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.
Verse 1. - And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth; a star from heaven fallen unto the earth (Revised Version); not saw a star fall. (For the distinctive character of the last three judgments, see on Revelation 8:2.) "A star" sometimes signifies one high in position. Thus Numbers 24:17, "There shall come a star out of Jacob;" Daniel 8:10, "And it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground." In Revelation 1:20 "the stars" are "the angels of the seven Churches;" in Job 38:7 the angels are called "stars;" in Isaiah 14:12 we have Satan referred to thus: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" It seems, therefore, that Satan himself is here referred to under this symbol. The trumpet visions hitherto have portrayed troubles affecting the outer man; now begin to be set forth these yet more terrible visitations which, affecting his spiritual nature, are seen more directly to emanate from the devil. He has fallen "from heaven unto the earth;" that is, whereas formerly heaven was his abode, the sphere of his work while yet obedient to God, he now has no office or power, or entrance there, but is permitted to exercise what influence he possesses on the earth (cf. Luke 10:18, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven"). This is the view of Tertullian, Aretbas, Bede, Vitriuga, Alford, believe an evil angel is meant; Wordsworth thinks an apostate Christian teacher is signified; Andreas, Bengel, and De Wette believe a good angel is intended; others see particular emperors, etc.; while Hengstenberg thinks the figure represents not one, but a number of persons, including Napoleon. And to him was given the key of the bottomless pit; of the pit of the abyss (Revised Version). That is, as Wordsworth explains, of the aperture by which there is no egress from or ingress into the abyss. Christ holds the key (Revelation 1:18), but for a season Satan is permitted to exercise power. The abyss is the abode of the devil and his angels; the present abode, not the lake of fire, into which they are subsequently cast (Revelation 20:10).
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.
Verse 2. - And he opened the bottomless pit; pit of the abyss, as above. This phrase is omitted by א, B, Coptic, AEthiopic, and others. It is inserted by A, B, many cursives, Vulgate, Syriac, Andreas. And there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace. The smoke of the incense (Revelation 8:4) purified the prayers of the saints, making them acceptable before God; the smoke which ascends from the abyss clouds men's minds and darkens their understandings. And the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. The air, becoming filled with the smoke, obscured the light of the sun, so that both appeared dark. This darkening of the atmosphere may have been suggested by the description of the locust plague (Exodus 10:15), or by the account in Joel 2. But it is the smoke, not the locusts, which is here said to cause the obscurity; the locusts issue forth out of the smoke. It is doubtful whether we ought to seek any particular interpretation of the smoke; it is probably only accessory to the general picture. If we may press the meaning so far, it is perhaps best to regard the smoke as the evil influence of the devil, which darkens men's understandings, and from which issue the troubles which are the result of heresy and infidelity, portrayed by the locusts (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4, "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving," etc.).
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.
