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THE FIFTH AND SIXTH WOE-TRUMPETS
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Revelation 9:1. Fall.—Better, “fallen”; that had fallen. A star would seem to represent a false teacher. Some think Mahomet is referred to. He claimed to have received instructions from Gabriel. And he let loose a flood of evils on the earth. But it is doubtful whether any personal identifications are permissible. The typical and symbolical character should be preserved. Bottomless pit.—Better, “pit of the abyss”; inner prison; lowest deep (Luke 8:31). The word “deep” describes the abode of the evil spirits. “This verse suggests a vast depth, approached by a pit or shaft, whose top, or mouth, is covered. Dante’s “Inferno,” with its narrowing circles winding down to the central shaft, is somewhat similar. The abyss is the lowest spring of evil, whence the worst dangers arise.”—Bishop Boyd Carpenter.
Revelation 9:2. Darkened by reason of the smoke.—“The enemy is at work (in the conflict of the Church with evil), seeking to obscure the Church’s light by the diffusion of dark and low-born thoughts.
Revelation 9:3. Locusts.—Not the insect, but evil spirits, whose influence and work can be represented by locusts. Godet’s note marks every point of this figure: “From out the bottomless pit, the dwelling-place of devils, issue a cloud of evil spirits, represented under the image of locusts, of brilliant and attractive colours, but armed with the sting of a scorpion, and who for five months (the time during which, in the East, the plague of locusts lasts—May to December) throw into a kind of delirium—not of joy, but of deep sadness—mankind, crushed under the weight of its struggle with the Almighty. It is as if the inhabitants of the earth were subjected to possession on a great scale, after the likeness of the single instances of the kind which we find in the gospel history.” These times of delusion, and possession—of fanatics and fanaticism—bear very seriously on the Christian Church, carrying even its members away.
Revelation 9:4. Not hurt the grass.—As they were not to do the mischievous work of actual locusts, we are to understand that actual locusts are not meant.
Revelation 9:5. Not kill them.—They were to produce a living misery. The poison of scorpions is so acid that it causes great agony. This is the figure here.
Revelation 9:6. Seek death.—As an end to their misery.
Revelation 9:7. Like unto horses.—There is an imagined likeness between the head of the locust and the mailed head of a horse. Crowns.—With possible allusion to decorations on warhorses’ heads.
Revelation 9:8. Hair of women.—It is said that, in Arabic poetry, the same comparison is used of the antennæ of the natural locust. Teeth as lions.—Joel 1:6. Alford sees in this vision “a great symbolical army, multitudinous as locusts, malicious as scorpions, ruling as kings, intelligent as men, wily as womanhood, bold and fierce as lions, resistless as those clad in iron armour. The locust-like army has characteristics partly human, partly diabolical, partly civilised, partly barbarous,” It may be best to see in this description the various delusions, infatuations, fanaticisms, which have afflicted humanity, and put Christ’s Church in peril, idealised. This explains the mixture of metaphor.
Revelation 9:11. Abaddon, Apollyon.—The destroyer. Not an historical person, but the representative of the destructive spirit. “The genius of destruction—bodily and spiritual.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Revelation 9:1-12
The Locust Symbols.—The interpretation of these visions is most difficult, but we must bear in mind that they are descriptive of that great war which the Church is waging with the world, which good is waging with evil, but the end of which, we are assured, is the victory of the good. The kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15), but during the progress of the war the issue will often appear doubtful—nay, even the triumph may seem to be in the hand of the enemy; but faith disregards the back-flowing waves, for she knows the tide is coming in. We have seen that the advance of Christianity is marked by the manifestation of evils as well as the establishment of good. Christianity does not create evils, but the very intense honesty of her principles reveals the hidden force of unsuspected corruption. Thus the faith of Christ is come to give light unto the world, but in her progress many lights fall—the false lights of world-power, world-wisdom, false religionism, heresies. The enemy, too, is at work, and seeks to obscure her light by the diffusion of low and earth-born thoughts. The smoke of the pit blackens the light, and confuses the atmosphere. Now, this obscuration is surely the diffusion on earth of evil thoughts and ideas, the spirit of falsehood and hate, hostility to truth, and emnity against God and man. The bright, clear air, made gladsome by the sun, is darkened; “all forms, that once appeared beautiful, become hideous.” In the history of advancing truth there will come times when confused ideas will darken simple truth and right, and out of the darkness will emerge strange and mongrel teachings, with a certain enforced unity, but without moral harmony—a medley of fair and hideous, reasonable and barbarous, dignified and debased, which enslave and torment mankind. The outcome of these teachings is often war and tyrannous oppression, but the sacred seer teaches us distinctly that those who hold fast by the seal of God are those who cannot be injured, for he would have us remember that the true sting of false conceptions is not in the havoc of open war, but in the wounded soul and conscience.—Bishop Boyd Carpenter.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9
Revelation 9:7. Horses in Battle.—“The Mamalukes, wearing their beards long and rough, with graue and sterne countenance, having strong and able bodies, vsed such cunning in all their fights and battels that, after they had giuen the first charge with their launces, they would by and bye, with wonderful actiuitie, vse their bows and arrows, casting their targuets behind them; and forthwith the horseman’s mace, or crooked scimitar, as the manner of the battel or place required. Their horses were strong and couragious, in making and swiftnesse much like unto the Spanish jennets; and that which is of many hardly beleeued, so docile, that at certaine signes or speeches of the rider they would with their teeth reach him up from the ground a launce, an arrow, or such like thing; and as if they had known the enemie, run upon him with open mouth, and lash at him with their heeles, and had by nature and custom learned, not to be afraid of anything. These couragious horses were commonly furnished with siluer bridles, guilt trappings, rich saddles, their necks and brests armed with plates of yron; the horseman himselfe was commonly content with a coat of maile or a brest plate of yron. The chiefe and wealthiest of them used head pieces: the rest a linnen covering of the head, curiously folded into manie wreathes, wherewith they thought themselves safe ynough against any handle strokes; the common souldiers vsed thrumb’d caps, but so thicke that no sword could pierce them.”—Knolles.
