RPM, Volume 19, Number 15, April 9 to April 15, 2017

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical
Part 101

By Albert Barnes


Verse 2. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God. Professor Stuart supposes that by these angels are meant the "presence-angels" which he understands to be referred to, in Re 1:4, by the "seven spirits which are before the throne." If, however, the interpretation of that passage above proposed, that it refers to the Holy Spirit, with reference to his multiplied agency and operations, be correct, then we must seek for another application of the phrase here. The only difficulty in applying it arises from the use of the article—"the seven angels"—touv—as if they were angels already referred to; and as there has been no previous mention of "seven angels," unless it be in the phrase "the seven spirits which are before the throne," in Re 1:4, it is argued that this must have been such a reference. But this interpretation is not absolutely necessary. John might use this language either because the angels had been spoken of before; or because it would be sufficiently understood, from the common use of language, who would be referred to—as we now might speak of "the seven members of the cabinet of the United States?" or "the thirty-one governors of the states of the Union," though they had not been particularly mentioned; or he might speak of them as just then disclosed to his view, and because his meaning would be sufficiently definite by the circumstances which were to follow—their agency in blowing the trumpets. It would be entirely in accordance with the usage of the article for one to say that he saw an army, and the commander-in-chief, and the four staff-officers, and the five bands of music, and the six companies of sappers and miners, etc. It is not absolutely necessary, therefore, to suppose that these angels had been before referred to. There is, indeed, in the use of the phrase "which stood before God," the idea that they are to be regarded as permanently standing there, or that that is their proper place—as if they were angels who were particularly designated to this high service, Compare Lu 1:19: "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God." If this idea is involved in the phrase, then there is a sufficient reason why the article is used, though they had not before been mentioned.

And to them were given seven trumpets. One to each. By whom the trumpets were given is not said. It may be supposed to have been done by Him who sat on the throne. Trumpets were used then, as now, for various purposes; to summon an assembly; to muster the hosts of battle; to inspirit and animate troops in conflict. Here they are given to announce a series of important events producing great changes in the world—as if God summoned and led on his hosts to accomplish his designs.

{a} "stood" Lu 1:19

{b} "trumpets" 2 Ch 29:25-28


Verse 3. And another angel came. Who this angel was is not mentioned, nor have we any means of determining. Of course, a great variety of opinion has been entertained on the subject (see Poole's Synopsis)— some referring it to angels in general; others to the ministry of the church; others to Constantine; others to Michael; and many others to the Lord Jesus. All that we know is, that it was an angel who thus appeared, and there is nothing inconsistent in the supposition that any one of the angels in heaven may have been appointed to perform what is here represented. The design seems to be, to represent the prayers of the saints as ascending in the anticipation of the approaching series of wonders in the world—and there would be a beautiful propriety in representing them as offered by an angel, feeling a deep interest in the church, and ministering in behalf of the saints.

And stood at the altar. In heaven—represented as a temple, with an altar, and with the usual array of things employed in the worship of God. The altar was the appropriate place for him to stand when about to offer the prayers of the saints—for that is the place where the worshipper stood under the ancient dispensation. Compare See Barnes "Mt 5:23-24" See Barnes "Lu 1:11".

In the latter place, an angel is represented as appearing to Zacharias "on the right side of the altar of incense."

Having a golden censer. The fire-pan, made for the purpose of carrying fire, on which to burn incense in time of worship. See it described and illustrated in Barnes on "Heb 9:4".

There seems reason to suppose that the incense that was offered in the ancient worship was designed to be emblematic of the prayers of saints, for it was the custom for worshippers to be engaged in prayer at the time the incense was offered by the priest. See Lu 1:10.

And there was given unto him much incense. See Barnes "Lu 1:9".

A large quantity was here given to him, because the occasion was one on which many prayers might be expected to be offered.

That he should offer it with the prayers. Marg., "add it to." Gr., "that he should give it with"—dwsh. The idea is plain, that, when the prayers of the saints ascended, he would also burn the incense, that it might go up at the same moment, and be emblematic of them. Compare See Barnes "Re 5:8".

Of all saints. Of all who are holy; of all who are the children of God. The idea seems to be, that, at this time, all the saints would unite in calling on God, and in deprecating his wrath. As the events which were about to occur were a matter of common interest to the people of God, it was to be supposed that they would unite in common supplication.