Verse 3. - And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth. The locust is constantly referred to in the Bible, and various illustrations are drawn from their characteristic features. In the East they appear in great numbers and men are helpless against their devastating power. Sometimes an attempt is made to check their progress by lighting fires, and this practice may have suggested the above description of the locusts proceeding from the smoke. The irresistible destruction which they cause is alluded to in Deuteronomy 28:38; Joel 2:25; 2 Chronicles 7:13; their number in Psalm 105:34; Nahum 3:15. The air is sometimes tainted with their dead bodies (Joel 2:20). The natural features of the locust are fully dwelt upon in vers. 7-10. As an illustration, we may quote Niebuhr, who gives an Arab's description of the locust: "In head like the horse, in breast like the lion, in feet like the camel, in body like the serpent, in tail like the scorpion, in antennae like a virgin's hair." Three out of these five points of resemblance are mentioned in vers. 7-10. The locusts here symbolize heretics and infidels. Some writers (e.g. Wordsworth) apply the symbol to the Mohammedans (see Wordsworth, in loc., where the parallel is very fully worked out). But though this may be, and probably is, a fulfilment of the vision, it would be wrong to thus restrict our interpretation. Scarcely any one cause has contributed more to the trouble and destruction of men than the violence which is the result of religious hatred. Whether it be the heathen idolater, the warlike Mohammedan, or the Christian bigot, who is the agent, the effect is the same. It may be said, too, that if the minds of Christians also had not been darkened by the prejudicial influence of Satan, who is the cause of their unhappy divisions, heresies, and apostasies, these troubles could scarcely have fallen upon mankind. The innumerable occasions of such violence may be well illustrated by the countless number of the locusts; and the effect lives after the death of the authors, tainting the moral atmosphere. It is true that the true Christian sometimes suffers also; but tidal is an aspect which is set forth in the visions of the seals. Here another view is set forth, namely, that the ungodly are themselves punished, and punished severely, by means of this evil influence of the devil. Many other interpretations have been suggested:
(1) evil spirits (Andrea,);
(2) Roman wars in Judaea (Grotius);
(3) the Gothic invasion (Vitringa);
(4) De Wette and Alford believe that the interpretation is unknown. And unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. That is to say, just as the natural scorpions of the earth have power to cause suffering, so these allegorical locusts of the vision appeared to possess the means wherewith to plague mankind. The scorpion is "generally found in dry and in dark places, under stones and in ruins, chiefly in warm climates.... The sting, which is situated at the extremity of the tail, has at its base a gland that secretes a poisonous fluid, which is discharged into the wound .... In hot climates the sting often occasions much suffering and sometimes alarming symptoms" (Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible ').
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.
Verse 4. - And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree. The force of this plague is to fall directly upon mankind, not, as in the former judgments, upon the earth, and then indirectly upon men. This appears to be stated with the greater plainness, because it might readily be inferred, from the nature of locusts, that the immediate object of their destructiveness would be the vegetation of the world. But only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads; but only such men as have not, etc. (Revised Version; cf. Revelation 7:3, to which this is an allusion). Here, by proleipsis, the servants of God are described as "those that have the seal of God in their foreheads." It is not stated, nor is it necessarily implied, that the seal is visible to man at the time of the infliction of this judgment upon the ungodly. In a similar way our Lord speaks of the elect (Matthew 24:22), not thereby implying that there is any visible manifestation by which the elect may be known to men, though known to God (so also Titus 1:1; Mark 13:22, etc.). Thus also it is said in 2 Timothy 2:19, "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." The frequent use of the term to denote those who were sealed by baptism may have led to the employment of the expression in this place, as being equivalent to "the servants of God" (cf. Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22). The locusts may not hurt God's servants (see on ver. 3). Thus we are taught that God in reality preserves his own, though it may sometimes appear to man as though the innocent suffer with the guilty.
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.
Verse 5 - And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months; and it was given them [i.e. the locusts] that they [the locusts] should not kill them [the unsealed], but that they [the unsealed] should be tormented five months. The devil and his agents have not unlimited power committed to them; they are restrained within limits by the will of God. The evils which follow in the train of heresy and infidelity are not as yet permitted to kill (cf. Job 1:12), for this judgment extends only to the natural life of man. God reserves the final killing to himself at the great judgment day. This is shown in the limitation, "five months." This apparently meaningless period becomes explicable, when we remember that the usual duration of a locust plague is five months, viz. from April to September. The visitation is for the natural period of such occurrences; the torment is to extend to the natural period of man's sojourn on the earth. It does not extend into the next life; other and special means are adopted for man's punishment then, as set forth under the seventh trumpet. Various other explanations have been given of the five months.
(1) Five years of Gothic rule (Vitringa).
(2) Five months = 5 × 30 days; each day represents one year; therefore 150 years are signified, viz.
(a) of the Saracens, A.D. 830 - A.D. 980 (Mede);
(b) Mohammed's conquests, A.D. 612 - A.D. 762 (Elliott).
(3) Hengstenberg believes 5 to signify a part of the complete number 10, and thus to symbolize an incomplete period, as compared with the period of the seventh trumpet.
