Bible Commentaries
Revelation 9

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Verse 1

1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.

Ver. 1. A star fall from heaven ] Gr. πεπτωκοτα , that had fallen from heaven, viz. when the third angel sounded,Revelation 8:10; Revelation 8:10 , then the bishop of Rome began to fall; but here, in Boniface III and his successors, "He is fallen, he is fallen" from his primitive integrity into the deepest gulf of impiety, The Jesuits (to blind the matter) tell us that by this star is meant Luther, whom Satan sent out to disturb the Church, and God sent them to withstand him. (Scultet. Annal.) Bugenbagius also, a Dutch divine, when he first read Luther’s book of the Babylonish Captivity, rashly pronounced him the most pestilent heretic that ever the Church was pestered with. But a few days after, having thoroughly read and weighed the contents of that book, he recanted, and affirmed that all the world was deceived, and Luther only was in right; and so not only himself became a Lutheran, but many others also persuaded by him.

The key of the bottomless pit ] Whereinto he lets souls innumerable; so that in the days of Hildebrand letters were set forth as sent from hell, wherein the devil and his angels give the Popish clergy many thanks for sending them in so many souls as they never had in any age before. (Mat. Paris, A. D. 1072.) This key of the bottomless pit is (saith Whitaker) facultas expromendi et docendi dlabolicas doctrinae, his faculty of broaching and teaching doctrines of devils.

Verse 2

2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.

Ver. 2. And there arose a smoke ] Of heretical opinions and flagitious practices. All the old heretics fled and hid themselves in the Popish clergy. Those dark corners also of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. Take heed (said the Lord Audely, chancellor of England) how you deal with Popish priests; for (you may believe me) some of them be knaves all. (Acts and Mon., fol. 1117.) Petrus de Aliaco long since wrote, Ad hunc stature venit Romana Ecclesia, ut non esset digna regi nisi per reprobos, The Church of Rome hath for a long season been ruled by a rabble of reprobates. (De Reform. Eccl.)

The sun and the air were darkened ] That is, saith Carthusian, the prelates and the people.

Verse 3

3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

Ver. 3. Locusts upon the earth ] So the monks, friars, Jesuits, &c., are fitly called for their numerosity and voracity. The Jesuits have sometimes maintained 200,000 scholars. The duke of Bavaria’s house is so pestered with them (saith one), that notwithstanding his great revenues, he is very poor, as spending all his estate upon those Popish flesh flies. Think the same of other princes and places where they are received.

As the scorpions of the earth ] They are the sorest soul sting (saith an interpreter) that ever the world had. Pliny testifieth of the scorpion, that there is not one minute wherein it doth not put forth a most venomous sting to do mischief. It creeps on crookedly, and so it strikes the more at unawares. Its sting is not so much felt at first, but soon proves incurable. It is of a very angry nature (saith one interpreter), and there is a word in the Greek tongue taken from a scorpion, signifying to exasperate and to provoke like a scorpion.

Verse 4

4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

Ver. 4. And as it was commanded ] As David charged his captains to handle the young man Absalom gently, so and much more solicitous is the Lord of his servants’ safety.

The grass of the earth, nor any green thing ] I say that under the Papacy was true Christianity, saith Luther (Contra Anabap.), yea, the very kernel of Christianity.

Which have not the seal of God, &c. ] Profession, that outward mark of a Christian; and of such there were in the worst of times, even in the darkest midnight of damned Popery, a considerable company. As in this day there are said to be even in Italy 4000 professed Protestants: as in Seville itself, a chief city of Spain, there are thought to be no fewer than 20,000 Protestants. (Spec. Europ.)

Verse 5

5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

Ver. 5. And to them it was given ] This is often repeated in this book, to show that though Antichrist and his actuaries bandy and bend all their forces to destroy souls, yet they are bounded by God, and can do no more than is given them from above.

Five months ] Locusts used to live no longer. See Pliny, lib. xi. cap. 29. There are those who interpret these five months of those 500 years, wherein the pope stood in his full pride and power. For, ab eo tempore quo per vos Papa Antichristus esse coepit (saith Bellarmine) non modo non crevit eius imperium, sed semper magis ac magis decrevit, Since you first began to call the pope Antichrist he hath lost a great part of his command and commodity. (De Pap. Rom., lib. iii. cap. 21.)

As the torment of a scorpion ] Pliny testifieth that of all creeping things that are poisonous, the sting of a scorpion is most cruel and grievous.

