a relief, and where they anxiously look to the time when they may be released from their sufferings by death. In the case before us, it is not intimated that they would lay violent hands on themselves, or that they would take any positive measures to end their sufferings; and this, perhaps, may be a circumstance of some show the importance to that the persons referred to were servants of God. When it is said that "they would seek death," it can only be meant that they would look out for itor desire itas the end of their sorrows. This is descriptive, as we shall see, of a particular period of the world; but language is beautifully applicable to what occurs in all ages, and in all lands. There is always a great number of sufferers who are looking forward to death as a relief. In cells and dungeons; on beds of pain and languishing; in scenes of poverty and want; in blighted hopes and disappointed affections, how many are there who would be glad to die, and who have no hope of an end of suffering but in the grave! A few, by the pistol, by the halter, by poison, or by drowning, seek thus to end their woes. A large part look forward to death as a release, when, if the reality were known, death would furnish no such relief, for there are deeper and longer woes beyond the grave than there are this side of it. Compare Note on Job 3:20, seq. But to a portion death will be a relief. It will be an end of sufferings. They will find peace in the grave, and are assured they shall suffer no more. Such bear their trials with patience, for the end of all sorrow to them is near, and death will come to release their spirits from the suffering clay, and to bear them in triumph to a world where a pang shall never be felt, and a tear never shed.
7. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for battle. The resemblance between the locust and the horse, dissimilar as they are in most respects, has been often remarked. Dr. Robinson (Bib. Research. i. 59) says, "We found to-day upon the shrubs an insect, either a species of black locust, or much resembling them, which our Bedouin called Faras el Jundy, soldiers' horses.' They said these insects were common on Mount Sinai, of a green colour, and were found on dead trees, but did them no injury." The editor of the Pictorial Bible makes the following remarks: "The first time we saw locusts browsing with their wings closed, the idea of comparing them to horses arose spontaneously to our mindsas we had not previously met with such a comparison, and did not at that time advert to the present text, [Joel 2:4.] The resemblance in the head first struck our attention, and this notion, having once arisen, other analogies were found or imagined in its general appearance and action in feeding. We have since found the observation very common. The Italians, indeed, from this resemblance, call the locust cavaletta, or little horse. Sir W. Ouseley reports, Zakaria Cazvini divides the locusts into two classes, like horsemen and footmenmounted and pedestrian.' Niebuhr says that he heard from a Bedouin, near Bussorah, a particular comparison of the locust to other animals; but as this passage of Scripture did not occur to him at the time, he thought it a mere fancy of the Arab's, till he heard it repeated at Bagdad. He compared the head of the locust to that of the horse; the feet to those of the camel; the belly with that of a serpent; the tail with that of a scorpion; and the feelers (if Niebuhr remembered rightly) to the hair of a virgin."Pict. Bib. on Joel 2:4. The resemblance to horses would naturally suggest the idea of cavalry, as being referred to by the symbol.
And on their heads were as it were crowns like gold. The writer does not say either that these were literally crowns, or that they were actually made of gold. They were "as it were" (wß) crowns, and they were like (omoioi) gold. That is, as seen by him, they had a resemblance to crowns or diadems, and they also resembled gold in their colour and brilliancy. The word crownstefanoßmeans properly a circlet, chaplet, encircling the head,
(a) as an emblem of royal dignity, and as worn by kings;
(b) as conferred on victors in the public gamesa chaplet, a wreath;
(c) as an ornament, honour, or glory, Phil. 4:1. No particular shape is designated by the word stefanoßstephanosand perhaps the word crown does not quite express the meaning. The word diadem would come nearer to it. The true notion in the word is that of something that is passed around the head, and that encircles it, and as such it would well describe the appearance of a turban as seen at a distance. On the supposition that the symbolic beings here referred to had turbans on their heads, and on the supposition that something was referred to which was not much worn in the time of John, and, therefore, that had no name, the word stephanos, or diadem, would be likely to be used in describing it. This, too, would accord with the use of the phrase "as it were"wß. The writer saw such head-ornaments as he was unaccustomed to see. They were not exactly crowns or diadems, but they had a resemblance to them, and he therefore uses this language: "and on their heads were as it were crowns." Suppose that these were turbans, and that they were not in common use in the time of John, and that they had, therefore, no name, would not this be the exact language which he would use in describing them? The same remarks may be made respecting the other expression.
Like gold. They were not pure gold; but they had a resemblance to it. Would not a yellow turban correspond with all that is said in this description?
And their faces were as the faces of men. They had a human countenance. This would indicate that, after all, they were human beings that the symbol described, though they had come up from the bottomless pit. Horsemen, in strange apparel, with a strange head-dress, would be all that would be properly denoted by this.
8. And they had hair as the hair of women. Long hair; not such as men commonly wear, but such as women wear. See Note on 1 Cor. 11:14.
This struck John as a peculiarity, that, though warriors, they should have the appearance of effeminacy indicated by allowing their hair to grow long. It is clear from this, that John regarded their appearance as unusual and remarkable. Though manifestly designed to represent an army, yet it was not the usual appearance of men who went forth to battle. Among the Greeks of ancient times, indeed, long hair was not uncommon, See Note on 1 Cor. 11:14, but this was by no means the usual custom among the ancients; and the fact that these warriors had long hair like women was a circumstance that would distinguish them particularly from others. On this comparison of the appearance of the locusts with the hair of women, see the remarks of Niebuhr, in See Note on Rev. 9:7.
And their teeth were as the teeth of lions. Strong; fitted to devour. The teeth of the locust are by no means prominent, though they are strong, for they readily cut down and eat up all vegetable substances that come in their way. But it is evident that John means to say that there was much that was unusual and remarkable in the teeth of these locusts. They would be ravenous and fierce, and would spread terror and desolation like the lions of the desert.
9. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron. Hard, horny, impenetrable, as if they were made of iron. The locust has a firm and hard cuticle on the forepart of the breast, which serves for a shield or defence while it moves in the thorny and furzy vegetation. On those which John saw, this was peculiarly hard and horny, and would thus be well adapted to be an emblem of the breastplates of iron commonly worn by ancient warriors. The meaning is, that the warriors referred to would be well clad with defensive armour.
And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses, running to battle. The noise made by locusts is often spoken of by travellers, and the comparison of that noise with that of chariots rushing to battle, is not only appropriate, but also indicates clearly what was symbolized. It was an army that was symbolized, and everything about them served to represent hosts of men, well armed, rushing to conflict. The same thing here referred to is noticed by Joel 2:4-5,7:
"The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses;
and as horsemen so shall they run. Like the noise of
chariots on the tops of mountains, shall they leap
Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble;
As a strong people set in battle array.
They shall run like mighty men;
They shall climb the wall like men of war;
And they shall march every one his ways, and shall not
break their ranks," etc.
It is remarkable that Volney, who had no intention of illustrating the truth of Scripture, has given a description of locusts, as if he meant to confirm the truth of what is here said. "Syria," says he, "as well as Egypt, Persia, and almost all the south of Asia, is subject to another calamity no less dreadful [than earthquakes]; I mean those clouds of locusts so often mentioned by travellers. The quantity of these insects is incredible to all who have not themselves witnessed their astounding numbers; the whole earth is covered with them for the space of several leagues. The noise they make in browsing on the trees and herbage may be heard to a great distance, and resembles that of an army foraging in secret."Travels in Egypt and Syria, vol. i., pp. 283, 284.
10. And they had tails like unto scorpions. The fancy of an Arab now often discerns a resemblance between the tail of the locust and the scorpion. See the remark of Niebuhr, quoted in See Note on Rev. 9:7.
And there were stings in their tails. Like the stings of scorpions. See Note on Rev. 9:3.
This made the locusts which appeared to John the more remarkable, for, though the fancy may imagine a resemblance between the tail of a locust and a scorpion, yet the locusts have properly no sting. The only thing which they have resembling a sting is a hard bony substance, like a needle, with which the female punctures the bark and wood of trees in order to deposit her eggs. It has, however, no adaptation, like a sting, for conveying poison into a wound. These, however, appeared to be armed with stings properly so called.
And their power was to hurt men. Not primarily to kill men, but to inflict on them various kinds of tortures. See Note on Rev. 9:5.
The word here usedadikhsai, rendered to hurtis different from the word in Rev. 9:5basanisqwsi, rendered should be tormented. This word properly means to do wrong, to do unjustly, to injure, to hurt; and the two words would seem to convey the idea that they would produce distress by doing wrong to others, or by dealing unjustly with them. It does not appear that the wrong would be by inflicting bodily torments, but would be characterized by that injustice towards others which produces distress and anguish.
Five months. See Note on Rev. 9:5.
11. And they had a king over them. A ruler who marshalled their hosts. Locusts often, and indeed generally, move in bands, though they do not appear to be under the direction of any one as a particular ruler or guide. In this case, it struck John as a remarkable peculiarity that they had a kinga king who, it would seem, had the absolute control, and to whom was to be traced all the destruction which would ensue from their emerging from the bottomless pit.
Which is the angel of the bottomless pit. See Note on Rev. 9:1.
The word angel here would seem to refer to the chief of the evil angels, who presided over the dark and gloomy regions from whence the locusts seemed to emerge. This may either mean that this evil angel seemed to command them personally, or that his spirit was infused into the leader of these hosts.
Whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon. The name Abaddon means literally destruction, and is the same as Apollyon.
But in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. From apollumi,to destroy. The word properly denotes a destroyer, and the name is given to this king of the hosts, represented by the locusts, because this would be his principal characteristic.
After this minute explanation of the literal meaning of the symbol, it may be useful, before attempting to apply it, and to ascertain the events designed to be represented, to have a distinct impression of the principal imagethe locust. It is evident that this is, in many respects, a creature of the imagination, and that we are not to expect the exact representation to be found in any forms of actual existence in the animal creation.
The question now is, whether any events occurred in history, subsequent to, and succeeding those supposed to be referred to in the fourth seal, to which this symbol would be applicable. Reasons have already been suggested for supposing that there was a transfer of the seat of the operations to another part of the world. The first four trumpets referred to a continual series of events of the same general character, and having a proper close. These have been explained as referring to the successive shocks which terminated in the downfall of the Western empire. At the close of that series there is a pause in the representation, (Rev. 8:13) and a solemn proclamation that other scenes were to open distinguished for woe. These were to be symbolized in the sounding of the remaining three trumpets, embracing the whole period till the consummation of all thingsor sketching great and momentous events in the future, until the volume sealed with the seven seals (Rev. 5:1) should have been wholly unrolled and its contents disclosed. The whole scene now is changed. Rome has fallen. It has passed into the hands of strangers. The power that had spread itself over the world has, in that form, come to an end, and is to exist no morethough, as we shall see, (Revelation 11 seq.) another power, quite as formidable, existing there, is to be described by a new set of symbols. But here (Revelation 9) a new power appears. The scenery is all Oriental, and clearly has reference to events that were to spring up in the East. With surprising unanimity, commentators have agreed in regarding this as referring to the empire of the Saracens, or to the rise and progress of the religion, and the empire set up by Mohammed. The inquiry now is, whether the circumstances introduced into the symbol find a proper fulfilment in the rise of the Saracenic power, and in the conquests of the Prophet of Mecca.
(1.) The country where the scene is laid. As already remarked, the scene is Orientalfor the mention of locusts naturally suggests the Eastthat being the part of the world where they abound, and they being in fact peculiarly an Oriental plague. It may now be added, that, in a more strict and proper sense, Arabia may be intended; that is, if it be admitted that the design was to symbolize events pertaining to Arabia, or the gathering of the hosts of Arabia for conquest, the symbol of locusts would have been employed, for the locust, the groundwork of the symbol, is peculiarly Arabic. It was the east wind which brought the locusts on Egypt, (Exod. 10:13) and they must therefore have come from some portion of Arabiafor Arabia is the land that lies over against Egypt in the east. Such, too, is the testimony of Volhey, "the most judicious," as Mr. Gibbon calls him, "of modern travellers." "The inhabitants of Syria," says he, "have remarked that locusts come constantly from the desert of Arabia," chapter 20 section 5. All that is necessary to say further on this point is, that on the supposition that it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration in the passage before us to refer to the followers of Mohammed, the image of the locusts was that which would be naturally selected. There was no other one so appropriate and so striking; no one that would so naturally designate the country of Arabia. As some confirmation of this, or as showing how natural the symbol would be, a remark may be introduced from Mr. Forster. In his Mohammedanism Unveiled, (i. 217,) he says, "In the Bedoween romance of Antar, the locust is introduced as the national emblem of the Ishmaelites. And it is a remarkable coincidence that Mohammedan tradition speaks of locusts having dropped into the hands of Mohammed, bearing on their wings thin inscriptionWe are the army of the Great God.'" These circumstances will show the propriety of the symbol on the supposition that it refers to Arabia and the Saracens.
(2.) The people. The question is, whether there was anything in the symbol, as described by John, which would properly designate the followers of Mohammed, on the supposition that it was designed to have such a reference.
(a) As to numbers. Judg. 6:5: "They (the Midiunite Arabs) came as locusts for multitude." See Note on Rev. 9:3.
Nothing would better represent the numbers of the Saracenic hordes that came out of Arabia, and that spread over the east, over Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Spain, and that threatened to spread over Europe, than such an army of locusts. "One hundred years after his flight [Mohammed] from Mecca," says Mr. Gibbon, "the arms and reigns of his successors extended from India to the Atlantic Ocean, over the various and distant provinces which may be comprised under the names of Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain," iii. 410. "At the end of the first century of the Hegira, the caliphs were the most potent and absolute monarchs on the globe. Under the last of the Ommiades, the Arabian empire extended two hundred days' journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean."Ibid, p. 460. In regard to the immense hosts employed in these conquests, an idea may be formed by a perusal of the whole fifty-first chapter in Gibbon, (vol. iii. pp. 408-461.) Those hosts issued primarily from Arabia, and in their numbers would be well compared with the swarms of locusts that issued from the same country, so numerous as to darken the sky.
(b) The description of the people.
Their faces were as the faces of men. This would seem to be in contrast with other people, or to denote something that was peculiar in the appearance of the persons represented. In other words, the meaning would seem to be, that there was something manly and warlike in their appearance, so far as their faces were concerned. It is remarkable that the appearance of the Goths (represented, as I suppose, under the previous trumpets) is described by Jerome (compare on Isaiah 8) as quite the reverse. They are described as having faces shaven and smooth; faces, in contrast with the bearded Romans, like women's faces. ( Fromincas incisas facies praeferentes, virorum et bene barbatorum fugieata terga confodiunt.) Is it fancy to suppose that the reference here is to the beard and moustache of the Arabic hosts? We know with what care they regarded the beard; and if a representation was made of them, especially in contrast with nations that shaved their faces, and who thus resembled women, it would be natural to speak of those represented in the symbol as "having faces as the faces of men."
They had hair as the hair of women. A strange mingling of the appearance of effeminacy with the indication of manliness and courage. See Note on Rev. 9:8.
And yet this strictly accords with the appearance of the Arabs or Saracens. Pliny, the contemporary of John, speaks of the Arabs then as having the hair long and uncut, with the moustache on the upper lip, or the beard: Arabes mitrati sunt, cut intonso crine. Barba abraditur, praeterquam in superiore labro. Aliis et haec intonsa.Nat. Hist. vi. 28. So Solinus describes them in the third century (Plurimis crinis intonsus, mitrata capita, pars rasa in cutem barba, c. 53;) so Ammianus Marcellinus, in the fourth century, (Crinitus quidam a Saracencrum cuneo, 31. 16;) and so Claudian, Theodore of Mopsuesta, and Jerome, in the fifth. Jerome lived about two centuries before the great Saracen invasion; and as he lived at Bethlehem, on the borders of Arabia, he must have been familiar with the appearance of the Arabs. Still later, in that most characteristic of Arab poems, Antar, a poem written in the time of Mohammed's childhood, we find the moustache, and the beard, and the long flowing hair on the shoulder, and the turban, all specified as characteristic of the Arabians: "He adjusted himself properly, twisted his whiskers, and folded up his hair under his turban, drawing it from off his shoulders," i. 340. "His hair flowed down on his shoulders," i. 169. "Antar cut off Maudi's hair in revenge and insult," iii. 117. "We will hang him up by his hair," iv. 325. See Elliott, i. 411, 412. Compare Newton on the Prophecies, p. 485.
And on their heads were as it were crowns of gold. See Note on Rev. 9:7.
That is, diadems, or something that appeared like crowns, or chaplets. This will agree well with the turban worn by the Arabs or Saracens, and which was quite characteristic of them in the early periods when they became known. So in the passage already quoted, Pliny speaks of them as Arabes mitrati; so Solinus, mitrata capita; so in the poem of Antar, "he folded up his hair under his turban." It is remarkable also that Ezekiel (Ezek. 23:42) describes the turbans of the Subcan or Keturite Arabs under the very appellation here used by John: "Subcans from the wilderness, which put beautiful crowns upon their heads." So in the Preface to Antar, it is said, "It was a usual saying among them, that God had bestowed four peculiar things on the Arabs; that their turbans should be unto them instead of diadems, their tents instead of walls and houses, their swords instead of intrenchments, and their poems instead of written laws." Mr. Forster, in his Mohammedanism Unveiled, quotes as a precept of Mohammed, "Make a point of wearing turbans, because it is the way of angels." Turbans might then with propriety be represented as crowns, and no doubt these were often so gilded and ornamented that they might be spoken of as "crowns of gold."
