Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day.

Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Revelation 9

Verses 1-21

Revelation 9:1


Revelation 9:1. I saw a star fallen from the Heaven to the Earth.—Its fall is done; it has fallen hither from Heaven to judgment, Luke 10:18; Isaiah 14:12. A star—therefore not an Angel (Eichhorn); either good (Bengel) or bad (Düsterdieck); certainly not the devil (Bede, against which view Revelation 12:9 militates). According to Düsterdieck, the ideas of star and Angel are confluent (Psalms 103:21; Jeremiah 33:22). Here, however, where distinct symbols or conceptions are treated of, the two forms must be kept separate. If we suppose the locusts to be phantasies originating in psychical gloom, we may take the star, which has fallen from Heaven, to be repentance without faith, or the sorrow of this world—so-called Cain or Judas repentance—or the remorse and penance of religious self-torment, whether clothed in a more ancient and mediaeval or a more modern form. Comp. John 13:30; 1 John 3:21.

To him was given, etc.—It is the key of the pit of the Abyss, and is given him only after his fall. Repentance was in Heaven at first, but, through want of submission, fell to Earth, a fallen star, receiving now the melancholy ability to open the pit of the Abyss, the demonic domain of the lower realm of the dead. On the Abyss, comp. the Lexicons. The pit, φρέαρ, denotes the mouth of the Abyss; the mouth being significant of the close connection and readily opened communication between human psychical life and the demonic domain.

Different interpretations of the star see in De Wette, p. 102:—(Lyra): Valens; (Grotius): Eleazar; (Herder): Menahem, the son of Judas. The Abyss: the fortress Masada. Abaddon: Simon, the son of Gorion. A singular interpretation is given by Alcasar: the Mosaic Law.

According to Hengstenberg, the star is an ideal person, a line of rulers, the last and grandest form being Napoleon. Sander: Mohammed and his Islam. Gärtner: Arius. The Kreuzritter: The hierarch; he regards the ascending smoke as enthusiasm and fanaticism.

[Barnes (on Revelation 8:10): “A star is a natural emblem of a prince, of a ruler, of one distinguished by rank or by talent. See Numbers 24:17 and Isaiah 14:12. A star falling from Heaven would be a natural symbol of one who had left a higher station, or of one whose character and course would be like a meteor shooting through the sky.” And in loc.: “This denotes a leader, a military chieftain, a warrior. In the fulfillment of this, we look for the appearance of some mighty prince and warrior, to whom is given power, as it were, to open the bottomless pit, and to summon forth its legions.”

[Alford: “The reader will at once think on Isaiah 14:12 : ‘How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!’ And on Luke 10:18 : I beheld Satan as lightning fall from Heaven.’ And doubtless as the personal import of the star is made clear in the following words, such is the reference here. We may also notice that this expression forms a connecting link to another place, Revelation 12:9, in this Book, where Satan is represented as cast out of Heaven to the Earth. It is hardly possible, with Andr. Ribera, Bengel and De W., to understand a good Angel by this fallen star.” Elliott agrees with Alford in regarding him as Satan, whom he looks upon as the inspirer of Mohammed. (For other views see on pp. 201 sq.)—E. R. C.]

Revelation 9:2. And he opened the pit of the abyss.—The smoke. The region of the evil conscience in the realm of the dead is a region of self-burning, like Gehenna, whence the smoke of torment ascends. The Seer knows of a retroaction of the gloomy feelings of this region on the Earth, the more since this region is even to be found in the back-ground of an unfree human soul-life in this world. Hence there results a great darkening of the sun and air.

Revelation 9:3. Locusts.—Old Testament types, Exodus 10:12-15; Joel 1:2. In antithesis to natural locusts, which desolate vegetation, these locusts leave unharmed all green things, attacking solely those men who have not the seal of God.

The scorpions of the earth.—(Of the earth; De Wette: in antithesis to the abyss.) See the article Scorpion in Winer, particularly the distinction between the Oriental and the Italian species.

Interpretation of the locusts: Longobards, Vandals, Goths, Persians, Mohammedans, Jewish zealots. Bede and others: The raging of heretics. The Pope and the monks; or, Luther and the Protestants (ancient Protestant exposition—in opposition to Bellarmin and others), etc. Hengstenberg: Martial hosts, see Düsterdieck, p. 328. “He who, like Hebert (Die zweite sichtbare Zukunft Christi, Erlangen, 1850), looks for the literal fulfillment of all these visions, expecting, for instance, the actual appearance of the locusts described in Revelation 9:1 sqq.,2 certainly does more justice to the text than any allegorist; by reason of a mechanical conception of inspiration and prophecy, however, he fails to recognize the distinction betwixt real prophetic matter and poetic forms” (Düsterdieck). Remarkable words, if we consider that by allegorists are understood such as regard the Apocalypse as a Book of allegoric figurative forms.

Revelation 9:5. Not kill them, but that they shall be tormented [Lange: torment them].—This trait is characteristic; it runs through Revelation 9:6 : They shall seek death and not find it. In itself, this torment is not spiritual death as yet; it is, however, so great as to make men weary of life.

Five months.—The reference of the five months to the popular idea that locusts are wont to appear during the five months from May onward (Düsterdieck, p. 323 [Alford]), does not preclude the symbolical significancy of the number. Here, too, manifold guesses have been hazarded. See De Wette, p. 102; Düsterdieck, p. 321; Ebrard, p. 294; Sander, p. 70. Vitringa thought he had found the key to the mystery in the following formula: Each day of each month=one year. Bengel defined the month as 15 5/6 5/3 years. Hengstenberg saw in the number 5, as the number of incompleteness, the sign of half. Thus: “A long time, but not the longest.”

Revelation 9:6. Seek death.—“A terrible counterpart to the ἐπιθυμία of the Apostle, springing from the holiest hope” (Düsterd.).