Upon the golden altar. The altar of incense. This in the tabernacle and in the temple was overlaid with gold.

Which was before the throne. This is represented as a temple-service, and the altar of incense is, with propriety, placed before his seat or throne, as it was in the tabernacle and temple. In the temple, God is represented as occupying the mercy-seat in the holy of holies, and the altar of incense is in the holy place before that. See the description of the temple in See Barnes "Mt 21:12".

{1} "offer" "add it to"

{c} "prayers" Re 5:8

{d} "golden altar" Re 6:9


Verse 4. And the smoke of the incense, etc. The smoke caused by the burning incense. John, as he saw this, naturally interpreted it of the prayers of the saints. The meaning of the whole symbol, thus explained, is that, at the time referred to, the anxiety of the church in regard to the events which were about to occur would naturally lead to much prayer. It is not necessary to attempt to verify this by any distinct historical facts, for no one can doubt that, in a time of such impending calamities, the church would be earnestly engaged in devotion. Such has always been the case in times of danger; and it may always be assumed to be true, that when danger threatens, whether it be to the church at large or to an individual Christian, there will be a resort to the throne of grace.

{e} "incense" Ex 30:1


Verse 5. And the angel took the censer. Re 8:3, This is a new symbol, designed to furnish a new representation of future events. By the former it had been shown that there would be much prayer offered; by this it is designed to show that, notwithstanding the prayer that would be offered, great and fearful calamities would come upon the earth. This is symbolized by casting the censer upon the earth, as if the prayers were not heard any longer, or as if prayer were now in vain.

And filled it with fire of the altar. An image similar to this occurs in Eze 10:2, where the man clothed in linen is commanded to go between the wheels under the cherub, and fill his hands with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and to scatter them over the city as a symbol of its destruction. Here the coals are taken, evidently, from the altar of sacrifice. See Barnes "Isa 61:1".

On these coals no incense was placed, but they were thrown at once to the earth. The new emblem, therefore, is the taking of coals, and scattering them abroad as a symbol of the destruction that was about to ensue.

And cast it into the earth. Marg., upon. The margin expresses undoubtedly the meaning. The symbol, therefore, properly denoted that fearful calamities were about to come upon the earth. Even the prayers of saints did not prevail to turn them away, and now the symbol of the scattered coals indicated that terrible judgments were about to come upon the world.

And there were voices. Sounds, noises. See Barnes "Re 4:5".

The order is not the same here as there, but lightnings, thunderings, and voices are mentioned in both.

And an earthquake. Re 6:12. This is a symbol of commotion. It is not necessary to look for a literal fulfilment of it, any more than it is for literal "voices," "lightnings," or "thunderings."

{1} "it" "upon"

{a} "voices" Re 16:18

{b} "earthquake" 2 Sa 22:8


Verse 6. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. See also Re 8:7. Evidently in succession, perhaps by arranging themselves in the order in which they were to sound. The way is now prepared for the sounding of the trumpets, and for the fearful commotions and changes which would be indicated by that. The last seal is opened; heaven stands in suspense to know what is to be disclosed; the saints, filled with solicitude, have offered their prayers; the censer of coals has been cast to the earth, as if these judgments could be no longer stayed by prayer; and the angels prepare to sound the trumpets indicative of what is to occur.


Verse 7. The first angel sounded. The first in order, and indicating the first in the series of events that were to follow.

And there followed hail. Hail is usually a symbol of the Divine vengeance, as it has often been employed to accomplish the Divine purposes of punishment. Thus in Ex 9:23, "And the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt." So in Ps 105:32, referring to the plagues upon Egypt, it is said, "He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land." So again, Ps 78:48, "He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts." As early as the time of Job, hail was understood to be an emblem of the Divine displeasure, and an instrument in inflicting punishment:

"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow,
Or hast thou seen the treasure of the hail?
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble,
Against the days of battle and war?—Job 38:22-23

So also the same image is used in Ps 18:13:

"The Lord also thundered in the heaven,
And the Most High gave forth his voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire."

Compare Hag 2:17. The destruction of the Assyrian army, it is said, would be accomplished in the same way, Isa 30:30. Compare Eze 13:11; 38:22.

