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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 9

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Verse 1

Revelation 9:1

Chapter 9 - The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets

Fifth Trumpet - the opening of the bottomless pit (vs. 1-12)

9:1–12 The blowing of the fifth trumpet, also called the first woe (Revelation 9:12),... John describes terrifying locusts unleashed upon the unrepentant oppressors for five months ...The imagery describing these creatures is borrowed from various portions of the Hebrew Bible. - FSB

star . . = Numbers 24:17 ; Daniel 8:10 ; Daniel 1:20; Job 38:7 ; Revelation 8:10 ; Revelation 20:1-2 ;

star . . = A star was a symbol of a leader. Is this one an angel or a demon? Demonic or good (?) he is doing God’s bidding of judgement. Is he the same as the angel in Revelation 20:1 who is in possession of the key to the pit? Is he the same as the king over the pit in Rev 9.11 which apparently is Satan himself?

star … fallen . . Cf. Revelation 8:10. May represent a fallen angel (possibly Satan, Revelation 12:9; Luke 10:18) or a divine agent carrying out God’s will (Revelation 20:1). - NIVZSB

star . . Stars are sometimes associated with angels (Revelation 1:20). This figure may be the angel in Revelation 9:11 who is given charge over the abyss. The concept of a fallen star may suggest that the figure is Satan or one of his fallen angels (compare Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9). - FSB

The star fallen from heaven to earth is Satan, whom Jesus saw fall like lightning as a result of his disciples’ ministry (Luke 10:18). Three chapters later in Revelation, John will see the “dragon,” whom he identifies as Satan, cast down from heaven to earth (Revelation 12:9). The fact that the key to the shaft of the Abyss was given to him shows that Satan can do nothing apart from God’s permission (cf. “were told,” Revelation 9:4). However, many scholars think that this “star” represents a good angel, and that this verse in connection with Revelation 20:1 marks the beginning and the end of the middle section of the book. - ESVSB

and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth . . There have been several theories as to the identity of this personified star who is called an angel: (1) because the verb is PERFECT TENSE, it could refer to Satan having fallen in the past and continues to be fallen from heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:16; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9) or (2) because of the context it could be just another servant angel involved in God’s judgment (cf. Revelation 20:1). Angels as falling stars are often found in the intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature. - Utley

star ... fallen . . 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, 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, and Revelation 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. - CBSC

fall . . = "having fallen" Perf. Ptc. St John does not say that he witnessed the actual fall.

fall -- [fallen] . . Luke 10:18 - Satan’s fall ]

was given . . There is a series of PASSIVE VERBS in both chapters 8 and 9, which emphasize God’s control of both history and the demonic (cf. Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:7-8, Revelation 8:11-12; Revelation 9:1, Revelation 9:3, Revelation 9:4, Revelation 9:5). Often Jewish writers used PASSIVE VOICE as a CIRCUMLOCUTION for deity’s actions. - Utley

key . . = symbolizes authority - cf. Revelation 1:18 A key to release further destruction, "was given". cf. Revelation 9:11; Revelation 20:1

the abyss . . = [shaft, RSV] bottomless pit ; mentioned 7 times (long shaft to an abyss ) The image of covered and locked well shaft is familiar to us. Familiar OT designations.

the abyss . . Where demons and fallen angels were thought to be kept—the underworld (see 2 Peter 2:4 and note; Judges 1:6; compare the ancient Jewish work of 1 Enoch 90:22–27). - FSB [Revelation 9:11]

bottomless pit . . Lit. “pit of the abyss.” Mentioned 7 times in Revelation, it always refers to the prison where some of the demonic hordes are incarcerated, the place of severest torment and isolation (vv. 1, Revelation 9:2, Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:3; Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:6-7). - MSB

Verse 2

Revelation 9:2

smoke . . Dense smoke as from a furnace stack.

smoke went up from the shaft . . May reflect the notion of the underworld as a place of burning and judgment (e.g., Mark 9:47-48). Smoke could also be figurative, describing the appearance of the locusts hurrying out of the abyss. - FSB

the smoke . . from the pit turned the sky dark, as in the plague on Egypt (Exodus 10:21-29; see Matthew 27:45).

smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace . . This terminology is used in several senses in the OT: (1) it accompanied the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Genesis 19:28); (2) it accompanied the judgment of God on the nations (cf. Isaiah 34:10); and (3) it accompanied the presence of God on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:18). - Utley