They had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron. See Note on Rev. 9:9.
As a symbol, this would be properly descriptive of the Arabians or Saracens. In the poem Antar, the steel and iron cuirasses of the Arab warriors are frequently noticed: "A warrior immersed in steel armour," ii. 203. "Fifteen thousand men armed with cuirasses, and well accoutred for war," ii. 42. "They were clothed in iron armour, and brilliant cuirasses," i. 23. "Out of the dust appeared horsemen clad in iron," iii. 274. The same thing occurs in the Koran: "God hath given you coats of mail to defend you in your wars," ii. 104. In the history of Mohammed, we read expressly of the cuirasses of himself and of his Arab troops. Seven cuirasses are noted in the list of Mohammed's private armoury.Gagnier, iii. 328334. In his second battle with the Koreish, seven hundred of his little army are spoken of by Mr. Gibbon as armed with cuirasses. See Elliott, i. 413. These illustrations will show with what propriety the locusts in the symbol were represented as having breastplates like breastplates of iron. On the supposition that this referred to the Arabs and the Saracens, this would have been the very symbol which would have been used. Indeed, all the features in the symbol are precisely such as would properly be employed on the supposition that the reference was to them. It is true that, beforehand, it might not have been practicable to describe exactly what people were referred to, but
(a) it would be easy to see that some fearful calamity was to be anticipated from the ravages of hosts of fearful invaders; and
(b) when the events occurred, there would be no difficulty in determining to whom this application should be made.
(3.) The time when this would occur. As to this, there can be no difficulty in the application to the Saracens. On the supposition that the four first trumpets refer to the downfall of the Western empire, then the proper time supposed to be represented by this symbol is subsequent to that; and yet the manner in which the last three trumpets are introduced (Rev. 8:13) shows that there would be an interval between the sounding of the last of the four trumpets and the sounding of the fifth. The events referred to, as I have supposed, as represented by the fourth trumpet, occurred in the close of the fifth century, (A. D. 476-490.) The principal events in the seventh century were connected with the invasions and conquests of the Saracens. The interval of a century is not more than the fair interpretation of the proclamation in Rev. 8:13 would justify.
(4.) The commission given to the symbolical locusts. This embraces the following things:
(a) They were not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing;
(b) they were especially to go against those who had not the seal of God in their foreheads;
(c) they were not to kill them, but were to torment them.
They were not to hurt the grass of the earth, etc. See Note on Rev. 9:4.
This agrees remarkably with an express command in the Koran. The often quoted order of the Caliph Aboubekir, the father-in-law and successor of Mohammed, issued to the Saracen hordes on heir invasion of Syria, shows what was understood to be the spirit of their religion: "Remember that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, in the assurance of judgment, and the hope of paradise. Avoid injustice and oppression; consult with your brethren, and study to procure the love and confidence of your troops. When you fight the battle of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not the victory be stained with the blood of women or children. Destroy no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on you will find some religious persons who have retired in monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God in that way; let them alone, and neither kill them [and to them it was given that they should not kill them,' Rev. 9:5], nor destroy their monasteries," etc.Gibbon iii. 417-418. So Mr. Gibbon notices this precept of the Koran: "In the siege of Tayaf," says he, "sixty miles from Mecca, Mohammed violated his own laws by the extirpation of the fruit-trees," ii. 392. The same order existed among the Hebrews, and it is not improbable that Mohammed derived his precept from the command of Moses, (Deut. 20:19) though what was mercy among the Hebrews was probably mere policy with him. This precept is the more remarkable because it has been the usual custom in war, and particularly among barbarians and semi-barbarians, to destroy grain and fruit, and especially to cut down fruit-trees, in order to do greater injury to an enemy. Thus we have seen, (See Note on Rev. 8:7) that in the invasion of the Goths their course was marked by desolations of this kind. Thus, in more modern times, it has been common to carry the desolations of war into gardens, orchards, and vineyards. In the single province of Upper Messenia, the troops of Mohammed Ali, in the war with Greece, cut down half a million of olive-trees, and thus stripped the country of its means of wealth. So Scio was a beautiful spot, the seat of delightful villas, and gardens, and orchards; and in one day all this beauty was destroyed. On the supposition, therefore, that this prediction had reference to the Saracens, nothing could be more appropriate. Indeed, in all the history of barbarous and savage warfare, it would be difficult to find another distinct command that no injury should be done to gardens and orchards.
(d) Their commission was expressly against "those men who had not the seal of God in their foreheads." See Note on Rev. 9:4.
That is, they were to go either against those who were not really the friends of God, or those who in their estimation were not. Perhaps, if there were nothing in the connexion to demand a different interpretation, the former would be the most natural explanation of the passage; but the language may be understood as referring to the purpose which they considered themselves as called upon to execute: that is, that they were to go against those whom they regarded as being strangers to the true God, to wit, idolators. Now, it is well known that Mohammed considered himself called upon, principally, to make war with idolaters, and that he went forth, professedly, to bring them into subjection to the service of the true God. "The means of persuasion," says Mr. Gibbon, "had been tried, the season of forbearance was elapsed, and he was now commanded to propagate his religion by the sword, to destroy the monuments of idolatry, and, without regarding the sanctity of days or months, to pursue the unbelieving nations of the earth," iii. 387. "The fair option of friendship, or submission, or battle, was proposed to the enemies of Mohammed."Ibid. "The sword," says Mohammed, "is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven; at the day of judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim."Gibbon, iii. 387. The first conflicts waged by Mohammed were against the idolaters of his own countrythose who can, on no supposition, be regarded as "having the seal of God in their foreheads;" his subsequent wars were against infidels of all classes, that is, against those whom he regarded as not having the "seal of God in their foreheads," or as being the enemies of God.
(e) The other part of the commission was "not to kill, but to torment them." See Note on Rev. 9:5.
Compare the quotation from the command of Aboubekir, as quoted above: "Let not the victory be stained with the blood of women and children." "Let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries." The meaning of this, if understood as applied to their commission against Christendom, would seem to be, that they were not to go forth to "kill," but to "torment" them; to wit, by the calamities which they would bring upon Christian nations for a definite period. Indeed, as we have seen above, it was an express command of Aboubekir that they should not put those to death who were found leading quiet and peaceable lives in monasteries, though against another class he did give an express command to "cleave their skulls." See Gibbon, iii. 418. As applicable to the conflicts of the Saracens with Christians, the meaning here would seem to be, that the power conceded to those who are represented by the locusts was not to cut off and to destroy the church, but it was to bring upon it various calamities to continue for a definite period. Accordingly, some of the severest afflictions which have come upon the church have undoubtedly proceeded from the followers of the Prophet of Mecca. There were times in the early history of that religion when, to all human appearance, it would universally prevail, and wholly supplant the Christian church. But the church still survived, and no power was at any time given to the Saracenic hosts to destroy it altogether. In respect to this, some remarkable facts have occurred in history. The followers of the false prophet contemplated the subjugation of Europe, and the destruction of Christianity, from two quartersthe East and the Westexpecting to make a junction of the two armies in the north of Italy, and to march down to Rome. Twice did they attack the vital part of Christendom by besieging Constantinople: first, in the seven years' siege, which lasted from A. D. 668 to A. D. 675; and, secondly, in the years 716-718, when Leo the Isaurian was on the imperial throne. But on both occasions they were obliged to retire defeated and disgraced.Gibbon, iii. 461, seq. Again, they renewed their attack on the West. Having conquered Northern Africa, they passed over into Spain, subdued that country and Portugal, and extended their conquests as far as the Loire. At that time they designed to subdue France, and having united with the forces which they expected from the East, they intended to make a descent on Italy, and complete the conquest of Europe. This purpose was defeated by the valour of Charles Martel, and Europe and the Christian world were saved from subjugation.Gibbon, iii. 467, seq. "A victorious line of march," says Mr. Gibbon, "had been prolonged above a thousand miles, from the rock of Gibraltar to the mouth of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the highlands of Scotland. The Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or the Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelations of Mohammed." The arrest of the Saracen hosts before Europe was subdued, was what there was no reason to anticipate, and it even yet perplexes historians to be able to account for it. "The calm historian," says Mr. Gibbon, "who strives to follow the rapid course of the Saracens, must study to explain by what means the church and state were saved from this impending, and, as it should seem, inevitable danger." "These conquests," says Mr. Hallam, "which astonish the careless and superficial, are less perplexing to a calm inquirer than their cessationsthe loss of half the Roman empire than the preservation of the rest."Middle Ages, ii. 3, 169. These illustrations may serve to explain the meaning of the symbolthat their grand commission was not to annihilate or root out, but to annoy and afflict. Indeed, they did not go forth with a primary design to destroy. The announcement of the Mussulman always was "the Koran, the tribute, or the sword," and when there was submission, either by embracing his religion or by tribute, life was always spared. "The fair option of friendship, or submission, or battle," says Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 387,) "was proposed to the enemies of Mohammed." Compare also vol. iii. 453, 456. The torment mentioned here, I suppose, refers to the calamities brought upon the Christian worldon Egypt, and Northern Africa, and Spain, and Gaul, and the East, by the hordes which came out of Arabia, and which swept over all those countries, like a troublesome and destructive host of locusts. Indeed, would any image better represent the effects of the Saracenic invasions than such a countless host of locusts? Even now, can we find an image that would better represent this ?
(5.) The leader of this host.
(a) He was like a star that fell from heaven, (Rev. 9:1) a bright and illustrious prince, as if heaven-endowed, but fallen. Would anything better characterize the genius, the power, and the splendid but perverted talent of Mohammed? Mohammed was, moreover, by birth, of the princely house of the Koreish, governors of Mecca,.and to no one could the term be more appropriate than to one of that family.
(b) He was a king. That is, there was to be one monarchone ruling spirit to which all these hosts were subject. And never was anything more appropriate than this title as applied to the leader of the Arabic hosts. All those hosts were subject to one mindto the command of the single leader that originated the scheme.
(c) The name, Abaddon, or ApollyonDestroyer, Rev. 9:11. This name would be appropriate to one who spread his conquests so far over the world; who wasted so many cities and towns; who overthrew so many kingdoms; and who laid the foundation of ultimate conquests by which so many human beings were sent to the grave.
(d) The description of the leader "as the angel of the bottomless pit," Rev. 9:11. If this be regarded as meaning that "the angel of the bottomless pit"the spirit of darkness himselforiginated the scheme, and animated these hosts, what term would better characterize the leader? And if it be a poetic description of Mohammed as sent out by that presiding spirit of evil, how could a better representative of the spirit of the nether world have been sent out upon the earth than he wasone more talented, more sagacious, more powerful, more warlike, more wicked, more fitted to subdue the nations of the earth to the dominion of the Prince of darkness, and to hold them for ages under his yoke?
(6.) The duration of the torment. It is said (Rev. 9:5) that this would be five months; that is, prophetically, a hundred and fifty years. See Note on Rev. 9:5.
The Hegira, or flight of Mohammed, occurred A.D. 622; the Saracens first issued from the desert into Syria, and began their series of wars on Christendom, A.D. 629. Reckoning from these periods respectively, the five months, or the hundred and fifty years, would extend to A.D. 772 or 779. It is not necessary to understand this period of a hundred and fifty years of the actual continued existence of the bodies symbolized by the locusts, but only of the period in which they would inflict their "torment"" that they should be tormented five months." That is, this would be the period of the intensity of the woe inflicted by them; there would be at that time some marked intermission of the torment. The question then is, whether, in the history of the Saracens, there was any period after their career of conquest had been continued for about a hundred and fifty years, which would mark the intermission or cessation of these "torments." If so, then this is all that is necessary to determine the applicability of the symbol to the Arabian hordes. Now, in reply to this question, we have only to refer to Mr. Gibbon. The table of contents prefixed to chapters forty-one and forty-two of his work would supply all the information desired. I looked at that table, after making the estimate as to what period the "five months," or hundred and fifty years, would conduct us to, to see whether anything occurred at about that time in the Mohammedan power and influence, which could be regarded as marking the time of the intermission or cessation of the calamities inflicted by the Arabic hordes on the Christian world. After Mr. Gibbon had recorded in detail (vol. iii. 360-460) the character and conquests of the Arabian hordes under Mohammed and his successors, I find the statement of the decline of their power at just about the period to which the hundred and fifty years would lead us, for at that very time an important change came over the followers of the prophet of Mecca, turning them from the love of conquest to the pursuits of literature and science. From that period, they ceased to be formidable to the church; their limits were gradually contracted; their power diminished; and the Christian world, in regard to them, was substantially at peace. This change in the character and purposes of the Saracens is thus described by Mr. Gibbon, at the close of the reign of the caliph Abdalrahman, whose reign commenced A. D. 755, and under whom the peaceful sway of the Ommiades of Spain began, which continued for a period of two hundred and fifty years. "The luxury of the caliphs, so useless to their private happiness, relaxed the nerves, and terminated the progress, of the Arabian empire. Temporal and spiritual conquest had been the sole occupation of the successors of Mohammed; and after supplying themselves with the necessaries of life, the whole revenue was scrupulously devoted to the salutary work. The Abassides were impoverished by the multitude of their wants, and their contempt of economy. Instead of pursuing the great object of ambition, their leisure, their affections, and the powers of their minds, were diverted by pomp and pleasure: the rewards of valour were embezzled by women and eunuchs, and the royal camp was encumbered by the luxury of the palace. A similar temper was diffused among the subjects of the caliph. Their stern enthusiasm was softened by time and prosperity: they sought riches in the occupations of industry, fame in the pursuits of literature, and happiness in the tranquillity of domestic life. War was no longer the passion of the Saracens; and the increase of pay, the repetition of donative, were insufficient to allure the posterity of these voluntary champions who had crowded to the standard of Abubeker and Omar for the hopes of the spoil of paradise," iii. 477, 478. Of the Ommiades, or princes who succeeded Abdalrahman, Mr. Gibbon remarks in general"Their mutual designs or declarations of war evaporated without effect; but instead of opening a door to the conquest of Europe, Spain was dissevered from the trunk of the monarchy, engaged in perpetual hostility with the East, and inclined to peace and friendship with the Christian sovereigns of Constantinople and France," iii. p. 472. How much does this look like some change occurring by which they would cease to be a source of "torment" to the nations with whom they now dwelt! From this period, they gave themselves to the arts of peace; cultivated literature and science; lost entirely their spirit of conquest, and their ambition for universal dominion, until they gradually withdrew, or were driven, from those parts of the Christian world where they had inspired most terror, and which in the days of their power and ambition they had invaded. By turning merely to the "table of contents" of Mr. Gibbon's history, the following periods, occurring at about the time that would be embraced in the "five months," or hundred and fifty years, are distinctly marked:
A. D. 668-675. First siege of Constantinople by the Arabs.
,, 677. Peace and tribute.
,, 716-718. Second siege of Constantinople.
,, ,, Failure and retreat of the Saracens.
,, ,, Invention and use of the Greek fire.
,, 721. Invasion of France by the Arabs.
,, 732. Defeat of the Saracens by Charles Martel.
,, They retreat before the Franks.
,, 746-750. The elevation of the Abassides.
,, 750. Fall of the Ommiades.
,, 755. Revolt of Spain.
,, ,, Triple division of the caliphate.
,, 750-960. Magnificence of the caliphs.
,, ,, Its consequence on private and public happiness.
,, 734, etc. Introduction of learning among the Arabians.
,, ,, Their real progress in the sciences."
It will be seen from this that the decline of their military and civil power; their defeats in their attempts to subjugate Europe; their turning their attention to the peaceful pursuits of literature and science, synchronize remarkably with the period that would be indicated by the five months, or the hundred and fifty years. It should be added, also, that in the year 762, Almanzor, the caliph, built Bagdad, and made it the capital of the Saracen empire. Henceforward that became the seat of Arabic learning, luxury, and power, and the wealth and talent of the Saracen empire were gradually drawn to that capital, and they ceased to vex and annoy the Christian world. The building of Bagdad occurred within just ten years of the time indicated by the "five months"reckoning that from the Hegira, or flight of Mohammed; or reckoning from the time when Mohammed began to preach, (A.D. 609Gibbon, iii. 383,) it wanted but three years of coinciding exactly with the period.
These considerations show with what propriety the fifth trumpetthe symbol of the locustsis referred to the Arabian hordes under the guidance of Mohammed and his successors. On the supposition that it was the design of John to symbolize these events, the symbol has been chosen which of all others was best adapted to the end. If, now that these events are passed, we should endeavour to find some symbol which would appropriately represent them, we could not find one that would be more striking or appropriate than that which is here employed by John.
12. One woe is past. The woe referred to in Rev. 9:1-11. In Rev. 8:13, three woes are mentioned which were to occur successively, and which were to embrace the whole of the period comprised in the seven seals and the seven trumpets. Under the last of the seals, we have considered four successive periods, referring to events connected with the downfall of the Western empire; and then we have found one important event, worthy of a place in noticing the things which would permanently affect the destiny of the worldthe rise, the character, and the conquests of the Saracens. This was referred to by the first woe-trumpet. We enter now on the consideration of the second. This occupies the remainder of the chapter, and in illustrating it the same method will be pursued as heretofore: first, to explain the literal meaning of the words, phrases, and symbols; and then to inquire what events in history, if any, succeeding the former, occurred, which would correspond with the language used.
And, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. Two momentous and important events that will be attended with sorrow to mankind. It cannot be intended that there would be no other evils that would visit mankind; but the eye, in glancing along the future, rested on these as having a special preeminence in affecting the destiny of the church and the world.
13. And the sixth angel sounded. See Note on Rev. 8:2-7, seq.
And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God. In the language here used there is an allusion to the temple, but the scene is evidently laid in heaven. The temple in its arrangements was designed, undoubtedly, to be in important respects a symbol of heaven, and this idea constantly occurs in the Scriptures. Compare the Epistle to the Hebrews passim. The golden altar stood in the holy place, between the table of shew-bread and the golden candlestick. See Note on Heb. 9:1-2.
This altar, made of shittim or acacia wood, was ornamented at the four corners, and overlaid throughout with laminee of gold. Hence it was called "the golden altar," in contradistinction from the altar for sacrifice, which was made of stone. Compare Note on Matt. 21:12, seq. On its four corners it had projections which are called horns, (Exod. 30:2-3,) which seem to have been intended mainly for ornaments. See Jahn, Arch. % 332; Josephus Ant. iii. 6, 8. When it is said that this was "before God," the meaning is, that it was directly before or in front of the symbol of the Divine presence in the most holy place. This image, in the vision of John, is transformed to heaven. The voice seemed to come from the very presence of the Deity; from the place where offerings are made to God.
14. Saying to the sixth angel, which had the trumpet. See Note on Rev. 8:2.
Loose, etc. This power, it would seem, was given to the sixth angel in addition to his office of blowing the trumpet. All this, of course, was in vision, and cannot be literally interpreted. The meaning is, that the effect of his blowing the trumpet would be the same as if angels that had been bound should be suddenly loosed and suffered to go forth over the earth: that is, some event would occur which would be properly symbolized by such an act.
The four angels. Compare Note on Rev. 8:2.
It was customary to represent important events as occurring under the ministry of angels. The general meaning here is, that, in the vicinity of the river Euphrates, there were mighty powers which had been bound or held in check, which were now to be let loose upon the world. What we are to look for in the fulfilment is evidently thissome power that seemed to be kept back by an invisible influence as if by angels, now suddenly let loose and suffered to accomplish the purpose of desolation mentioned in the subsequent verses. It is not necessary to suppose that angels were actually employed in these restraints, though no one can demonstrate that their agency was not concerned in the transactions here referred to. Compare Note on Dan. 10:12-13.
It has been made a question why the number four is specified, and whether the forces were in any sense made up of four divisions, nations, or people. While nothing certain can be determined in regard to that, and while the number four may be used merely to denote a great and strong force, yet it must be admitted that the most obvious interpretation would be to refer it to some combination of forces, or to some union of powers, that was to accomplish what is here said. If it had been a single nation, it would have been more in accordance with the usual method in prophecy to have represented them as restrained by an angel, or by angels in general, without specifying any number.
Which are bound. That is, they seemed to be bound. There was something which held them, and the forces under them, in check, until they were thus commanded to go forth. In the fulfilment of this, it will be necessary to look for something of the nature of a check or restraint on these forces, until they were commissioned to go forth to accomplish the work of destruction.
In the great river Euphrates. The well-known river of that name, commonly called, in the Scriptures, "the great river," and, by way of eminence, "the river," Exod. 23:31; Isa. 8:7. This river was on the east of Palestine; and the language here used naturally denotes that the power referred to under the sixth trumpet would spring up in the East, and that it would have its origin in the vicinity of that river. Those interpreters, therefore, who apply this to the invasion of Judaea by the Romans have great difficulty in explaining thisas the forces employed in the destruction of Jerusalem came from the West, and not from the East. The fair interpretation is, that there were forces in the vicinity of the Euphrates which were, up to this period, bound or restrained, but which were now suffered to spread woe and sorrow over a considerable portion of the world.
15. And the four angels were loosed. Who had this mighty host under restraint. The loosening of the angels was, in fact, also a letting loose of all these hosts, that they might accomplish the work which they were commissioned to do.
Which were prepared. See Rev. 9:7. The word here used properly refers to that which is made ready, fitted up, arranged for anything: as persons prepared for a journey, horses for battle, a road for travellers, food for the hungry, a house to live in, etc. See Rob. Lex., s. voce etoimazw. As used here, the word means that whatever was necessary to prepare these angelsthe leaders of this hostfor the work which they were commissioned to perform, was now done, and that they stood in a state of readiness to execute the design. In the fulfilment of this it will be necessary to look for some arrangements existing in the vicinity of the Euphrates, by which these restrained hosts were in a state of readiness to be summoned forth to the execution of this work, or in such a condition that they would go forth spontaneously if the restraints existing were removed.
For an hour, etc. Marg., at. The Greekeißmeans properly unto, with reference to; and the sense is, that, with reference to that hour, they had all the requisite preparation. Professor Stuart explains it as meaning that they were "prepared for the particular year, month, day, and hour, destined by God for the great catastrophe which is to follow." The meaning, however, rather seems to be that they were prepared, not for the commencement of such a period, but they were prepared for the whole period indicated by the hour, the day, the month, and the year; that is, that the continuance of this "woe" would extend along through the whole period. For
(a) this is the natural interpretation of the word "for"eiß;
(b) it makes the whole sentence intelligible for though it might be proper to say of anything that it was "prepared for an hour," indicating the commencement of what was to be done, it is not usual to say of anything that it is "prepared for an hour, a month, a day, a year," when the design is merely to indicate the beginning of it; and
(c) it is in accordance with the prediction respecting the first "woe," (Rev. 9:5,) where the time is specified in language similar to this, to wit, "five months." It seems to me, therefore, that we are to regard the time here mentioned as a prophetic indication of the period during which this woe would continue.
An hour, and a day, and a month, and a year. If this were to be taken literally, it would, of course, be but little more than a year. If it be taken, however, in the common prophetic style, where a day is put for a year, (See Note on Dan. 9:24, seq.,) then the amount of time (360 + 30 + 1 + an hour) would be three hundred and ninety-one years, and the portion of the year indicated by an houra twelfth or twenty-fourth part, according as the day was supposed to be divided into twelve or twenty-four hours. That this is the true view seems to be clear, because this accords with the usual style in this book; because it can hardly be supposed that the "preparation" here referred to would have been for so brief a period as the time would be if literally interpreted; and because the mention of so small a portion of time as an "hour," if literally taken, would be improbable in so great transactions. The fair interpretation, therefore, will require us to find some events that will fill up the period of about three hundred and ninety-one years.
For to slay the third part of men. Compare Rev. 8:7, 9, 12.
The meaning here is, that the immense host which was restrained on the Euphrates would, when loosed, spread desolation over about a third part of the world. We are not to suppose that this is to be understood in exactly a literal sense; but the meaning is, that the desolation would be so widespread that it would seem to embrace a third of the world. No such event as the cutting off of a few thousands of Jews in the siege of Jerusalem would correspond with the language here employed, and we must look for events more general and more disastrous to mankind at large.
16. And the number of the army of the horsemen. It is to be observed here that the strength of the army seemed to be cavalry. In the former plagues there is no distinct mention of horsemen; but here that which struck the beholder was the immense and unparalleled number of horsemen.
Were two hundred thousand thousand. A thousand thousand are a million, and consequently the number here referred to would be two hundred millions. This would be a larger army than was ever assembled, and it cannot be supposed that it is to be taken literally. That it would be a very large hostso large that it would not readily be numberedis clear. The expression in the original, while it naturally conveys the idea of an immense number, would seem also to refer to some peculiarity in the manner of reckoning them. The language is, two myriads of myriadsduo muriadeß muriadwn. The myriad was ten thousand. The idea would seem to be this. John saw an immense host of cavalry. They appeared to be divided into large bodies that were in some degree separate, and that might be reckoned by ten thousands. Of these different squadrons there were many, and to express their great and unusual number he said that there seemed to be myriads of themtwo myriads of myriads, or twice ten thousand myriads. The army thus would seem to be immense; an army, as we should say, to be reckoned by tens of thousands.
And I heard the number of them. They were so numerous that he did not pretend to be able to estimate the number himself, for it was beyond his power of computation; but he heard it stated in these round numbers, that there were "two myriads of myriads" of them.
17. And thus I saw the horses in the vision. That is, he saw them as he proceeds to describe them, for the word thusoutwßrefers to what follows. Compare Rob. Lex. on the word, (b,) and see Matt. 1:18; 2:5; John 21:1; Heb. 4:4.
Professor Stuart, however, refers it to what precedes. The meaning, as it seems to me, is, that he fixed his attention on the appearance of the immense armythe horses and their riders, and proceeded to describe them as they struck him.
And them that sat on them. He fixed the attention on horse and rider. Their appearance was unusual, and deserved a particular description.
Having breastplates of fire. That is, those who sat on them had such breastplates. The word here rendered breastplate denoted properly a coat of mail that covered the body from the neck to the thighs. See Note on Eph. 6:14.
This would be a prominent object in looking at a horseman. This was said to be composed of "fire, and jacinth, and brimstone;" that is, the part of the body usually encased in the coat of mail had these three colours. The word "fire" here simply denotes red. It was burnished and bright, and seemed to be a blaze of fire. The word "jacinth"uakinqinoußmeans hyacinthine. The colour denoted is that of the hyacintha flower of a deep purple or reddish blue. Then it refers to a gem of the same colour, nearly related to the zircon of the mineralogists, and the colour here mentioned is deep purple or reddish blue. The word rendered "brimstone"qeiwdhßmeans properly sulphurous, that is, made of sulphur, and means here simply yellow. The meaning of the whole then is, that these horsemen appeared to be clad in a peculiar kind of armourarmour that shone like fire, mingled with blue and yellow. It will be necessary to look for the fulfilment of this in cavalry that was so caparisoned.
And the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions. Resembled, in some respects, the heads of lions. He does not say that they were the heads of lions, or that the riders were on monsters, but only that they, in some respects, resembled the heads of lions. It would be easy to give this general appearance by the way in which the head-dress of the horses was arrayed.
And out of their mouths issued. That is, appeared to issue. It is not necessary to understand this as affirming that it actually came from their mouths, but only that, to one looking on such an approaching army, it would have this appearance. The heathen poets often speak of horses breathing out fire and smoke, (Virg. Geor. ii. 140; iii. 85; Ovid, Met. vii. 104,) meaning that their breath seemed to be mingled smoke and fire. There is an image superadded here not found in any of the classic descriptions, that this was mingled with brimstone. All this seemed to issue from their mouths; that is, it was breathed forth in front of the host, as if the horses emitted it from their mouths.
Fire and smoke and brimstone. The exact idea, whether that was intended or not, would be conveyed by the discharge of musketry or artillery. The fire, the smoke, and the sulphurous smell of such a discharge, would correspond precisely with this language, and if it be supposed that the writer meant to describe such a discharge, this would be the very language that would be used. Moreover, in describing a battle, nothing would be more proper than to say that this appeared to issue from the horses' mouths. If, therefore, it should be found that there were any events where fire-arms were used, in contradistinction from the ancient mode of warfare, this language would be appropriate to describe that; and if it were ascertained that the writer meant to refer to some such fact, then the language here used would be that which he would adopt. One thing is certain, that this is not language which would be employed to describe the onset of ancient cavalry in the mode of warfare which prevailed then. No one describing a charge of cavalry among the Persians, the Greeks, or the Romans, when the only armour was the sword and the spear, would think of saying that there seemed to be emitted from the horses' mouths fire, and smoke, and brimstone.
18. By these three. Three thingsexplained immediately as referring to the fire, the smoke, and the brimstone.
Was the third part of men killed. See Note on Rev. 8:7-12, on each of which verses we have notices of calamities that came upon the third part of the race, of the sea, of rivers, etc. We are not to suppose that this is to be taken literally, but the description is given as it appeared to John. Those immense numbers of horsemen would sweep over the world, and a full third part of the race of men would seem to fall before them.
19. For their power is in their mouth. That is, as described, in the fire, smoke, and brimstone that proceeded out of their mouths. What struck the seer as remarkable on looking on the symbol was, that this immense destruction seemed to proceed out of their mouths. It was not that they trampled down their enemies; nor that they destroyed them with the sword, the bow, or the spear: it was some new and remarkable power in warfarein which the destruction seemed to proceed from fire and smoke and sulphur issuing from the mouths of the horses themselves.
And in their tails. The tails of the horses. This, of course, was something unusual and remarkable in horses, for naturally they have no power there. The power of a fish, or a scorpion, or a wasp, may be said to be in their tails, for their strength or their means of defence or of injury are there, but we never think of speaking in this way of horses: It is not necessary, in the interpretation of this, to suppose that the reference is literally to the tails of the horses, any more than it is to suppose that the smoke and fire and brimstone literally proceeded from their mouths. John describes things as they appeared to him in looking at them from a considerable distance. From their mouths the horses belched forth fire, and smoke, and sulphur, and even their tails seemed to be armed for the work of death.
For their tails were like unto serpents. Not like the tails of serpents, but like serpents themselves.
And had heads. That is, there was something remarkable in the position and appearance of their heads. All serpents, of course, have heads; but John saw something unusual in thisor something so peculiar in their heads as to attract special attention. It would seem most probable that the heads of these serpents appeared to extend in every directionas if the hairs of the horses' tails had been converted into snakes, presenting a most fearful and destructive image. Perhaps it may illustrate this to suppose that there is reference to the Amphisbsena, or two-headed snake. It is said of this reptile that its tail resembles a head, and that with this it throws out its poison.Lucan, ix. 179; Pliny's Hist. Nat. viii. 35. It really has but one head, but its tail has the appearance of a head, and it has the power of moving in either direction to a limited degree. If we suppose these snakes fastened to the tail of a horse, the appearance of heads would be very prominent and remarkable. The image is that of the power of destruction. They seemed like ugly and poisonous serpents instead of tails.
And with them they do hurt. Not the main injury, but they have the power of inflicting some injury by them.
20, 21. And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, etc. One third part is represented as swept off, and it might have been expected that a salutary effect would have been produced on the remainder, in reforming them, and restraining them from error and sin. The writer proceeds to state, however, that these judgments did not have the effect which might reasonably have been anticipated. No reformation followed; there was no abandonment of the prevailing forms of iniquity; there was no change in their idolatry and superstition. In regard to the exact meaning of what is here stated, (Rev. 9:20-21,) it will be a more convenient arrangement to consider it after we have ascertained the proper application of the passage relating to the sixth trumpet. What is here stated (Rev. 9:20-21) pertains to the state of the world after the desolations which would occur under this woe-trumpet; and the explanation of the words may be reserved therefore, with propriety, until the inquiry shall have been instituted as to the general design of the whole.
With respect to the fulfilment of this symbolthe sixth trumpetit will be necessary to inquire whether there has been any event, or class of events, occurring at such a time, and in such a manner, as would be properly denoted by such a symbol. The examination of this question will make it necessary to go over the leading points in the symbol, and to endeavour to apply them. In doing this, I shall simply state, with such illustrations as may occur, what seems to me to have been the design of the symbol. It would be an endless task to examine all the explanations which have been proposed, and it would be useless to do so.
The reference, then, seems to me to be to the Turkish power, extending from the time of the first appearance of the Turks in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, to the final conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The general reasons for this opinion are such as the following:
(a) If the previous trumpet referred to the Saracens, or to the rise of the Mohammedan power among the Arabs, then the Turkish dominion, being the next in succession, would be that which would most naturally be symbolized.
(b) The Turkish power rose on the decline of the Arabic, and was the next important power in affecting the destinies of the world.
(c) This power, like the former, had its seat in the East, and would be properly classified under the events occurring there as affecting the destiny of the world.
(d) The introduction of this power was necessary, in order to complete the survey of the downfall of the Roman empirethe great object kept in view all along in these symbols. In the first four of these trumpets, under the seventh seal, we found the decline and fall of the Western empire; in the first of the remaining threethe fifth in orderwe found the rise of the Saracens, materially affecting the condition of the Eastern portion of the Roman world; and the notice of the Turks, under whom the empire at last fell to rise no more, seemed to be demanded in order to the completion of the picture. As a leading design of the whole vision was to describe the ultimate destiny of that formidable powerthe Romanwhich, in the time when the Revelation was given to John, ruled over the whole world; under which the church was then oppressed; and which, either as a civil or ecclesiastical power, was to exert so important an influence on the destiny of the church, it was proper that its history should be sketched until it ceasedthat is, until the conquest of the capital of the Eastern empire by the Turks. Here the termination of the empire, as traced by Mr. Gibbon, closes; and these events it was important to incorporate in this series of visions.