And fire. Lightning. This also is an instrument and an emblem of destruction.

Mingled with blood. By blood, "we must naturally understand," says Professor Stuart, "in this case, a shower of coloured rain; that is, rain of a rubidinous aspect, an occurrence which is known sometimes to take place, and which, like falling stars, eclipses, etc., was viewed with terror by the ancients, because it was supposed to be indicative of blood that was to be shed." The appearance, doubtless, was that of a red shower, apparently of hail or snow—for rain is not mentioned. It is not a rain storm, it is a hail storm that is the image here; and the image is that of a driving hail storm, where the lightnings flashed, and where there was the intermingling of a reddish substance that resembled blood, and that was an undoubted symbol of blood that was to be shed. I do not know that there is red rain, or red hail, but red snow is not very uncommon; and the image here would be complete if we suppose that there was an intermingling of red snow in the driving tempest. This species of snow was found by Captain Ross at Baffin's Bay on the 17th of August, 1819. The mountains that were dyed with the snow were about eight miles long, and six hundred feet high. The red colour reached to the ground in many places ten or twelve feet deep, and continued for a great length of time. Although red snow had not until this attracted much notice, yet it had been long before observed in Alpine countries. Saussure discovered it on mount St. Bernard in 1778. Ramond found it on the Pyrenees; and Summerfield discovered it in Norway. "In 1818, red snow fell on t he Italian Alps and Apennines. In March, 1808, the whole country about Cadore, Belluno, and Peltri, was covered with a red-coloured snow, to the depth of six and a half feet; but a white snow had fallen both before and after it, the red formed a stratum in the middle of the white. At the same time a similar fall took place in the mountains of the Valteline, Brescia, Carinthia, and Tyrol."— Edin. Encyclo. Art. Snow. These facts show that what is referred to here in the symbol might possibly occur. Such a symbol would be properly expressive of blood and carnage.

And they were cast upon the earth. The hail, the fire, and the blood—denoting that the fulfilment of this was to be on the earth.

And the third part of trees was burnt up. By the fire that came down with the hail and the blood.

And all green grass was burnt up. Wherever this lighted on the earth. The meaning would seem to be, that, wherever this tempest beat, the effect was to destroy a third part—that is, a large portion of the trees, and to consume all the grass. A portion of the tree—strong and mighty—would stand against it; but that which was so tender, as grass is, would be consumed. The sense does not seem to be that the tempest would be confined to a third part of the world, and destroy all the trees and the grass there; but that it would be a sweeping and general tempest, and that wherever it spread it would prostrate a third part of the trees and consume all the grass. Thus understood, it would seem to mean that, in reference to those things in the world which were firm and established like trees, it would not sweep them wholly away, though it would make great desolation; but in reference to those which were delicate and feeble—like grass—it would sweep them wholly away.— This would not be an inapt description of the ordinary effects of invasion in time of war. A few of those things which seem most firm and established in society—like trees in a forest—weather out the storm; while the gentle virtues, the domestic enjoyments, the arts of peace, like tender grass, are wholly destroyed. The fulfilment of this we are undoubtedly to expect to find in the terrors of invasion; the evils of war; the effusion of blood; the march of armies. So far as the language is concerned, the symbol would apply to any hostile invasion; but, in pursuing the exposition on the principles on which we have thus far conducted it, we are to look for the fulfilment in one or more of those invasions of the Northern hordes that preceded the downfall of the Roman empire and that contributed to it.—In the "Analysis" of the chapter, some reasons were given why these four trumpet signals were placed together, as pertaining to a series of events of the same general character, and as distinguished from those which were to follow. The natural place which they occupy, or the events which we should suppose, from the views taken above of the first six seals, would be represented, would be the successive invasions of the Northern hordes which ultimately accomplished the overthrow of the Roman empire. There are four of these "trumpets," and it would be a matter of inquiry whether there were four events of sufficient distinctness that would mark these invasions, or that would constitute periods or epochs in the destruction of the Roman power.

