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The Seven Bowls
In the last chapter there was a pause of suspense, during which the angels of the ’plagues’ were seen coming forth from the Presence of God to pour out His wrath. In this chapter the suspense is ended, and the angels pour out God’s wrath into the earth.
1-9. The vision of the ’bowls’ (RV) is parallel with that of the ’trumpets’ (Revelation 8 f.). In each vision there are four preparatory judgments, falling upon the earth, the sea, the rivers and fountains, and the sun. But, in the ’trumpets,’ it is the ’third part’ that is affected; while in the ’bowls’ it is the whole. At the fourth trumpet, the third part of the heavenly bodies are darkened; while at the fourth bowl, the sun blazes out with scorching heat. These differences are in harmony with the figure employed. The ’trumpets’ herald the judgments, and give anticipations and warnings of them by calamities which foreshadow others. The first four trumpets and the first four bowls are parallel with the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12.) and with Matthew 24:29. They foretell judgments to fall upon the heathen world of the Roman empire (cp. Revelation 16:2) before, and leading up to, the destruction of Rome. As in the ’trumpets,’ the description is partly derived from the plagues of Egypt. It is to be understood, not literally, but as figuring a time of intense calamity and terror.
1. A great voice] i.e. God’s: see on Revelation 1:10.
5. Angel of the waters] As Churches (cp. Revelation 1:20), and nations and armies (cp. Revelation 9:14.), so also the elements of nature (cp. Revelation 7:1; Revelation 14:18) are in Rev. represented as having a spiritual counterpart. The exact idea occurs nowhere else in the Bible, though for what, possibly, may be approaches to it, cp. Job 4:18; Job 25:3, Job 25:5; Psalms 104:4; Isaiah 24:21. Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:20. Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:15; Hebrews 1:7; (RV). In so poetical a book as Rev., it is difficult to decide whether these angels of water, fire, etc., are meant to be understood as real beings or merely as poetical personifications.
7. Another out of the altar] RV ’the altar’: cp. Revelation 6:9; Revelation 8:3. The altar is personified: see previous note.
9. God, which] RV ’the God which.’ 10f. The fifth bowl is poured in judgment upon the city of Rome, the seat of empire. The heathen world governed by Rome becomes full of the darkness of terror and rebellion at God’s judgments. This is parallel to the spiritual torments threatened at the fifth trumpet: cp. Revelation 9:1. It is in contrast to the fifth seal (cp. Revelation 6:9.), where the martyrs, who have suffered, call on God, while here the subjects of the beast blaspheme God because of their pains.
10. Seat] RV ’throne.’
12-16. The sixth bowl is poured out upon the Euphrates, the river of Babylon, i.e. Rome: see on Revelation 17:5. At the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13.) armies were to come from the ’Euphrates.’ Here the ’Euphrates’ is to be dried up, to make a way for the kings from the sunrising, i.e. that they may be able to capture Rome; see on Revelation 17:16; (Revelation 16:12). The drying up of the Euphrates refers to the manner in which Cyrus took the literal Babylon by diverting the course of the river. The capture of Rome is preparatory to the final battle of the ’kings of the world,’ i.e. ungodly nations, against the Lamb at Har-Magedon (RV): cp. Revelation 17:12. (Revelation 16:14-16). Har-Magedon probably means ’the Mount of Megiddo,’ and signifies that the future battle is typified by the defeat of the kings of Canaan (Judges 5:19 cp. Zechariah 12:11). The kings of the earth are stirred up to fight against the Lamb by the influence of the Lamb’s three great enemies: cp. 1 Kings 22:20. Their evil iufluence is shown under the figure of frogs (cp. Exodus 8:7), because it was by producing frogs that the magicians deceived Pharaoh (Revelation 16:13.).
13. False prophet, i.e. the second beast: see on Revelation 13:11.
15. The voice of Christ breaks in: cp. Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:12-15. Keepeth his garments] i.e. let not the power and attractiveness of the coming evil rob any Christian of the strict purity of his Christian life: cp. Revelation 3:18; Revelation 7:14.
16. He] RV ’they,’ i.e. the frog-like spirits.
17-21. The seventh bowl is poured out, and the voice of God announces that the end of the preparatory judgments is reached (Revelation 16:17). With the lightnings and thunderings and voices which close each vision (cp. Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:19), comes now a great earthquake (Revelation 16:18), which splits Babylon (Rome) into three, and overthrows other worldly powers (Revelation 16:19). Some have understood this as a literal prediction that Rome was to be destroyed by an earthquake. More probably the earthquake represents the shaking of all earthly institutions when God comes to judgment: cp. Revelation 6:12; Revelation 8:5; Revelation 11:19. The judgments of the bowls end with a picture, expressed in physical figures, of the upheaval and destruction which accompany the manifestation of the wrath of God: cp. Revelation 6:14; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 20:11; (vv. Revelation 20:11). The cup] see on Revelation 14:8.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Revelation 16". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29