Revelation 9:7-10. Like horses.—The likening of the locusts to horses see likewise in Joel 1:2

As crowns.—Ewald: The antennæ. Düsterdieck and others: A jagged elevation in the middle of the thorax (?). Hengstenberg: The sovereign people. We must not overlook the fact, that the figures are modelled from the idea, as is often the case in the Gospel parables.

Their faces as the faces of men.—Hengstenberg cuts the knot: “Virtually they really were the faces of men.” Undoubtedly if they were troops of cavalry!

Revelation 9:8. Hair as the hair of women.—Hengstenberg: Suffering their hair to grow at will, uncut and untended. Ebrard: “Mild and gentle womanly faces.” By this he understands, not inaptly, those women whom, as history shows us, the spirits of the abyss employ as tools to decoy many fools. Yet the text does not speak of women’s faces.

As the teeth of lions.—To terrify—not to bite with. Hence the interpretation of Calov. and others is wrong: The false doctrines and blasphemies with which heretics have rent the orthodox Church. Düsterdieck thinks their desolating voracity is symbolized; this quality, however, should not be portrayed here.

Revelation 9:9. As iron breastplates.—Their thoraxes.

The sound of their wings.—Comp. Joel 2:5.

Revelation 9:10. Tails like scorpions.—Does this mean that their tails themselves are like scorpions (Bengel and others); or that they, like scorpions, have tails (Düsterdieck)? The analogy of Revelation 9:19 seems to favor the former supposition. But as we must adhere to the general idea of the locusts, the latter view is the more probable.

Revelation 9:11. And they have a king over them.—According to Hengstenberg, this king is identical with the fallen star. And certainly it is impossible not to perceive a close affinity between them. If, however, we regard the fallen star, a faithless remorse and penitential self-torment, as the beginning of the plague of locusts, their king surely must be regarded as its consummation—the genius of absolute self-torment. This symbolical king must likewise be distinguished from Satan, for whom Grotius and others take him. The comment: An angel who is, in a peculiar manner, the head of the Abyss (Bengel and others) throws no light on the subject.

Abaddon.—See the Lexicons, article אֲבַדֹּוך. It occupies in the Old Testament the same relation to Sheol as in the writings of the Rabbins to Hell. [See Excursus on Hades, p. 364.—E. R. C.]

Apollyon.—With reference to ἀπώλεια. John had himself beheld the truest type of the whole locust plague in the development of Judas, in reference to whom it must be said that even suicide is a seeking of death and not finding it. [See Excursus on Hades.—E. R. C.]

Revelation 9:12. Behold, there come.—On the singular, ἔρχεται, see Düsterdieck. De Wette reads ἔρχονται, with Cod. B. and others. The following two woes are, according to the arrangement of the Seer, intensively as well as extensively greater. The climax, intensively viewed, may be stated as follows: Penitential self-torment; the spiritual death of heresy; consummate apostasy. Extensively defined: An infliction of torment upon such men as have not the seal of God; an infliction of death upon the third part of men; and, moreover, double hurtfulness; an apparent general fall into destruction by the reception of the mark of the Beast. See Revelation 14:9-11.

Revelation 9:13 sqq.


In consequence of the omission of the utterances of the seven Thunders, Revelation 10:0, the esoteric sketch of the cycle in question is incorporated in the sixth Trumpet. And this makes it possible to regard the sixth Trumpet as a double Trumpet. It is half the Trumpet of heresies; half the Trumpet of beginning apostasy. Hence the second woe is continued through Revelation 10:0 to Revelation 11:14. Hence, also, it results that the second woe is in two stages. At the end of the first stage, men do not repent of the works of their hands, Revelation 9:20; at the end of the second stage, there is at least a repentance of fear, ch, Revelation 11:13. Still it must be observed that the section consisting of chs. 10 and 11 to Revelation 9:14 is representative of an entirely new cycle—a cycle connected with the preceding section only from Revelation 11:7. The connection between the two consists in the fact, that in Revelation 9:0 we have to do with the spiritual end of the course of the world; in Revelation 11:7 sqq., with the spiritual beginning of the end of the world. Thus at the revelation of the consummate offence, the precursory offences form themselves into a unit. See 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8.

Revelation 9:13. A voice from the four horns.—Not from God, “behind the altar.” The four horns of the altar denote the complete, all-sided protective power of the altar. From the same altar on which the prayers of the saints were perfected (Revelation 8:3-5), the signal that they have been heard goes forth. The earth is now, in its sealed ones, prepared by voices and thunders and lightnings and an earthquake of the spiritual life; the greatest temptations may, therefore, now be let loose. The distinction between these new and great temptations and the foregoing ones is at the same time expressed. That which the voice from the horns of the altar says, is, of course, to be traced back to Divine decision. According to Düsterdieck, the misapplication of the horns to the four Gospels (Zeger and others) may have even occasioned the reading—four horns. Nevertheless, four, as the number of completeness, is not devoid of significance in a correct apprehension of the passage. Other interpretations of the four horns see in Düsterdieck, p. 332. How important it is that the trials should not break out before their set time, appears from the fact, that the Angel of the sixth Trumpet may loose the four bound Angels only upon a higher order. The same truth is demonstrated by the cooperation of the sixth Angel. Offences must come.