At this point in writing, I looked on a chart of history, composed with no reference to this prophecy, and found a singular and unexpected prominence given to four such events extending from the first invasion of the Goths and Vandals at the beginning of the fifth century, to the fall of the Western empire, A.D. 476. The first was the invasion of Alaric, king of the Goths, A.D. 410; the second was the invasion of Attila, king of the Huns, "scourge of God," A. D. 447; a third was the sack of Rome by Genseric, king of the Vandals, A. D. 455; and the fourth, resulting in the final conquest of Rome, was that of Odoacer, king of the Heruli, who assumed the title of King of Italy, A.D. 476. We shall see, however, on a closer examination, that although two of these—Attila and Genseric—were, during a part of their career, contemporary, yet the most prominent place is due to Genseric in the events that attended the downfall of the empire, and that the second trumpet probably related to him; the third to Attila. These were, beyond doubt, four great periods or events attending the fall of the Roman empire, which synchronize with the period before us. If, therefore, we regard the opening of the sixth seal as denoting the threatening aspect of these invading powers —the gathering of the dark cloud that hovered over the borders of the empire, and the consternation produced by that approaching storm; and if we regard the transactions in the seventh chapter—the holding of the winds in check, and the sealing of the chosen of God— as denoting the suspension of the impending judgments in order that a work might be done to save the church, and as referring to the Divine interposition in behalf of the church; then the appropriate place of these four trumpets, under the seventh seal, will be when that delayed and restrained storm burst in successive blasts upon different parts of the empire—the successive invasions which were so prominent in the overthrow of that vast power. History marks four of these events— four heavy blows—four sweepings of the tempest and the storm—under Alaric, Genseric, Attila, and Odoacer, whose movements could not be better symbolized than by these successive blasts of the trumpet.

The first of these is the invasion of Alaric; and the inquiry now is, whether his invasion is such as would be properly symbolized by the first trumpet. In illustrating this, it will be proper to notice some of the movements of Alaric, and the alarm consequent on his invasion of the empire; and then to inquire how far this corresponds with the images employed in the description of the first trumpet. For these illustrations, I shall be indebted mainly to Mr. Gibbon. Alaric, the Goth, was at first employed in the service of the emperor Theodosius, in his attempt to oppose the usurper Arbogastes, after the murder of Valentinian, emperor of the West. Theodosius, in order to oppose the usurper, employed, among others, numerous barbarians—Iberians, Arabs, and Goths. One of them was Alaric, who, to use the language of Mr. Gibbon, (ii. 179,) "acquired in the school of Theodosius the knowledge of the art of war, which he afterwards so fatally exerted in the destruction of Rome," A.D. 392-394. After the death of Theodosius, (A. D. 395,) the Goths revolted from the Roman power, and Alaric, who had been disappointed in his expectations of being raised to the command of the Roman armies, became their leader.— Dec. and Fall, ii. 213. "That renowned leader was descended from the noble race of the Balti; which yielded only to the royal dignity of the Omali; he had solicited the command of the Roman armies; and the imperial court provoked him to demonstrate the folly of their refusal, and the importance of their loss. In the midst of a divided court and a discontented people, the emperor Arcadius was terrified by the aspect of the Gothic arms," etc. Alaric then invaded and conquered Greece, laying it waste in his progress, until he reached Athens, ii. 214, 215. "The fertile fields of Phocis and Boeotia were instantly covered by a deluge of barbarians, who massacred the males of age to bear arms, and drove away the beautiful females, with the spoil and cattle of the flaming villages." Alaric then concluded a treaty with Theodosius, the emperor of the East, (ii. 216;) was made master-general of Eastern Illyricum, and created a magistrate, (ii. 217;) soon united under his command the barbarous nations that had made the invasion, and was solemnly declared to be the king of the Visigoths, ii. 217. "Armed with this double power, seated on the verge of two empires, he alternately sold his deceitful promises to the courts of Arcadius and Honorius, till he declared and executed his purpose of invading the dominion of the West. The provinces of Europe which belonged to the Eastern empire were already exhausted; those of Asia were inaccessible; and the strength of Constantinople had resisted his attack. But he was tempted by the beauty, the wealth, and the fame of Italy, which he had twice visited; and he secretly aspired to plant the Gothic standard on the walls of Rome, and to enrich his army with the accumulated spoils of three hundred triumphs," ii. 217-218. In describing his march to the Danube, and his progress towards Italy, having increased his army with a large number of barbarians, Mr. Gibbon uses the remarkable language expressive of the general consternation, already quoted, in the description of the sixth seal. Alaric approached rapidly towards the imperial city, resolved to "conquer or die before the gates of Rome." But he was checked by Stilicho, and compelled to make peace, and retired, (Dec. and Fall, ii. 222,) and the threatening storm was for a time suspended. See Barnes "Re 7:1, seq. So great was the consternation, however, that the Roman court, which then had its seat at Milan, thought it necessary to remove to a safer place, and became fixed at Ravenna, ii. 224. This calm, secured by the retreat of Alaric, was, however, of short continuance. In A.D. 408, he again invaded Italy, in a more successful manner, attacked the capital, and more than once pillaged Rome. The following facts, for which I am indebted to Mr. Gibbon, will illustrate the progress of the events, and the effects of this blast of the "first trumpet" in the series that announced the destruction of the Western empire.

