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At the sounding of the fifth angel, a star falleth from heaven, to whom is given the key of the bottomless pit: he openeth the pit, and there come forth locusts like scorpions. The first woe passed. The sixth trumpet soundeth. Four angels are let loose that were bound.
Anno Domini 96.
Revelation 9:1. I saw a star fall from heaven— Stars, in the language of prophesy, signify angels; see ch. Revelation 1:20. The angels of the heavenly host, as well as the angels or bishops of the churches, seem to be called stars in scripture; as when at the creation, the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy, Job 38:7
Revelation 9:2. There arose a smoke out of the pit,— As a great smoke hinders the sight, so do errors the understanding. St. John keeps to the allegory, says Grotius: a smoke takes from us the sight of the stars. Smoke, especially when proceeding from a fierce fire, is also a representation of devastation. Thus when Abraham beheld the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the smoke of the country went up, as the smoke of a furnace. The great displeasure of God is represented by the same figurative expressions of smoke and fire, Psa_18:7-8
Revelation 9:3. Locusts upon the earth:— See Jdg_6:5
Revelation 9:4. It was commanded them that they should, &c.— This verse demonstrates, that these were not natural, but symbolical locusts. The like injunctions were given to the Arabian soldiers. When Yezid marched to invade Syria, Abubeker charged him expressly not to destroy the palm-trees, nor to burn any fields of corn, nor to cut down fruit-trees, nor do mischief to any cattle, unless what theykilled for eating. Their commission is, to hurt only those men who have not the seal of God in their foreheads; that is, those who are not the true servants of God, but are corrupt or idolatrous Christians. Now from history it appears, that in those countries where the Saracens extended their conquests, the Christians so called were generally guilty of idolatry in the worshipping of saints, if not of images; and it was the pretence of Mohammed and his followers, to chastise them for it, and to re-establish the unity of the Godhead. The parts which remained most free from the general infection were Savoyand Piedmont; and it is very memorable, that, when the Saracens approached these parts, they were defeated with great slaughter by the famous Charles Martel, in several engagements.
Revelation 9:5-9. But that they should be tormented five months, &c.— But that they should torment, &c. one hundred and fifty years, from the year 612 to the year 762. See on Revelation 9:10. As the Saracens were to hurt only the corrupt and idolatrous Christians, so these they were not to kill, but only to torment; and were to bring such calamities upon the earth, as should make men weary of their lives, Revelation 9:5-6. Not that it could be supposed that the Saracens would not kill many thousands in their incursions; on the contrary, their angel has the name of the destroyer, Revelation 9:11. They might kill them as individuals, but still they should not kill them as a political body,—as a state or empire. They might greatly harass and torment both the Greek and the Latin churches, but they should not utterly extirpate the one or the other. They besieged Constantinople, and even plundered Rome; but they could not make themselves masters of either of those cities. They dismembered the Greek empire, of Syria, Egypt, &c. but they were never able to subdue the whole. As often as they besieged Constantinople, they were repulsed. They attempted it in the year 672, in the reign of Constantine Pogonatus; but their ships were destroyed by the sea-fire invented by Callinicus; and after seven years fruitless pains, they were obliged to raise the siege. They attempted it again in the reign of Leo Isauricus, in the year 718, but were forced to desist by famine and pestilence, and losses of various kinds. In the following verses, 7, &c. the nature and qualities of these locusts are described, partly in allusion to the properties of natural locusts and the description given of them by Joel, and partly in allusion to the habits and manners of the Arabians, to shew that not real, but figurative locusts are here intended. The first quality mentioned is, their being like unto horses prepared unto battle, which is described also in swordsearcher://bible/Joe 2:4