Verse 3

Revelation 9:3

*** Exodus 10:14; Joel 2:1 ff; Picture of Joel’s judgment of locust, Joel 2:1-10. Joel 2:10. Joel’s locust army was the Babylonian army coming in judgment out of the north against Judah.

locusts . . These are often used as symbols of God’s wrath (cf. Exodus 10:12-15; Joel 1:4; Joel 2:1 ff) because they symbolized an invading army (cf. Revelation 9:7; Joel 2:4-5, Joel 2:7-9). - Utley

locusts . . Echoes Exodus 10:12-15. The imagery of locusts is used in the ot for invading armies (e.g., Jeremiah 51:27; Nahum 3:15). - FSB

When the fallen star unlocked the bottomless pit, locusts emerged in billowing smoke that darkened the sky. An echo of the eighth plague on Egypt (Exodus 10:14-15), this infestation of locusts also recalls the swarm summoned by trumpet to strip the land bare on the “awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31). - ESVSB

locusts . . A grasshopper-like insect that descends in swarms so thick they can obscure the sun and strip bare all vegetation.

In the 1950s a locust swarm devoured every growing thing for several hundred thousand square miles in the Middle East. These are not normal locusts, however, but specially prepared ones that are merely the outward form of demons, who, like locusts, will bring swarming desolation (see Joel 2:1-5). “Like” appears 9 times in John’s description; he finds it difficult to describe what he sees in a way the reader can understand. - MSB

power was given to them . . They have been commissioned as agents of judgment and wrath—possibly referring to their ability to inflict pain (see Revelation 9:5, Revelation 9:10). FSB

scorpions . . An arachnid that inhabits warm, dry regions and has an erect tail tipped with a venomous stinger. A scorpion’s victim often rolls on the ground in agony, foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth in pain. The demons in locust form are able to inflict the physical—and perhaps, spiritual—pain like the scorpion (v. 5). - MSB

Verse 4

Revelation 9:4

The Fifth Trump harms, but the Sixth brings actual destruction.

the grass of the earth . . The normal food of locusts. This deviation in diet may suggest that the creatures in view here are not actual locusts (see note on v. 3). FSB

Rather than eating plants, these locusts are like stinging scorpions that viciously attack people. Only people without the seal of God (see Revelation 7:1-8) receive this painful judgment. While the stings cause painful torture, they are not life-threatening (Revelation 9:5-6). - NLTSB

Locusts always devour vegetation (Exodus 10:15; Joel 1:4), but here they are “told not to harm the grass” (contrast Revelation 8:7) and instead torture only unbelievers not protected by “the seal of God” (see note on Revelation 7:2). - NIVZSB

seal . . = mark of distinction, here a mark (brand) of ownership, like that of slaves, etc. The plague was not against the Christians, but their enemies, the leaders of the Jerusalem government, etc. Revelation 4:1; Revelation 7:2-3; This symbology is also from the O.T. Ezekiel 9:4

Verse 5

Revelation 9:5

Background here is Joel 1 & 2, and Ezekiel 2.

it was granted to them . . The passive voice indicates that their authority to act comes from someone else (God). - FSB

torment . . = suffering limited and intense.

five months . . = The usual duration of the invading locust, April - Sept, cf. Revelation 9:10.

five months . . 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. - CBSC

five months . . Some interpret this time span as the life expectancy of a locust. However, it is possibly one-half the number ten, which is another metaphor for a limited judgment (cf. Revelation 6:6, Revelation 6:8; Revelation 8:7-12). - Utley

Others think these locusts represent military forces, and still others consider them to be actual locusts but with their destructive power described in figurative imagery

not allowed to kill . . Divinely imposed limitation ( Revelation 9:10). NIVZSB

like torture of sorpion . . Reactions to scorpion stings include deep, severe, widespread pain, swelling, sensations of restricted breathing, and paresthesia, a tingling sensation on the skin. - FSB

the torment of a scorpion . . The sting of a scorpion is another OT metaphor (cf. 2 Chronicles 10:11, 2 Chronicles 10:14). Utley

“The scorpion belongs to the largest and most malignant of all insect tribes. Its general appearance is like a lobster, but much more hideous. Its sting located near the end of its tail is not always fatal, but can be. It ranks with the snake in its hostility toward human beings (cf. Luke 10:19; Luke 11:12).” Thomas, Revelation 8–22, p. 30. -cited by Constable

Verse 6

Revelation 9:6

What a horrible literal picture, but something worse is the figurative meaning of it.