[The following, abridged from Elliott (Vol. I., pp. 481 sqq.), is worthy of consideration: “When a voice of command issued from the Throne, or some divinely commissioned Angel, it was an intimation that it originated from God; but when proceeding from some other local source, it was indicated that the locality whence the voice proceeded was one associated with sin to be punished (comp. Genesis 4:10; Genesis 31:38; Isaiah 66:6; Habakkuk 2:11; James 5:4). So here, a cry commissioning judgment from the mystic incense Altar indicates that that Altar had been a scene of special sin. But this explanation is only partial. It would seem as if guilt had been contracted in respect of some ritual in which the horns of the Altar were concerned. There were three such services in the Mosaic ritual. The first two were the occasional atoning services for sins of ignorance; the third that of the Annual Atonement. In all these cases, some of the blood of the sacrifice was put on the horns of the Altar (comp. Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 4:3-7; Leviticus 4:13-18; Leviticus 16:1-18). It was thus that Hezekiah made atonement for Israel after its apostasy under Ahaz (see 2 Chronicles 29:20-24). This rite of Atonement having been performed, the promised reconciliation with God followed. From the Temple, and Altar, and each blood bedewed horn of the altar, a voice, as it were, went forth, not of judgment, but of mercy; instead of summoning destroying armies against Judah from the Euphrates, it staid them (comp. 2 Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 37:33-34). Thus direct was the contrast between Israel’s case under Hezekiah, and that of Christendom as here figured. And now when, after the judgments of successive Trumpets, the Seer heard a voice denouncing judgment yet afresh from the four horns of the golden Altar, what could he infer but this, that in spite of the previous fearful rebukes of their apostasy, neither the priesthood nor the collective people, at least of this third of Christendom, would have repented. More particularly, as the rite had special reference to the sins connected with the incense Altar itself, it was to be inferred that those sins would be persisted in: to wit the abandonment of Christ in His character (1) of the one great propitiatory Atonement, and (2) of the one great Intercessor; and thus the sin would be graven even on the four horns of the golden Altar, and their one and common voice, or that of the intercessorial High Priest from the midst of them, would pronounce the fresh decree of judgment: ‘Loose the four Angels to slay the third part of men.’ ”—E. R. C.]

Revelation 9:14. Loose the four angels.—The number four being the number of the world, the four symbolical angels represent the collective spirit of the world, collective heathenism, in its infection of Christianity and transformation of Christian truths into powerful lies, 2 Thessalonians 2:0 These angels are, therefore, neither bad angels (Bede, Düsterdieck and others), nor good ones (Bossuet), nor destroying ones (De Wette, Ebrard), if, by such, personal beings are understood. As symbolic forms they are, beyond question, evil spirits—yet in angelic shape; as it were in the angelic shape of the one Satanic mask of an Angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) in four world-forms. Different interpretations of the quaternary see in Düsterdieck, p. 333.

At the great river.—We doubt not that the hither bank of the great river Euphrates has an import similar to that of Babylon, yet without coinciding with Babylon. Babylon is a peculiar configuration of the spiritual river Euphrates; that river, the general basis and condition of Babylon—spiritual Babylon as the sphere of historical Babylon.

Different interpretations: Parthian armies against the Romans; Roman armies against Jerusalem; Tartars, Turks (the Angels being their commanders). The Euphrates, the Tiber; Babylon, Rome (Wetstein). The Euphrates, the border of Abraham’s land, or of the Roman empire.

According to Düsterdieck, the mention of the Euphrates is merely schematical [schematisch], as the region whence plagues usually came in the Old Testament—the Assyrians, for instance. Insignificant enough!

Ebrard: “Almost all ancient Protestant exegetes discover in this passage a prediction of Mohammedanism. Grotius, Wetstein, Herder, Eichhorn and others think it prophetic of the army of Titus, which destroyed Jerusalem. De Wette, with Züllig and Ewald, occupies the ground of ‘fancy.’ ”

In opposition to these historical conceptions, a just reference has been made to the supernaturalness of the martial hosts portrayed. Düsterdieck will not listen to any allegorical apprehension of this supernaturalness, and so, according to him, these armies are still more incomprehensible than those of the locusts. According to Gärtner (p. 465), the two hundred millions of horses are two hundred millions of devils—hosts of Satan, amongst whom the fanatical faith of Islam, symbolized, as he contends, by the Euphrates, originates. The horsemen are such men as are borne away by the horses.

Revelation 9:15. The four angels were loosed.—The resistance hitherto made by the power of truth is withdrawn.

Prepared for the hour, etc.—Beautifully expressive of the certainty that these trials, like all hateful things in the world, have their appointed time, and that time only, Luke 22:53.

To slay the third part of men.—Only spiritual slaying can be meant here, as is further indicated by “the third part,” three being the number of spirit, Revelation 8:7-12.

Revelation 9:16. And the number.—Two hundred millions [two myriads of myriads]. He did not himself count the hosts, but heard the number through the voice of prophecy; this fact makes the number more than ever significant. It being impossible to conceive of an army of this size, Bengel has added together all the Turkish armies of more than two centuries; Hengstenberg sees an allegorical collective designation of all armies in the number; whilst Düsterdieck takes it as schematioal [schematisch]—that is to say, denoting, like the army, nothing definite. But, manifestly, the number itself is allegorical. The myriad is indicative of an enormous number; the formula, myriad times myriad, denotes the infinite productivity of the figures; and, finally, the binary is significant of an antithesis, either of positive and negative offences, or of dogmatical and ethical heresies.

Revelation 9:17. And thus I saw the horses,—In the vision, he adds, probably because the monstrosity of their appearance necessitates a slight reminder of the fact that we have here to do with allegorical forms; an assumption which Düsterdieck, in his horror of allegory, endeavors to refute.

And those who sat on them.—The horses are of prime importance (see above); their riders, however, are first described. In this place the riders bear the colors of the horses, as the horses the colors of the riders in Revelation 6:0.

Having breastplates.—According to Bengel and others, the riders are here referred to; according to Düsterdieck and others, the words, having breastplates, refer to both horses and riders. This view is contradicted, in the first place, by the impossibility of putting the idea into execution; and, furthermore, by the antithesis between the colors of the breastplates and the destructive stuff issuing from the mouths of the horses. Many hypotheses have been founded on the colors of the breastplates, see Düsterdieck, p. 337. On ῦάκινθος see Ebrard. He conjectures that this color was dark brown; it cannot but be seen, however, that it must correspond with the color of smoke. Düsterdieck would have it that “dark red” is the corresponding color.

As the heads of lions.—Not actual lions’ heads. A cruel and terrific aspect cannot be meant by this, according to Düsterdieck, because it “would undoubtedly correspond better with the allegorical exposition.”