Revelation 9:10-11. And their power was to hurt men five months,— See on Revelation 9:5. where it is said, as well as here, that they were to hurt and torment five months, in conformity, no doubt, to the type; for locusts are observed to live five months, that is, from April to September. But of those locusts, it is said, not that their duration or existence was only five months, but their power of hurting and tormenting men continued five months. Now these months may either be months commonly so taken, or prophetic months, consisting each of thirty days, as St. John reckons them, and so making one hundred and fifty years, at the rate of each day for a year; or, the number being repeated twice, the sums may be thought to be doubled; and five months and five months, in prophetic computation, will amount to three hundred years. If these months be taken for common months, then, as the natural locusts live and do hurt only in the five summer months, so the Saracens, in the five summer months too, made their excursions, and retreated again in the winter. It appears that this was their usual practice; and particularly when they first besieged Constantinople, in the time of Constantine Pogonatus. For from the Month ofApril to September they pertinaciouslycontinued the siege, then departed for the winter, and in spring renewed their attacks; and this course they held for seven years. If these months be taken for prophetic months, or one hundred and fifty years, it was within that space that the Saracens made their principal conquests. Their empire might subsist much longer; but their power of hurting and tormenting men was exerted chiefly within that period. Their greatest conquests were made between the year 612,—when Mohammed first opened the bottomless pit, and began publicly to teach and propagate his imposture,—and the year 762, when the caliph Almansor built Bagdad, and called it the city of peace. Syria, Persia, India, the greatest part of Africa, Spain and some other parts of Europe, were subdued in the intermediate time. But when the caliphs fixed their seat at Bagdad, then the Saracens ceased from their excursions and ravages like locusts, and became a settled nation; their power and glory began to decline, and their empire to moulder away: then they had no longer, like the prophetic locusts, one king over them, Spain having revolted in the year 756, and set up another caliph, in opposition to the house of Abbas. If these months be taken doubly, or for three hundred years, then the whole time that the caliphs of the Saracens reigned with a temporal dominion at Damascus and Bagdad together, was three hundred years, viz. from the year 637 to the year 936 inclusive, when their empire was broken into several principalities or kingdoms. So that, let these five months be taken in any possible construction, the event will still answer, and the prophesy will still be fulfilled; though the second method of interpretation and application appears much more probable than either the first or the third. It is added, that they had a king (Revelation 9:11.). The same person should exercise temporal as well as spiritual sovereignty over them; and the caliphs were their emperors, as well as the heads of their religion. The king is the same as the star, or angel of the bottomless pit, Revelation 9:1. whose name is Abaddon in Hebrew, and Apollyon in Greek, that is, the destroyer. It has been thought, that this has some allusion to the name of Obodas, the common name of the kings of that part of Arabia whence Mohammed came; as Pharaoh was the common nameof the kings of Egypt; and such allusions are not unusual in the style of scripture. However that be, the name agrees perfectly well with Mohammed and the caliphs his successors, who were the authors of all those horrid wars and desolations, and openly taught and professed that their religion was to be propagated and established by the sword.
Revelation 9:12. One woe is past, &c.— This is added, not only to distinguish the woes, and to mark more strongly each period; but also to suggest, that some time would intervene between this first woe of the Arabian locusts, and the next of the Euphratean horsemen. The similitude between the locusts and Arabians, is indeed so very great, that it cannot fail of striking every curious observer; and a farther resemblance is noted by Mr. Daubuz, "That there hath happened in the extent of this torment a coincidence of the event with the nature of the locusts. The Saracens have made inroads into all those parts of Christendom where the natural locusts are wont to be seen and known to do mischief, and no where else; and that too in the same proportion. Where the locusts are seldom seen, there the Saracens stayed little; where the natural locusts are often seen, there the Saracens abode most; and where they bred most, there the Saracens had their beginning and greatest power. This may be easily verified by history."