9:6 This is a direct parallel to Revelation 6:15-16, which may be additional evidence for the recapitulation theory among the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. - Utley

in those days . . Refers to the five-month period of torture and suffering. - FSB

people will seek death . . Repeated in the following clause for emphasis. The pain will be so great that they will prefer death, but the stings will not be fatal ( Revelation 9:5). Compare Jeremiah 8:3.

seek death and will not find it . . The tormented will find no relief. Even their unimaginable attempts to end their misery in suicide will be unsuccessful. - MSB

shall flee . . Lit. fleeth. Present. Indictive = "continually flees"

Since Revelation 4:1 John had been reporting what he saw, but now he spoke as a prophet predicting the future.

“For the first time the Apostle ceases to be the exponent of what he saw, and becomes the direct organ of the Spirit ... ” Alford, 4:641.

This is one of the indications that Revelation is prophetic rather than only apocalyptic in genre. - Constable

Verse 7

Revelation 9:7

9:7 Imagery of war-horses - Joel 2:4-6.

The locusts’ visible similarities to horses, human faces, lions, and scorpions caution against reading John’s visions as physical descriptions.

shape of the locusts . . This is obviously an allusion to the book of Joel in its description of: (1) the lion’s teeth (cf. v. 8; Joel 1:6) and (2) the vast number of chariots and horses rushing to battle (cf. v. 9 and Joel 2:5). - Utley

the appearance of the locusts . . The physical description of these locusts is very similar to Joel 2:4-9 and also to a famous Arabian proverb that says, “locusts have a head like a horse, a breast like a lion, feet like a camel, a body like a serpent, and antennae like the hair of a maiden.” - Utley

crowns . . = Perhaps indicating an governing authority behind the punishment being inflicted.

Their crowns (Gr. stephanos) probably symbolize their victory over the objects of their oppression. - Constable

as men’s . . = he is probably realizing this locust army is figurate of a real army of men coming to work judgment.

their faces were as the faces of men . . Marks them distinctly as differing from real locusts. The word used for men” 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. - CBSC

Verse 8

Revelation 9:8

women’s hair . . Jeremiah 51:27 refers to locusts having bristles like hair. - MSB

hair of women . . = Apparently the Roman soldiers did not wear their hair long, it was a detriment in battle, but they employed many mercenary soldiers from many parts of their empire.

as the hair of women . . It is said that, in Arabic poetry, the same comparison is used of the antennæ of the natural locust: - DBSC

teeth of a lion . . = The allusion is form Joel, Joel 1:6

lions’ teeth . . They are fierce, powerful, and deadly (cf. Jeremiah 51:27). - MSB

Verse 9

Revelation 9:9

breastplates of iron . . Breastplates were designed to protect the vital organs and sustain the life of the warrior. - MSB

breastplates of iron . . This probably is an idealisation of the structure of the natural locust. - CBSC

the sound of their wings . . They gave a sound like the rush of chariots and horses rushing to battle. - PNT

sound of chariots . . = The sound of numerous war-horse chariots. Again the imagery is again from Joel, Joel 2:5.

The sound of their activity will be terrifying, as the sound of battle is (cf. Joel 2:4-5; 2 Kings 7:6; Jeremiah 47:3) - Constable

Verse 10

Revelation 9:10

Their power . . Everything said about the scorpions is true to their nature, but it is also evident these creatures are symbolic of some power that will deliver God’s judgment upon men.

five months . . See note on Revelation 9:5

five months . . = many locusts born in the spring died in the late fall.

Revelation 9:5 also speaks to the life span of one season.

How long was Jerusalem sieged by the Romans? Most historians say five months.

Josephus says in his "War of the Jews" BOOK V "From the coming of Titus to Besiege Jerusalem to the Great Extremity to which the Jews were Reduced" This book in his work covers an interval of about six months.

