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 Main Index : Commentaries : PNT : PNT Vol. 2 : Revelation : Chapter 9

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The Woe Trumpets.

Bible Version
Cross Reference
Matthew Henry
JFB Commentary
Wesley's Notes
Peoples New Test.
Geneva Study Bible
Darby's Synopsis

SUMMARY.--The Fifth Trumpet. The Fallen Star. The Destroying Locusts. The Five Months of Their Power. The Sixth Trumpet. The Four Angels at the Euphrates Loosed. The Myriads of the Horsemen. The Third Part of Men Killed. The Rest of Mankind Repent Not.


      It has already been seen that the trumpet angels are divided into two groups. There remain the three who have been called the woe angels, on account of the language applied to them in chapter 8:13. It is manifest that the first four have completed their work, and that the others are devoted to another and a distinct work, which shall be the source of great woe to a part of the inhabitants of the earth. This work must be at a later period, and hence must be after the year 476.

      1-6. I saw a star from heaven fallen. (Revision). John saw when the trumpet sounded, not a star fall, but a star fallen to the earth. A star is a symbol of a leader. A star fallen to the earth would [448] indicate his degradation in some way. To him was given the key of the bottomless pit. He was given power to let out hellish influences on the earth. 2. There arose a smoke. From that source came forth some influence, symbolized by smoke, which darkened the earth. 3. There came out of the smoke locusts. The destroying locusts symbolize destroying armies. See Nahum 3:15; Exod. 10:12. Observe that they come out of the smoke. To the smoke their origin is due. Unto them was given power. Power to hurt is implied, since they are compared to scorpions. 4. They should not hurt the grass, etc. The locusts usually devour every green thing. These, however, shall seek to preserve trees and vegetation. Only the men. Their special hurt shall be directed against men who are not sealed as God's own. 5. They should not kill them. This either implies that the armies symbolized by the locusts should seek not to destroy the races they attacked, or that they should not destroy the empire assailed. Five months. Their torment should continue five months, or one hundred and fifty prophetic days. Since a day is a symbol of a year, this implies one hundred and fifty years. Their torment was as the torment of a scorpion. Their warfare and torment shall be almost intolerable. 6. Shall men seek death. So terrible will be the torment that death will be desired.

      7-11. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war. The appearance of the locusts is described. They represent armies of horsemen. Crowns like gold. There was an appearance like golden crowns. An array of men wearing yellow turbans would have such an appearance. Faces of men. Faces covered with beard. Roman soldiers wore no beard, hence the beards would be a striking feature. 8. Hair as the hair of women. Wearing long, flowing hair. [449] Teeth as the teeth of lions. This probably signifies fierceness. 9. Breastplates as breastplates of iron. There was something that seemed like an army clad in iron coats of mail. The sound of their wings. They gave a sound like the rush of chariots and horses rushing to battle. 10. And they had tails. They stung terribly, and left a string in their path. 11. They had a king over them. The real king was not the star, but the power of the bottomless pit. Apollyon. The destroyer; either the devil or one of his angels.


      The locust, the horse, the horsemen, the scorpions, and indeed all the symbols point to Arabia as the source from whence the locusts come. I believe that there ought to be no reasonable doubt that the uprising of the Mohammedan or Saracen power is meant. The Western Roman Empire had fallen in A. D. 476. There yet existed the Eastern Roman Empire, with Constantinople for a capital, called the Greek Empire. Against it the Saracen effort was especially directed. Let us see how that movement corresponded to the symbols: It was the right time, after A. D. 476, and in the right place, directed against the eastern part of the Old Roman world. Not only the facts just mentioned, but the description of the men symbolized by the locusts, point to Arabia. The locusts "were like unto horses prepared for battle." The Arabians, unlike the Goths, Vandals, and Huns, were an army of horsemen, and moved over a country almost with the swiftness of the locust. Let the reader note the following facts concerning the Arabs: 1. They came forth from the home of the locust. 2. They all fought on horseback. There was not a foot-soldier in the armies which in A. D. 632 assailed the Eastern Empire. 3. They wore upon their heads something like crowns of gold. The historians often speak of them as the "turbaned Arabs." Ezekiel (23:42), speaking of the Sabeans, which were an Arabian tribe, says, "The Sabeans of the wilderness who put upon their heads beautiful crowns." The yellow turbans of the Arab horsemen, at a little distance, would strikingly resemble "crowns of gold." 4. The locusts had "the faces of men." The Jews and Arabs wore long, patriarchal beards. The Roman and northern races shaved the face. John notes that these locusts have the distinguishing mark of manhood in the East,--the unshorn beard. 5. But to the faces of men is added "the hair of women." The female distinction is long hair, and evidently John beholds, as the riders rush by, long hair flowing from their shoulders and streaming in the air. Did the Arabs in the seventh century wear long hair? Pliny, who was the contemporary of John, speaks (Nat. His. 7:28) of "the turbaned Arabs with their uncut hair." Ammianus Marcellinus in the fourth, and Jerome in the fifth century, each speak of the long-haired Arabs. An Arabian poem, Antar, written in Mahomet's time, often speaks of the hair of its heroes flowing down upon their shoulders. We quote: "He adjusted himself, twisted his beard, and folded his hair under his turban, drawing it up from his shoulders." 6. But the locust had "breastplates of iron." The historians of the Arabian wars constantly speak of the iron coats of mail. Mohammed, in the Koran, says: "God has given you coats of mail to defend you in your wars."