Verse 6

6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

Ver. 6. Shall men seek death ] Being brought through anguish of conscience, and fear of wrath, to that pitiful plight that Roger Bishop of Salisbury was, in King Stephen’s time, through long and strait imprisonment. He was so hardly bestead (saith the historian) ut vivere noluerit, mori nescierit, that live he would not, die he could not Popish pardons, pilgrimages, dirges, &c., would not quiet or cure distempered consciences, or shake out the envenomed arrows of the Almighty, that stuck fast in them, haeret lateri lethalis arundo. A broken leg is not eased by a silken stocking. Nescio quomodo imbecillior est medicina quam morbus, said Cicero of his philosophical consolations; so may these well say of their Popish paltry applications, The medicine is too weak for the malady. The Papists say, that the reformed religion is a doctrine of desperation. This we are sure is true of theirs, as were easy to instance in Stephen Gardiner, Dr Pendleton, Francis Spira, Guarlaeus, Bomelins, Latomus, Crescentius.

Verse 7

7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.

Ver. 7. Like unto horses ] Fed and fierce, to run and rush into the battle, as being driven by the devil. Si videris persecutorem tuum nimis saevientem, scito quia ab ascensore suo daemone perurgetur. (Bernard.)

Were as it were crowns ] Triple crowns, mitres, head tires, shaven crowns; which last is a ceremony so bald, that some priests in France are now ashamed of the mark, and few of them have it that can handsomely avoid it. (Spec. Europ.)

As the faces of men ] "But beware of men,"Matthew 10:17; Matthew 10:17 . See the note there. Yea, beware of those that are looked upon as good men, who yet may act for Satan and not discern it, Matthew 16:23 . The temptation lies in this, when angels from heaven, men of singular parts and piety, preach other doctrines, Galatians 1:6 ; 2 Corinthians 11:15 .

Verse 8

8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.

Ver. 8. As the hair of women ] Insinuative, and inductive to sin.

As the teeth of lions ] Joel 1:6 . Catching and carrying to their dens all they can come by, as Tecelius did out of Germany, as Otto sent by Gregory IX did out of England, where he left not so much money as he either carried with him or sent to Rome before him.

Verse 9

9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.

Ver. 9. And they had breastplates ] Their pretended donations, privileges and exemptions from the secular power; shaking their tippets at kings, whom they have trampled on, and forced to go barefoot on the hard stones, till they bled again. Thus dealt they by our Henry II; yea, they lashed him with rods upon the bare, and said, Domine, noli minari; nos enim nullas minas timemus, qui de tali curia sumus quae consuevit imperare regibus et imperatoribus: Sir, never threaten us; for we care not for your threats, as being of that court that commands kings and emperors. (Jac. Revius de Vii. Pontiff p. I49.)

And the sound of their wings ] They are loud and bold spoken, make a great noise, raise a great dust, and thereby think to carry it. Herein they are like the heretic Nestorius, who is said to have been homo indoctus, superbus, contemptor Patrum, sed audax et magnae loquentiae, a proud ass, but bold above measure, and of a loud language, whereby he so far prevailed for a time, that he seduced good Theodosius, and procured a writ for the banishment of Cyril, that godly orthodox divine. (Zanch. Miscel., Epist. Dedic.)

Verse 10

10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

Ver. 10. And they had tails ] This may be well meant of their surrogates, officials, chancellors, registrars, apparitors, the fag end of their execrable train. See Isaiah 9:15 .

Verse 11

11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

Ver. 11. And they had a king over them ] Being herein wiser than those other locusts, Proverbs 30:27 .

The angel of the bottomless pit ] That apostate star,Revelation 9:1; Revelation 9:1 , the devil’s lieutenant, general, the Western Antichrist the pope, not excluding the Turk, that Antichrist of the East, that comes next to be spoken of. And indeed they may well go together; for they both set up another law than that of Christ, they kill the contrary part, they give liberty to the flesh, they will not have their religions to be disputed, &c.

Is Abaddon ] A destroyer. I know not (saith learned Junins) whether the Holy Ghost in this name hath not some respect to the etymology or notation of Hildebrand, which signifies Fidei incendium, the firebrand of the faith.

Verse 12

12 One woe is past; and , behold, there come two woes more hereafter.

Ver. 12. Two woes more hereafter ] In respect of order; for in respect of time, the woes of the fifth and sixth trumpet are together, and do run parallel.