(4) Bengel, following the principles assumed by him, makes the five months to equal 79 natural years, and assigns the period to A.D. - A.D. 589.
(5) Others take the expression to mean "a short time" merely.
(6) Wordsworth interprets it as meaning a limited time permitted by God, and thinks the Mohammedan period is signified, and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. "Their torment," that is, the torment of the unsealed, according to Alford; the torment of the locusts (viz. that which they inflict), according to others. In either ease the meaning is the same. The last clause, "when he striketh a man," is perhaps added in contradistinction to the injury naturally inflicted by locusts, whose efforts are directed against the vegetation.
And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
Verse 6. - And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them; shall in no wise find it... and death fleeth from them (Revised Version); οἱ ἄνθρωποι, "the men;" that is, the unsealed, who suffer this judgment. This is a characteristic biblical method of expressing great anguish. Thus Job 3:20, 21, "The bitter in soul; which long for death, but it cometh not" (cf. also Jeremiah 8:3; Job 7:15; Luke 23:30; and Revelation 6:16). The description portrays great anguish of mind, and should not be pressed to a literal interpretation, though many have illustrated the passage by pointing to actual occurrences of the kind.
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.
Verse 7. - And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; rather, the likenesses of the locusts; that is to say, the general appearance. This similarity is brought out in Joel 2, and is alluded to in Job 39:20. The parallel is worked out at some length in Tristram's 'Natural History of the Bible,' p. 314. In what way they appeared "prepared unto battle," is shown in ver. 9. And on their heads were as it were crowns like gold; crowns like unto gold. The language is carefully guarded so as to make it understood that this feature is altogether supernatural. The crowns of gold probably denote the conquering nature of the locusts, and thus they add to the power with which the locusts have already been invested. They may also signify the exalted temporal position of those symbolized by the locusts. Some writers believe the helmets of soldiers are typified, and others the turbans of the Mohammedans. And their faces were as the faces of men. Notwithstanding the general resemblance of the locusts to horses, which resemblance is most clearly shadowed forth in the structure of the head, yet their faces gave the seer the idea of the human countenance. How this was brought about we are not told. Probably St. John himself in his vision received the impression without knowing by what means. The circumstance seems to point decidedly to the fact that human agents are denoted by the locusts..
And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
Verse 8. - And they had hair as the hair of women. This (like the succeeding clause) seems merely the enumeration of an additional feature, in which these creatures resembled locusts, and which helped to establish their claim to the name. The antennae of the insect are probably referred to. Wordsworth sees here an allusion to the flowing hair of Mohammed and the Saracens. And their teeth were as the teeth of lions. The powerful nature of the teeth of the locust is a remarkable feature of the insect; and it is here more fully referred to in order to enhance the general terror of their aspect (cf. Joel 1:6).
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.
Verse 9. - And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron. Again, a natural feature of the locust is specifically alluded to, in order to portray the terrible nature of their appearance. The horny substance which appears behind the face of the locust is not unlike the plates of iron with which the breast and shoulders of war horses were protected. And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle; the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to war (Revised Version). The sound of the two things together, viz. that of rushing horses, and that of the chariots which they draw. The same simile is used in Joel 2:5.
And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
Verse 10. - And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings (Revised Version). The next words are included in the following clause. Not that their tails possessed the appearance of scorpions (as Bengel, Hengstenberg, and others), but that their tails were like the tails of scorpions in respect of having stings in them. Cf. 2 Samuel 22:34; Psalm 18:33, "He maketh my feet like hands" (omit "feet"); also Revelation 13:11, "Two horns like a lamb" (see the description of the scorpion quoted above, under ver. 3). And their power was to hurt men five months; and in their tails is their power to hurt, etc. (Revised Version) (see the preceding clause). As no Greek manuscript gives the reading of the Textus Receptus followed by the Authorized Version, the probability is that this is an example of a passage in which the Greek of his edition was supplied by Erasmus, by the simple process of retranslating into Greek the Vulgate Version. By the possession of the noxious sting, the locusts here described are represented as being yet more terrible than the natural locusts. (See the description of the locusts given under ver. 3. For the signification of the "five months," see on ver. 5.) They limit the period of this judgment to the time of man's existence on this earth.