Revelation 9:13-15. The sixth angel sounded,— At the sounding of this sixth trumpet, a voice proceeded from the four horns of the golden altar (for the scene was still in the temple), ordering the angel of the sixth trumpet to loose the four angels, &c. and they were loosed accordingly. Such a voice proceeding from the four horns of the golden altar, is a strong indication of the divine displeasure, and plainlyintimates, that the sins of men must have been very great, when the altar, which was their sanctuary and protection, called aloud for vengeance. The four angels are the four sultanies, or four leaders of the Turks and Othmans. For there were four principal sultanies or kingdoms of the Turks bordering upon the river Euphrates; one at Bagdad, founded by Togrul-Beg, or Tangrolipix, in the year 1055; another at Damascus, founded by Tagjuddaulas, or Duca, in the year 1079; a third at Aleppo, founded by Sjar-suddaulas, or Melech, in the sameyear; and the fourth at Iconium in Asia Minor, founded bySedyduddaulas, or Cutlu-Muses, or his son, in the year 1080. These four sultanies subsisted several years afterwards; and the sultans were bound, and restrained from extending their conquests further than the river Euphrates, by divine Providence, and by the croisades of the European Christians in the latter part of the eleventh, and in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But when an end was put to the croisades in the thirteenth century, then the four angels in the river Euphrates were loosed. Soliman Shah, the first chief and founder of the Othman race, retreating with his three sons from Jingiz-Chan, would have passed the river Euphrates with his Tartars, but was drowned; the time of loosing the four angels being not yet come. Discouraged at this dreadful incident, two of his sons returned to their former habitations; but Ortogrul, the third, with his three sons, Condoz, Sarubani, and Othman, remained some time in those parts; and, havingobtained leave of Aladin the sultan of Iconium, he came with 400 of his Turks, and settled in the mountains of Armenia. From thence they began their excursions; and the other Turks associating with them, and following their standard, they gainedseveral victories over the Tartars on one side, and over the Christians on the other. Ortogrul dying in the year 1288, Othman his son succeeded him in power and authority; and in the year 1299, and, as some say, with theconsent of Aladin himself, he was proclaimed sultan, and founded a new empire; and the people afterwards, as well as the new empire, were called by his name. For, though they disclaim the appellation of Turks, and assume that of Othmans, yet nothing is more certain, than that they are a mixed multitude, the remains of the four sultanies above mentioned, as well as the descendants particularly of the house of Othman. In this manner, and at this time, 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; (Revelation 9:15.) that is, the men of the Roman empire, and especially in Europe, the supposed third part of the world. The Latin, or Western empire, was broken to pieces under the four first trumpets; the Greek or Eastern empire was cruelly hurt and tormented under the fifth trumpet; and under the sixth, it was to be slain and utterly destroyed. Accordingly, all Asia-Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Thrace, Macedon, Greece, and all the country which belonged to the Greek or Eastern Caesars, the Othmans have conquered. For the execution of this great work it is said, that they were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year; which will admit either a literal or a mystical interpretation; and the former will hold good, if the lattershould fail. If it be taken literally, it is only expressing the same thing by different words; as people, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues, are jointly used in other places; and then the meaning is, that they were prepared to execute the divine commission at any time; any hour, or day, or month, or year, that God should appoint. If it be taken mystically, and the hour, and day, and month, and year, be a prophetic hour, day, month, and year, then a year, according to St. John's account, (who uses Daniel's computation,) consisting of three hundred and sixty days, is three hundred and sixty years; and a month consisting of thirty days, is thirty years; and a day is a year; and an hour, in the same proportion, is fifteen days; so that the whole period of the Othman's slaying the third part of men, or subduing the Christian states in the Greek and Roman empire, amounts to three hundred and ninety-one years and fifteen days. Now it is wonderfully remarkable, that the first conquest of the Othmans over the Christians was in the year of the Christian aera
1281, and the year of the Hegira 680; for Ortogrul, in that year, crowned his victories with the conquest of the famous city of Kutahi from the Greeks. Compute three hundred and ninety-one years from that time, and they will terminate in the year 1672; and in that year Mohammed the fourth took Cameniec from the Poles; whereupon prince Cantemir has made this memorable reflection: "This was the last victory by which any advantage accrued to the Othman state, or by which any city or province was annexed to the ancient bounds of the empire." Here then the prophesy and the event exactly agree in the period of three hundred and ninety-one years; and if more accurate and authentic histories of the Othmans were discovered, and we knew the very day wherein Kutahi was taken, as certainly as we know that whereon Cameniec was taken, the like exactness might also be found in the fifteen days. Dr. Lloyd, bishop of Worcester, in his interpretation of this passage, foretold, many years before it happened, "that peace would be concluded with the Turks in the year 1698, which accordinglycame to pass; and that they should no more renew their wars against the Popish Christians." See Prince Cantemir's History, b. 3: p. 265. and Bishop Burnet's History of his own Times, vol. 1: p. 204.