Verse 11

Revelation 9:11

a king . . The imagery of locust breaks down as they don’t have a leader Proverbs 30:27 .

the angel of the bottomless pit . . Either the fallen star of v. 1, who opened the pit and let them out of it, or a spirit—presumably, if not quite certainly, a bad one—made the guardian of that lowest deep of God’s creation. - CBSC

The king of the locusts is identified in three ways: (1) as the angel from the bottomless pit (probably different from the fallen star, Revelation 9:1, who unlocked the abyss rather than coming from it); (2) as Abaddon (“destruction”), often paired with death (see Job 28:22; Psalms 88:11); and (3) as Apollyonthe Destroyer (see 1 Corinthians 10:10). • Although John makes no direct connection between the devil and this king of the locusts, the prince of demons is linked with Satan in the Gospels (Mark 3:22-26; see Matthew 12:24-27; Luke 11:15-18). The NT also identifies the devil as the prince of this world (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11) and as the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), so he probably represents Satan. There is also a connection with the Roman emperor Domitian, whose patron god Apollo was symbolized by the locust. - NLTSB

bottomless pit . . [abyss] . . The term “abyss” refers to the realm of the dead (cf. Revelation 9:1-2, Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:3; and Romans 10:7).

angel of the bottomless pit . . = the abyss, cf. the "star" of Revelation 9:1 ?

Abaddon . . A Hebrew name for the place of the dead (meaning “destruction”). This place is sometimes mentioned in the Hebrew text in parallel to Sheol (e.g., Job 26:6; Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 27:20) - FSB

Abaddon . . = "Destroyer" or "Destruction" Job 28:22; Proverbs 15:11.

Is this "king" a personification of "Death" or Satan? "Destruction"

Abaddon, Apollyon. In Hebrew and Greek, respectively, these words refer to “destruction” and the “one who destroys.” Satan’s demonic hordes wage war against his own human subjects. Later the enemy will be called the “accuser,” as his Hebrew and Greek names, Satan and Devil, signify (Revelation 12:9-10). - ESVSB

Apollyon . . = Greek - (Apolluōn). Present active masculine singular participle of apolluō, meaning “destroying,” used here as a name and so “Destroyer”

Apollyon . . is a participle, “destroying,” and so “Destroyer.” - CBSC

Abaddon … Apollyon. Although locusts normally have no king (Proverbs 30:27), these demonic creatures do. His name in both Heb. and Gr. means “destroyer.” There is a hierarchy of power among the demons, just as among the holy angels. Apparently, “the angel of the bottomless pit” is one of Satan’s most trusted leaders. - MSB

the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon . . The Hebrew term meant “destruction” and the Greek term meant “destroyer.” The Hebrew term was identified with Sheol, the realm of the dead (cf. Job 26:6; Job 29:22; Job 31:12; Psalms 88:11 Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 27:20).

Robert B. Girdlestone has an interesting comment on this term in his book Synonyms of the Old Testament: “This word is rendered “perish” in about a hundred passages. When used of persons it generally signifies death, when used of lands it implies desolation” (p. 273).

In Job 28:22 it is personified along with Death. This personification is also characteristic of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the intertestamental Jewish apocalyptic literature. This is somewhat unusual because the angel of death in the OT is a servant of YHWH (cf. Exodus 12:23; Job 15:21) or even a personification of YHWH (cf. Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:29). But here the angel seems to be the ruler of an imprisoned, demonic horde. This may be another way to show God’s control of all things. - Utley

Their king is the (leading) angel of the abyss. This is further confirmation that the locusts represent demons. The names “Abaddon” in Hebrew and “Apollyon” in Greek both mean “destroyer.” [Only the Apostle John supplied information bilingually in the New Testament (cf. John 1:38, John 1:42; John 4:25; John 6:1; John 9:7; John 11:16; John 19:13, John 19:17, John 19:20; John 20:16; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 12:9).] - Constable

The objective of these demons is to destroy people. God grants this lead creature permission here to carry out his objective against unbelievers as part of God’s outpouring of wrath on earth-dwellers (cf. Job 2:6). Probably we should identify this angel as one of the hierarchy of fallen angels that emerges from the abyss with the other demons (cf. Ephesians 6:12) [Thomas, Revelation 8–22, pp. 38–39]. The revelation of his name simply expresses his objective. Identifying him as Satan is tempting,331 but the text only calls him an angel. The appearance of Satan later (Revelation 12:3, Revelation 12:9) is much more dramatic than the introduction of this angel. - Constable

(See Job 26:6 a symbolic picture of when the wickedness of hell is turned loose upon men, ie. judgment.)