The rise and character of the Turkish people may be seen stated in full in Gibbon, Dec. and Fall, iii. 101103, 105, 486; iv. 41, 42, 87, 90, 91, 93, 100, 127, 143, 151,258, 260, 289, 350. The leading facts in regard to the history of the Turks, so far as they are necessary to be known before we proceed to apply the symbols, are the following:
(1.) The Turks, or Turkroans, had their origin in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea, and were divided into two branches, one on the east, and the other on the west. The latter colony, in the tenth century, could muster forty thousand soldiers; the other numbered a hundred thousand families.Gibbon, iv. 90. By the latter of these, Persia was invaded and subdued, and soon Baghdad also came into their possession, and the seat of the caliph was occupied by a Turkish prince. The various details respecting this, and respecting their conversion to the faith of the Koran, may be seen in Gibbon, iv. 90-93. A mighty Turkish and Moslem power was thus concentrated under Togrul, who had subdued the caliph, in the vicinity of the Tigris and the Euphrates, extending east over Persia and the countries adjacent to the Caspian Sea, but it had not yet crossed the Euphrates to carry its conquests to the west. The conquest of Bagdad by Togrul, the first prince of the Seljuk race, was an important event, not only in itself, but as it was by this event that the Turk was constituted temporal lieutenant of the prophet's vicar, and so the head of the temporal power of the religion of Islam. "The conqueror of the East kissed the ground, stood some time in a modest posture, and was led toward the throne by the vizier and an interpreter. After Togrul had seated himself on another throne, his commission was publicly read, which declared him the temporal lieutenant of the prophet. He was successively invested with seven robes of honour, and presented with seven slaves the natives of the seven climates of the Arabian empire, etc. Their alliance [of the sultan and the caliph] was cemented by the marriage of Togrul's sister with the successor of the prophet," etc.Gibbon, iv. 93. The conquest of Persia, the subjugation of Bagdad, the union of the Turkish power with that of the caliph, the successor of Mohammed, and the foundation of this powerful kingdom in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, is all that is necessary to explain the sense of the phrase "which were prepared for an hour," etc., Rev. 9:15. The arrangements were then made for the important series of events which were to occur when that formidable power should be summoned from the East, to spread the predicted desolation over so large a part of the world. A mighty dominion had been forming in the East, that had subdued Persia, and that, by union with the Caliphs, by the subjugation of Bagdad, and by embracing the Mohammedan faith, had become "prepared" to play its subsequent important part in the affairs of the world.
(2.) The next important event in their history was the crossing of the Euphrates, and the invasion of Asia Minor. The account of this invasion can be best given in the words of Mr. Gibbon: "Twenty-five years after the death of Basil, [the Greek emperor,] his successors were suddenly assaulted by an unknown race of barbarians, who united the Scythian valour with the fanaticism of new proselytes, and the art and riches of a powerful monarchy. The myriads of Turkish horse overspread a frontier of six hundred miles from Taurus to Arzeroum, and the blood of one hundred and thirty thousand Christians was a grateful sacrifice to the Arabian prophet. Yet the arms of Togrul did not make any deep or lasting impression on the Greek empire. The torrent rolled away from the open country; the Sultan retired without glory or success from the siege of an Armenian city; the obscure hostilities were continued or suspended with a vicissitude of events; and the bravery of the Macedonian legions renewed the fame of the conqueror of Asia. The name of Alp Arslan, the valiant lion, is expressive of the popular idea of the perfection of man; and the successor of Togrul displayed the fierceness and generosity of the royal animal. [The heads of the horses were as the heads of lions.'] He passed the Euphrates at the head of the Turkish cavalry, and entered Ceasarea, the metropolis of Cappadocia, to which he had been attracted by the fame and the wealth of the temple of St. Basil."Vol. iv. 93, 94: compare also p. 95.
(3.) The next important event was the establishing of the kingdom of Roum in Asia Minor. After a succession of victories and defeats; after being driven once and again from Asia Minor, and compelled to retire beyond its limits; and after subjecting the East to their arms (Gibbon, iv. 95100) in the various contests for the crown of the Eastern empire, the aid of the Turks was invoked by one party or the other, until they secured for themselves a firm foothold in Asia Minor, and established themselves there in a permanent kingdomevidently with the purpose of seizing upon Constantinople itself when an opportunity should be presented.Gibbon, iv. 100, 101. Of this kingdom of Roum, Mr. Gibbon (iv. 101) gives the following description, and speaks thus of the effect of its establishment on the destiny of the Eastern empire: "Since the first conquests of the Caliphs, the establishment of the Turks in Anatolia, or Asia Minor, was the most deplorable loss which the church and empire had sustained. By the propagation of the Moslem faith, Soliman deserved the name of Gazi, a holy champion; and his new kingdom of the Romans, or of Roum, was added to the table of Oriental geography. It is described as extending from the Euphrates to Constantinople, from the Black Sea to the confines of Syria; pregnant with mines of silver and iron, of alum and copper, fruitful in corn and wine, and productive of cattle and excellent horses. The wealth of Lydia, the arts of the Greeks, the splendour of the Augustine age existed only in books and ruins, which were equally obscure in the eyes of the Scythian conquerors. By the choice of the Sultan, Nice, the metropolis of Bithynia, was preferred for his palace and fortress, the seat of the Seljukian dynasty of Roum was planted one hundred miles from Constantinople; and the divinity of Christ was denied and derided in the same temple in which it had been pronounced in the first general synod of the Catholics. The unity of God, and the mission of Mohammed, were preached in the mosques; the Arabian learning was taught in the schools; the Cadis judged according to the law of the Koran; the Turkish manners and language prevailed in the cities; and Turkman camps were scattered over the plains and mountains of Anatolia," etc.
(4.) The next material event in the history of the Turkish power was the conquest of Jerusalem. See this described in Gibbon, iv. 102-106. By this, the attention of the Turks was turned for a time from the conquest of Constantinoplean event at which the Turkish power all along aimed, and in which they doubtless expected to be ultimately successful. Had they not been diverted from it, by the wars connected with the Crusades, Constantinople would have fallen long before it did fall, for it was too feeble to defend itself if it had been attacked.
(5.) The conquest of Jerusalem by the Turks, and the oppressions which Christians experienced there, gave rise to the Crusades, by which the destiny of Constantinople was still longer delayed. The war of the Crusades was made on the Turks, and as the crusaders mostly passed through Constantinople and Anatolia, all the power of the Turks in Asia Minor was requisite to defend themselves, and they were incapable of making an attack on Constantinople, until after the final defeat of the crusaders, and restoration of peace. See Gibbon, iv. 106-210.
(6.) The next material event in the history of the Turks was the conquest of Constantinople in A. D. 1453an event which established the Turkish power in Europe, and which completed the downfall of the Roman empire.Gibbon, iv. 333-359.
After this brief reference to the general history of the Turkish power, we are prepared to inquire more particularly whether the symbol in the passage before us is applicable to this series of events. This may be considered in several particulars.
(1.) The time. If the first woe-trumpet referred to the Saracens, then it would be natural that the rise and progress of the Turkish power should be symbolized as the next great fact in history, and as that under which the empire fell. As we have seen, the Turkish power rose immediately after the power of the Saracens had reached its height, and identified itself with the Mohammedan religion, and was, in fact, the next great power that affected the Roman empire, the welfare of the church, and the history of the world. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the time is such as is demanded in the proper interpretation of the symbol.
(2.) The place. We have seen (See Note on Rev. 9:14) that this was on or near the river Euphrates, and that this power was long forming and consolidating itself on the east of that river before it crossed it in the invasion of Asia Minor. It had spread over Persia, and had even invaded the region of the East as far as the Indies; it had secured, under Togrul, the conquest of Bagdad, and had united itself with the Caliphate, and was, in fact, a mighty power "prepared" for conquest before it moved to the West. Thus Mr. Gibbon (iv. 92) says, "The more rustic, perhaps the wisest, portion of the Turkroans continued to dwell in the tents of their ancestors; and from the Oxus to the Euphrates these military colonies were protected and propagated by their native princes.'- So again, speaking of Alp Arslan, the son and successor of Togrul, he says, (iv. 94,) "He passed the Euphrates at the head of the Turkish cavalry, and entered Caesarea, the metropolis of Cappadocia, to which he was attracted by the fame and the wealth of the temple of St. Basil." If it be admitted that it was intended by John to refer to the Turkish power, it could not have been better represented than as a power that had been forming in the vicinity of that great river, and that was prepared to precipitate itself on the Eastern empire. To one contemplating it in the time of Togrul or Alp Arslan, it would have appeared as a mighty power growing up in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates.
(3.) The four angels: "Loose the four angels which are bound." That is, loose the powers which are in the vicinity of the Euphrates, as if they were under the control of four angels. The most natural construction of this would be, that under the mighty power that was to sweep over the world, there were four subordinate powers, or that there were such subdivisions that it might be supposed they were ranged under four angelic powers or leaders. The question is, whether there was any such division or arrangement of the Turkish power, that, to one looking on it at a distance, there would seem to be such a division. In the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (iv. 100;) we find the following statement: "The greatness and unity of the Persian empire expired in the person of Malek Shah. The Vacant throne was disputed by his brother and his four sons; and, after a series of civil wars, the treaty which reconciled the surviving candidates confirmed a lasting separation in the Persian dynasty, the oldest and principal branch of the house of Seljuk. The three younger dynasties were those of Kerman, of Syria, and of Roum; the first of these commanded an extensive, though obscure, dominion on the shores of the Indian Ocean; the second expelled the Arabian princes of Aleppo and Damascus; and the third [our peculiar case] invaded the Roman provinces of Asia Minor. The generous policy of Malek contributed to their elevation: he allowed the princes of his blood, even those whom he had vanquished in the field, to seek new kingdoms worthy of their ambition; nor was he displeased that they should draw away the more ardent spirits who might have disturbed the tranquillity of his reign. As the supreme head of his family and nation, the great Sultan of Persia commanded the obedience and tribute of his royal brethren: the thrones of Kerrnan and Nice, of Aleppo and Damascus; the Atabeks and emirs of Syria and Mesopotamia erected their standards under the shadow of his sceptre, and the hordes of Turkroans overspread the plains of Western Asia. After the death of Malek, the bands of union and subordination were gradually relaxed and dissolved; the indulgence of the house of Seljuk invested their slaves with the inheritance of kingdoms; and, in the Oriental style, a crowd of princes arose from the dust of their feet." Here it is observable, that, at the period when the Turkman hordes were about to precipitate themselves on Europe, and to advance to the destruction of the Eastern empire, we have distinct mention of four great departments of the Turkish power: the original power that had established itself in Persia, under Malek Shah, and the three subordinate powers that sprung out of that of Kerman, Syria, and Roum, It is observable
(a) that this occurs at the period when that power would appear in the East as advancing in its conquests to the West;
(b) that it was in the vicinity of the great river Euphrates;
(c) that it had never before occurredthe Turkish power having been before united as one; and
(d) that it never afterwards occurredfor, in the words of Mr. Gibbon, "after the death of Malek, the bands of union and subordination were relaxed and finally dissolved." It would not be improper, then, to look upon this one mighty power as under the control of four spirits that were held in check in the East, and that were "prepared" to pour their energies on the Roman empire.
(4.) The preparation: "Prepared for an hour," etc. That is, arranged; made readyas if by previous disciplinefor some mighty enterprise. Applied to the Turkmans, this would mean that the preparation for the ultimate work which they executed had been making as that power increased and became consolidated under Togrul, Alp Arslan, and Malek Shah. In its successful strides, Persia and the East had been subdued; the Caliph at Bagdad had been brought under the control of the Sultan; a union had been formed between the Turks and the Saracens; and the Sultanies of Kerman, Syria, and Roum had been establishedembracing together all the countries of the East, and constituting this by far the most mighty nation on the globe. All this would seem to be a work of preparation to do what was afterwards done as seen in the visions of John.
(5.) The fact that they were bound: "Which are bound in the great river Euphrates." That is, they were, as it were, restrained and kept back for a long time in that vicinity. It would have been natural to suppose that that vast power would at once move on toward the West to the conquest of the capital of the Eastern empire. Such had been the case with the Huns, the Goths, and the Vandals. But these Turkish hordes had been long restrained in the East. They had subdued Persia. They had then achieved the conquest of India. They had conquered Bagdad, and the entire East was under their control. Yet for a long time they had now been inactive, and it would seem as if they had been bound or restrained by some mighty power from moving in their conquests to the West.
(7.) Their numbers: "And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand." That is, it was vast, or it was such as to be reckoned by myriads, or by tens of thousandsduo muriadeß muriadwn two myriads of myriads. Thus Mr. Gibbon (iv. 94) says, "The myriads of Turkish horse overspread," etc. It has been suggested by Daubuz that in this there may be probably an allusion to the Turkman custom of numbering by tomans, or myriads. This custom, it is true, has existed elsewhere, but there is probably none with whom it has been so familiar as with the Tartars and Turks. In the Seljukian age, the population of Samarcand was rated at seven tomans, (myriads,) because it could send out 70,000 warriors. The dignity and rank of Tamerlane's father and grandfather was thus described, that "they were the hereditary chiefs of a toman, or 10,000 horse"a myriad, (Gibbon, iv. 270;) so that it is not without his usual propriety of language that Mr. Gibbon speaks of the myriads of the Turkish horse, or of the cavalry of the earlier Turks of Mount Altai, "being, both men and horses, proudly computed by myriads." One thing is clear, that to no other invading hosts could the language here used be so well applied, and, if it were supposed that John was writing after the event, this would be the language which he would be likely to employfor this is nearly the identical language employed by the historian Gibbon.
(8.) Their personal appearance: "Them that sat on them having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone"as explained above, in a "uniform" of red, and blue, and yellow. This might, undoubtedly, be applicable to other armies besides the Turkish hordes; but the proper question here is, whether it would be applicable to them. The fact of the application of the symbol to the Turks in general must be determined from other points in the symbol which designate them clearly; the only natural inquiry here is, whether this description would apply to the Turkish hosts, for if it would not, that would be fatal to the whole interpretation. On the application of this passage to the Turks, Mr. Daubuz justly remarks, that "from their first appearance the Ottomans have affected to wear warlike apparel of scarlet, blue, and yellow: a descriptive trait the more marked from its contrast to the military appearance of the Greeks, Franks, or Saracens contemporarily." Mr. Elliott adds, "It only needs to have seen the Turkish cavalry, (as they were before the late innovations,) whether in war itself, or in the djerrid war's mimicry, to leave an impression of the absolute necessity of some such notice of their rich and varied colourings, in order to give in description at all a just impression of their appearance," i. 481.
(9.) The remarkable appearance of the cavalry: "Having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone." It was remarked in the exposition of this passage, that this is just such a description as would be given of an army to which the use of gunpowder was known, and which made use of it in these wars. Looking now upon a body of cavalry in the heat of an engagement, it would seem, if the cause were not known, that the horses belched forth smoke and sulphurous flame. The only question now is, whether in the warfare of the Turks there was anything which would peculiarly or remarkably justify this description. And here it is impossible not to advert to the historical fact that they were among the first to make use of gunpowder in their wars, and that to the use of this destructive element they owed much of their success, and their ultimate triumphs. The historical truth of this it is necessary now to advert to, and this will be done by a reference to Mr. Gibbon, and to the account which he has given of the final conquest of Constantinople by the Turks. It will be seen how he puts this new instrumentality of war into the foreground in his account; how prominent this seemed to him to be in describing the victories of the Turks; and how probable, therefore, it is that John, in describing an invasion by them, would refer to the "fire and smoke and brimstone," that seemed to be emitted from the mouths of their horses. As preparatory to the account of the siege and conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, Mr. Gibbon gives a description of the invention and use of gunpowder. "The chemists of China or Europe had found, by casual or elaborate experiments, that a mixture of saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal produces, with a spark of fire, a tremendous explosion. It was soon observed that if the expansive force were compressed in a strong tube, a ball of stone or iron might be expelled with irresistible and destructive velocity. The precise era of the invention and application of gunpowder is involved in doubtful traditions and equivocal language; yet we may clearly discern that it was known before the middle of the fourteenth century; and that before the end of the same, the use of artillery in battles and sieges, by sea and land, was familiar to the states of Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and England. The priority of nations is of small account; none would derive any exclusive benefit from their previous or superior knowledge; and on the common improvement they stand on the same level of relative power and military science. Nor was it possible to circumscribe the secret within the pale of the church; it was disclosed to the Turks by the treachery of apostates and the selfish policy of rivals; and the sultans had sense to adopt, and wealth to reward, the talents of a Christian engineer. By the Venetians, the use of gunpowder was communicated without reproach to the sultans of Egypt and Persia, their allies against the Ottoman power; the secret was soon propagated to the extremities of Asia; and the advantage of the European was confined to his easy victories over the savages of the new world," iv. 291. In the description of the conquest of Constantinople, Mr. Gibbon makes frequent mention of their artillery, and of the use of gunpowder, and of its important agency in securing their final conquests, and in the overthrow of the Eastern empire. "Among the implements of destruction, he [the Turkish sultan] studied with peculiar care the recent and tremendous discovery of the Latins; and his artillery surpassed whatever had yet appeared in the world. A founder of cannon, a Dane or Hungarian, who had almost starved in the Greek service, deserted to the Moslems, and was liberally entertained by the Turkish sultan. Mohammed was satisfied with the answer to his first question, which he eagerly pressed on the artist: Am I able to cast a cannon capable of throwing a ball or stone of sufficient size to batter the walls of Constantinople? I am not ignorant of their strength, but were they more solid than those of Babylon, I could oppose an engine of superior power; the position and management of that engine must be left to your engineers.' On this assurance a foundry was established at Adrianople; the metal was prepared; and at the end of three months Urban produced a piece of brass ordnance of stupendous and almost incredible magnitude: a measure of twelve palms is assigned to the bore; and the stone bullet weighed above six hundred pounds. A vacant place before the new palace was chosen for the first experiment: but to prevent the sudden and mischievous effects of astonishment and fear, a proclamation was issued that the cannon would be discharged the ensuing day. The explosion was felt or heard in a circuit of a hundred furlongs; the ball, by force of gunpowder, was driven about a mile; and on the spot where it fell, it buried itself a fathom deep in the ground," iv. 339. So in speaking of the siege of Constantinople by the Turks, Mr. Gibbon says of the defence by the Christians, (iv. 343,) "The incessant volleys of lances and arrows were accompanied with the smoke, the sound, and the fire of their musketry and cannon." "The same destructive secret," he adds, "had been revealed to the Moslems, by whom it was employed with the superior energy of zeal, riches, and despotism. The great cannon of Mohammed has been separately noticedan important and visible object in the history of the times: but that enormous engine was flanked by two fellows almost of equal magnitude; the long order of the Turkish artillery was pointed against the walls; fourteen batteries thundered at once on the most accessible places; and of one of these it was ambiguously expressed that it was mounted with one hundred and thirty guns, and that it discharged one hundred and thirty bullets," iv. 343, 344. Again: "The first random shots were productive of more sound than effect; and it was by the advice of a Christian that the engineers were taught to level their aim against the two opposite sides of the salient angles of a bastion. However imperfect, the weight and repetition of the fire made some impression on the walls," iv. 344. And again: "A circumstance that distinguishes the siege of Constantinople is the re-union of the ancient and modern artillery. The cannon were intermingled with the mechanical engines for casting stones and darts; the bullet and the battering-ram were directed against the same walls; nor had the discovery of gunpowder superseded the use of the liquid and inextinguishable fire," iv. 344. So again, ill the description of the final conflict when Constantinople was taken, Mr. Gibbon says, "From the lines, the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery thundered on all sides; and the camp and city, the Greeks and the Turks, were involved in a cloud of smoke which could only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction of the Roman empire," iv. 350. Assuredly, if such was the fact in the conquests of the Turks, it was not unnatural in one who was looking on these warriors in vision to describe them as if they seemed to belch out "fire and smoke and brimstone." If Mr. Gibbon had designed to describe the conquest of the Turks as a fulfilment of the prediction, could he have done it in a style more clear and graphic than that which he has employed? If this had occurred in a Christian writer, would it not have been charged on him that he had shaped his facts to meet his notions of the meaning of the prophecy?