Revelation 9:16-19. The number of the army, &c.— A description is here given of the forces, and of the means and instruments bywhich the Othmans should effect the ruin of the Eastern empire. Their army is described as very numerous,—myriads of myriads; and when Mohammed the second besieged Constantinople, he had 400,000 men in his army, besides a powerful fleet of thirty larger, and two hundred lesser ships. They are described too, chiefly, as horsemen; and so they are described also by Ezekiel and Daniel; as it is well known that their armies consisted chiefly of cavalry, especially before the order of Janizaries was instituted by Amurath the first. The Timariots, or horsemen, hold lands by serving in the wars, are the strength of the government, and are accounted in all between seven and eight thousand fighting men: some indeed say that they are a million: and, besides these, there are spahis and other horsemen in the emperor's pay. In the vision, that is in appearance, and not in reality, they had breast-plates of fire, and of hyacinth, and brimstone. The colour of fire is red, of hyacinth blue, and of brimstone yellow: and this has had a literal accomplishment: for the Othmans, from the first time of their appearance, have affected to wear such warlike apparel of scarlet, blue, and yellow. Of the spahis particularly, some have red, and some have yellow standards; and others red or yellow, mixed with other colours. In appearance too, the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions, to denote their strength, courage, and fierceness; and out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone, Revelation 9:17.—A manifest allusion to great guns and gunpowder; which were invented under this trumpet, and were of such signal service to the Othmans in their wars: for by these three was the third part of men killed; by these the Othmans made such havoc and destruction in the Greek or Eastern empire. Amurath the second broke into Peloponnesus, and took several strong places by means of his artillery. His son Mohammed, at the siege of Constantinople, employed such great guns, as were never made before. One, we are told, was so large, as to be drawn by seventy yoke of oxen, and by two thousand men: two more discharged a stone of the weight of half a talent; but the greatest of all discharged a ball of the weight of three talents, or about three hundred pounds. For forty days the wall was battered by these guns, and so many breaches were made, that the city was taken by assault, and an end put to the Grecian empire. They had power to hurt by their tails, &c. Revelation 9:19. In this respect they very much resemble the locusts; only the different tails are adapted to the different creatures; the tails of scorpions to locusts, the tails of serpents, with a head at each end, to horses. By this figure it is meant, that the Turks draw after them the same poisonous train as the Saracens; they profess and propagate the same imposture; they do hurt not only by their conquests, but also by the spreading of their false doctrine; and wherever they establish their dominion, there too they establish their religion. Many, indeed, of the Greek church remained, and are still remaining among them; but are subject to a capitation tax for the exercise of theirreligion; are burthened with the most heavy and arbitrary impositions; are compelled to the most servile drudgery; are abused in their persons, and robbed of their property; but notwithstanding these and greater persecutions, some remains of the Greek church are still preserved among them, as we may reasonably conclude, to serve some great and mysterious ends of Providence.
Revelation 9:20-21. The rest of the men, &c.— That is, the Latin church, which escaped these calamities pretty well. From the whole it is evident, that these calamities were inflicted upon the Christians for their idolatries. As the Eastern churches were first in the crime, so they were first likewise in the punishment. At first, they were visited with the plague of the Saracens; but this working no change of reformation, they were again chastised by the still greater plague of the Othmans; were partly overthrown by the former, and were entirely ruined by the latter. What churches were then remaining, which were guilty of the like idolatry, but the Western, or those in communion with Rome? And the Western were not at all reclaimed by the ruin of the Eastern; but persisted in the worship of saints, and even in the worship of images, which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk; and the world is witness to the completion of this prophesy to this day, Neither repented they of their murders, their persecutions and inquisitions; nor of their sorceries, their pretended miracles and revelations; nor of their fornication, their public stews and uncleanness; nor of their thefts, their exactions and impositions on mankind: and they are as notorious for their licentiousness and wickedness, as for their superstition and idolatry. As they, therefore, refused to take warning by the two former woes, the third woe, as we shall see, will fall with vengeance upon them.