Verse 13

13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

Ver. 13. From the four horns ] To show, saith one, Christ’s sufficiency of power to raise up instruments of his justice, according as by the sins of men he is provoked. To show, saith another, that the prayers of the saints from the four corners of the earth sound, and do great things in the world, make it ring.

Verse 14

14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.

Ver. 14. Loose the four angels ] That is, those four potent peoples, the Arabians, the Saracens, the Tartars, and the Turks, that they may march out against Christendom, to murder and massacre the third part of men. These are called angels, because sent of God to revenge the quarrel of his covenant.

Verse 15

15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

Ver. 15. And the four angels were loosed ] As fierce and fell creatures out of a cave, now set upon spoil and rapine. They have a proverb in the eastern parts, Where the Great Turk once setteth his foot, there never grows grass again; he blasts and desolates all.

For an hour and a day ] At any time whensoever God shall command them out, and bid them fall on; they are at an hour’s warning, in arms at an instant. Mr Brightman gathereth from this text, that the Turkish empire shall determine about the year 1696.

The third part of men ] Mahomet I was in his time the death of 800,000 men. Selymus II, in revenge of his loss received at the battle of Lepanto, would have put to death all the Christians in his dominions, who were in number infinite. (Turk. Hist.)

Verse 16

16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.

Ver. 16. Two hundred thousand thousand ] Not so many at any one time, but in several ages and battles. Howbeit the Turk goes usually into the field 200,000 strong; many times he hath more, as in that famous battle fought by Bajazet against Tamerlane, where he had well-nigh a million. Of his common soldiers called Asapi (which for the most part are miserable Christians), he makes no great reckoning or other use than to blunt the swords of his enemies, or to abate their first fury, thereby to give the easier victory to his janizaries a and better soldiers, which are all cavalry for most part.

a One of a former body of Turkish infantry, constituting the Sultan’s guard and the main part of the standing army. The body was first organized in the 14th century, and was composed mainly of tributary children of Christians; after a large number of them had been massacred in 1826, the organization was finally abolished. ŒD

Verse 17

17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, 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.

Ver. 17. Breastplates of fire, &c. ] Muskets, arquebuses, pistols, and other spitfires; but especially those great guns and murdering pieces, so much used by the Turks, those mighty ordnance they brought before Constantinople, Rhodes, and other places, nothing inferior to those two that were cast by Alphonsus Duke of Ferrara, the one whereof he called the earthquake, the other Grandiabolo, or the great devil. (Chalcondylas. Peacham’s Valley of Vanity.)

a The early type of portable gun, varying in size from a small cannon to a musket, which on account of its weight was, when used in the field, supported upon a tripod, trestle, or other ‘carriage’, and afterwards upon a forked ‘rest’. The name in German and Flemish meant literally ‘hook-gun’, from the hook cast along with the piece, by which it was fastened to the ‘carriage’; but the name became generic for portable fire-arms generally in the 16th century, so that the type with the hook was subsequently distinguished as arquebuse à croc: ŒD

Verse 18

18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.

Ver. 18. The third part of men killed ] Not only of Christians, but also of their own; most of their poor being forced with victuals and other necessaries to follow their great armies in their long expeditions, of whom scarcely one of ten do ever return home again, but there perish by the way; if not by the enemy’s sword, yet by the wants, intemperateness of the air, or immoderate painstaking.

By the brimstone ] By the gunpowder, or by their sulphured bow strings, which they discharge as out of their mouths, whereunto they draw or lay them.

Verse 19

19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.

Ver. 19. In their mouth, and in their tails ] Like the serpent Amphisbaena, a that hath a head (to do hurt) at both ends. (Plin.) Perhaps the Turks’ perfidy is here pointed at; they keep leagues no longer than standeth with their own profit. (Turk. Hist.)

a A fabled serpent of the ancients, with a head at each end, and able to move in either direction ŒD

Verse 20

20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

Ver. 20. That they should not worship devils ] As all idolaters do, 1 Corinthians 10:20 . The devil is ειδωλοχαρης , saith Synesius, glad to be worshipped in an idol, as he was by Israel in a calf. And as he is still by the Papists, in their mawmets (idols) and monuments of idolatry. And whereas they say they worship not the image (much less the devil) but God; they are like Clodia the strumpet, who, to excuse her incest, said she did company with Metellus as a husband, but with Clodius as with a brother.

Verse 21

21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

Ver. 21. Neither repented ] Being stupefied, as those asses in Etruria that feed upon hemlock. (Matthiol. in Dioscoria.) They that make them are like unto them. See Isaiah 44:17 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 9". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.