(10.) The statement that "their power was in their mouth, and in their tails," Rev. 9:19. The former part of this has been illustrated. The inquiry now is, what is the meaning of the declaration that "their power was in their tails." In Rev. 9:19, their tails are described as resembling "serpents, having heads," and it is said that "with them they do hurt." See Note on Rev. 9:19, that verse. The allusion to the "serpents" would seem to imply that there was something in the horses' tails, as compared with them, or in some use that was made of them, which would make this language proper; that is, that their appearance would so suggest the idea of death and destruction, that the mind would easily imagine they were a bundle of serpents. The following remarks may show how applicable this was to the Turks:
(a) In the Turkish hordes there was something, whatever it was, that naturally suggested some resemblance to serpents. Of the Turkmans when they began to spread their conquests over Asia, in the eleventh century, and an effort was made to rouse the people against them, Mr. Gibbon makes the following remark: "Massoud, the son and successor of Mahmoud, had too long neglected the advice of his wisest Omrahs. Your enemies,' [the Turkmans,] they repeatedly urged, were in their origin a swarm of ants; they are now little snakes; and unless they be instantly crushed, they will acquire the venom and magnitude of serpents," iv. 91.
(b) It is a remarkable fact that the horse's tail is a well-known Turkish standarda symbol of office and authority. "The pashas are distinguished, after a Tartar custom, by three horsetails on the side of their tents, and receive by courtesy the title of beyler beg, or prince of princes. The next in rank are the pashas of two tails, the beys who are honoured with one tail."Edin. Ency. Art. Turkey. In the times of their early warlike career, the principal standard was once lost in battle, and the Turkman commander, in default, cut off his horse's tail, lifted it on a pole, made it the rallying ensign, and so gained the victory. So Tournefort in his Travels states. The following is Ferrario's account of the origin of this ensign: "An author acquainted with their customs says, that a general of theirs, not knowing how to rally his troops that had lost their standards, cut off a horse's tail, and fixed it to the end of a spear; and the soldiers rallying at that signal, gained the victory." He adds farther, that whereas "on his appointment a pasha of the three tails used to receive a drum and a standard, now for the drum there have been substituted three horses' tails, tied at the end of a spear, round a gilded haft. One of the first officers of the palace presents him these three tails as a standard." Elliott, i. 485, 486. This remarkable standard or ensign is found only among the Turks, and, if there was an intended reference to them, the symbol here would be the proper one to be adopted. The meaning of the passage where it is said that "their power is in their tails" would seem to be, that their tails were the symbol or emblem of their authorityas in fact the horse's tail is in the appointment of a pasha. The image before the mind of John would seem to have been, that he saw the horses belching out fire and smoke, and, what was equally strange, he saw that their power of spreading desolation was connected with the tails of horses. Any one looking on a body of cavalry with such banners or ensigns would be struck with this unusual and remarkable appearance, and would speak of their banners as concentrating and directing their power.
(11.) The number slain, Rev. 9:18. That is said to have been "the third part of men." No one in reading the accounts of the wars of the Turks, and of the ravages which they have committed, would be likely to feel that this is an exaggeration. It is not necessary to suppose that it is literally accurate, but it is such a representation as would strike one in looking over the world, and contemplating the effect of their invasions. If the other specifications in the symbol are correct, there would be no hesitation in admitting the propriety of this.
(12.) The time of the continuance of this power. This is a material, and a more difficult point. It is said (Rev. 9:15) to be "an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year;" that is, as explained, three hundred and ninety-one years, and the portion of a year indicated by the expression "an hour:" to wit, an additional twelfth or twenty-fourth part of a year. The question now is, whether, supposing the time to which this reaches to be the capture of Constantinople, and the consequent downfall of the Roman empirethe object in view in this series of visionsin reckoning back from that period for 391 years, we should reach an epoch that would properly denote the moving forward of this power towards its final conquest; that is, whether there was any such marked epoch that, if the 391 years were added to it, it would reach the year of the conquest of Constantinople, A.D. 1453. The period that would be indicated by taking the number 391 from 1453 would be 1062and that is the time in which we are to look for the event referred to. This is on the supposition that the year consisted of 360 days, or twelve months of thirty days each. If, however, instead of this, we reckon 365 days and six hours, then the length of time would be found to amount to 396 years and 106 days.*
* "As the Julian year equalled 365 days 6 hours, the Apocalyptic period would, on the year day principle, be in amount as follows :
A year = 365 1/4 days = 365 years + 1/4 of a year.
A month = 30 days = 30 years,
A day = 1 year.
1/4 of a prophetic day or year (left out above) = 91 1/4 days.
An hour = 1/24 of a prophetic day or year = 15 1/6 days.
Total = years 396 + 106 days." Elliott, i. p. 493
This would make the time of the "loosening of the angels," or the moving forward of this power, to be A.D. 1057. In the uncertainty on this point, and in the unsettled state of ancient chronology, it would, perhaps, be vain to hope for minute accuracy, and it is not reasonable to demand it of an interpreter. On any fair principle of interpretation, it would be sufficient if at about one of these periodsA. D. 1062, or A.D. 1057there was found such a definite or strongly marked event as would indicate a movement of the hitherto restrained power toward the West. This is the real point, then, to be determined. Now, in a common work on chronology, I find this record: "A. D. 1055, Turks reduce Bagdad, and overturn the empire of the Caliphs." In a work still more important to our purpose, (Gibbon, iv. 92, 93,) under the date of A. D. 1055, I find a series of statements which will show the propriety of referring to that event as the one by which this power, so long restrained, was "let loose;" that is, was placed in such a state that its final conquest of the Eastern empire certainly followed. The event was the union of the Turkish power with the Caliphate in such a way that the sultan was regarded as "the temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet." Of this event Mr. Gibbon gives the following account. After mentioning the conversion of the Turks to the Moslem faith, and especially the zeal with which the son of Seljuk had embraced that faith, he proceeds to state the manner in which the Turkish sultan Togrul came in possession of Bagdad, and was invested with the high office of the "temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet." There were two caliphs, those of Bagdad and Egypt, and "the sublime character of the successor of the prophet" was "disputed" by them, iv. 93. Each of them became "solicitous to prove his title in the judgment of the strong though illiterate barbarians." Mr. Gibbon then says, "Mahmoud the Gaznevide had declared himself in favour of the line of Abbas; and had treated with indignity the robe of honour which was presented by the Fatimite ambassador. Yet the ungrateful Hashemite had changed with the change of fortune; he applauded the victory of Zendecan, and named the Seljukian sultan his temporal vicegerent over the Moslem world.As Togrul executed and enlarged this important trust, he was called to the deliverance of the caliph Cayem, and obeyed the holy summons, which gave a new kingdom to his arms. In the palace of Bagdad, the commander of the faithful still slumbered, a venerable phantom His servant or master, the prince of the Bowides, could no longer protect him from the insolence of meaner tyrants; and the Euphrates and the Tigris were oppressed by the revolt of the Turkish and Arabian armies. The presence of a conqueror was implored as a blessing; and the transient mischiefs of fire and sword were excused as the sharp but salutary remedies which alone could restore the health of the Republic. At the head of an irresistible force, the sultan of Persia marched from Hamadan; the proud were crushed, the prostrate were spared; the prince of the Bowides disappeared; the heads of the most obstinate rebels were at the feet of Togrul; and he inflicted a lesson of obedience on the people of Mosul and Bagdad. After the chastisement of the guilty, and the restoration of peace, the royal shepherd accepted the reward of his labours; and a solemn amnesty represented the triumph of religious prejudice over barbarian power. The Turkish sultan embarked on the Tigris, landed at the gate of Racca, and made his public entry on horseback. At the palace gate he respectfully dismounted, and walked, on foot, preceded by his emirs without arms. The caliph was seated behind his black veil; the black garment of the Abbassides was cast over his shoulders, and he held in his hand the staff of the Apostle of God. The conqueror of the East kissed the ground, stood some time in a modest posture, and was led toward the throne by the vizier and an interpreter. After Togrul had seated himself on another throne, his commission was publicly read, which declared him the temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet. He was successively invested with seven robes of honour, and presented with seven slaves, the natives of the seven climates of the Arabian empire. His mystic veil was perfumed with musk; two crowns were placed on his head; two scimetars were girded to his side, as the symbols of a double reign over the East and West. Their alliance was cemented by the marriage of Togfurs sister with the successor of the prophet," iv. 93, 94. This event, so described, was of sufficient importance, as constituting a union of the Turkish power with the Moslem faith, as making it practicable to move in their conquests toward the West, and as connected in its ultimate results with the downfall of the Eastern empire, to make it an epoch in the history of nations. In fact, it was the point which one would have particularly looked at, after describing the movements of the Saracens, (Rev. 9:1-11,) as the next event that was to change the condition of the world.
Happily we have also the means of fixing the exact date of this event, so as to make it accord with singular accuracy with the period supposed to be referred to. The general time specified by Mr. Gibbon is A.D. 1055. This, according to the two methods referred to of determining the period embraced in the "hour, and day, and month, and year," would reach, if the period were 391 years, to A. D. 1446; if the other method were referred to, making it 396 years and 106 days to A.D. 1451, with 106 days added, within less than two years of the actual taking of Constantinople. But there is a more accurate calculation as to the time than the general one thus made. In vol. iv. 93, Mr. Gibbon makes this remark: "Twenty-five years after the death of Basil, his successors were suddenly attacked by an unknown race of barbarians, who united the Scythian valour with the fanaticism of new proselytes, and the art and riches of a powerful monarchy." He then proceeds (p. 94, seq.) with an account of the invasions of the Turks. In vol. iii. 307, we have an account of the death of Basil. "In the sixty-eighth year of his age, his martial spirit urged him to embark in person for a holy war against the Saracens of Sicily; he was prevented by death, and Basil, surnamed the slayer of the Bulgarians, was dismissed from the world, with the blessings of the clergy and the curses of the people." This occurred A.D. 1025. "Twenty-five years" after this would make A.D. 1050. To this add the period here referred to, and we have respectively, as above, the years A.D. 1446, or A.D. 1451, and 106 days. Both periods are near the time of the taking of Constantinople and the downfall of the Eastern empire, (A.D. 1453,) and the latter strikingly so; and, considering the general nature of the statement of Mr. Gibbon, and the great indefiniteness of the dates in chronology, may be considered as remarkable.But we have the means of a still more accurate calculation. It is by determining the exact period of the investiture of Togrul with the authority of caliph, or as the "temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet." The time of this investiture, or coronation, is mentioned by Abulfeda as occurring on the 25th of Dzoulcad, in the year of the Hegira 449; and the date of Elmakin's narrative, who has given an account of this, perfectly agrees with this. Of this transaction, Elmakin makes the following remark: "There was now none left in Irak or Chorasmia who could stand before him." The importance of this investiture will be seen from the charge which the caliph is reported by Abulfeda to have given to Togrul on this occasion: "The caliph commits to your care all that part of the world which God has committed to his care and dominion; and entrusts to thee, under the name of vicegerent, the guardianship of the pious, faithful, and God-serving citizens." (Mandat Chalifa tuae curae omne id terraium quod Deus ejns curae et imperio commisit; tibique civium piorum, fidelium, Deum colentium, tutelam sublocatorio nomine demandat.) The exact time of this investiture is stated by Abulfeda, as above, to be the 25th of Dzoulcad, A. H. 449. Now, reckoning this as the time, and we have the following result: The 25th of Dzoulcad, A. H. 449, would answer to February 2, A. D. 1058. From this to May 29, 1453, the time when Constantinople was taken, would be 395 years and 116 days. The prophetic period, as above, is 396 years and 106 daysmaking a difference only of 1 year and 10 daysa result that cannot but be considered as remarkable, considering the difficulty of fixing ancient dates. Or if, with Mr. Elliott, (i. 495-499,) we suppose that the time is to be reckoned from the period when the Turkman power went forth from Bagdad on a career of conquest, the reckoning should be from the year of the Hegira, 448, the year before the formal investiture, then this would make a difference of only 24 days. The date of that event was the tenth of Dzoulcad, A. H. 448. That was the day on which Togrul with his Turkroans, now the representative and head of the power of Islamism, quitted Bagdad to enter on a long career of war and conquest. "The part allotted to Togrul himself in the fearful drama soon to open against the Greeks was to extend and establish the Turkman dominion over the frontier countries of Irak and Mesopotamia, that so the requisite strength might be attained for the attack ordained of. God's counsels against the Greek empire. The first step to this was the siege and capture of Moussul; his next of Singara. Nisibis, too, was visited by him; that frontier fortress that had in other days been so long a bulwark to the Greeks. Everywhere victory attended his bannera presage of what was to follow." Reckoning from that time, the coincidence between the period that elapsed from that, and the conquest of Constantinople, would be 396 years and 130 daysa period that corresponds, with only a difference of 24 days, with that specified in the prophecy according to the explanation given above. It could not be expected that a coincidence more accurate than this could be made out on the supposition that the prophecy was designed to refer to these events; and if it did refer to them, the coincidence could have occurred only as a prediction by Him who sees with perfect accuracy all the future.
(13.) The effect. This is stated, in Rev. 9:20-21, to be that those who survived these plagues did not repent of their wickedness, but that the abominations which existed before still remained. In endeavouring to determine the meaning of this, it will be proper, first, to ascertain the exact sense of the words used, and then to inquire whether a state of things existed subsequent to the invasions of the Turks which corresponded with the description here.
(a) The explanation of the language used in Rev. 9:20-21.
The rest of the men. That portion of the world on which these plagues did not come. One third of the race, it is said, would fall under these calamities, and the writer now proceeds to state what would be the effect on the remainder. The language used"the rest of the men"is not such as to designate with certainty any particular portion of the world, but it is implied that the things mentioned were of the general prevalence.
Which were not killed by these plagues. The two thirds of the race which were spared. The language here is such as would be used on the supposition that the crimes here referred to abounded in all those regions which came within the range of the vision of the apostle.
Yet repented not of the works of their hands. To wit, of those things which are immediately specified.
That they should not worship devils. Implying that they practised this before. The word used heredaimonionmeans properly a god, deity; spoken of the heathen gods, Acts 17:18; then a genius, or tutelary demon, e.g. that of Socrates; and, in the New Testament, a demon in the sense of an evil spirit. See the word fully explained in See Note on 1 Cor. 10:20.
The meaning of the passage here, as in 1 Cor. 10:20, "they sacrifice to devils," is not that they literally worshipped devils in the usual sense of that term, though it is true that such worship does exist in the world, as among the Yezidis, (see Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. pp. 225-254, and Rosenmuller, Morgenland, iii. 212-216;) but that they worshipped beings which were inferior to the Supreme God; created spirits of a rank superior to men, or the spirits of men that had been enrolled among the gods. This last was a common form of worship among the heathen, for a large portion of the gods whom they adored were heroes and benefactors who had been enrolled among the godsas Hercules, Bacchus, etc. All that is necessarily implied in this word is, that there prevailed in the time referred to the worship of spirits inferior to God, or the worship of the spirits of departed men. This idea would be more naturally suggested to the mind of a Greek by the use of the word than the worship of evil spirits as suchif indeed it would have conveyed that idea at all; and this word would be properly employed in the representation if there was any homage rendered to departed human spirits which came in the place of the worship of the true God. Compare a dissertation on the meaning of the word used here, in Elliott on the Apocalypse, Appendix I. vol. ii.
