Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Revelation 9

Verse 1

1. πεπτωκότα. “Fallen.” St John does not say that he witnessed the actual fall.

ἐδόθη αὐτῷ. Clearly therefore the star is identified with a person: no doubt a “fallen angel,” in the common sense of the term. For the identification of angels with stars, cf. Revelation 1:20, and Job 38:7 : and of fallen angels in particular, Enoch xviii. 16, xxi. 3, &c. The fall of this star may legitimately be illustrated, as to the image by Isaiah 14:12, and as to the meaning by Luke 10:18; Luke 12:9 in this book: but it is not to be assumed that this passage refers to the same event as either of the two last, still less that the first does.

τοῦ φρέατος τῆς ἀβύσσον. Lit. “of the pit (or “well”) of the abyss”: the depth of Hell, the home or penal prison of the demons (cf. Luke 8:31 καὶ παρεκάλουν αὐτὸν ἵνα μὴ ἐπιτάξῃ αὐτοῖς εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον ἀπελθεῖν), is conceived as a pit in the earth’s surface, no doubt literally bottomless, and probably more spacious than the shaft which gives access to it. This last, like the mouth of an earthly reservoir, can be fitted with a cover which is fastened down with a padlock or seal. Cf. Revelation 11:7, Revelation 17:8, for the notion of evil beings issuing from the pit; Revelation 20:1; Revelation 20:3, for their being confined there. But notice (i) that this pit is nowhere identified with the “lake of fire,” the final destination of the Devil and his angels; (ii) that we are not told that the Devil himself is cast into it yet—rather the contrary is implied.

Verses 1-12


Verses 1-21

Revelation 8:2; Revelation 8:6 to Revelation 11:19. THE SEVEN TRUMPETS

Verse 2

2. καὶ ἤνοιξενἀβύσσου. These words are omitted by אB2 vg[310] (am[311] harl. tol[312]) cop[313] arm[314] æth[315]

ἐκ τοῦ φρέατος ὡς καπνός. A omits ὡς, 1 omits all five words.

μεγάλης. B2 syr[316] read καιομένης.

ἐκ τοῦ καπνοῦ τοῦ φρέατος καὶ. א* omits these words.

Verse 3

3. ἐκ τοῦ καπνοῦ. Cf. Revelation 16:2. One can hardly tell whether we are to understand that the smoke turned into locusts, or only that the locusts rose in the smoke, and dispersed from among it.

οἱ σκορπίοι τῆς γῆς, i.e. common natural scorpions: these infernal locusts are able to hurt men, as common scorpions are, but common locusts are not.

Verse 4

4. ἵνα μὴ ἀδικήσωσιν, i.e. not to do the damage that natural locusts do—these natural objects having been plagued already, Revelation 8:7—but other damage, still more directly distressing the sinful world.

τὴν σφραγῖδα τοῦ θεοῦ. Cf. Revelation 7:3 and note.

Verse 5

5. μῆνας πέντε. It has been conjectured that this period is named, as being the time for which a plague of the literal locusts is liable to last. But more probably the period is to be reckoned on the same principle—whatever that be—as the other periods of time indicated in this Book.

Verse 6

6. φεύγει. The present after the future is a little strange.

Verse 7

7. ὅμοια ἵπποις. See Joel 2:4. Probably that passage is only a highly idealised description of a natural swarm of locusts, and the verse cited refers to the resemblance in shape of the locust’s head, and perhaps the legs, to a horse’s. It is doubtful whether the words ἡτοιμασμένοις εἰς πόλεμον suggest comparison between the frame of the locust and the plate-armour of a horse, see on Revelation 9:9 : such armour was still confined to the East in St John’s time. At any rate there is a reference here to the discipline of the locust host: as in Joel 2:7-8.

ὡς στέφανοι ὅμοιοι χρυσῷ. Lit. “as it were crowns like unto gold,” perhaps a mere golden mark, such as it is quite possible a real insect might have.

τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ὡς πρόσωπα ἀνθρώπων. ἄνθρωποι means, in classical Greek at least, “human beings,” not necessarily males. But in Hellenistic Greek it is not infrequently used in opposition to women, and probably the next clause marks it so here. Both in this clause and in the next we have the choice of making the description purely supernatural or supposing that a deeper meaning is given to features of natural locusts which had struck the popular fancy.

