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1: And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star - Far
different from that mentioned, (Re 8:11). This star belongs
to the invisible world. The third woe is occasioned by the
dragon cast out of heaven; the second takes place at the loosing
of the four angels who were bound in the Euphrates. The first
is here brought by the angel of the abyss, which is opened by
this star, or holy angel. Falling to the earth - Coming swiftly
and with great force. And to him was given - when he was come.
The key of the bottomless pit - A deep and hideous prison; but
different from "the lake of fire."
2: And there arose a smoke out of the pit - The locusts, who
afterwards rise out of it, seem to be, as we shall afterwards
see, the Persians; agreeable to which, this smoke is their
detestable idolatrous doctrine, and false zeal for it, which
now broke out in an uncommon paroxysm. As the smoke of a great
furnace - where the clouds of it rise thicker and thicker, spread
far and wide, and press one upon another, so that the darkness
increases continually. And the sun and the air were darkened - A
figurative expression, denoting heavy affliction. This smoke
occasioned more and more such darkness over the Jews in Persia.
3: And out of the smoke - Not out of the bottomless pit, but
from the smoke which issued thence. There went forth locusts - A
known emblem of a numerous, hostile, hurtful people. Such were
the Persians, from whom the Jews, in the sixth century, suffered
beyond expression. In the year 540 their academies were stopped,
nor were they permitted to have a president for near fifty years.
In 589 this affliction ended; but it began long before 540.
The prelude of it was about the year 455 and 474: the main storm
came on in the reign of Cabades, and lasted from 483 to 532.
Toward the beginning of the sixth century, Mar Rab Isaac,
president of the academy, was put to death. Hereon followed an
insurrection of the Jews, which lasted seven years before they
were conquered by the Persians. Some of them were then put to
death, but not many; the rest were closely imprisoned. And from
this time the nation of the Jews were hated and persecuted by
the Persians, till they had well nigh rooted them out. The
scorpions of the earth - The most hurtful kind. The scorpions of
the air have wings.
4: And it was commanded them - By the secret power of God.
Not to hurt the grass, neither any green thing, nor any tree
- Neither those of low, middling, or high degree, but only such
of them as were not sealed - Principally the unbelieving
Israelites. But many who were called Christians suffered with
5: Not to kill them - Very few of them were killed: in
general, they were imprisoned and variously tormented.
6: The men - That is, the men who are so tormented.
7: And the appearances - This description suits a people
neither throughly civilized, nor entirely savage; and such were
the Persians of that age. Of the locusts are like horses - With
their riders. The Persians excelled in horsemanship. And on
their heads are as it were crowns - Turbans. And their faces are
as the faces of men - Friendly and agreeable.
8: And they had hair as the hair of women - All the Persians
of old gloried in long hair. And their teeth were as the teeth
of lions - Breaking and tearing all things in pieces.
9: And the noise of their wings was as the noise of
chariots of many horses - With their war - chariots, drawn by
many horses, they, as it were, flew to and fro.
10: And they have tails like scorpions - That is, each tail
is like a scorpion, not like the tail of a scorpion. To hurt
the unsealed men five months - Five prophetic months; that is,
seventy - nine common years So long did these calamities last.
11: And they have over them a king - One by whom they are
peculiarly directed and governed. His name is Abaddon - Both this
and Apollyon signify a destroyer. By this he is distinguished
from the dragon, whose proper name is Satan.
12: One woe is past; behold, there come yet two woes after
these things - The Persian power, under which was the first woe,
was now broken by the Saracens: from this time the first pause
made a wide way for the two succeeding woes. In 589, when the
first woe ended, Mahomet was twenty years old, and the
contentions of the Christians with each other were exceeding
great. In 591 Chosroes II. reigned in Persia, who, after the
death of the emperor, made dreadful disturbances in the east,
Hence Mahomet found an open door for his new religion and empire.
And when the usurper Phocas had, in the year 606, not only
declared the Bishop of Rome, Boniface III., universal bishop,
but also the church of Rome the head of all churches, this was
a sure step to advance the Papacy to its utmost height. Thus,
after the passing away of the first woe, the second, yea, and
the third, quickly followed; as indeed they were both on the
way together with it before the first effectually began.
13: And the sixth angel sounded - Under this angel goes
forth the second woe. And I heard a voice from the four corners
of the golden altar - This golden altar is the heavenly pattern of
the Levitical altar of incense. This voice signified that the
execution of the wrath of God, mentioned verses 20, 21,(Re 9:20,21) should, at no intercession, be delayed any longer.
14: Loose the four angels - To go every way; to the four
quarters. These were evil angels, or they would not have been
bound. Why, or how long, they were bound we know not.