It is likewise denied that there is an allegorical meaning to fire, smoke, and brimstone. The combination is, most certainly, found in volcanos in natura. The significance of these forms, however, appears from the following other passages: Revelation 14:10-11; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 21:10. For different interpretations, see Düsterdieck. The view of Calov., who finds the three substances associated in the Koran, is particularly striking. Other singular exegeses are those of Grotius (burning torches), Hengstenberg and Bengel (the murderous spirit and wanton destructiveness of soldiers). It is worthy of note that the same materials which compose the erring spirit of this world, create the hellish torment of the next: the fire of fanaticism; self-dissolution in ambition and self-seeking; demonic irritability—inflammability.

Revelation 9:19. For the power of the horses.—They are hurtful in a two-fold manner; with their mouths and with their snake-like tails. Their principal power, however, is in their mouths. On the futile application of this double figure to the fable of two-headed serpents or amphisbænæ (Wetstein, Beng., Herder), see Düsterd.

Other interpretations: Bengel: Reference is had to the turning of the Turkish cavalry, to the sudden detriment of their pursuers.

Hengstenberg interprets the hurtful power in the tails as significant of the insidious malignity of martial hosts; for fiery wrath, warlike terrors, and the like, pervade the visions of the fifth and sixth Trumpets particularly, according to him.

Grotius: The tails are indicative of foot soldiers [on the backs of the horses, behind the horsemen].
Sander: They dragged the teachings of their false prophet behind them.
Volkmar has even applied this passage to the kicking out of the horse behind.
The after-effects of all heresies consist in the fact that they poison morals and manners, introducing a destructive element into Christian social life especially, and thus issuing in psychical and physical evils.

Revelation 9:20. And the rest of the men, who were not killed by these plagues.—The Seer distinguishes between the specific destruction of a third of mankind by the fatal horses and the general corrupt condition of the human race.

Repented not.—Comp. Revelation 16:11. Their conversion should show itself in a specific abstinence from religious and moral transgressions. The works of their hands, therefore, do not directly denote their whole conversation and walk, but those characteristic sins in which, of a truth, their whole walk was reflected. It has been maintained that idols are thereby indicated, as their own manufacture (Hengstenberg, Düsterdieck); but the first object—τὰ δαιμόνια—stands in the way of this view. This first object is, indeed, of prime importance to the Seer. The meaning is as follows: subtile demon-worship, symbolized by subtile idol-worship offered to images of the most diverse materials; see 1 Corinthians 10:20.

Which neither see, etc.—Compare the analogous passages in the Old Testament [Psalms 115:4-7; Psalms 135:15-17; Isaiah 46:7; Jeremiah 10:5; Daniel 5:23].

Revelation 9:21. Of their sorceries.—The poison-mingling, as the word might likewise be understood, is already contained in the preceding murders.

Ebrard: “Sorcery is to be understood as seductive enchantments.” The reason alleged in support of this view, viz., that true sorcery is a sin against God, whilst the present passage treats of injuries inflicted by man upon his brother man, is, however, of insufficient weight. All gross (poison-mingling) and all refined sorcery is conjoined with injury to one’s neighbor. The terms are, doubtless, symbolical throughout; Galatians 5:20.

“It is clear that the author is thinking of heathen.” De Wette (similarly Düsterdieck). Truly, the author regards all the things mentioned, even in respect of their most subtile conception, their most subtile manifestation in Christendom, as heathenish.


By the American Editor

[The very position of the Seventh Seal, separated as it is from the others by the visions of chap. 7, should lead us to suppose that it is sui generis; and a careful consideration of its development supports and enforces this supposition. The most rational hypothesis, as it seems to the Am. Ed., is that it includes the Trumpets and the Vials; there is no strong disjunctive at the beginning of either Revelation 9:2 or 6, such as would certainly have been employed had the Seal closed with Revelation 9:1 or 5, and no such disjunctive occurs until Revelation 18:1. This hypothesis is not only in accordance with the manifest indications of the phraseology, but it avoids the supposition that a Seal was opened without any thing being revealed under it, and it also gives unity to all that follows, and to the whole complex vision.

In the view of the writer, the opening of the first five Seals discloses the general course of history to the time of the second Advent—false Christs, war, dearth, aggravated mortality, together with the persecutions of the saints; the opening of the sixth reveals the events immediately preceding the Advent (see pp. 178 sq.); the seventh is the Seal of Judgment (also terminating in the Advent), in which, under the Symbol of Seven Trumpets (indicating the going forth of Jehovah against the enemies of His people, comp. Numbers 10:9; Numbers 31:6; Joshua 6:4-5; 2 Chronicles 13:14; Jeremiah 51:27, etc.), are revealed the woes to be visited upon the sinful and persecuting world-power;4 the last Trumpet develops into the seven Vials.5

That the opening of the Seal was to be delayed, is consistent with God’s dealings in judgment—sentence against an evil work, ordinarily, is not executed speedily (Ecclesiastes 8:11); and not only so, but it is intimated, (Revelation 6:10-11), that there should be delay until a certain period (or number of martyrs) should be completed.

The length of this period of delay being unrevealed, the time of the beginning of the Trumpet-blasts can be determined only by the occurrence. It becomes a most interesting and important question: Have any of these blasts been given, or are they all still future ? The writer must acknowledge that, after a careful consideration of the principal views that have been presented, he has been constrained to the conclusion that the scheme of interpretation advocated by Elliott and Barnes is substantially correct (see foot-notes on pp. 205 sqq.). The points of resemblance between the symbols and the events of history, especially as portrayed by the infidel Gibbon, are too many, too striking, and too exact, to allow the thought that they are merely fortuitous. It would seem as though God had raised up the great historian just mentioned to perform a work for the Bible and the Church, which could not have been so effectually performed by a friend—at times it seems as though he were writing history, purposely for the elucidation of prophecy. The language of Barnes in reference to the correspondence between the events of the sixth Seal and the history of the Turkish invasion, as described by him, may be equally applied to the correspondence between the entire series of symbols and his descriptions of all the invasions which historical interpreters have adduced as fulfilling these symbols: “If Mr. Gibbon had designed to describe the conquests of the Turks as a fulfillment of the prediction, could he have done it in a style more clear and graphic than that which he has employed? If this had occurred in a Christian writer, would it not have been charged on him that he had shaped his facts to meet his notions of the meaning of the prophecy? ”