Verse 12

Revelation 9:12

Verse 13

Revelation 9:13

Sixth Trumpet -

the sixth angel sounded . . A voice is then heard coming from the golden altar of incense (see Revelation 8:3). He does not say who spoke, but declares the command uttered. - PNT

one voice . . [Lit. one voice: see on Revelation 8:13. CBSC]

Perhaps one of the martyrs under the altar or the angel with the censer (see Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 8:3-5). In either case, the sixth trumpet is presented as a response to the prayers of the saints. - FSB

altar . . This is an allusion to the altar of incense in the Tabernacle (cf. Exodus 30:2-3, Exodus 30:10). There are two altars mentioned in this section: the altar of sacrifice under which the souls of the martyrs were found, and the altar of incense upon which the prayers of God’s people are placed. The horns were an OT symbol of power. Both the incense altar and altar of sacrifice had horns. - Utley

voice from the horns . . Who? Apparently one speaking with the authority of God to release the four angels. - NLTSB

four horns of the gold altar . . (see Revelation 8:3) are introduced with the sixth trumpet blast. Many excavations have uncovered altars with pointed horns at their four corners (see note on Exodus 27:2; -NLTSB

the golden altar . . = the altar of incense - this shows these judgments are in connection with prayers - Revelation 6:10.

horns of the golden altar . . God’s design for the golden altar of incense included small protrusions (horns) on each corner (Exodus 30:2;). Normally a place of mercy, as God responded to His people’s prayers, the altar will resound with a cry for vengeance. - MSB

Verse 14

Revelation 9:14

(Sixth trumpet, for the 7th Trumpet see Revelation 11:15 )

The Sixth Trumpet loses the 4 angels from the Euphrates.

Judah’s enemies traditionally came from beyond the Euphrates, Assyria and Babylon which took the north (Israel) and the south (Judah ) into captivity.

Historically the northern border or boundary, Genesis 15:18 Deuteronomy 1:7, Joshua 1:4. The crossing of the Euphrates by the eastern enemy symbolizes judgment Revelation 16:12 .

The trumpet loosed these! Isaiah 8:5-8 . In Isaiah the waters represented an enemy army.

four angels . . Not the same four angels as those mentioned in Revelation 6:2-8 or Revelation 7:1. [There is controversy as to whether they are the same angels mentioned in Rev 7.1 - WG] Many angels appear throughout the book, often in the same quantity (four, seven, etc.). - FSB

The four angels represent four agencies which had been restrained and kept from advancing. - PNT

Loose the four angels . . 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. - CBSC

bound . . Under a restrain command (Revelation 7:1-2) apparently not bound like that described in Rev_ 20:1-2;

Euphrates . . The longest river in western Asia and the northeastern border of the promised land (Genesis 15:18; Joshua 1:4) and the Roman Empire. Recalls OT prophecies of foes from the north (cf. Isaiah 8:7-8; Jeremiah 1:14-15) and prepares for the sixth bowl judgment (Revelation 16:12-16).


The northern part of the headwaters of the Euphrates River was the northeastern boundary of the Promised Land (cf. Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4). - Utley

Euphrates . . One of the 4 rivers that flowed through the Garden of Eden ( cf. Genesis 2:14). Starting with Babel, this region has spawned many of the world’s pagan religions. - MSB

Euphrates . . Their location at the great Euphrates River probably refers to Assyria and Babylon, empires that had devastated the kingdoms of Israel and Judah and thus were symbols of destruction (see 2 Kings 17:22-24; 2 Kings 25:1-11). - NLTSB

Verse 15

Revelation 9:15

Remember the 5th Trumpet called for torment, the 6th for death.

four angels . . Revelation 9:14;

prepared . . That they were prepared for a specific time is shown by the definite article. See the NASV on this verse.

the hour . . The definite article with "hour" indicates a definite time, (not "an hour" as the KJV reads)

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. - CBSC

hour and day and month and year . . The fourfold time designation for releasing the four angels confirms that even evil forces must observe God’s timing. - NLTSB

a third part of men . . How many Jews were killed by the invading army led by Rome? Probably this is just symbolic of "a lot" but not "all", rather than specific, who knows?

Escalation of the fifth trumpet from torture (Revelation 9:5) to death; cf. Revelation 9:18.