      OTHER DETAILS.--Many corroborations might be added. 1. Mohammed was literally a fallen star. He was a prince by birth, the heir of the rule of Mecca, but his grandfather and father dying while he was young, he was pushed aside and became a servant. 2. The locusts came out of the smoke. The Arabs were unknown as a conquering power before Mohammed. The smoke of his imposture filled them with the fierce, stern fanaticism of the Koran. 3. They had literal orders in their invasion not to destroy vegetation. "Cut down no palm trees, nor burn fields of corn. Destroy no fruit trees."--Gibbon, Vol. V., page 189. 4. Passing other marks, their destructive work was to continue five months, or one hundred and fifty years. Though Mohammed's work began earlier, it was in A. D. 632 that the Arab hosts bursts forth from their deserts to assail the world. Within a hundred years Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, the north of Africa, and Spain had fallen beneath their sway. In 762, the capital of the Saracen Empire was placed at Bagdad and their rulers began to cherish peaceful ideas. In 781, the Caliph Haroun Al Rashid was their ruler. This is the golden age of the Saracen power. This is the era of the Arabian Nights. Bagdad was called the "City of Peace." How long is this from the time when the torment that had stricken half the world began? In A. D. 632, the Arabs assailed the nations, to which date one hundred and fifty years may be added. This would bring us to 782, the second year of Haroun Al Rashid's reign. Did the torment continue longer? Nay. He was engaged in friendly correspondence with the Christian rulers of Europe, [450] and from this time the Saracens ceased their efforts to make the world Mohammedan. Their aggressive wars were forever ended.


      13-15. The sixth angel sounded. A voice is then heard coming from the golden altar of incense (see 8:3). He does not say who spoke, but declares the command uttered. 14. Loose the four angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates. The four angels represent four agencies which had been restrained and kept from advancing. 15. And the four angels were loosed. Whatever these angels represent, they are no longer restrained. It is implied that there were four agencies, or a fourfold division. Prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year. The Greek word used that for the regular solar year of 365 1-4 days, Julius Cæsar having reformed the calendar. This would make 365 1-4, plus 30, plus 1, plus 1-12, equal 396 1-3 days. Or, a day being a symbol of a year, three hundred and ninety-six years and four months.

      16-19. The number of the army of the horsemen. Countless armies of horsemen are signified. 17. Having breastplates as of fire, and of hyacinth, and brimstone. Or, bright red, blue and yellow. These are the colors observed. The heads of the horses. Strength and fierceness are implied. Out of their mouths proceedeth fire and smoke and brimstone. This is a destroying power. It might well describe the use of gunpowder. One looking at a distance would see the flash of fire, and the smoke, apparently coming from the horses' heads, would smell the brimstone odor, and would see the destructive effect. 18. By these three plagues. The fire, smoke and brimstone. These agencies slay the third part of men. We have before found that the Old Roman world was divided into three parts. One third part had been destroyed by the first four trumpet invasions. A second third part was taken by the Saracens. If now the third part was taken and destroyed by these three plagues, the symbolism would be fulfilled.


      We have found that the Arabian scourge had fulfilled its work by A. D. 782. It had taken from the Eastern Empire its provinces in Africa, and most of its possessions in Asia. The world, according to Gibbon, was at this time divided into three parts. Two of these had fallen before five destructive agencies. One still remains to be destroyed by the angels bound at the river Euphrates.

      A few years before the thousandth year of the Christian era, a fierce Tartar race, formidable by [451] numbers and bravery, left their seats east of the Caspian Sea, and moved southwestward, until they rested upon the river Euphrates. A vast region of country east of that river fell before their arms. Persia became one of their provinces, and India, as far as the ocean, was subjected to their sway. But for two generations they "were bound by the river Euphrates" and lying upon its eastern banks, their armies were restrained by the river from ravaging the countries that lie to the west. For more than half a century, in some mysterious way, they were restrained at that river. At last, in the year 1057, sixty years after their appearance upon the east bank of that stream, after being bound for two generations, they crossed the Euphrates and marched upon the eastern Roman Empire. This people were called the Turkomans or Turkmans; we call them Turks.