Verse 8

8. ὡς τρίχας γυναικῶν. It is said that, in Arabic poetry, the same comparison is used of the antenuæ of the natural locust: but more probably this is one of the supernatural features of the description.

ὡς λεόντων., Joel 1:6 οἱ ὀδόντες αὐτοῦ ὀδόντες λέοντος καὶ αἱ μύλαι αὐτοῦ σκύμνου.

Verse 9

9. ὡς θώρακας σιδηροῦς. This probably is an idealisation of the structure of the natural locust.

ὡς ἁρμάτων ἵππων πολλῶν. Lit. “as of many chariots of horses,” Joel 2:5.

Verse 10

10. ὁμοίας. אA read ὁμοίοις; W. H[320] propose ὅμοια as an adverb.

καὶ κέντρα καὶ. 1. 36 and vg[321] arm[322] æth[323] transpose the second καὶ, and begin a new clause with καὶ ἡ ἐξουσία; the later vg[324] and Text. Rec[325] read καὶ κέντρα ἦνκαὶ ἡ ἐξ.

ἡ ἐξουσίαἀδικῆσαι. B2 reads ἐξουσίαν ἔχουσιν τοῦ ἀδικῆασι.

Verse 11

11. ἔχουσιν ἐπ αὐτῶν βασιλέα. Whereas “the (natural) locusts have no king,” Proverbs 30:27. In Amos 7:1 the LXX. has the curious mistranslation or corrupt reading, καὶ ἰδοὺ βροῦχος εἶς Γὼγ ὁ βασιλεύς; which possibly arose from, or suggested, a superstition that St John uses as an image.

τὸν ἄγγελον τῆς ἀβύσσου. Either the fallen star of Revelation 9:1, who opened the pit and let them out of it; or a spirit—presumably, but hardly certainly, a bad one—made the guardian of that lowest deep of God’s creation. See Excursus I.

Ἀβαδδών. St Jerome seems to have kept alive in Latin a reading Labaddon, which was supposed to represent the Hebrew more accurately. The word is properly an abstract noun “destruction,” but used apparently in the sense of “Hell” in Job 26:6, &c. Here it probably stands for Destroyer, like the Greek participle given as an equivalent.

Verse 12

12. ἡ μία. The first of the three denounced by the eagle, Revelation 8:13. A decided majority of modern orthodox commentators understand this vision as foretelling the Mahometan conquests—some taking the fallen star of Revelation 9:1 of Mahomet himself. The last is scarcely credible—unless one should adopt the view,—not perhaps inconsistent with the facts of Mahomet’s career, but hardly in harmony with the general order of Revelation—that he really had a divine commission, but perverted it to serve his selfish ambition. It seems almost certain that the “star” is an angel, strictly speaking: but the interpretation as a whole seems worthy of respect. Perhaps the Mahometan conquest is to be regarded as at least a partial fulfilment of this prophecy: but the attempts to shew that it is in detail an exact fulfilment have not been very successful. For instance, it cannot be said that the Mahometan conquest has done no hurt except to those who denied or profaned their baptism, see sup. Revelation 9:4.

Verse 13

13. φωνὴν μίαν. See critical note. Lit. “one voice”; see on Revelation 8:13. The word τεσσάρων just afterwards should probably be omitted: else “one voice from the four horns” would give the numeral a special meaning.

Verses 13-21


Verse 14

14. λέγοντα. If the reading be right, rather in irregular apposition to φωνὴν than a false concord.

ὁ ἔχων τὴν σάλπιγγα. Rightly taken by the versions as in apposition to τῷ ἕκτῳ ἀγγέλῳ; in another Book it would be safer to take it as a vocative, like ὁ δεσπότης, Revelation 5:10.

Λῦσου τοὺς τέσσαρας ἀγγέλους. We are reminded of the four angels of Revelation 7:1, but it is hardly possible that they are the same as these. The plagues held back by them, on “the earth, the sea, and the trees,” have come already, Revelation 8:7-9 : moreover, these angels do not stand “on the four corners of the earth,” but in one not very remote part of it. No satisfactory explanation of their meaning has been given: nor can we be sure whether the name Euphrates is to be taken literally. We hear of it again in Revelation 16:12, where the arguments for and against a literal interpretation seem almost equally balanced.