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.
Verse 11. - And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit; they have over them as king the angel of the abyss (Revised Version). Most commentators contrast with the condition of the natural locusts, who have no king (Proverbs 30:7). "The angel" evidently, points to the star of ver. l, who is Satan himself. Some think a particular angel, not Satan, is intended. Alford unnecessarily hesitates to decide that Satan is meant, owing to Revelation 12:3, 9. Whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. Abaddon is the Hebrew אֲבַדּון, a noun representing the abstract idea "destruction" (Job 31:12), but more frequently employed to designate the netherworld (Job 26:6; Job 28:22; Proverbs 15:11; Psalm 88:12). Apollyon (ἀπολλύων, present participle) is the Greek ἀπώλεια (by which the LXX. renders אֲבַדּון) personified. It is in conformity with St. John's usual practice to give the two forms of the name (cf. John 1:38, 42; John 4:25; John 9:7; John 11:16; John 19:13, 17). In the name we have summed up the character of him who bears it. He is the "destroyer," the one who causes "perdition" to mankind. Cf. the words of our Lord given by St. John (John 8:44), "He was a murderer from the beginning." Bengel and others contrast with "Jesus" the "Saviour." Perhaps the height of absurdity is reached by those writers (Bleek, Volkmar) who see in the name Apollyon a reference to (N)apoleon.
One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.
Verse 12. - One woe is past; the one woe, or the first woe. "Woe" (ἡ οὐαί) is feminine; perhaps because expressing the idea of tribulation, such words being generally feminine in the Greek. Some have thought that these words are a further announcement by the eagle of Revelation 8:13; but there is nothing to lead us to suppose that they are not the words of the writer. And, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. Omit "and:" behold, there cometh yet two woes hereafter. The verb is singular in א, A, and others; the plural is found in א, B, P, and others. Alford says, "singular, the verb applying simply to that which is future, without reference as yet to its plurality." But probably οὐαί, although written as a feminine in the preceding clause, being really indeclinable, is treated as a neuter; and thus the singular verb is made to agree with the neuter plural, in conformity with the rules of Greek grammar. The second woe extends from this place to Revelation 11:14, and the third woe is contained in Revelation 11:14-19, especially in Revelation 11:18.
And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
Verse 13. - And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice; I heard one voice, perhaps in contradistinction to the four horns next mentioned. From the four horns of the golden altar which is before God; the golden altar before God. The balance of authority seems in favour of retaining τεσσάρων, "four," although the Revisers omit it. It is inserted in B, P, Andreas, Arethas, Primasius, etc., but emitted in א A, Syriac, Coptic, Bede, etc. Many commentators (eg. Vitringa, Hengstenberg) lay special stress upon it; and some represent the horns as the four Gospels, which speak with one voice. The voice issues from the altar, as in Revelation 6:10; Revelation 16:7. The voice, issuing from the resting place of the souls of the martyrs, denounces the impending woe. The altar is the golden altar of incense (Revelation 8:3) which is before (the throne of) God, and which, in the earthly temple, stood before the veil (Exodus 40:26). This altar had four "horns" projecting at the corners (Exodus 30:2; see also Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' art. "Altar").
Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
Verse 14. - Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet. Tregelles reads, "Saying to the sixth angel, Thou that hast the trumpet," etc.; but the common rendering is much more probable. Here the angel is represented as directly causing the incidents which follow; in the other cases, we are only told that each angel "sounded." Loose the four angels which are hound in the great river Euphrates. This vision has led to a great variety of interpretations. Some are obviously absurd; in all these is considerable doubt and difficulty. The following is offered as a possible solution to some extent, though it is not pretended that every difficulty is satisfactorily disposed cf. In making this suggestion, the following circumstances have been borne in mind:
(1) The trumpet visions seem constructed upon a systematic plan, and therefore it seems likely that this judgment, like the fifth and the seventh, is a spiritual one (vide supra).