It must be acknowledged that there are difficulties connected with this interpretation; that there are some points where the symbol and the event adduced as realizing it, do not seem exactly to harmonize. It may be remarked that, in view of the imperfection of our records of history, and the partial ignorance of individual interpreters, even of that which is imperfectly recorded, such discrepancies are to be expected—indeed, it is matter of surprise that they are not more numerous and important. In fact, one of the influences that led the writer to adopt, in the main, the scheme of Elliott, was the exhibit of objections by Alford. Thoughts, such as the following, arose in his mind: If these are the only objections that can be adduced by an acute and learned opponent, they are tantamount to an acknowledgment that in the far more numerous and important matters presented in the scheme, there is complete resemblance between the Symbol and the event; and if this be so, either these discrepancies will disappear on a more thorough investigation of our historical records, or else they will serve to show that on the points at issue our records are themselves imperfect. The first of Alford’s objections is to Elliott’s interpretation of the third part (see p. 201). He remarks, “It is fatal to this whole class of interpretations that it is not said: the hail, etc., were cast on a third part, but that the destruction occasioned by them extended to a third part of the earth on which they were cast. And this is most expressly declared to be so in this first case by all green grass being destroyed, not a third part of it” (Revelation 8:7). Now, Elliott’s hypothesis concerning the third part is deduced from a most careful comparison of Revelation 8:7-12 with the acknowledged facts of history. It is notorious that four successive hordes of enemies did, in the Fourth and Fifth centuries, burst upon the Roman Empire, their ravages being almost entirely confined to a third, or the Western division, thereof; and it is manifest, also, that these ravages did, as to their general features, most strikingly fulfill the requirements of the symbolization—the first invasion being on the inland provinces, the second on the maritime portions, the third on the rivers and fountains, the fourth affecting the governors, the luminaries of that third part (see pp. 205 sq.). In view of the general agreement, which is like that of the mountain shadows on the bosom of the Lake of Geneva and the mountains themselves, it seems legitimate to conclude that the symbol shadowed forth the fact, and that the third part of the former was designed to indicate (when the event should occur) the third part of the smitten empire. If this be so, then, when it is said that hail fell upon the earth, we may understand the prophecy as meaning that it fell upon that third part; and, be it observed, there is no undue straining of language in such an interpretation, for certainly there is no disagreement between a prophecy that Great Britain shall be smitten, and the fact that Scotland receives the blow. And still further, by the third part of the trees and all the grass, we may understand the trees and the grass of that smitten third part.

Another objection is that Elliott’s scheme fails to give any satisfactory explanation of the exemption of the sealed from the torment of the fifth plague (Revelation 9:4). So far as Elliott is concerned, the objection is well taken. This does not imply, however, that an explanation cannot be given consistent with the scheme. Whilst historical records do give us the general information that the citizens of those countries which had been the seat of the old Roman Empire did suffer fearfully from the Saracenic invasions, they are almost totally silent as to the fate of individuals; from historical investigation it is impossible to determine who were the sealed, and what was their condition during the ravages of the Saracens. Alford writes: “In the very midst of this corrupt Christianity, were at that time God’s elect scattered up and down; and it is surely too much to say every such person escaped scathless from the Turkish (Saracenic) sword.” If from, other points of resemblance between the Symbol and the Saracenic woe (and there are many such which cannot be challenged, see pp. 207 sq.), the identity between the object of prophecy and that woe can be established, then it is not “too much to say,” especially in view of the absence of all proof to the contrary, that God did, according to His promise, preserve His sealed ones from the torment which was visited upon the unsealed.

Another objection is brought against Elliott’s interpretation of the crowns like unto gold (Revelation 9:7). “Elliott tries to apply it to the turban; but granting some latitude to the στέφανοι, the ὄμοιοιχρυσῷ, will hardly bear this. The appearance of a turban, even when ornamented with gold, is hardly golden.” True; but a yellow turban (Barnes) might be described as like to gold. Certainly Alford, who interprets fiery and sulphureous (Revelation 9:17) as meaning red and light-yellow, should have no objection to this explanation.

Alford again writes: “I cannot forbear noticing, as we pass, the caprice of historical interpreters. On the command not to kill the men, etc., in Revelation 9:5, Elliott says: ‘i. e., not to annihilate them as a political Christian body.’ If then the same rule of interpretation is to hold, the present verse (6) must mean that 'the political Christian body' will be so sorely beset by these Mohammedan locusts, that it will desire to be annihilated, and not find any way. For surely it cannot be allowed that the killing of men should be said of their annihilation as a political body in one verse, and their desiring to die in the next, should be said of some thing totally different, and applicable to their individual misery.” The propriety of the criticism of the distinguished commentator may be allowed, and yet it be shown to have no force against the historical scheme. In chs. l.–lii. of the immortal history of Gibbon, we have described the rise, the conquests, and the decline of the Saracens. In the grand features of history as therein set forth, we perceive the similarity to the complex symbol of Revelation 9:1-11. Prominent amongst these features is the fact that though the Mohammedan conquerors tormented, they never totally destroyed the political combinations of Christendom. In Europe they were as an invading army encamped—they were never able to take Constantinople; although they ravaged the country around Rome, they were restrained from the capture of the Imperial City; in their advance upon Christendom from the Pyrenees, they were driven back by Charles Martel. Even in Spain, where for centuries they held dominion, they never completely extinguished either the Spanish nationality or the organized Church. In Syria, where their first conquests in Christendom were made, although their sceptre has passed away to the Turks, we still find nominally Christian communities substantially as they were organized in the days of the Saracens. “After the revolution of eleven centuries, the Jews and Christians of the Turkish Empire enjoy the liberty of conscience which was granted by the Arabian Caliphs…… All the oriental sects were included in the common benefits of toleration; the rank, the immunities, the domestic jurisdiction of the patriarchs, the bishops, and the clergy, were protected by the civil magistrate…… The captive churches of the East have been afflicted in every age by the avarice or bigotry of their rulers; and the ordinary and legal restraints must be offensive to the pride or the zeal of the Christians” [Gibbon, Rev 51.). From the beginning, these communities have been tormented, but not destroyed. And not only so, but from the days of the Caliphs their preservation as organized communities, having a peculiar dress, has been in accordance with the policy of their rulers—they are thus more easily kept in subjection, and are separated from Moslems as inferior and tributary. The very preservation of these communities has in all time subjected them to torment, to official exaction and popular contumely and persecution. Is it not most natural to suppose that as political communities they have desired annihilation?