Verse 15

15. εἰς τὴν ὥραν, “for the hour.” The article is not repeated, but plainly the one article belongs to all the nouns: they are “prepared for the hour, and day, and month, and year,” when God has decreed to execute the vengeance here foretold.

Verse 16

16. τοῦ ἱππικοῦ. Not plural but collective, as we should say “the cavalry.” Not that the Seer gives the number of one arm only of an army containing more: apparently this army consists of cavalry exclusively. The four angels seem to be its captains, and it is held in readiness with them to march when they are loosed to slay the third part of men. The Parthian cavalry was the most formidable barbarian force of St John’s day: did the Parthian kings boast of the myriads of horsemen whom they could call out at a day appointed? Any way, if the Parthian cavalry suggested the image to St John’s mind, we should have the explanation of the use of the name Euphrates. More than this we can hardly say as to the meaning of the Vision, and any partial fulfilment that it may have had or be about to have.

δύο μυριάδες μυριάδων. The number is perhaps suggested by Psalms 68:17 (Primasius’ text implies that in some ancient MSS. it had been reproduced literally, each angel had 20,000 horsemen, 80,000 in all): still it hardly seems as if these horsemen were celestial (like those of Revelation 19:14), though they are not distinctly infernal like the locusts of the previous Vision.

Verse 17

17. ἔχοντας θώρακας. This must be understood of the riders chiefly, but perhaps not exclusively: comparing Revelation 9:9 we cannot be sure that St John would not use the word “breastplate” of the defensive armour of a horse, if he had such in his mind. In fact, the word is used in later Greek of defensive armour generally, not the breastplate only.

πυρίνους καὶ ὑακινθίνους καὶ θειώδεις. As the last adjective only means “like brimstone,” it is possible that the two former indicate colour rather than material, which is strictly implied in the terminations, the rather that fire and “jacinth” is a somewhat incongruous combination. Jacinth is the modern transliteration of ὑάκινθος, the classical transliteration of the oriental jacuth, the name of a class of stones to which the sapphire belongs, and this was the common ancient meaning of the word; but it was also applied to stones of the same kind and of different colours, red or orange. In the middle ages it became common to speak of red and blue “jacinths” as rubei or sapphirei, and then the epithets superseded the noun. Most “jacinths” were known as rubies or sapphires, and the original name was left for any stone of the least common and precious colour of the original “jacinth.” Here the horsemen had breastplates of fiery red, of smoky blue, and of sulphurous yellow. Whether all had tricoloured armour, or whether there were three divisions, each in a distinctive uniform, may be doubted: but the three plagues corresponding to these colours, which we hear of directly after, are almost certainly inflicted by the whole army alike: and this affords some presumption that the attire of each was symbolical of all three.

Verse 18

18. ἀπὸ τῶνἐκ τοῦ The prepositions imply that the slaughter came of the plagues.

Verse 19

19. ἡ γὰρ ἐξουσία τῶν ἵππων. For the use of the word ἐξουσία (sometimes elsewhere translated “authority” or “licence”), cf. Revelation 6:8, Revelation 9:3. St Luke 22:53 illustrates the meaning of the word in such a context.

Verse 20

20. ἐκ τῶν ἕργων τῶν χειρῶν αὐτῶν. A common Old Testament formula both for idolatry, Jeremiah 1:16, and other sins, ib. Jeremiah 25:14.

ἵνα μή προσκυνήσουσιν. This verse gives us the only clue we have to the interpretation. It is a plague on idolaters that is here described—neither on unfaithful Christians, nor on antichristian infidels of a more refined type—unless the latter shall in the last days, as in the age of the Roman persecutions, and one may almost say of the Renaissance and Reformation, ally itself against the Gospel with the vulgar or sensuous idolatry which it was its natural tendency to despise.

Verse 21

21. καὶ οὐ μετενόησαν. Answers to οὔτε μετενόησαν above: οἱ λοιποὶ is of course the subject of both: though Andreas, treating Revelation 9:19 as parenthetical, makes οἱ λοιποὶ the subject of ἀπεκτάνθησαν—the third part were killed and likewise the remnant who were spared for the time and repented not. This shews that even to an Asiatic Greek in later times the construction was strange.

φαρμακιῶν. Fitly mentioned between “murders” and “fornication,” and in connexion with “idolatry”; cf. Galatians 5:20, and note on Revelation 21:8.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Revelation 9". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.