These warriors, with their origin beyond the Euphrates, suggest that John now sees the carnage wrought by military aggression and warfare. Yet, devastating as the bloodshed is, God still imposes limits: a third of mankind was killed (vv. 15, 18). This is the last limited judgment and warning blast, for when the seventh, last trumpet sounds, “the mystery of God will be fulfilled” (Revelation 10:7; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), and the opportunity to repent will be past (Revelation 9:20-21). - ESVSB

Verse 16

Revelation 9:16

horsemen . . calvary, (collective sing. noun = 200 million). The astronomical figure shows it is symbolic of a huge force coming against the city being judged. Daniel 7:10

The word rendered “horsemen” is not here plural but collective, as we should say “the cavalry.” - CBSC

heard . . Did he hear this information about the number, or did John hear them coming? He next sees them in Revelation 9:17.

two hundred million . . This figure represents an innumerable multitude. Even at its greatest strength, the ancient Roman army with twenty-one legions numbered only about 126,000 soldiers. - NLTSB

twice ten thousand times ten thousand . . 200 million cavalry, 1,000 times the size of Rome’s formidable army. - NIVZSB

This number is comparable to the myriads of angels who serve God (cf. Revelation 5:11; Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 12:22; Judges 1:14). - Utley

Verse 17

Revelation 9:17

Verse 17 shows A Great Invasion!

horses . . the imagery in John’s vision. Habakkuk 1:5-10. Their description recalls the description of the locusts in Revelation 9:7-9.

those who sat on them . . The riders had armor in colors that matched the plagues of their horses, with red for fire, blue for smoke, and yellow for sulfur—all of which are signs of judgment in Scripture (see Revelation 14:10-11; Revelation 19:20; Genesis 19:24-28; Psalms 11:6; Ezekiel 38:22; Luke 17:29). - NLTSB

The horses are reminiscent of the terrifying monsters of Greek tales pictured on ancient buildings and celebrated in ancient dramas. - NLTSB

First the men are described, then their mounts.

breastplates . . = Defense of fire - not fire color.

jacinth and brimstone . . = sapphire - answers to smoke (dark purple) hyacinthine.

smoke and brimstone . . = sulphur - Genesis 19:24, Genesis 19:28

of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone . . All these are expressed in Greek by adjectives. The last means only “like brimstone;” and though the terminations of the two former would properly indicate the material, yet the “jacinth” seems so incongruous with the other two, that it is easiest to understand all three as referring to colour only: they 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 all was symbolical of all three.- CBSC

fire, smoke and sulfur . . Recalls the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24, Genesis 19:28; cf. Deuteronomy 29:22-23; Luke 17:29) - NIVZSB

brimstone . . Brimstone is a yellowish, sulfuric rock that often attends fire and smoke in Revelation (Revelation 14:10; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10). Common in the Dead Sea region, when ignited such deposits melt and produce burning streams and suffocating gas. - MSB

Now John saw what these horsemen looked like. Horses were swift implements of war in ancient times. Red, blue, and yellow breastplates covered both horses and riders. This was apparently their only armor, and it is defensive armor. Hyacinth is a flower that is most commonly blue, and brimstone is sulfur that is yellow. Lion-like horse heads could be very different from those of ordinary horses or just heads of horses that appear exceptionally bold and majestic. Lions are terrifying (cf. Revelation 10:3), fierce (cf. Revelation 9:8), and destructive (cf. Revelation 13:2). Natural horses do not breath fire, smoke, and brimstone. This verse suggests that this army is probably something other than a human army of cavalry, probably an angelic army (cf. Revelation 9:9). - Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., p. 167, and Hendriksen, p. 148, preferred the view that this is a human army. (quoted in Constable)

Verse 18

Revelation 9:18

By these . . = apo = from, i.e. the source.

Fire, smoke, and brimstone are natural elements that God used to bring judgment in the past during similar conditions (cf. Genesis 19:24, Genesis 19:28). ... The repetition of the definite article “the” in the Greek text (tou) indicates that these are three distinct plagues.- Constable

a third of mankind . . The men ("mankind") upon whom this judgment is pronounced.

out of their mouths . . = Like plagues.

[ Modern prophets try to see fiery missiles from cobra helicopters doing this killing. I’ve heard the "horsemen" were literally the number of "Chinese" that would invade Israel, etc. And see the next verse for possible fancy interpretations! ]

Again, to try to relate this to the modern nation of China is another example of forcing figurative literature into current history. The desire of Christians to figure out the future and impress each other with esoteric knowledge is a recurrent problem. - Utley [Revelation 9:16]

Verse 19

Revelation 9:19

For their power . . Read, for the power of the horses. For the use of the word “power” (the same as is sometimes elsewhere translated “authority” or “licence”), cfRevelation 6:8, ver. 3: St Luke 22:53 illustrates the meaning of the word in such a context. - CBSC

mouth ... tails -- Imagery of scorpions - (of the Fifth Trumpet plague Revelation 9:5 )

serpent . . = Akin to the old serpent, the Devil - Revelation 12:4 . Recalls Gen 3.1 and the judgment against Israel in the wilderness (Numbers 21:6-7; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:9).