Inferences.—It is exceedingly natural to reflect, while reading this representation, how exactly the mightiest princes, and most savage destroyers of mankind execute the plan of divine Providence; even while they are intending nothing but the gratification of their own ambition, and avarice, and cruelty. The angel of God holds the keys of the bottomless pit; and it is by divine permission that these voracious locusts issue forth and infest the earth. The ministers of God's pleasure bind the messengers of destruction, and loosen them, at the divine command. And the season, wherein they should ravage the world, is here limited to a year, to a day, to an hour. ABADDON, APOLLYON, the great and mighty destroyer, cannot effect the least of his mischievous and ruinous purposes without the permission of the Preserver and Redeemer of mankind, and cannot go beyond his limits. And even the mischief which he does, is intended and over-ruled to subserve the wisest and kindest designs. But, O, how grievous it is to think of that degree of obstinacy and perverseness which so generally prevails in the world, and which renders men so incorrigible under the most painful chastisements that Satan is permitted to inflict. Send forth, O Lord, the gentle influences of thy Spirit, and melt those hearts which will not be broken by the weightiest strokes of thy vengeance; and deliver us from a temper so much resembling that of hell, and so evidently leading down to those dreadful abodes; the temper of those who are hardened by correction, and, in the time of their affliction and misery, increase and multiply their transgressions against thee.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The fifth trumpet is supposed to refer to the rise of the impostor Mahomet, who is the star spoken of in the first part of the chapter, infecting the earth like a pestilential meteor with his abominable falsehoods: permission being given him to open the bottomless pit, a cloud of errors, black as the darkness of hell itself, immediately burst out, and covered the East; innumerable multitudes of Saracens, thick as locusts, under his banners, rushed forth: they chiefly consisted of cavalry, and made dreadful incursions into the empire, with turbans like crowns on their heads; wore long hair like women; were strong as lions; defended with armour, weapon-proof; and rushed with irresistible fury on their foes. Satan, the angel of the bottomless pit, the great destroyer of men, was at their head: and such was the misery which they every where spread through the apostate church, that death appeared preferable to life. Note; (1.) The heaviest judgments upon the world are these,—when God lets loose the great deceiver; and, because men turn away from the truth, he gives them up to strong delusions, to believe a lie. (2.) Heresy and important errors, like the scorpion's sting, infuse baleful poison into the soul. (3.) Satan, and all his emissaries, are under a divine restraint; God saith unto them, Hitherto shall ye come, and no further. (4.) Whatever prevalence of delusion there may be, those who perseveringly cleave to Christ, shall be preserved in the most trying times.
One woe is now past; two more are yet to come.
2dly, On the sounding of the sixth angel, the voice of Christ is heard from the four horns of the golden altar, which is before God, the emblem of the prevalence of his intercession for his believing people in the four parts of the earth: his command to the sixth angel is, that he should loose the four angels that were bound in the great river Euphrates, and let them have power for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men. This may be referred to the successors of Mahomet, who carried their arms far and wide through Egypt, Africa, Spain, &c. their forces were innumerable and invincible, chiefly consisting of cavalry, and breathing forth threatening and slaughter through the earth; and, like scorpions, they infused their poisonous tenets wherever their arms prevailed. Yet all these heavy judgments reclaimed not those who bore the Christian name, but dishonoured it by the vilest abominations; nor did they repent of their idolatries, the worship of demons, and of images unable to hear or answer their stupid votaries; but continued in the practice of murder, sorcery, fornication, and theft, and all those miscalled pious frauds which priestcraft invented to beguile the superstitious: therefore more deadly woes are yet in store for them. Note; (1.) God sends his judgments that sinners may turn from the evil of their ways. (2.) They who under God's visitations harden their hearts, must inevitably perish at the last.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17