      There were four angels. This would imply, in some way, four powers. It is remarkable that this people were divided into four bodies, which formed four kingdoms, under the four grandsons of the leader who established the empire of the Turks in western Asia. The prince who was commissioned by the Caliph to attack the Greek Empire was named Togrul, but dying, his son, Alp Arsian, led the Turks across the Euphrates, and when he was slain in battle, he was succeeded by Malek Shah. If the reader will open at 532d page of Gibbon, Vol. V., he will find that the mighty empire of Malek Shah was divided into four principalities, under his four sons, which are described by the historian under the names of Persia, Kerman or India, Syria, Roum or Asia Minor, extending from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. There are then four angels or messengers of destruction.

      Observe the correspondence: (1) They were bound at the Euphrates. (2) There were four commands. (3) Their armies were horsemen, apparently countless. (4) They numbered their horsemen by myriads instead of by thousands. Gibbon often speaks of the myriads of horses. See Chap. LVII. (5) "The Ottomans until a very recent period wore warlike apparel of scarlet, blue and yellow." (6) The first time that gunpowder and firearms were employed in war was in their campaigns. Constantinople was taken by cannon. See Gibbon, Chap. LXVIII. I quote one passage: "The great cannon of Mahomet has been separately noticed; an important and visible object in 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 is ambiguously expressed, that it was mounted with one hundred and thirty balls, or discharged one hundred and thirty bullets." (7) There was power in the tails of the horses. This is a singular statement. No less singular is the fact that among the Turks the horse's tail is an emblem of power. The number of horses' tails determines rank. A Pacha of three tails is a great officer. The emblem of the rule of the Pachas, the most wasteful, oppressive, unjust rule the world has ever seen, is the horse's tail.

      THE TIME.--One point more must suffice. It has been already shown that the prophetic period is three hundred and ninety-six years and four months, and it must evidently begin at the time when the angels were "loosed" in order to commence their work. It was in the year 1057 that the Turkish armies crossed the river and assailed the Empire. By the beginning of the next century their conquests extended to the Hellespont, and embraced all that portion of the world now portrayed upon the maps as Turkey in Asia. Then came the mighty uprising of Europe in the Crusades, which for the time beat back the torrent of Moslem invasion and recovered a portion of Asia. Between Europe and Asia the contest continued for two centuries, when Europe, weary of the fruitless struggle, abandoned the attempt, and the Turkish Empire, re-organized with the Ottoman Turks in power, passed over into Europe. The Eastern Empire was soon shorn of all its territories and reduced to the city of Constantinople. In the year 1453, assailed by two hundred thousand Turks, its walls battered down by the first cannon ever used in a siege, one hundred thousand of its citizens lying dead upon the ramparts, it was stormed by the Turks, and the last relic of the mighty empire which had existed for two thousand two hundred years was swept away forever. The work was done. The Empire fell in 1453. In 1057 the work began by the passage of the Euphrates. The interval between is three hundred and ninety-six years! [452]

      This remarkable prophecy is still more exact. The reader cannot fail to note particularly the language of the prophecy. We have found it to mean exactly 396 years and four months. On January 28th, 1057, according to Arabian historians, the Turks marched from Bagdad. 396 years and four months, or 120 days, would bring us to May 29th, 1453, the very day of the fall of Constantinople, and of the final overthrow of the Greek third part of the world.

      20, 21. The rest . . . repented not. It is implied that these woes were sent as judgments. The Christianity of the East overthrown by the Saracens and Turks had become utterly corrupt. The rest, that is, those in other countries not conquered by Turks, continued their sins. That they should not worship devils. The worship of dead saints is what is meant by demon worship in the Scriptures. And the idols. Images had now been introduced into the churches everywhere and were worshiped. 21. They repented not of their murders. In the Crusade against the Albigenses, conducted by Rome in the thirteenth century, it is estimated that one million martyrs perished. Sorceries. Tricks to deceive, so characteristic of the priests. Fornication. This term may mean spiritual fornication or apostasy, and it may mean literal fornication. In either sense it is true of the religious features of the fifteenth century. Thefts. Thefts in resorting to deceptions and impostures to extort money from the people. Tetzel's mission to Germany early in the sixteenth century is an illustration. Instead of repentance after the great judgment on the Eastern Church, the Western Church grew worse and worse.

      We have now followed the opening of the seals and the blowing of the trumpets to the sixth trumpet under the seventh seal. These have been followed in their order, then history has been consulted and, following in chronological order, have been found great epochal events in history which corresponded surprisingly to the symbolism of the visions. The American Editor of Lange on Revelation says: "The writer must acknowledge that, after a careful consideration of the principal views that had been presented, he has been constrained to the conclusion that the scheme of interpretation advocated by Elliot and Barnes (Substantially that which have I have followed.--B.W.J.) is in most respects correct. 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 effectively performed by a friend. At times it seems as though he was writing history expressly to elucidate prophecy."--Lange on Revelation, page 213.

      I will add that I have consulted Lange, Düsterdieck, Meyer, Elliott, Barnes, Alford, Prof. Wm. Milligan, Swedenborg, Archdeacon Lee, and all the principal commentators on Revelation, and find no other interpretation clear, consistent and complete. They are all more or less meaningless.

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