Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
Re 9:1-21. The Fifth Trumpet: The Fallen Star Opens the Abyss Whence Issue Locusts. The Sixth Trumpet. Four Angels at the Euphrates Loosed.
1. The last three trumpets of the seven are called, from Re 8:13, the woe-trumpets.
fall—rather as Greek, "fallen." When John saw it, it was not in the act of falling, but had fallen already. This is a connecting link of this fifth trumpet with Re 12:8, 9, 12, "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, for the devil is come down," &c. Compare Isa 14:12, "How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning!"
the bottomless pit—Greek, "the pit of the abyss"; the orifice of the hell where Satan and his demons dwell.
And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
3. upon—Greek, "unto," or "into."
as the scorpions of the earth—as contrasted with the "locusts" which come up from hell, and are not "of the earth."
have power—namely, to sting.
And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
4. not hurt the grass … neither … green thing … neither … tree—the food on which they ordinarily prey. Therefore, not natural and ordinary locusts. Their natural instinct is supernaturally restrained to mark the judgment as altogether divine.
those men which—Greek, "the men whosoever."
in, &c.—Greek, "upon their forehead." Thus this fifth trumpet is proved to follow the sealing in Re 7:1-8, under the sixth seal. None of the saints are hurt by these locusts, which is not true of the saints in Mohammed's attack, who is supposed by many to be meant by the locusts; for many true believers fell in the Mohammedan invasions of Christendom.
And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
5. they … they—The subject changes: the first "they" is the locusts; the second is the unsealed.
five months—the ordinary time in the year during which locusts continue their ravages.
their torment—the torment of the sufferers. This fifth verse and Re 9:6 cannot refer to an invading army. For an army would kill, and not merely torment.
And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
6. shall desire—Greek, "eagerly desire"; set their mind on.
shall flee—So B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read. But A and Aleph read, "fleeth," namely continually. In Re 6:16, which is at a later stage of God's judgments, the ungodly seek annihilation, not from the torment of their suffering, but from fear of the face of the Lamb before whom they have to stand.
And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.
7. prepared unto battle—Greek, "made ready unto war." Compare Note, see on Joe 2:4, where the resemblance of locusts to horses is traced: the plates of a horse armed for battle are an image on a larger scale of the outer shell of the locust.
crowns—(Na 3:17). Elliott explains this of the turbans of Mohammedans. But how could turbans be "like gold?" Alford understands it of the head of the locusts actually ending in a crown-shaped fillet which resembled gold in its material.
as the faces of men—The "as" seems to imply the locusts here do not mean men. At the same time they are not natural locusts, for these do not sting men (Re 9:5). They must be supernatural.
And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
8. hair of women—long and flowing. An Arabic proverb compares the antlers of locusts to the hair of girls. Ewald in Alford understands the allusion to be to the hair on the legs or bodies of the locusts: compare "rough caterpillars," Jer 51:27.
as the teeth of lions—(Joe 1:6, as to locusts).
And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
9. as it were breastplates of iron—not such as forms the thorax of the natural locust.
as … chariots—(Joe 2:5-7).
And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
10. tails like unto scorpions—like unto the tails of scorpions.
and there were stings—There is no oldest manuscript for this reading. A, B, Aleph, Syriac, and Coptic read, "and (they have) stings: and in their tails (is) their power (literally, 'authority': authorized power) to hurt."
And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
11. And—so Syriac. But A, B, and Aleph, omit "and."
a king … which is the angel—English Version, agreeing with A, Aleph, reads the (Greek) article before "angel," in which reading we must translate, "They have as king over them the angel," &c. Satan (compare Re 9:1). Omitting the article with B, we must translate, "They have as king an angel," &c.: one of the chief demons under Satan: I prefer from Re 9:1, the former.
bottomless pit—Greek, "abyss."
Abaddon—that is, perdition or destruction (Job 26:6; Pr 27:20). The locusts are supernatural instruments in the hands of Satan to torment, and yet not kill, the ungodly, under this fifth trumpet. Just as in the case of godly Job, Satan was allowed to torment with elephantiasis, but not to touch his life. In Re 9:20, these two woe-trumpets are expressly called "plagues." Andreas of Cæsarea, A.D. 500, held, in his Commentary on Revelation, that the locusts mean evil spirits again permitted to come forth on earth and afflict men with various plagues.
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
12. Greek, "The one woe."
hereafter—Greek, "after these things." I agree with Alford and De Burgh, that these locusts from the abyss refer to judgments about to fall on the ungodly immediately before Christ's second advent. None of the interpretations which regard them as past, are satisfactory. Joe 1:2-7; 2:1-11, is strictly parallel and expressly refers (Joe 2:11) to THE DAY OF THE Lord great and very terrible: Joe 2:10 gives the portents accompanying the day of the Lord's coming, the earth quaking, the heavens trembling, the sun, moon, and stars, withdrawing their shining: Joe 2:18, 31, 32, also point to the immediately succeeding deliverance of Jerusalem: compare also, the previous last conflict in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and the dwelling of God thenceforth in Zion, blessing Judah. De Burgh confines the locust judgment to the Israelite land, even as the sealed in Re 7:1-8 are Israelites: not that there are not others sealed as elect in the earth; but that, the judgment being confined to Palestine, the sealed of Israel alone needed to be expressly excepted from the visitation. Therefore, he translates throughout, "the land" (that is, of Israel and Judah), instead of "the earth." I incline to agree with him.