The last objection urged by Alford is against Elliott’s interpretation of Revelation 9:19. “Well may Mr. Barker say (Friendly Strictures): ‘An interpretation so wild, if it refutes not itself, seems scarcely capable of refutation.’ Happily, it does refute itself. For it is convicted, by altogether leaving out of view the power in the mouths, which is the principal feature in the original vision; by making no reference to the serpent-like character of these tails, but being wholly inconsistent with it; by distorting the canon of symmetrical interpretation in making the heads attached to the tails to mean that the tails are symbols of authority, etc.” The force of the criticism is admitted, and yet, like the preceding, it bears not against the historical scheme. The following is suggested as possibly the true explanation of the verse alluded to. On opening Webster’s Dictionary we find the following as the second definition of Basilisk: “In military affairs, a large piece of ordnance, so called from its supposed resemblance to the serpent of that name, or from its size. This cannon carried an iron ball of 200 pounds weight, but is not now used.” Such were the cannon with which the Turks moved to the assault of Constantinople. These long, serpent-like instruments of destruction, dragged breach foremost in the rear of the companies that served them, might well have been described in symbol as tails, like unto serpents having heads; and the power by which the Turkish armies breached the walls of Constantinople, and thus subjugated the Eastern third of the old Roman Empire (Revelation 9:18), was in these tails and the mouths of these heads.

It should be remarked, in conclusion, that the resemblance contemplated in this Note is not merely between the individual symbols and the events which have been adduced as fulfilling them respectively, but it is a resemblance between the entire series regarded as a whole, and the entire course of history—it extends to the relations of the symbols to each other, their succession and mutual proportions.—E. R. C.]


[1] [Elliott and Barnes, in accordance with Bishop Newton and many other historical interpreters, understand by this Trumpet the woes under the Saracenic invasions. They support this view by considerations such as the following: 1. The admixture of the human with the bestial (Revelation 9:7-8) seems to imply, that the agents in this woe were men. 2. It is implied, that they were actuated by a false religion by Revelation 9:1-3; Revelation 11:3. That they were symbolized by locusts (Revelation 9:3) indicates (1), that they were from the Orient, Arabia especially (see an exceedingly able article by Elliott [Hor. Apoc., Vol. I., pp. 420 sqq.] on “The Local Appropriateness of Scripture Symbol); (2) that they ravaged in numerous and immense armies as succeeding swarms; (3) their destructiveness. 4. The peculiarities of appearance presented Revelation 9:7-10 are strikingly significant of the Saracens: (1) like unto horses, they were principally horsemen; (2) crowns like unto gold, their peculiar head-dress—turbans adorned with gold (Elliott) or yellow (Barnes); (3) faces like men, bearded; (4) hair like women, they wore their hair (unlike other military nations) long. (“In that most characteristic of Arab poems, Antar—a poem composed at the time I speak of—we find the mustache and the beard, the long hair flowing on the shoulders, and the turban also, are specified: i. 340; ‘He adjusted himself properly, twirled his whiskers, and folded up his hair under his turban, drawing it from off his shoulders:’ i. 169; ‘His hair flowed down his shoulders:’ iii. 117; ‘Antar cut off Maadi’s hair in revenge:’ iv. 325; ‘We will hang him up by his hair:’ ii. 4; ‘Thou foul-mustachioed wretch!’ ” Elliott); (5) teeth like lions, their ferocity; (6) breastplates as of iron, “Sale’s Koran ii. 104, ‘God hath given you coats of mail to defend you in your wars’ ” (Elliott). 5. The addition of the scorpion (also pointing to the Orient) sting, Revelation 9:10, indicates (1) that their agency was to be on men, and not as the simple locust figure would have indicated, on vegetation, Revelation 9:4. (It was the command of the Caliph Aboubeker, the father-in-law and successor of Mohammed, in accordance with the spirit of the Koran, issued to the Saracens on the invasion of Syria, “Destroy no palm trees, nor burn any fields of corn; cut down no fruit trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat.” Gibbon, Rev 51); (2) that it was to be a tormenting, not an utterly destructive, agency, Revelation 9:5 (the sting of the scorpion is exceedingly painful, but not ordinarily fatal, see Books of Travel generally. In reference to the nature of this woe, as thus appropriately symbolized, the following is extracted from Barnes):