And idols of gold, and silver, etc. Idols were formerly, as they are now in heathen lands, made of all these materials. The most costly would, of course, denote a higher degree of veneration for the god, or greater wealth in the worshipper, and all would be employed as symbols or representatives of the gods whom they adored. The meaning of this passage is, that there would prevail, at that time, what would be properly called idolatry, and that this would be represented by the worship paid to these images or idols. It is not necessary to the proper understanding of this, to suppose that the images or idols worshipped were acknowledged heathen idols, or were erected in honour of heathen gods, as such. All that is implied is, that there would be such imageseidwlaand that a degree of homage would be paid to them which would be in fact idolatry. The word here usedeidwlon, eidwlaproperly means an image, spectre, shade; then an idol-image, or that which was a representative of a heathen god; and then the idol-god itselfa heathen deity. So far as the word is concerned, it may be applied to any kind of image worship.
Which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk. The common representation of idol-worship in the Scriptures, to denote its folly and stupidity. See Psa. 115 compare Isa. 44:9-19.
Neither repented they of their murders. This implies that, at the time referred to, murders would abound; or that the times would be characterized by that which deserved to be called murder.
Nor of their sorceries. The word rendered sorceriesfarmakeiawhence our word pharmacy, means properly the preparing and giving of medicine, Eng. pharmacy.Rob. Lex. Then, as the art of medicine was supposed to have magical power, or as the persons who practised medicine, in order to give themselves and their art greater importance, practised various arts of incantation, the word came to be connected with the idea of magic, sorcery, or enchantment. See Schleusner, Lex. In the New Testament the word is never used in a good sense, as denoting the preparation of medicine, but always in this secondary sense, as denoting sorcery, magic, etc. Thus in Gal. 5:20, "the works of the fleshidolatry, witchcraft, etc." Rev. 9:21, "Of their sorceries." Rev. 18:23, "For by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." Rev. 21:8, "Whoremongers, and sorcerers." The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament; and the meaning of the word would be fulfilled in anything that purposed to accomplish an object by sorcery, by magical arts, by trick, by cunning, by sleight of hand, or by deceiving the senses in any way. Thus it would be applicable to all jugglery, and to all pretended miracles.
Nor of their fornication. Implying that this would be a prevalent sin in the times referred to, and that the dreadful plagues which are here predicted would make no essential change in reference to its prevalence.
And of their thefts. Implying that this, too, would be a common form of iniquity. The word used hereklemmais the common word to denote theft. The true idea in the word is that of privately, unlawfully, and feloniously taking the goods or movables of another person. In a larger and in the popular sense, however, this word might embrace all acts of taking the property of another by dishonest arts, or on false pretence, or without an equivalent.
(b) The next point then is, the inquiry whether there was any such state of things as is specified here existing in the time of the rise of the Turkish power, and in the time of the calamities which that formidable power brought upon the world. There are two things implied in the statement here:
(1) that these things had an existence before the invasion and destruction of the Eastern empire by the Turkish power; and
(2) that they continued to exist after that, or were not removed by these fearful calamities. The supposition all along in this interpretation is, that the eye of the prophet was on the Roman world, and that the design was to mark the various events which would characterize its future history. We look, then, in the application of this, to the state of things existing in connexion with the Roman power, or that portion of the world which was then pervaded by the Roman religion. This will make it necessary to institute an inquiry whether the things here specified prevailed in that part of the world before the invasions of the Turks, and the-conquest of Constantinople, and whether the judgments inflicted by that formidable Turkish invasion made any essential change in this respect.
(1.) The statement that they worshipped devils; that is, as explained, demons, or the deified souls of men. Homage rendered to the spirits of departed men, and substituted in the place of the worship of the true God, would meet all that is properly implied here. We may refer, then, to the worship of saints in the Romish communion as a complete fulfilment of what is here implied in the language used by John. The fact cannot be disputed that the invocation of saints took the place, in the Roman Catholic communion, of the worship of sages and heroes in heathen Rome, and that the canonization of saints took the place of the ancient deification of heroes and public benefactors. The same kind of homage was rendered to them; their aid was invoked in a similar manner, and on similar occasions; the effect on the popular mind was substantially the same; and the one interfered as really as the other with the worship of the true God. The decrees of the seventh general council, known as the second council of Nice, A.D. 787, authorized and established the worshipping (proskunew)same word used here(proskunhswsi ta daimonia) of the saints and their images. This occurred after the exciting scenes, the debates, and the disorders produced by the Iconoclasts, or image-breakers, and after the most careful deliberation on the subject. In that celebrated council, it was decreed, according to Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 341,) "unanimously," "that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church; but they hesitate whether that worship be relative or direct; whether the Godhead and the figure of Christ be entitled to the same mode of adoration." This worship of the "saints," or prayer to the saints, asking for their intercession, it is well known has from that time everywhere prevailed in the Papal communion. Indeed, a large part of the actual prayers offered in their services is addressed to the Virgin Mary. Mr. Maitland, "the able and learned advocate of the Dark Ages," says, "The superstition of the age supposed the glorified saint to know what was going on in the world; and to feel a deep interest, and to possess a considerable power, in the church militant on earth. I believe that they who thought so are altogether mistaken; and I lament, abhor, and am amazed at the superstition, blasphemies, and idolatries, which have grown out of that opinion."Elliott, ii. p. 10. As to the question whether this continued after the judgments brought upon the world by the hordes "loosed on the Euphrates," or whether they repented and reformed on account of the judgments, we have only to look into the Roman Catholic religion everywhere. Not only did the old practice of "daemonolatry," or the worship of departed saints, continue, but new "saints" have been added to the number, and the list of those who are to receive this homage has been continually increasing. Thus in the year 1460, Catharine of Sienna was canonized by Pope Plus II.; in 1482, Bonaventura, the blasphemer, (In the Hereford Discussion, between the Rev. J. Venn and Rev. James Waterworth, it was admitted by the latter, all able and learned Romish priest, that Bonaventura's Psalter to the Virgin Mary, turning the addresses to God into addresses to the Virgin, was blasphemy.Elliott, ii. 25.) by Sixtus IV.; in 1494, Anselm by Alexander VI. Alexander's bull, in language more heathen than Christian, avows it to be the Pope's duty thus to choose out, and to hold up the illustrious dead, as their merits claim, for adoration and worship. (Romanas Pontifex viros claros, et qui sanctimonia floruerunt, et eorum exigentibus clarissimis meritis aliorum sanctorum numero aggregari merentur-inter sanctos praedictos debit collocare, et ut sanctos ab omnibus Christi fidelibus coli, venerari, et ADORARI mandare.)
(2.) The statement that idolatry was practised, and continued to be practised, after this invasion: "Repented not that they should not worship idols of gold, silver, and brass." On this point, perhaps it would be sufficient to refer to what has been already noticed in regard to the homage paid to the souls of the departed; but it may be farther and more clearly illustrated by a reference to the worship of images in the Romish communion. Any one familiar with church history will recollect the long conflicts which prevailed respecting the worship of images; the establishment of images in the churches; the destruction of images by the "Iconoclasts;" and the debates on the subject by the council at Hiera; and the final decision in the second council of Nice, in which the propriety of image-worship was affirmed and established. See, on this subject, Bowers' History of the Popes, ii. 98, seq., 144, seq.; Gibbon, vol. iii. pp. 322-341. The importance of the question respecting image-worship may be seen from the remarks of Mr. Gibbon, iii. 322. He speaks of it as "a question of popular superstition which produced the revolt of Italy, the temporal power of the Popes, and the restoration of the Roman empire in the West." A few extracts from Mr. Gibbonwho may be regarded as an impartial witness on this subjectwill show what was the popular belief, and will confirm what is said in the passage before us in reference to the prevalence of idolatry. "The first introduction of a symbolic worship was in the veneration of the cross, and of relics. The saints and martyrs, when intercession was implored, were seated on the right hand of God; but the gracious, and often supernatural favours, which, in the popular belief, were showered round their tombs, conveyed an unquestionable sanction of the devout pilgrims who visited, and touched, and kissed these lifeless remains, the memorials of their merits and suffering. But a memorial, more interesting than the skull or the sandals of a departed worthy, is a faithful copy of his person and features delineated by the arts of painting or sculpture. In every age, such copies, so congenial to human feelings, have been cherished by the zeal of private friendship or public esteem; the images of the Roman emperors were adorned with civil and almost religious honours; a reverence, less ostentatious, but more sincere, was applied to the statues of sages and patriots; and these profane virtues, these splendid sins, disappeared in the presence of the holy men, who had died for their celestial and everlasting country. At first the experiment was made with caution and scruple, and the venerable pictures were discreetly allowed to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the cold, and to gratify the prejudices of the heathen proselytes. By a slow, though inevitable progression, the honours of the original were transferred to the copy; the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint; and the Pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense, again stole into the Catholic church. The scruples of reason or piety were silenced by the strong evidence of visions and miracles; and the pictures which speak, and move, and bleed, must be endowed with a Divine energy, and may be considered as the proper objects of religious adoration. The most audacious pencil might tremble in the rash attempt of defining, by forms and colours, the infinite Spirit, the devout Father, who pervades and sustains the universe. But the superstitious mind was more easily reconciled to paint and worship the angels, and above all, the Son of God, under the human shape, which on earth they have condescended to assume. The Second Person of the Trinity had been clothed with a real and mortal body; but that body had ascended into heaven; and had not some similitude been presented to the eyes of his disciples, the spiritual worship of Christ might have been obliterated by the visible relics and representatives of the saints. A similar indulgence was requisite, and propitious, for the Virgin Mary; the place of her burial was unknown; and the assumption of her soul and body into heaven was adopted by the credulity of the Greeks and Latins. The use, and even the worship of images was firmly established before the end of the sixth century; they were fondly cherished by the warm imagination of the Greeks and Asiatics; the Pantheon and the Vatican were adorned with the emblems of a new superstition; but this semblance of idolatry was more coldly entertained by the rude barbarians and the Arian clergy of the West," vol. iii. p. 323. Again: "Before the end of the sixth century, these images, made without hands, (in Greek it is a single wordaceiropoihtoß) were propagated in the camps and cities of the Eastern empire; they were the objects of worship, and the instruments of miracles; and in the hour of danger or tumult their venerable presence could revive the hope, rekindle the courage, or repress the fury of the Roman legions," vol. iii. pp. 324, 325. So again, (vol. iii. p. 340, seq.:) "While the Popes established in Italy their freedom and dominion, the images, the first cause of their revolt, were restored in the Eastern empire. Under the reign of Constantine the Fifth, the union of civil and ecclesiastical power had overthrown the tree, without extirpating the root, of superstition. The idols, for such they were now held, were secretly cherished by the order and the sect most prone to devotion; and the fond alliance of the monks and females obtained a final victory over the name and the authority of man." Under Irene a council was convenedthe second council of Nice, or the seventh general council, in which, according to Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 341,) it was "unanimously pronounced that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church." The arguments which were urged in favour of the worship of images, in the council above referred to, may be seen in Bowers' Lives of the Popes, vol. ii. pp. 152-158, Dr. Cox's edition. The answer of the bishops in the council to the question of the empress Irene, whether they agreed to the decision which had been adopted in the council, was in these words: "We all agree to it; we have all freely signed it; this is the faith of the apostles, of the fathers, and of the Catholic church; we all salute, honour, worship, and adore the holy and venerable images; be they accursed who do not honour, worship, and adore the adorable images."Bowers' Lives of the Popes, ii. 159. As a matter of fact, therefore, no one can doubt that these images were worshipped with the honour that was due to God aloneor that the sin of idolatry prevailed; and no one can doubt that that has been continued, and is still, in the Papal communion.
(3.) The next point specified is murders, (Rev. 9:21) "Neither repented they of their murders." It can hardly be necessary to dwell on this to show that this was strictly applicable to the Roman power, and extensively prevailed, both before and after the Turkish invasion, and that that invasion had no tendency to produce repentance. Indeed, in nothing has the Papacy been more remarkably characterized than in the number of murders perpetrated on the innocent in persecution. In reference to the fulfilment of this, we may refer to the following things:
(a) Persecution. This has been particularly the characteristic of the Roman communion, it need not be said, in all ages. The persecutions of the Waldenses, if there were nothing else, show that the spirit here referred to prevailed in the Roman communion, or that the times preceding the Turkish conquest were characterized by what is here specified. In the third Lateran council, A.D. 1179, an anathema was declared against certain dissentients and heretics, and then against the Waldenses themselves in Papal bulls of the years 1183, 1207, 1208. Again, in a decree of the fourth Lateran council, A. D. 1215, a crusade, as it was called, was proclaimed against them, and "plenary absolution promised to such as should perish in the holy war, from the day of their birth to the day of their death." "And never," says Sismondi, "had the cross been taken up with more unanimous consent." It is supposed that in this crusade against the Waldenses a million of men perished.
(b) That this continued to be the characteristic of the Papacy after the judgments brought upon the Roman world by the Turkish invasion, or that those judgments had no tendency to produce repentance and reformation, is well known, and is manifest from the following things:
(1.) The continuance of the spirit of persecution.
(2.) The establishment of the Inquisition. One hundred and fifty thousand persons perished by the Inquisition in thirty years; and from the beginning of the order of the Jesuits in 1540 to 1580, it is supposed that nine hundred thousand persons were destroyed by persecution.
(3.) The same spirit was manifested in the attempts to suppress the true religion in England, in Bohemia, and in the Low Countries. Fifty thousand persons were hanged, burned, beheaded, or buried alive, for the crime of heresy, in the Low Countries, chiefly under the duke of Alva, from the edict of Charles V. against the Protestants, to the peace of Chateau Cambrisis in 1559. Compare Note on Dan. 7:24-28.
To these are to be added all that fell in France on the revocation of the edict of Nantz; all that perished by persecution in England in the days of Mary; and all that have fallen in the bloody wars that have been waged in the propagation of the Papal religion. The number is, of course, unknown to mortals, though efforts have been made by historians to form some estimate of the amount. It is supposed that fifty millions of Christians have perished in these persecutions of the Waldenses, Albigenses, Bohemian Brethren, Wycliffites, and Protestants; that some fifteen millions of Indians perished in Cuba, Mexico, and South America, in the wars of the Spaniards, professedly to propagate the Catholic faith; that three millions and a half of Moors and Jews perished, by Catholic persecution and arms, in Spain; and that thus, probably, no less than sixty-eight millions and five hundred thousand human beings have been put to death by this one persecuting power. See Dr. Berg's Lectures on Romanism, pp. 6, 7. Assuredly, if this be true, it would be proper to characterize the times here referred to, both before and after the Turkish invasion, as a time when murders would prevail.
(4.) The fourth point specified is sorceries. It can hardly be necessary to go into detail to prove that this also abounded, and that delusive appeals to the senses; false and pretended miracles; arts adapted to deceive through the imagination; the supposed virtue and efficacy of relics; and frauds calculated to impose on mankind, have characterized those portions of the world where the Roman religion has prevailed, and been one of the principal means of its advancement. No Protestant surely would deny this, no intelligent Catholic can doubt it himself. All that is necessary to be said in regard to this is, that in this, as in other respects, the Turkish invasion, and the judgments that came upon the world, made no change. The very recent imposture of the "holy coat of Treves" is a full proof that the disposition to practise such arts still exists, and that the power to impose on a large portion of the world in that denomination has not died away.