(2) The objects of this punishment are those who commit the sins described in vers. 20, 21.
(3) The vision must have borne some meaning for these to whom it was first delivered. It seems unlikely, therefore, that events are here portrayed which could not possibly have been foreseen and understood by the early Christians. This seems to exclude (except possibly in a secondary sense) all reference to the papacy, etc. (as Wordsworth).
(4) Whether the angels here described are good angels or bad angels makes no material difference to the main part of the vision, which is to set forth punishment for the ungodly, sanctioned or originated by God.
(5) The object of the punishment is to bring men to repentance, but it largely fails to do so (ver. 21). We therefore conclude that the whole judgment portrays the spiritual evils which afflict the ungodly in this life, and which give them, as it were, a foretaste of their doom in the life to come. Sin frequently brings unrest and trouble immediately in its train; seldom, if ever, peace and satisfaction. The stings of sin are, perhaps, none the less potent because their effect is frequently unseen by the general public. The terror of the murderer, the shame of the thief, the abasement and physical suffering of the impure, the delirium tremens of the drunkard, are very real torments. The number of such inflictions is, indeed, great enough to be described as "two myriads of myriads" (ver. 16): they destroy a part, but not the greater part (ver. 15, "the third part") of men; and yet how largely they fail to bring men to repentance! Such punishment is a foretaste of hell, as seems to be foreshadowed in the "fire and smoke and brimstone" of vers. 17, 18. Wordsworth and others contend that the "four angels" are good angels, who have been hitherto restrained. As remarked above, the point is not a material one, but it seems more probable that evil angels are intended. Their loosing does not necessarily mean that they are loosed at a time subsequent to this vision, but only that they are under the control of God, Who allows them freedom to carry out this mission. Thus also, in the case of the other judgments, it has been pointed out that the period of their operation may extend throughout all ages, from the beginning to the end of the world. They arise from the Euphrates. Many writers point out that this river was looked upon by the Israelites as the natural source from which sprang their enemies (see Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 46:10). Indeed, the Euphrates was looked upon as the boundary of the Jewish kingdom (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Chronicles 5:9); hence those coming from out of the Euphrates were frequently enemies. The expression may be merely accessory to the general filling up of the picture, or it may teach us that the punishments which follow flow from their natural source, viz. men's sins (cf. Revelation 16:12, where the Euphrates is certainly alluded to as the source from whence arise hostile hosts).
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.
Verse 15. - And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. The alterations in the Revised Version make the meaning much plainer: which had been prepared for the bout, and day, and month, and year, that they should kill, etc. That is to say those "which had" in God's foreknowledge "been prepared" in order to operate at the exact period required - the exact year, month, day, and even hour. Each knew his appointed time. Four is the number used to denote universality in things of this world (see on Revelation 4:6). The number, therefore, seems to imply that the power of the angels is of universal extent. The third part are destroyed; that is, a great part, though not the larger (cf. Revelation 8:7, et seq.).
And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
Verse 16. - And the number of the army of the horsemen; and the number of the armies of the cavalry. No horsemen have hitherto been Minded to; but they are apparently the destroying host under the direction of the four angels. The symbol is, no doubt, chosen to signify power, of which horsemen or cavalry are an emblem. Were two hundred thousand thousand; or, twice myriads of myriads (cf. Jude 1:14-16, which is a quotation from Enoch; also Daniel 7:10). The number is, of course, not to be taken literally, but as signifying an exceeding great multitude. And I heard the number of them. Omit "and." St. John "heard the number" possibly from one of the elders, who had before instructed him (cf. Revelation 7:13). He states this, since so vast a multitude would be innumerable.
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.
