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The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets
These herald woes upon the ungodly and idolatrous, inflicted both by demonic and by human agency.
1-12. The fifth trumpet initiates the first of the three woes. A star fallen to the earth, i.e. an angel who has descended from heaven (cp. Revelation 1:20), not necessarily an evil angel (Revelation 9:1), opens the pit of the abyss. The ’abyss’ is the abode of evil spirits or demons, and the ’pit’ is the shaft which was supposed to lead to it. St. John uses this Jewish idea, which may have been derived from volcanoes, as a figure of spiritual things. At the opening of the pit smoke pours forth (Revelation 9:2), and from the smoke issue evil spirits with the appearance of locusts (Revelation 9:3). They are not to hurt green things, for they are not really locusts; but, besides being like locusts in their numbers and their devastating power, they are to be like scorpions in that they give pain to men, but only for a limited period—a visitation of locusts was usually limited to five months, from May to September. They are to afflict those who are not sealed: see on Revelation 7:1. (Revelation 9:4.). The description of the locusts is partly taken from Joel 1:6; Joel 2:1. No special significance need be sought in the details, which probably are only meant to increase the vivid terror of the picture (Revelation 9:7.). Unlike the locusts of Proverbs 30:27 they have a king, Abaddon or Apollyon, i.e. ’Destroyer’ (cp. Job 26:6 RV; Proverbs 15:11 RV): names which at first signified the place of the lost, and afterwards, as here, the ruler of the hosts of evil (Revelation 9:11). This vision may be regarded as a picture of the mental and spiritual misery which follows sin. It is a contrast to the fifth seal; cp. Revelation 9:6, ’seek death and in no wise find it,’ with Revelation 6:11, ’rest’: cp. Isaiah 48:22.
1. Fall from heaven] RV ’from heaven fallen.’
1, 2. Bottomless pit] RV ’pit of the abyss.’
9. RV inserts a comma after chariots.
10. And there were stings, etc.] RV ’and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months.’
11. RV ’They have over them as king the angel of the abyss,’ etc.
13-21. The sixth trumpet sounds, and a voice from the altar answers the prayers of the martyrs crying for vengeance, cp. Revelation 6:9. (Revelation 9:13), by commanding the four angels, bound at the Euphrates, to be loosed (Revelation 9:14). Immense armies of horsemen issue forth, and kill the third part, i.e. a large number, but not the whole, of the ungodly: cp. Revelation 9:20. The Euphrates is the river of Babylon, and Babylon in this book represents Rome. Perhaps, therefore, this vision speaks of devastation caused by Roman armies, possibly in the civil wars that followed the death of Nero.
In the ’four angels bound,’ St. John uses a familiar Jewish apocalyptic idea. Each country was supposed to have its angel or angels (cp. Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:20), ’Prince of Persia,’ ’Prince of Greece,’ and see on Revelation 1:20. The four angels would be the invisible representatives of the hosts of ’Babylon,’ i.e. Rome, and their ’binding’ or ’loosing’ would represent the spiritual cause of the restraint or letting loose of the armies. The angels were held in leash until the exact moment foreordained by God (Revelation 9:15). As with the locusts, the details of the description probably have no special meaning.
14. In] RV ’at.’
15. Were prepared] RV ’had been prepared.’ An hour, etc.] RV ’the hour and day and month and year.’
17. Jacinth] RV ’hyacinth,’ i.e. smoky blue.
20. Works of their hands] i.e. idols: cp. Psalms 115:4; Isaiah 17:8; Daniel 5:3.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Revelation 9". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25