Revelation 9:7-10. Locusts.—These great grass-hopper-looking insects have been sad scourges to mankind, and the Egyptian plague of them has happened more than once since that early date. Africa, especially that part near to Egypt, has been at different times infested by myriads of these creatures, which have consumed nearly every green thing. The effects of the havoc committed by them may be estimated by the famine they occasioned. St. Augustine mentions a plague of this kind in Africa, which destroyed no less than eight hundred thousand men in the kingdom of Masinissa alone, and many more in the lands near the sea. It is also related that in the year 591 great hosts of locusts migrated from Africa into Italy, and after grievously ravaging the country, were cast into the sea, and there arose a pestilence from their stench, which killed nearly a million men and beasts. In the territory of Venice, in 1478, more than thirty thousand persons are said to have perished in a famine occasioned by the devastation of the locusts, and instances of their dreadful numbers have been recorded in France, Spain, and Germany. In different parts of Russia, Hungary, Poland, Arabia, India, and other countries, the locusts have come at regular intervals. In the accounts of the invasions of locusts, the statements, which appear most marvellous, relate to the prodigious mass of matter which encumbers the sea wherever they are blown into it, and the pestilence arising from its putrefaction. Their dead bodies are said to have been, in some places, heaped one upon the other to the depth of four feet, in Russia, Poland, and Lithuania; and when, in South Africa, they were driven into the sea by a north-west wind, they formed, says Barrow, a bank three or four feet high along the shore. When we consider the forests that are stripped of their foliage, and the earth of its green garment for thousands of square miles, it may well be supposed that the volume of animal matter produced may equal that of herds of large animals accidentally falling into the sea. Nevertheless, unless Augustine had been a saint, the death of so many men would have been doubted.
CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES
Revelation 9:13. Sixth angel sounded.—This woe is an invasion of foreign nations coming out of the East, and causing everywhere ruin and disaster.
Revelation 9:14. Loose the four angels.—These are the angels of invasion. No actual reference to the Euphrates must be sought for, but what the Euphrates symbolises. Rivers do not actually hind angels. The Eaphrates was the great military barrier between the great northern and southern kingdoms. It may symbolise the providence which kept Eastern delusions and fanaticisms from passing over to the West. When the barrier was broken a flood of evils poured into Europe. But it cannot be said that this reference to Euphrates is satisfactorily explained.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Revelation 9:13-21
The Second Woe-Trumpet.—The aim of the plague is to exhibit the death-working power of false thoughts, false customs, false beliefs, and to rouse men to forsake the false worships, worldliness, and self-indulgence, into which they had fallen (Revelation 9:20-21). The enemy against whom these foes are gathered is the great world, lost in false thoughts, luxurious ways, dishonest customs—that world which, in the very essential genius of its nature, is hostile to goodness and the God of goodness. But the hosts which come against this sin-drowned world are not merely plagues, as famine and pestilence; they are plagues which are the result of the world-spirit, and are, to a great extent, therefore, the creation of those who suffer. For there are evils which are loosed upon the world by the natural action of sin and sinful customs. We should notice that the historical basis of the Apocalypse is the past history of God’s chosen people. The Apocalypse shows us the same principles working in higher levels and in wider arena. The Israel of God, the Church of Christ, with its grand opportunities, takes the place of the national Israel. (But its experiences are similar, and each set of experiences helps us in the understanding of the other.) The people who are victorious by faith at Jericho lay themselves open, by their timid worldliness, to the dangers of a Babylonish foe. The plague which falls on the spirit of worldliness does not spare the worldliness in the Church. The overthrow of corrupted systems bearing the Christian name is not a victory of the world over the Church, but of the Church over the world. The history of Israel is in much the key to the history of the world.—Bishop Boyd Carpenter.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Revelation 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29