15: And the four angels were loosed, who were prepared
- By loosing them, as well as by their strength and rage. To
kill the third part of men - That is, an immense number of them.
For the hour, and day, and month, and year - All this agrees with
the slaughter which the Saracens made for a long time after
Mahomet's death. And with the number of angels let loose agrees
the number of their first and most eminent caliphs. These were
Ali, Abubeker, Omar, and Osman. Mahomet named Ali, his cousin
and son - in - law, for his successor; but he was soon worked out
by the rest, till they severally died, and so made room for him.
They succeeded each other, and each destroyed innumerable
multitudes of men. There are in a prophetic
| ||Com. Years. ||Com. Days.||
| Hour || || 8 ||
| Day || || 196 || in all 212 years.
| Month || 15 || 318 ||
| Year || 196 || 117 ||
Now, the second woe, as also the beginning of the third, has
its place between the ceasing of the locusts and the rising of
the beast out of the sea, even at the time that the Saracens,
who were chiefly cavalry, were in the height of their carnage;
from their, first caliph, Abubeker, till they were repulsed from
Rome under Leo IV. These 212 years may therefore be reckoned
from the year 634 to 847. The gradation in reckoning the time,
beginning with the hour and ending with a year, corresponds with
their small beginning and vast increase. Before and after
Mahomet's death, they had enough to do to settle their affairs
at home. Afterwards Abubeker went farther, and in the year 634
gained great advantage over the Persians and Romans in Syria.
Under Omar was the conquest of Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt
made. Under Osman, that of Afric, (with the total suppression of
the Roman government in the year 647,) of Cyprus, and of all
Persia in 651. After Ali was dead, his son Ali Hasen, a
peaceable prince, was driven out by Muavia; under whom, and his
successors, the power of the Saracens so increased, that within
fourscore years after Mahomet's death they had extended their
conquests farther than the warlike Romans did in four hundred
16: And the number of the horsemen was two hundred millions
- Not that so many were ever brought into the field at once, but
(if we understand the expression literally) in the course of "the
hour, and day, and month, and year." So neither were "the third
part of men killed" at once, but during that course of years.
17: And thus I saw the horses and them that sat on them
in the vision - St. John seems to add these words, in the vision,
to intimate that we are not to take this description just
according to the letter. Having breastplates of fire - Fiery red.
And hyacinth - Dun blue. And brimstone - A faint yellow. Of the
same colour with the fire and smoke and brimstone, which go out
of the months of their horses. And the heads of their horses
are as the heads of lions - That is, fierce and terrible. And
out of their mouth goeth fire and smoke and brimstone - This
figurative expression may denote the consuming, blinding,
all - piercing rage, fierceness, and force of these horsemen.
18: By these three - Which were inseparably joined.
Were the third part of men - In the countries they over - ran.
Killed - Omar alone, in eleven years and a half, took thirty - six
thousand cities or forts. How many men must be killed therein!
19: For the power of these horses is in their mouths,
and in their tails - Their riders fight retreating as well as
advancing: so that their rear is as terrible as their front.
For their tails are like serpents, having heads - Not like the
tails of serpents only. They may be fitly compared to the
amphisbena, a kind of serpent, which has a short tail, not
unlike a head from which it throws out its poison as if it
had two heads.
20: And the rest of the men who were not killed - Whom the
Saracens did not destroy. It is observable, the countries they
over - ran were mostly those where the gospel had been planted.
By these plagues - Here the description of the second woe ends.
Yet repented not - Though they were called Christians. Of the
works of their hands - Presently specified. That they should not
worship devils - The invocation of departed saints, whether true,
or false, or doubtful, or forged, crept early into the Christian
church, and was carried farther and farther; and who knows how
many who are invoked as saints are among evil, not good, angels;
or how far devils have mingled with such blind worship, and with
the wonders wrought on those occasions? And idols - About the
year 590, men began to venerate images; and though upright men
zealously opposed it, yet, by little and little, images grew
into manifest idols. For after much contention, both in the
east and west, in the year 787, the worship of images was
established by the second Council of Nice. Yet was image worship
sharply opposed some time after, by the emperor Theophilus. But
when he died, in 842, his widow, Theodora, established it again;
as did the Council at Constantinople in the year 863, and again
21: Neither repented of their murders, nor of their
sorceries - Whoever reads the histories of the seventh, eighth,
and ninth centuries, will find numberless instances of all these
in every part of the Christian world. But though God cut off so
many of these scandals to the Christian name, yet the rest went
on in the same course. Some of them, however, might repent under
the plagues which follow.