Verse 17. - And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them. That is, according to the description following, not "thus, in such numbers as I have described." Having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone. Ἔχοντας, "having," probably refers to both horses and riders, though it may refer to the riders only. The Revised Version renders jacinth more exactly as hyacinth. Alford translates, "breastplates, fiery red, fuliginous, and sulphureous." It seems to be rightly concluded that the hyacinhine hue answers to the "smoke" further on in the verse. "The expression, 'of jacinth,' applied to the breastplate, is descriptive simply of a hyacinthine, i.e. dark-purple colour" (Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible'). The description intensifies the terrible nature of the vision, and it is doubtful whether these details should be pressed to a particular interpretation. If they bear any meaning at all, they seem to point to the doom in wait for the wicked, whose portion is fire and brimstone (cf. Psalm 11:6). And the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone; proceedeth fire, etc. (Revised Version). Here, as in the preceding clause, the intention is evidently to enhance the terrible appearance of the vision. The "smoke" corresponds to the hyacinth hue, mentioned in the previous part of the verse (vide supra). The horses, in accordance with a well-known poetic figure, are said to breathe out "fire and smoke." Brimstone is mentioned in addition, in order to set forth plainly the fact that their acts are directed against the wicked (cf. Genesis 19:24; Job 18:15; Psalm 11:6; Ezekiel 38:23; Isaiah 30:33; Luke 17:29). Lions' teeth are mentioned in the description of tire locusts, with the same purpose (ver. 9). It is difficult to see why Alford should imagine that the fire, smoke, and brimstone proceed separately from different divisions of the host: it was not so in the case of the breastplates.
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.
Verse 18. - By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths; by these three plagues (as in Revised Version)... the brimstone, which proceeded. Although the last clause technically is attached to "brimstone" only, yet the description applies to all three of the things mentioned. "The third part" again a large, but not the largest, part of mankind (see on Revelation 8:7). The locusts were forbidden to kill (ver. 5); these horsemen are permitted to do so. Each judgment of the trumpet visions appears t) increase in severity. We may here see portrayed the terrible and destructive character of the results of sin. Such results are experienced to the full by the third part of men, the large class who" repent not of their murders, nor of their sorceries," etc. (ver. 21).
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.
Verse 19. - For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails; for the power f the horses is, etc. Another example of disagreement between Erasmus and all the Greek manuscripts (see on ver. 10). For their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. "Are like," and "have heads," in the present tense. Here (unlike ver. 10) the tails are like serpents themselves. The image is not uncommon among the ancients. We may paraphrase the passage thus: "Their power is for the most part in their mouth; but also, to some extent, in their tails; for their tails are like serpents," etc. An endless variety of interpretations have been given to these details, which are probably not intended to bear any distinct signification. Bengel refers to a species of serpent in which the head and tail were so alike as to be with difficulty distinguished; which he thinks may have suggested the image. Many apply it (though in different ways) to the Turkish horse, who fight as they retreat, etc.
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:
Verse 20. - And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues; the rest of mankind (Revised Version). That is, the two thirds (ver. 18). Some understand "these plagues" to refer to the first six trumpets. It may be so, but it seems more correct to limit it to the sixth, as the same phrase, which occurs in ver. 18, must be so limited. Mankind must be taken to mean the worldly only. Of the ungodly, some are killed (the third part), the rest yet do not repent. The vision is not concerned with the fate of the righteous. 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. "The works of their hands" refers to idolatry, as shown by the succeeding words. This verse begins to prepare us for the seventh judgment. Men will not repent; therefore the last final judgment becomes necessary. The absurdity of idolatrous worship is frequently thus set forth by Old Testament writers (cf. Psalm 115:4; Psalm 135:15; Isaiah 2:8; Ezekiel 22:1, 4; Hosea 13:2). See also the description in Daniel 5:23 which seems to have suggested the wording of this part of the vision. It has been well remarked that in this verse mention is made of sins against God; in the following verse man's sins against his neighbours are detailed.
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Verse 21. - Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. Sorceries; magic, witchcraft, and enchantments; e.g. the magic of the Egyptian magicians (Exodus 7:22). Sorcery is mentioned in Galatians 5:20 (where it is described as "witchcraft") in connection with idolatry. Fornication (cf. Bengel, "Other crimes are perpetrated by men at intervals; there is one continual fornication within those who are wanting in purity of heart ").