(5.) The fifth thing specified is fornication. This has abounded everywhere in the world; but the use of the term in this connexion implies that there would be something peculiar here, and perhaps that it would be associated with the other things referred to. It is as unnecessary as it would be improper to go into any detail on this point. Any one who is acquainted with the history of the Middle Agesthe period here supposed to be referred tomust be aware of the widespread licentiousness which then prevailed, especially among the clergy. Historians and poets, ballads and acts of councils, alike testify to this fact. ("If you wish to see the horrors of these ages," (the Middle Ages,) says Chateaubriand. Diet. Hist. tom. iii. 420, "read the Councils.") It is to be remarked also, as illustrating the subject, that the dissoluteness of the Middle Ages was closely, and almost necessarily, connected with the worship of the images and the saints above referred to. The character of many of those who were worshipped as saints, like the character of many of the gods of the Pagan Romans, was just such as to be an incentive to every species of licentiousness and impurity. On this point, Mr. Hallam makes the following remarks: "That the exclusive worship of saints, under the guidance of an artful though illiterate priesthood, degraded the understanding, and begat a stupid credulity and fanaticism, is sufficiently evident. But it was also so managed as to loosen the bonds of religion, and pervert the standard of morality."Middle Ages, vol. ii. pp. 249, 260; Edit. Phil. 1824. He then, in a note, refers to the legends of the saints as abundantly confirming his statements. See particularly the stories in the "Golden Legend." So, in speaking of the monastic orders, Mr. Hallam (Middle Ages, vol. ii. 253) says, "In vain new rules of discipline were devised, or the old corrected by reforms. Many of their worst vices grew so naturally out of their mode of life that a stricter discipline would have no tendency to extirpate them. Their extreme licentiousness was sometimes hardly concealed by the cowl of sanctity." In illustration of this we may, introduce here a remark of Mr. Gibbon, made in immediate connexion with his statement about the decrees respecting the worship of images. "I shall only notice," says he, "the judgment of the bishops on the comparative merit of image-worship and morality. A monk had concluded a truce with the demon of fornication, on condition of interrupting her daily prayers to a picture that hung in his cell. His scruples prompted him to consult the abbot. Rather than abstain from adoring Christ and his mother in their holy images, it would be better for you,' replied the casuist, to enter any brothel, and visit every prostitute in the city,'" iii. 341. So again, Mr. Gibbon, speaking of the pope, John XII., says, "His open simony might be the consequence of distress; and his blasphemous invocation of Jupiter and Venus, if it be true, could not possibly be serious. But we read with some surprise that the worthy grandson of Marozia lived in public adultery with the matrons of Rome; that the Lateran palace was turned into a place of prostitution, and that his rapes of virgins and of widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the tomb of St. Peter, lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor," iii. 353. Again, the system of indulgences led directly to licentiousness. In the pontificate of John XXII., about A. D. 1320, there was invented the celebrated Tax of Indulgences, of which more than forty editions are extant. According to this, incest was to cost, if not detected, five groschen; if known and flagrant, six. A certain price was affixed in a similar way to adultery, infanticide, etc. See Merle D'Aubigne's Reformation, vol. i. p. 41. And farther, the very pilgrimages to the shrines of the saints, which were enjoined as a penance for sin, and which were regarded as a ground of merit, were occasions of the grossest licentiousness. So Hallam, Middle Ages, says, "This licensed vagrancy was naturally productive of dissoluteness, especially among the women. Our English ladies, in their zeal to obtain the spiritual treasuries of Rome, are said to have relaxed the necessary caution about one that was in their own custody," vol. ii. 256. The celibacy of the clergy, also, tended to licentiousness, and is known to have been everywhere productive of the very sin which is here mentioned. The state of the nunneries in the middle ages is well known. In the 15th century, Gerson, the French orator so celebrated at the council of Constance, called them Prostibula meretricum. Clemangis, a French theologian, also contemporary, and a man of great eminence, thus speaks of them: Quid aliud sunt hoc tempore puellarum monasteria, nisi quaedam non dico Dei sanctuaria, sed veneris execranda prostibula; ut idem sit hodie puellam velare, quod et publici ad scortandum exponere.Hallam, Middle Ages, ii. 253. To this we may add the fact that it was a habit, not unfrequent, to license the clergy to live in concubinage, (see the proof in Elliott, i, 447, note,) and that the practice of auricular confession necessarily made "the tainting of the female mind an integral part of Roman priestcraft, and gave consecration to the communings of impurity." It hardly needs any proof that these practices continued after the invasions of the Turkish hordes, or that those invasions made no changes in the condition of the world in this respect. In proof of this, we need refer only to Pope Innocent VIII., elected in 1484 to the Papacy; (His character is told in the well-known epigramOcto nocens pueros genuit, totidemque puellas: Hunc merito potuit dicere Roma patrem.) to Alexander VI., his successor, who at the close of the fifteenth century stood before the world a monster, notorious to all, of impurity and vice; and to the general well-known character of the Romish clergy. "Most of the ecclesiastics," says the historian Infessura, "had their mistresses; and all the convents of the capital were houses of ill-fame."
(6.) The sixth thing specified, (Rev. 9:21,) is thefts; that is, as explained, the taking of the property of others by dishonest arts, on false pretences, or without any proper equivalent. In the inquiry as to the applicability of this to the times supposed to be here referred to, we may notice the following things, as instances in which money was extorted from the people:
(a) The value fraudulently assigned to relics. Mosheim, in his historical sketch of the twelfth century, observes, "The abbots and monks carried about the country the carcases and relics of saints, in solemn procession; and permitted the multitude to behold, touch, and embrace the sacred remains, at fixed prices."
(b) The exaltation of the miracle-working merit of particular saints, and the consecration of new saints, and dedication of new images, when the popularity of the former died away. Thus Mr. Hallam says, "Every cathedral or monastery had its tutelar saint, and every saint his legend; fabricated in order to enrich the churches under his protection; by exaggerating his virtues and his miracles, and consequently his power of serving those who paid liberally for his patronage."
(c) The invention and sale of indulgenceswell known to have been a vast source of revenue to the church. Wycliffe declared that indulgences were mere forgeries whereby the priesthood "rob men of their money; a subtle merchandize of Antitichrist's clerks, whereby they magnify their own fictitious power, and instead of causing men to dread sin, encourage men to wallow therein as hogs."
(d) The prescription of pilgrimages as penances was another prolific source of gain to the church that deserves to be classed under the name of thefts. Those who made such pilgrimage were expected and required to make an offering at the shrine of the saint; and as multitudes went on such pilgrimages, especially on the Jubilee at Rome, the income from this source was enormous. An instance of what was offered at the shrine of Thomas a Becket will illustrate this. Through his reputation, Canterbury became the Rome of England. A Jubilee was celebrated every fiftieth year to his honour, with plenary indulgence to all such as visited his tomb; of whom one hundred thousand were registered at one time. Two large volumes were filled with accounts of the miracles wrought at his tomb. The following list of the value of offerings made in two successive years to his shrine, the Virgin Mary's, and Christ's, in the cathedral at Canterbury, will illustrate at the same time the gain from these sources, and the relative respect shown to Becket, Mary, and the Saviour :
First Year. L s d Next Year. L s d
Christ's Altar........... 3 2 6 Christ's Altar...........
Virgin Mary..............63 5 6 Virgin Mary.............. 4 1 8
Becket's ...............832 12 9 Becket's ...............954 6 3
Of the Jubilee of A.D. 1300, Muratori relates the result as follows: "Papa innumerabilem pecuniam ab iisdem recepit; quia die et nocte duo clerici stabant ad altare Sancti Pauli, tenentes in eorum manibus rastellos, rastellantes pecuniam infinitam." "The Pope received from them a countless amount of money; for two clerks stood at the altar of St. Paul night and day, holding in their hands little rakes, collecting an infinite amount of money."Hallam,
(e) Another source of gain of this kind was the numerous testamentary bequests with which the church was enrichedobtained by the arts and influence of the clergy. In Wycliffe's time there were in England 53,215 foeda militum, of which the religious had 28,000more than one half. Blackstone says that, but for the intervention of the legislature, and the statute of mortmain, the church would have appropriated in this manner the whole of the land of England, vol. iv. p. 107.
(f) The money left by the dying to pay for masses, and that paid by survivors for masses to release the souls of their friends from purgatoryall of which deserve to be classed under the word thefts as above explainedwas another source of vast wealth to the church; and the practice was systematized on a large scale, and, with the other things mentioned, deserves to be noticed as a characteristic of the times. It is scarcely necessary to add, that the judgments which were brought upon the world by the Turkish invasions made no essential change, and wrought no repentance or reformation, and hence that the language here is strictly applicable to these things: "Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts."
Jewish New Testament Commentary
After the seventh seal the scroll (5:1) is not mentioned again, but what follows is a description of its contents.
The seven angels who stand before God. Seven "Angels of the Presence" have a well-documented history in Jewish literature (see 1:4N), possibly commencing with Isaiah 63:9, which mentions "an angel of his [God's] presence" (compare Lk 1:19, "I am Gavri'el," the angel answered him, "and I stand in the presence of God."), and Ezekiel 9:2, which speaks of "six men... with slaughter weapons, and one man among them clothed in linen with a writer's ink well at his side," to whom God speaks. In the Apocrypha, Rafa'el identifies himself as "one of the seven holy angels" (Tobit 12:15). 1 Enoch 20 gives the names and functions of seven "holy angels who watch": Uri'el, Rafa'el, Ragu'el, Mikha'el, Saraka'el, Gavri'el and Remi'el. The first four are called "ministering angels" ("mal'akhey-hasharet") in the Talmud, the siddur, and the kabbalah; compare the fact that in vv. 7-12 four angels are singled out to announce the four "non-woe" shofar judgments. See also 1:4N on "the sevenfold Spirit" and v. 4&N below. On whether angels exist at all, see MJ 13:2bN.
Shofars ("ram's horns"), not trumpets. The idea that the Great Judgment of the Last Days is heralded by blasts on the shofar has its roots in the Tanakh. "YHVH will be seen over them, his arrow will go forth like lightning, and Adonai YHVH will sound the shofar and will move in the stormwinds of the south.... And YHVH their God will save them [Y'hudah and Efrayim] on that day as the flock of his people" (Zechariah 9:14, 16). Similarly God protects Israel at 7:1-8 before setting the shofar judgments in motion "on that day," half an hour afterwards (8:1). Compare Isaiah 27:13, Joel 2:1, Zephaniah 1:16 and, in the Pseudepigrapha, Psalms of Solomon 11 and 4 Ezra 6:23-26. In the New Testament see Mt 24:31&N, 1C 15:52&N and 1 Th 4:16&N.
It is not clear from the Greek grammar whether this verse speaks of two altars or one. The temple in Jerusalem had two one for burnt offerings and another for incense. But, as R. H. Charles puts it, "since there could be no animal sacrifices in heaven" (this is also consistent with MJ 9:18-10:20), there is only the altar for incense. Moreover, the rabbinic citations in 6:9N mention only one altar.
The smoke of the incense added by another angel accompanies the prayers of all God's people (not only those of the martyrs, as at 6:9-10); both rise to God together but it is not clear just what this means. Nevertheless, compare Exodus Rabbah 21:4:
"What is the meaning of O Thou that hearest prayer' (Psalm 65:3)? Rabbi Pinchas in the name of Rabbi Me'ir and Rabbi Yirmiyahu in the name of Rabbi Chiyya bar-Abba said, When the people of Israel pray, you do not find them all praying at the same time, but each assembly prays separately, first one and then another. When they have all finished, the angel appointed over prayers collects all the prayers that have been offered in all the synagogues, weaves them into garlands and places them upon the head of God.' "
Also Testament of Levi 3:5-6:
"In [the heaven next to the highest heaven] are the angels of the presence of the Lord, who minister and make propitiation to the Lord for all the sins of ignorance of the righteous. And they offer to the Lord a sweet-smelling savor, a reasonable and bloodless offering."
The prayers are evidently for judgment to begin, and God answers at once (v. 5 through 14:20); but see also 6:10N.
The first four shofar judgments affect nature directly and people indirectly (compare Mt 24:4-8) and resemble the plagues of Egypt (see Psalm 105:29, 32), while the last three plagues (v. 13) affect people directly (compare Mt 24:13-22).
The idea that the End-Time plagues will recapitulate those of Egypt can be found in the Midrash Rabbah:
"Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail such as has not been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now' (Exodus 9:18).... However, there will be one like it in the time to come. When? In the days of Gog and Magog, as it is written,... A torrential rain, and great hailstones, fire and sulfur' (Ezekiel 38:2, 22)." (Exodus Rabbah 12:2)
Compare below at 11:19, 16:21, 20:7.
Consider the function of the Egyptian plagues. The well-known song, "Dayenu" ([It would have been] "Enough for us"), from the Passover Haggadah, says that God through the plagues judged both the Egyptians and their gods (compare 9:20). He did this by turning against the Egyptians the very things they worshipped. They worshipped the Nile River; it became blood. They worshipped beetles (scarabs); they got lice and locusts. They worshipped frogs and found them in bed. They worshipped the weather and had their crops destroyed by hail.
If these verses in Revelation are to be understood literally, then, since God uses nature to accomplish his purposes, one can imagine asteroids plunging into the earth, other materials from outer space darkening the skies and infecting the water, and heat flashes setting fire to the vegetation; and one can seek scientific explanations for such phenomena. But if these are graphic but figurative ways of describing God's judgment and the terror it will evoke, such speculations and researches are irrelevant. There are intelligent, well-informed, God-fearing New Testament scholars taking each approach.
Bitterness, literally, "wormwood, absinthe"; compare Jeremiah 9:15, 23:15: "I will feed this people wormwood and give them water of gall to drink."
A lone eagle, representing swiftness, or "a lone vulture," representing pursuit of carrion (as at Mt 24:28&N, Lk 17:37).
Woe! Woe! Woe! The remaining shofar judgments are directed not at nature but at the people living on earth (the pagan world hostile to God; see 3:10N) in order to get them to repent (9:20-21), while the sealed are spared (9:4; 7:1-8). These three "woes" are announced by the remaining shofar blasts, and are described at 9:1-12, 9:13-11:14 and 11:15-18:24 respectively. Just as the seventh seal (v. 1&N) included the seven "shofar" judgments, so the seventh shofar blast includes the seven "bowl" judgments, which begin at 16:1.
The star is not Satan (despite Isaiah 14:12, Lk 10:17), but an angel, who still has the key at 20:1. The Abyss is not Sh'ol (as at Ro 10:7), but a place where demonic beings are imprisoned (vv. 2-11, 11:7, 17:8, 20:2-3). In the Apocrypha, God is called, "You who close and seal the Abyss with your fearful and glorious name" (Prayer of Manasseh 3).
Like the smoke of a huge furnace or volcano, evoking images of Sodom (Genesis 19:28) and of Sinai; there too a shofar sounded (Exodus 19:18-19).
Demonic monsters are released which fly like locusts (Exodus 10:12-20; Joel 1:4, 2:4-14) and sting like scorpions (Ezekiel 2:6, Lk 11:12).
The people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. See 7:1-8&NN.
"Five months" may mean "a few months, a short time."
Compare 6:16, Jeremiah 8:3, Hosea 10:8, Job 3:21, Lk 23:30.
The descriptions are from Joel 1:4-6, 2:4-5.
"The locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank" (Proverbs 30:27). Here they have as king over them the angel of the Abyss, probably not the same angel as in v. 1.
In our language, "Destroyer." Literally, "in Greek, he has the name Apolluôn.'" Hebrew "Abaddon" and Greek "Apolluôn" both mean "Destroyer."
The fifth shofar brought suffering, the sixth brings death.
Two hundred million. Perhaps a literal number, but compare Psalm 68:18: "The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands."
Fire... and sulfur. See 14:10aN.
Those who interpret literally take this as a description of some modern invention. On literal and figurative interpretation see 8:7-12N.
The locusts in Joel 2:4-10 were intended to bring about repentance (Joel 2:11-14); likewise here, but the people refused.
Idols, though themselves not real (1C 8:4, Psalm 115:4-8), have real demons behind them (1C 10:19-20). Moreover, not every idolatry involves bowing to statues (see Ep 5:5, Co 3:5, 1 Yn 5:21&N). On this and plagues see 8:7-12N.
Nor did they turn.... Compare 16:9, 11, 21. All the sins named are connected with idolatry (v. 20).
Misuse of drugs in connection with the occult. Greek pharmakeia, usually translated "sorceries," "witchcraft" or "magic arts," is here rendered by this longer phrase in order to focus on the fact that using potions and drugs is an essential part of the word's meaning as is clear from the derived English words "pharmaceuticals" and "pharmacy." The usual renderings suggest to many people a setting so removed from the fabric of their lives that the text does not speak to them. The reason I employ this lengthy expression is that the Jewish New Testament is a product of the 1980's, when the Western world has seen an explosion of drug abuse, and I want readers to understand that this subject is dealt with in the Bible.
Spiritually speaking, there are four distinct categories of drug misuse: (1) taking drugs in order to explore spiritual realms, (2) taking drugs in order to engage in "sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts" while under their influence, (3) giving drugs to other people in order to gain control over them, which is another form of "sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts," and (4) taking drugs for pleasure. The last is a misuse because the drugs in question besides whatever temporary enjoyment they provide, and apart from their adverse medical and psychological effects open a person to supernatural or spiritual experiences; but these experiences are almost always demonic and not from God, since the Holy One of Israel reveals himself through his Word (Ro 1:16-17, 10:8-17), not through drugs. (I know of one instance where God overruled LSD and spoke to someone under its influence; he became a believer immediately, was instantly sober and never used drugs again.)
Just as a virgin who has sexual intercourse can never again be a virgin, so a person is not the same after having taken mind-altering drugs. His range of experience has been broadened, but not every experience is edifying (1C 10:23). As Sha'ul puts it:
"You say, For me, everything is permitted'? Maybe, but not everything is helpful. For me, everything is permitted'? Maybe, but as far as I am concerned, I am not going to let anything gain control over me. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food'? Maybe, but God will put an end to both of them. Anyhow, the body is not meant for sexual immorality" [or for drugs] "but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body."(1C 6:12-13)
"I want you to be wise concerning good, but innocent concerning evil." (Ro 16:19)
From other New Testament passages where "pharmakeia" and its cognates appear, we learn that those who misuse drugs "have no share in the Kingdom of God" (Ga 5:20), so that they remain outside the holy city, New Jerusalem; and instead, "their destiny is the lake burning with fire and sulfur, the second death" (below, 21:8, 22:5). (At 18:23 pharmakeia has a different meaning.)
So much for the Bad News. The Good News is that when a pride-filled, weak-willed, uncaring, despairing drug-user trusts Yeshua the Messiah, God can turn him into a person of faith and right action.
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament
1. When (o¢te). Read o¢tan, the indefinite particle with the indicative mood. For a similar construction, see Mark 11:19 (correct reading). Alford observes that it occurs in the opening of this seal only, giving it an indefiniteness which does not belong to any of the rest.
There was (ege÷neto). More literally, come to pass. Rev., there followed.
About (wÓß). A usual form of expression with John. See John 1:39; 6:19; 11:18.
2. Stood (esth/kasin). Rev., correctly, stand.
Trumpets (sa¿lpiggeß). See on chapter 1:10.