[“As applicable to the conflicts of the Saracens with Christians (Christendom, the external Church), the meaning here would seem to be, that the power conceded to those who are represented by the locusts was not to cut off and to destroy the Church; but it was to bring upon it various calamities to continue for a definite period. … In respect to this, some remarkable facts have occurred in history. The followers of the False Prophet contemplated the subjugation of Europe and the destruction of Christianity from two quarters—the East and the West—expecting to make a junction of the two armies in the North of Italy, and to march down to Rome. Twice did they attack the vital part of Christendom by besieging Constantinople; first, in the seven years’ siege, which lasted from A. D. 668 to A. D. 675, and secondly, in the years 716–718, when Leo the Isaurian was on the imperial throne. But, on both occasions, they were obliged to retire defeated and disgraced. Gibbon, 3:461 seq. Again, they renewed their attack on the West. Having conquered Northern Africa, they passed over into Spain, subdued that country and Portugal, and extended their conquests as far as the Loire. At that time they designed to subdue France, and having united with the forces which they expected from the East, they intended to make a descent on Italy, and complete the conquest of Europe. This purpose was defeated by the valor of Charles Martel, and Europe and the Christian world were saved from subjugation. Gibbon Revelation 3:4 seq. ‘A victorious line of march,’ pays Mr. Gibbon, ‘had been prolonged above a thousand miles, from the rock of Gibraltar to the mouth of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the highlands of Scotland. The Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or the Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelations of Mahomet.’ The arrest of the Saracen hosts before Europe was subdued, was what there was no reason to anticipate, and it even yet perplexes historians to be able to account for it. ‘The calm historian,’ says Mr. Gibbon, ‘who strives to follow the rapid course of the Saracens, must study to explain by what means the church and state were saved from this impending, and, as it should seem, inevitable danger.’ ‘These conquests,’ says Mr. Hallam, ‘which astonish the careless and superficial, are less perplexing to a calm inquirer than their cessation—the loss of half the Roman empire than the preservation of the rest’ (Middle Ages ii. 3, 169). These illustrations may serve to explain the meaning of the symbol—that their grand commission was not to annihilate or root out, but to annoy and afflict. Indeed, they did not go forth with a primary design to destroy. The announcement of the Mussulman always was, ‘the Koran, the tribute, or the sword,’ and when there was submission, either by embracing his religion or by tribute, life was always spared. ‘The fair option of friendship, or submission, or battle,’ says Mr. Gibbon (3:387), ‘was proposed to the enemies of Mahomet.’ Comp. also vol. iii. 453, 456.”

[6. The length of the woe, five, months, i. e. (in the prophetic calendar) one hundred and fifty years—the precise length of the Saracenic invasion (see abstract of Elliott on p. 201; and also the Note on Prophetic Days, p. 260.—E. R. C.]

[2]“The fact that such creatures have never yet been seen should not make as conclude, that they never can or never will come. In the last times many things, till then unheard of, shall come to pass—much thitherto unseen shall greet mortal vision.” Thus Hebert. This mode of apprehension, however, has nothing to do with inspiration, as Düsterdieck thinks, but with literal exegesis.