The background image is probably of Gog and Magog from Ezekiel ch 38 and ch 39.

tails -- having heads . . John pictures the destruction of these horses whose tail is like deadly snake heads.

The locusts had the power to injure like scorpions with their tails (v. 10), but these horses have power to kill like serpents with their tails, which is worse (cf. Revelation 9:15). - Constable

The horses are reminiscent of the terrifying monsters of Greek tales pictured on ancient buildings and celebrated in ancient dramas. - NLTSB

Verse 20

Revelation 9:20

Purpose of such a terrible judgment: That they might repent and be saved. (If such plagues as described here - even figuratively - will not bring men to repentance, what will? )

Judgment for sins - Psalms 106:1 see the entire Psalm for the sins of God’s people. Daniel 5:23 (lifting up one’s self again God’s house of worship)

still did not repent . . Unbelieving humanity responds to the plagues with continued hostility toward God. Cf. Pharaoh’s hard-hearted response to divine judgments on Egypt (Exodus 4:21; Exodus 14:4). Cf. Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11. - NIVZSB

This is a clear, unambiguous statement of the redemptive purposes of these plagues (cf. Revelation 9:21; Revelation 14:6-7; Revelation 16:9-11). - Utley

As God used the plagues on Egypt as a motivation for (1) Egyptians to believe and serve Him and (2) Israel to stay faithful and serve Him (cf. Deut. 27–28), so these similar plagues were meant to turn unbelieving mankind back to their creator, but they refused. Their stubborn unbelief had become a settled state of rebellion (cf. Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26). - Utley

Revelation 9:20-21 Even when humans are faced with plagues and death, repentance is not automatic. People tend to continue in their evil deeds and to worship demons and idols—things that belong to the created order—rather than worshiping the Creator (see Revelation 13:4; Revelation 14:9-10; Romans 1:25; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:19-22). - NLTSB

the works of their hands . . Elsewhere in Scripture the phrase “the works of their hands” refers to idolatry ... In his day people fashioned idol images out of the materials that John mentioned. Today objects that people venerate made of these same materials can be bought in stores. John reminded his readers of the helplessness of these idols (cf. Deuteronomy 4:28; Psalms 115:5-7; Psalms 135:15-17; Isaiah 44:12-20; Daniel 5:23). - Constable

the demons and the gold . . John equates idol worship to demon worship. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:20-22. - FSB

idols ... neither see nor hear ... etc.. Reminiscent of Isaiah 44:18 (compare Daniel 5:23).

worshiping demons … idols of gold . . Recalls how the OT describes the material and spiritual essence of idols (Deuteronomy 4:28; Deuteronomy 32:16-17; Psalms 115:4-7). - NIVSB

Verse 21

Revelation 9:21

did not repent . . Surely then, with something like this coming, everyone will repent! Deuteronomy 4:23-28

The Destruction of Jerusalem was like unto that of Joel’s day and the enemy was at the Euphrates.

murders … witchcraft … immorality … thefts . . What people worship parallels the ways in which they live (see Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; Romans 1:23, Romans 1:29-32). - NLTSB

sorceries . . This Greek word is the root of the Eng. word “pharmacy.” Drugs in the ancient world were used to dull the senses and induce a state suitable for religious experiences such as seances, witchcraft, incantations, and cavorting with mediums (Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15). - MSB

sorceries . . Fitly mentioned between “murders” and “fornication,” and in connexion with “idolatry;” cf. Gal. 5:20 - CBSC

sorceries . . The Greek word translated “sorceries” (pharmakon) implies the use of drugs. The English word “pharmacy” comes from it. The Greek word can refer to poisons, amulets, charms, magic spells, witchcraft, or any other object or practice that makes someone susceptible to sin (cf. Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 1 Samuel 28:7; Acts 8:9; Acts 13:8; Acts 19:13-15). - Constable

fornication . . This term may mean spiritual fornication or apostasy, and it may mean literal fornication.

thefts . . These four things (idolatry, murder, sorceries, immorality, thievery) characterize the immoral lifestyle. Galatians 5:16 ff. This language of Revelation comes also from Deuteronomy 32:1. ff.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Revelation 9". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/revelation-9.html. 2021.
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