3. At the altar (epi« to\ qusiasth/rion). The best texts read qusiasthri÷ou, which justifies the Rev., "over the altar." For altar, see on chapter 6:9. Interpreters differ as to whether the altar meant is the brazen altar, as in chapter 6:9, or the altar of incense, as in chapter 9:13. There seems to be no reason for changing the reference from the brazen altar (see on chapter 6:9), especially as both altars are mentioned in this verse. The officiating priest in the tabernacle or temple took the fire for his censer from the brazen altar, and then offered the incense upon the golden altar.
Censer. See on chapter 5:8.
Incense. See on chapter 5:8.
Offer it with the prayers (dw¿shØ taiß proseucaiß). Lit., should give it unto the prayers. Rev., add it unto the prayers. So that the prayers and the incense might ascend together. Proseuch/ is always used of prayer to God.
Golden altar. The altar of incense. Exodus 30:16; 39:38.
4. Which came with the prayers. An awkward rendering, followed by Rev., though with the omission of the italicized which came. The construction is aÓne÷bh went up, with the dative case, to the prayers. "The ascending smoke had reference to the prayers, was designed to accompany them and render them more acceptable" (Winer).
Of the saints (tw×n aJgi÷wn). See on Acts 26:10.
5. Took (ei¶lhfen). Lit., hath taken. So Rev., in margin.
With the fire (ek touv puro\ß). Lit., "from or out off the fire," i.e., the coals or hot ashes. For ek out off see on chapter 2:7.
Cast it into the earth. See Ezekiel 10:2; Luke 12:49.
6. To sound (iºna salpi÷swsin). Lit., that they should blow the trumpets. Raised their trumpets to their mouths in act to blow.
7. The first angel. Omit angel.
Hail and fire mingled with blood (ca¿laza kai« puvr memigme÷na aiºmati). Insert en in before aiºmati blood. Instead of "with blood" as A.V., and Rev., we should render "in blood." The hailstones and fire-balls fell in a shower of blood. Compare the account of the plague of fire and hail in Egypt (Exodus 9:24) to which the reference is here, where the Septuagint reads and there was hail and the fire flaming in the hail. Compare Joel 2:30.
And the third part of the earth was burnt up. This is added by the best texts.
Green (clwro\ß). See on pale, chapter 6:8.
8. As it were (wÓß). Not a mountain, but a fiery mass so large as to resemble one.
Blood. Reminding of the first plague in Egypt (Exodus 7:20, 21).
9. Life (yuca»ß). See on 3 John 2.
Ships (ploi÷wn). See on Luke 5:2.
10. Lamp (lampa»ß). Rev., torch. See on chapter 4:5.
11. Wormwood (aýyinqoß). Used metaphorically in the Old Testament of the idolatry of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:18); of calamity and sorrow (Jeremiah 9:15; 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, 19); of false judgment (Amos 5:7).
13. An angel (eno\ß aÓgge÷lou). For angel read aÓetouv eagle. Lit., one eagle. The eagle is a symbol of vengeance in Deuteronomy 28:49; Hosea 8:1; Habakkuk 1:8.
Mid heaven (mesouranh/mati). Only in Revelation, here, 14:6; 19:17. It means, properly, the meridian, the highest point in the heavens which the sun occupies at noon; not the space between heaven and earth.
1. Fall (peptwko/ta). Lit., fallen. The star had fallen before and is seen as fallen. Rev., properly construes star with from heaven instead of with fallen. Compare Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18.
Of the bottomless pit (touv fre÷atoß thvß aÓbu/ssou). Rev., of the pit of the abyss. See on John 4:6, and compare Luke 14:5. It is not however a pit that is locked, but the long shaft leading to the abyss, like a well-shaft, which, in the East, is oftener covered and locked.
2. Smoke of a great furnace. Compare Genesis 19:28; Exodus 19:18; Matthew 13:42, 50.
3. Locusts (aÓkri÷deß). The idea of this plague is from the eighth plague in Egypt (Exodus 10:14, 15). Compare the description of a visitation of locusts in Joel 2. There are three Hebrew words in the Old Testament which appear to mean locust, probably signifying different species. Only this word is employed in the New Testament. Compare Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6.
Scorpions. See Ezekiel 2:6; Luke 10:19; 11:12. Shaped like a lobster, living in damp places, under stones, in clefts of walls, cellars, etc. The sting is in the extremity of the tail. The sting of the Syrian scorpion is not fatal, though very painful. The same is true of the West Indian scorpion. Thomson says that those of North Africa are said to be larger, and that their poison frequently causes death. The wilderness of Sinai is especially alluded to as being inhabited by scorpions at the time of the Exodus (Deuteronomy 8:15); and to this very day they are common in the same district. A part of the mountains bordering on Palestine in the south was named from these MyI;bårVqAo, brVqAo being the Hebrew for scorpion.
4. Green. See on ch. 6:8.
Men which (aÓnqrw¿pouß oiºtineß). The double relative denotes the class. Rev., such men as have, etc.
5. They should be tormented (basanisqw×sin). See on torments, Matthew 4:24.
Striketh (pai÷shØ). Dr. Thomson says that the scorpion cannot strike sideways. All accounts agree as to the fearful pain from its sting.
6. Men. Rather, the men: those tormented.
Shall desire (epiqumh/sousin). Epi has the force of vehemently, earnestly.
Shall flee (feu/xetai). Read feu/gei fleeth. Aeschylus says: "Not justly do mortals hate death, since it is the greatest deliverance from their many woes" ("Fragment"). Herodotus relates the address of Artabanus to Xerxes, when the latter wept on beholding his vast armament. "There is no man, whether it be here among this multitude or elsewhere, who is so happy as not to have felt the wish I will not say once, but full many a time that he were dead rather than alive. Calamities fall upon us, sicknesses vex and harass us, and make life, short though it be, to appear long. So death, through the wretchedness of our life, is a most sweet refuge to our race" (7:46).
7. Shapes (oJmoiw¿mata). Lit., likenesses.
Horses. Compare Joel 2:4. The likeness of a locust to a horse, especially to a horse equipped with armor, is so striking that the insect is named in German Heupferd hay-horse, and in Italian calvaletta little horse.
Crowns. Not actual crowns, but as crowns. Milligan remarks that any yellow brilliancy about the head of the insect is a sufficient foundation for the figure.
As the faces of men. There is a distant resemblance to the human countenance in the face of the locust. Men (aÓnqrw¿pwn) is to be taken not as distinguishing sex, but in the generic sense: human faces.
8. Hair of women. The antennae of the locust. There is said to be an Arabic proverb in which the antennae of locusts are compared to girls' hair.
Teeth of lions. Compare Joel. 1:6.
9. Breastplates. The breast of the locust resembles the plates of a horse's armor.
Sound of their wings. Olivier, a French writer, says: "It in difficult to express the effect produced on us by the sight of the whole atmosphere filled on all sides and to a great height by an innumerable quantity of these insects, whose flight was slow and uniform, and whose noise resembled that of rain." For a graphic description of their numbers and ravages, see Thomson, "Land and Book, Central Palestine and Phoenicia," 295302.
Of chariots of many horses. That is, of many-horsed chariots. The Rev., by the insertion of a comma, apparently takes the two clauses as parallel: the sound of chariots, (the sound) of many horses.
Tails like unto scorpions. The comparison with the insect as it exists in nature fails here, though Smith's "Bible Dictionary" gives a picture of a species of locust, the Acridium Lineola, a species commonly sold for food in the markets of Bagdad, which has a sting in the tail.
Stings (ke÷ntra). Originally any sharp point. A goad. See on pricks, Acts 26:14. Plato uses it of the peg of a top ("Republic," 436). Herodotus of an instrument of torture. Democedes, the Crotoniat physician, having denied his knowledge of medicine to Darius, Darius bade his attendants "bring the scourges and pricking-irons ke÷ntra) (3, 30) Sophocles of the buckle-tongues with which Oedipus put out his eyes.
"Woe, woe, and woe again!
How through me darts the throb these clasps (ke÷ntrwn). have caused."
"Oedipus Tyrannas," 1318.
Of the spur of a cock, the quill of a porcupine, and the stings of insects.
For the A.V., there were stings in their tails, read as Rev., and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt.
11. They had a king over them (e¶cousin ef aujtw×n basile÷a). Render, as Rev., they have over them as king. Compare Proverbs 30:27. Hence distinguished from the natural locusts.
In Hebrew (Ebrai¦sti«). Used only by John. Compare John 5:2; 19:13, 17, 20; Revelation 16:16.
Abaddon. Meaning destruction. Compare Job 26:6; 28:22; Proverbs 15:11. Here the Destroyer, as is evident from the Greek equivalent Apollu/wn Apollyon destroyer. Perdition is personified. It is after John's manner to give the Hebrew with the Greek equivalent. Compare John 1:38, 42; 4:25; 9:7; 11:16, etc.
12. The first woe (hj oujai« hj mi÷a). Lit., the one woe.
13. A voice (fwnh\n mi÷an). Lit., one voice.
Altar. See on ch. 8:3.
14. In the great river (epi÷). Rev., more correctly, at.
Euphrates. The Euphrates was known as the great River, the River, the Flood. It rises in the mountains of Armenia, breaks through the Taurus range and runs south and southeast until it joins the Tigris in lower Babylonia Its total length is from 1,600 to 1,800 miles, and it is navigable for small craft twelve hundred miles from its mouth. It was the boundary-line of Israel on the northeast (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 1:4. Compare 2 Samuel 8:38; 1 Kings 4:21). It thus formed the natural defense of the chosen people against the armies of Assyria. The melting of the mountain snows causes an annual flood, beginning in March and increasing until May. These floods became an emblem of the judgments inflicted by God upon Israel by means of Babylon and Assyria. The brook of Shiloah which flowed past Zion and Moriah was a type of the temple and of its mighty and gracious Lord; and the refusal of allegiance to God by the chosen people is represented as their rejection of the waters of Shiloah which flows softly, and their punishment therefor by the bringing in of the waters of the mighty and great river (Isaiah 8:58; compare Jeremiah 17:13). To the prophets the Euphrates was the symbol of all that was disastrous in the divine judgments.
15. For an hour and a day and a month and a year. This rendering is wrong, since it conveys the idea that the four periods mentioned are to be combined as representing the length of the preparation or of the continuance of the plague. But it is to be noted that neither the article nor the preposition are repeated before day and month and year. The meaning is that the angels are prepared unto the hour appointed by God, and that this hour shall fall in its appointed day and month and year.
16. Of the horsemen (touv ippikouv). Singular number, like the English the horse or the cavalry.
Two hundred thousand thousand (du/o muria¿deß muria¿dwn). Lit., two ten-thousands of ten-thousands. See on ch. 5:11. Rev., twice ten-thousand times ten-thousand. Compare Psalm 68:17; Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 12:22; Jude 1:14.
17. Thus (ou¢twß). After this manner.
In the vision (en thvØ oJpa¿sei). Or "in my vision." See on Acts 2:17. The reference to sight may be inserted because of I heard in ver. 16.
Of fire (puri÷nouß). Rev., "as of fire." Fiery red.
Of jacinth (uJakinqi÷nouß). ÔUa¿kinqoß hyacinth is the name of a flower and also of a precious stone. The noun occurs only Revelation 21:20, and the adjective only here. According to classical mythology, the flower sprang up from the blood of Hyacinthus, a beautiful Spartan youth, who was accidentally killed during a game of quoits. It was thought by some that the letters AI, AI, the exclamation of woe, could be traced on the petals, while others discovered the letter U, the initial letter of ÔUa¿kinqoß. The story of the slaying of Hyacinthus is told by Ovid.
"Lo, the blood
Which, on the ground outpoured, had stained the sod,
Is blood no more. Brighter than Tyrian dye,
Like to the lily's shape a flower appears,
Purple in hue as that is silvery white.
Nor yet does such memorial content
Phoebus Apollo at whose word it rose.
Upon its leaves he writes his own laments,
And on the flower forever stands inscribed
"Metamorphoses," 10., 175 sqq.
As a stone, it is identified by some with the sapphire. As to color, the hyacinth of the Greeks seems to have comprehended the iris, gladiolus, and larkspur. Hence the different accounts of its color in classical writings, varying from red to black. A dull, dark blue seems to be meant here.
Of brimstone (qeiw¿deiß). Perhaps light yellow, such a color as would be produced by the settling fumes of brimstone.
Of the horses. In the Bible the horse is always referred to in connection with war, except Isaiah 28:28, where it is mentioned as employed in threshing, the horses being turned loose in the grain as in the Italian triglia. The magnificent description in Job 39:1925 applies to the war-horse. He is distinguished not so much for his speed and utility as for his strength (see Psalm 33:17; 147:10), and the word abbir strong is used as an equivalent for a horse (Jeremiah 8:16; 47:3). The Hebrews as a pastoral race, did not need the horse; and, for a long time after their settlement in Canaan, dispensed with it, partly because of the hilly nature of the country, which allowed the use of chariots only in certain places (Judges 1:19), and partly because of the prohibition in Deuteronomy 17:16. Accordingly they hamstrung the horses of the Canaanites (Josh. 11:6, 9). The great supply of horses was effected by Solomon through his connection with Egypt. See 1 Kings 4:26.
Proceedeth fire and smoke. Compare Virgil.
"Then, if the sound of arms he hear from far,
Quiet he cannot stand, but pricks his ears,
Trembles in every limb, and snorting, rolls
The gathered fire beneath his nostrils wide"
"Georgics," iii, 8385.
Also Job 39:20; "the glory of his nostrils is terrible."
18. These three. Add plhgw×n plagues, on which see on Mark 3:10; Luke 10:30.
19. Their power (exousi÷ai aujtw×n). Read exousi÷a tw×n iºppwn the power of the horses.
Like unto serpents. "Long, smooth, subtle, clasping their victim in an embrace from which he cannot escape" (Milligan). As one of the innumerable fantasies of Apocalyptic exposition may be cited that of Elliott ("Horsae Apocalypticae") who finds a reference to the horse tails, the symbols of authority of the Turkish pashas.
20. Repented not of the works (ou¡te meteno/hsan ek tw×n e¶rgwn). Lit., "Out of the works." The preposition ek out of with repent, denotes a moral change involving an abandonment of evil works. See on Matthew 3:2; 21:29.
Works of their hands. Not their course of life, but the idols which their hands had made. Compare Deuteronomy 4:28; Psalm 135:15; Acts 7:4.
Devils (daimo/nia). More properly, demons. See on Mark 1:34. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:20; 1 Timothy 4:1.
See, hear, walk. Compare Daniel 5:23.
21. Sorceries (farmakeiw×n). Only here, ch. 18:23; and Galatians 5:20, where farmakei÷a sorceries, A.V., witchcraft is enumerated among the "works of the flesh." Used in the Septuagint of the Egyptian sorceries (Exodus 7:22. Of Babylon, Isaiah 47:9, 12). From fa¿rmakon a drug, and thence a poison, an enchantment. Plato says: "There are two kinds of poisons used among men which cannot clearly be distinguished. There is one kind of poison which injures bodies by the use of other bodies according to a natural law ... but there is another kind which injures by sorceries and incantations and magic bonds, as they are termed, and induces one class of men to injure another as far as they can, and persuades others that they, above all persons, are liable to be injured by the powers of the magicians. Now it is not easy to know the nature of all these things; nor if a man do know can he readily persuade others of his belief. And when men are disturbed at the sight of waxen images, fixed either at the doors, or in a place where three ways meet, or in the sepulchers of parents, there is no use of trying to persuade them that they should despise all such things, because they have no certain knowledge about them. But we must have a law in two parts concerning poisoning, in whichever of the two ways the attempt is made; and we must entreat and exhort and advise men not to have recourse to such practices, by which they scare the multitude out of their wits, as if they were children, compelling the legislator and the judge to heal the fears which the sorcerer arouses, and to tell them, in the first place, that he who attempts to poison or enchant others knows not what he is doing, either as regards the body (unless he have a knowledge of medicine) or as regards his enchantments, unless he happens to be a prophet or diviner" ("Laws," xi., 933).
Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 52a: Revelation 1-5, Volume 52b: Revelation 6-16 & Volume 52c: Revelation 17-22, David E. Aune
Barnes' Notes on the New Testament: Revelation of St. John the Divine, Albert Barnes
The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24 and The Book of Ezekiel: Chapter 25-48: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Damiel I. Block
An Introduction to the New Testament, D. A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo
Dr. Constable's Notes on Revelation, Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Dallas Theological Seminary (his class notes)
Revelation: Four Views. A Parallel Commentary, Steve Gregg
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871 Edition, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, Dennis E. Johnson
Revelation Unveiled, Tim LaHaye
Macarthur New Testament Commentary Series: Revelation 1-11, Revelation 12-22, John MacArthur
The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Robert H. Mounce
The Preacher's Commentary: 1,2 & 3 John/Revelation, Earl F. Palmer
Exploring Revelation: Am Expository Commentary, John Phillips
The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, Vern S. Poythress
"Behold, He Cometh": A Verse-by-Verse Commentary on the Book of Revelation, John R. Rice
Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern
Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Marvin R. Vincent
The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Revelation, Michael Wilcock
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee
Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta -
Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of
Religion, Stephen Evans -
Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament
Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
IVP Pocket Dictionaries:
- Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzke and Cherith Fee Nordling
- Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies, Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta
- Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion, Stephen Evans
- Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, Matthew S. DeMoss
Intervarsity Press' New Testament Commentary
Intervarsity Press' New Bible Commentary
Intervarsity Press' Hard Sayings of the Bible
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