And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
13. a voice—literally, "one voice."
from—Greek, "out of."
the four horns—A, Vulgate (Amiatinus manuscript), Coptic, and Syriac omit "four." B and Cyprian support it. The four horns together gave forth their voice, not diverse, but one. God's revelation (for example, the Gospel), though in its aspects fourfold (four expressing world-wide extension: whence four is the number of the Evangelists), still has but one and the same voice. However, from the parallelism of this sixth trumpet to the fifth seal (Re 6:9, 10), the martyrs' cry for the avenging of their blood from the altar reaching its consummation under the sixth seal and sixth trumpet, I prefer understanding this cry from the four corners of the altar to refer to the saints' prayerful cry from the four quarters of the world, incensed by the angel, and ascending to God from the golden altar of incense, and bringing down in consequence fiery judgments. Aleph omits the whole clause, "one from the four horns."
Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
14. in, &c.—Greek, "epi to potamo"; "on," or "at the great river."
Euphrates—(Compare Re 16:12). The river whereat Babylon, the ancient foe of God's people was situated. Again, whether from the literal region of the Euphrates, or from the spiritual Babylon (the apostate Church, especially Rome), four angelic ministers of God's judgments shall go forth, assembling an army of horsemen throughout the four quarters of the earth, to slay a third of men, the brunt of the visitation shall be on Palestine.
And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
15. were—"which had been prepared" [Tregelles rightly].
for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year—rather as Greek, "for (that is, against) THE hour, and day, and month, and year," namely, appointed by God. The Greek article (teen), put once only before all the periods, implies that the hour in the day, and the day in the month, and the month in the year, and the year itself, had been definitely fixed by God. The article would have been omitted had a sum-total of periods been specified, namely, three hundred ninety-one years and one month (the period from A.D. 1281, when the Turks first conquered the Christians, to 1672, their last conquest of them, since which last date their empire has declined).
slay—not merely to "hurt" (Re 9:10), as in the fifth trumpet.
third part—(See on Re 8:7-12).
of men—namely, of earthy men, Re 8:13, "inhabiters of the earth," as distinguished from God's sealed people (of which the sealed of Israel, Re 7:1-8, form the nucleus).
And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
16. Compare with these two hundred million, Ps 68:17; Da 7:10. The hosts here are evidently, from their numbers and their appearance (Re 9:17), not merely human hosts, but probably infernal, though constrained to work out God's will (compare Re 9:1, 2).
and I heard—A, B, Aleph, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Cyprian omit "and."
And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
17. thus—as follows.
of fire—the fiery color of the breastplates answering to the fire which issued out of their mouths.
of jacinth—literally, "of hyacinth color," the hyacinth of the ancients answering to our dark blue iris: thus, their dark, dull-colored breastplates correspond to the smoke out of their mouths.
brimstone—sulphur-colored: answering to the brimstone or sulphur out of their mouths.
By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
18. By these three—A, B, C, and Aleph read (apo for kupo), "From"; implying the direction whence the slaughter came; not direct instrumentality as "by" implies. A, B, C, Aleph also add "plagues" after "three." English Version reading, which omits it, is not well supported.
by the fire—Greek, "owing to the fire," literally, "out of."
For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.
19. their—A, B, C and Aleph read, "the power of the horses."
in their mouth—whence issued the fire, smoke, and brimstone (Re 9:17). Many interpreters understand the horsemen to refer to the myriads of Turkish cavalry arrayed in scarlet, blue, and yellow (fire, hyacinth, and brimstone), the lion-headed horses denoting their invincible courage, and the fire and brimstone out of their mouths, the gunpowder and artillery introduced into Europe about this time, and employed by the Turks; the tails, like serpents, having a venomous sting, or, as Elliott thinks, the Turkish pachas' horse tails, worn as a symbol of authority. (!) All this is very doubtful. Considering the parallelism of this sixth trumpet to the sixth seal, the likelihood is that events are intended immediately preceding the Lord's coming. "The false prophet" (as Isa 9:15 proves), or second beast, having the horns of a lamb, but speaking as the dragon, who supports by lying miracles the final Antichrist is a forerunner of him, but not the exhaustive fulfiller of the prophecy here: Satan will, probably, towards the end, bring out all the powers of hell for the last conflict (see on Re 9:20, on "devils"; compare Re 9:1, 2, 17, 18).
with them—with the serpent heads and their venomous fangs.
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
20. the rest of the men—that is, the ungodly.
yet—So A, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic. B and Aleph read, "did not even repent of," namely, so as to give up "the works," &c. Like Pharaoh hardening his heart against repentance notwithstanding the plagues.
of their hands—(De 31:29). Especially the idols made by their hands. Compare Re 13:14, 15, "the image of the beast" Re 19:20.
that they should not—So B reads. But A, C, and Aleph read "that they shall not": implying a prophecy of certainty that it shall be so.
devils—Greek, "demons" which lurk beneath the idols which idolaters worship.
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
21. sorceries—witchcrafts by means of drugs (so the Greek). One of the fruits of the unrenewed flesh: the sin of the heathen: about to be repeated by apostate Christians in the last days, Re 22:15, "sorcerers." The heathen who shall have rejected the proffered Gospel and clung to their fleshly lusts, and apostate Christians who shall have relapsed into the same shall share the same terrible judgments. The worship of images was established in the East in A.D. 842.
fornication—singular: whereas the other sins are in the plural. Other sins are perpetrated at intervals: those lacking purity of heart indulge in one perpetual fornication [Bengel].