[3][Elliott and Barnes, in accordance with Bishop Newton and many other distinguished historical interpreters, understand by the events under this Trumpet the Woe of the Turkish invasions (see pp. 201 sq.). The following is an abstract of the alleged parallelism between the prophecy and history, in view of which this view has been adopted and supported. (In the arrangement of the points, the plan of Barnes has been, in great measure, followed.) 1. The place, of departure: Revelation 9:14 declares this to be the Euphrates; it is a well known fact, that the Turks went forth from this river on their career of conquest. 2. The four Angels, Revelation 9:14 : Barnes explains this by referring to the fourfold division of the old Turkish Empire, previous to the outpouring on the remains of the Roman Empire, into four Kingdoms—Persia, Kerman, Syria and Roum (Gibbon, Rev 57); Elliott discards this and all similar divisions, and suggests that the number four was chosen either (a) in accordance with the propriety of the figure as indicating that there would be a general outpouring, in correspondence with the four winds which are the proverbial representatives of all winds, or else (b) as indicating that the tempest Angels (Revelation 7:1) loosed in the Saracenic woe were subsequently bound at the Euphrates. 3. The preparation, Revelation 9:15 : the Turkish Empire, having its seat about and to the East of the Euphrates, had long been growing in power and fitness to subdue the Eastern Roman Empire; long before their attack upon the latter, they had become the most powerful nation on the earth (see Gibbon, Rev 57). 4. Bound and loosed, Revelation 9:14-15 : it is a matter of surprise that the powerful Empire which had subdued the East should so long have refrained from moving westward; it would seem as though they had been restrained by some superior power. 5. The material of their armies: Revelation 9:16 implies that this was cavalry, the well known principal element of the Turkish hosts. 6. Their numbers: Revelation 9:16, two myriads of myriads; the Turkish armies were immense. Gibbon says (Rev 57): “The myriads of Turkish horse overspread a frontier of six hundred miles, etc.” (It is probable, if this hypothesis be correct, that the number relates to the entire number engaged throughout the period of the invasions.) 7.The numeration: by myriads, Revelation 9:16 : it is one of the peculiarities of the Turks to speak of numbers, not as we do, by thousands, but by tomans (myriads), “so that it is not without his usual propriety of language that Gibbon speaks (as in the quotation in the preceding division) of ‘the myriads of Turkish horse’ ” (Elliott). 8. Their personal appearance: Revelation 9:17, “breastplates fiery, hyacinthine and sulphureous;” Daubuz remarks: “From their first appearance, the Ottomans have affected to wear warlike apparel of scarlet, blue and yellow.” 9. The heads of the horses as the heads of lions, Revelation 9:17; indicative (1) of their strength and fierceness—these were well-known characteristics of the Turkish cavalry; (2) not only of the characteristics, but of the titles of the heads or leaders; Gibbon writes (Rev 57.): “The name of Alp Arslan, the Valiant Lion, is expressive of the popular idea of the perfection of man; and the successor of Togrul Bey displayed the fierceness and generosity of the royal animal. He passed the Euphrates, and entered Cæsarea, etc.” Elliott remarks (vol. i., p. 498): “This kind of title, which reminds one of those of the American Indians, seems to have been common among the Turkmans. So Kizil-Arslan, the Red lion, a chief contemporary with Togrul Bey; and again kilidge Arslan (Noble Lion) etc.;” and again he writes (p. 510): “So Rycaut on the Turks, Revelation 21:0 : ‘The Turks compare the Grand Seignor to the lion, and other kings to little dogs.’ ” 10. Out of their mouths, etc., Revelation 9:17. Barnes remarks: “This is just such a description as would be given of an army to which the use of gunpowder was known. Looking now upon a body of cavalry in the heat of an engagement, it would seem, if the cause were not known, that the horses belched forth smoke and sulphureous flame;” the use of fire-arms by the Turks in their invasion of the Eastern Empire is one of the established facts of history. 11. The destructive agency, Revelation 9:18 : Not only did the Turks use fire-arms, but to this agency, more than to aught else, was their success due, as appears from the following remarks of Gibbon in reference to the siege of Constantinople, Rev 68: “Among the implements of destruction, he (the Turkish Sultan) studied with peculiar care the recent and tremendous discovery of the Latins; and his artillery surpassed whatever had yet appeared in the world. A founder of cannon, a Dane or Hungarian, who had almost starved in the Greek service, deserted to the Moslems, and was liberally entertained by the Turkish Sultan. Mohammed was satisfied with the answer to his first question, which he eagerly pressed on the artist: ‘Am I able to cast a cannon capable of throwing a ball or stone of sufficient size to batter the walls of Constantinople? I am not ignorant of their strength; but were they more solid than those of Babylon, I could oppose an engine of superior power: the position and management of that engine must be left to your engineers.’ On this assurance, a foundry was established at Adrianople, the metal was prepared, and at the end of three months Urban produced a piece of brass ordnance of stupendous and almost incredible magnitude; a measure of twelve palms is assigned to the bore; and the stone bullet weighed above six hundred pounds. A vacant place before the new palace was chosen for the first experiment; but to prevent the sudden and mischievous effects of astonishment and fear, a proclamation was issued that the cannon would be discharged the ensuing day. The explosion was felt or heard in a circuit of a hundred furlongs; the ball, by the force of gunpowder, was driven about a mile; and on the spot where it fell, it buried itself a fathom deep in the ground. …. The same destructive secret had been revealed to the Moslems, by whom it was employed with the superior energy of zeal, riches and despotism. The great cannon of Mohammed has been separately noticed—an important and visible object in the history of the times. But that enormous engine was flanked by two fellows almost of equal magnitude; the long order of the Turkish artillery was pointed against the walls; fourteen batteries thundered at once on the most accessible places; and of one of these it was ambiguously expressed that it was mounted with one hundred and thirty guns, and that it discharged one hundred and thirty bullets. From the lines, the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery thundered on all sides; and the camp and city, the Greeks and the Turks, were involved in a cloud of smoke which could only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction of the Roman empire.” In view of such historical facts, Elliott remarks: “It was to ‘the fire and the smoke and the sulphur,’ to the artillery and firearms of Mahomet, that the killing of the third part of men, i. e., the capture of Constantinople, and by consequence the destruction of the Greek empire, was owing.” 12. Power in their tails, Revelation 9:19 : on this Elliott remarks: “A horse-tail to denote a ruler! Strange association! Unlikely symbol! Instead of symbolizing authority and rule, the tail is in other Scriptures put in direct contrast with the head, and made the representative rather of the subjected and the low. Besides which, it is not here the lordly lion’s tail, but that of the horse. Who could ever, à priori, have conceived of such an application of it? And yet among the Turks … that very association had existence, and still exists to the present day. … It is the ensign of one, two or three horse-tails that marks distinctively the dignity and power of the Turkish Pasha.” Barnes remarks: “The image before the mind of John would seem to have been that he saw horses belching out fire and smoke, and—what was equally strange—he saw that their power of spreading desolation was connected with the tails of the horses.” 13. The number, the third part of the men, Revelation 9:18 : this Elliott explains as indicating the overthrow of the Eastern, or one-third of the entire, Empire. Barnes writes: “No one in reading the accounts of the wars of the Turks, and of the ravages which they have committed, would be likely to feel that this is an exaggeration; it is not necessary to suppose that it is literally accurate.” 14. The time of continuance—a day, hour, month and year, Revelation 9:15 : this period in the prophetic calendar, on the ordinary hypothesis of regarding the prophetic year as consisting of three hundred and sixty days, would equal three hundred and ninety-one years and thirty days. Elliott, however, calls attention to the fact, that the term employed is not the prophetic καιρός, but ἐνιαυτον; he therefore hypothesizes that the Julian year was intended, and thence deduces as the period contemplated, reckoning twelve hours to the prophetic day (comp. John 11:9), three hundred and ninety-six years, one hundred and eighteen days. The Turks, according to Abulfeda, went forth from Bagdad on their career of Western conquest on the 10th of Dzoulcaad A. H. 448, which corresponds with January 18th, A.D. 1057; from this to May 29th, 1453 the date of the fall of Constantinople, is three hundred and ninety-six years, one hundred and thirty days; or counting to May 16th, the day on which the investment was completed, the fortieth day of the siege, we have the exact prophetic period. Concerning the fortieth day, we have the “unintended expository words (of Gibbon): ‘After a siege of forty days, the fate of Constantinople could be no longer averted.’ ” 13. The effect, Revelation 9:20-21 : it is notorious that, previous to the Turkish woe, nominal Christendom was sunk in a condition of (1) demon worship (the invocation of saints), (2) idolatry (image worship), (3) murders (bloody persecutions), (4) sorceries (incantations and pretended miracles), (5) fornications (abounding impurities), (6) thefts (indulgences, masses, etc.); and it is equally notorious that this woe was not followed by general repentance.—E. R. C.]

[4][These judgments, in the opinion of the Am. Ed., commenced after the Woman had become the Harlot—after the unholy alliance between the Church and State. See on Revelation 17:0.—E. R. C.]

[5][“There were to be seven Trumpets sounded, and under the seventh Trumpet seven Vials poured out. The numeral resemblance of these to the seven trumpet blasts sounded on seven successive days against the ancient Jericho, and which were followed on the seventh day by seven compassings of its walls, till on the last the wall fell down, and entrance was given to Israel into that first city of the promised Canaan (Joshua 6:3-16)—this interesting resemblance, I say, has been noticed by Ambrose Ansbert in old times, and in more modern times by Vitringa, and other Apocalyptic interpreters after him. It almost seemed as if some power were marked out hereby as the New Testament Jericho; whose domination opposed, and whose overthrow would introduce the saints’ enjoyment of the Heavenly Canaan.” Elliott, Vol. I, p. 349.—E. R. C.]

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 9". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.