(a) The effect, on the destiny of the empire, of removing the Roman court to Ravenna from the dread of the Goths. As early as A. D. 303, the court of the emperor of the West was, for the most part, established at Milan. For some time before, the "sovereignty of the capital was gradually annihilated by the extent of conquest," and the emperors were required to be long absent from Rome on the frontiers, until, in the time of Diocletian and Maximin, the seat of government was fixed at Milan, "whose situation on the foot of the Alps appeared far more convenient than that of Rome, for the important purpose of watching the motions of the barbarians of Germany."—Gibbon, i. 213. "The life of Diocletian and Maximin was a life of action, and a considerable portion of it was spent in camps, or in those long and frequent marches; but whenever the public business allowed them any relaxation, they seem to have retired with pleasure to their favourite residences of Nicomedia and Milan. Till Diocletian, in the twentieth year of his reign, celebrated his Roman triumph, it is extremely doubtful whether he ever visited the ancient capital of the empire."— Gibbon, i. 214. From this place the court was driven away, by the dread of the Northern barbarians, to Ravenna, a safer place, which thenceforward became the seat of government; while Italy was ravaged by the Northern hordes, and while Rome was besieged and pillaged. Mr. Gibbon, under date of A.D. 404, says, "The recent danger to which the person of the emperor had been exposed in the defenceless palace of Milan [from Alaric and the Goths] urged him to seek a retreat in some inaccessible fortress in Italy, where he might securely remain, while the open country was covered by a deluge of barbarians."— Vol, ii. p. 224. He then proceeds to describe the situation of Ravenna, and the removal of the court thither, and then adds, (p. 225,) "The fears of Honorius were not without foundation, nor were his precautions without effect. While Italy rejoiced in her deliverance from the Goths, a furious tempest was excited among the nations of Germany, who yielded to the irresistible impulse that appears to have been generally communicated from the eastern extremity of the continent of Asia." That mighty movement of the Huns is then described, as the storm was preparing to burst upon the Roman empire, ii. 225. The agitation, and the removal of the Roman government, were events not inappropriate to be described by symbols relating to the fall of that mighty power.

(b) The particulars of that invasion, the consternation, the siege of Rome, and the capture and pillage of the imperial city, would confirm the propriety of this application to the symbol of the first trumpet. It would be too long to copy the account—for it extends through many pages of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Empire; but a few selected sentences may show the general character of the events, and the propriety of the symbols, on the supposition that they referred to these things. Thus Mr. Gibbon (ii. 226, 227) says, "The correspondence of the nations was, in that age, so imperfect and precarious, that the revolutions of the North might escape the knowledge of the court of Ravenna; till the dark cloud which was collected along the coast of the Baltic burst in thunder upon the banks of the Upper Danube. The king of the confederate Germans passed, without resistance, the Alps, the Po, and the Apennine; leaving on the one hand the inaccessible palace of Honorius securely buried among the marshes of Ravenna; and on the other the camp of Stilicho, who had fixed his head quarters at Ticinium, or Pavia, but who seems to have avoided a decisive battle till he had assembled his distant forces. Many cities of Italy were pillaged, or destroyed. The senate and people trembled at their approach within a hundred and eighty miles of Rome; and anxiously compared the danger which they had escaped, with the new perils to which they were exposed," etc. Rome was besieged for the first time by the Goths, A. D. 408. Of this siege, Mr. Gibbon (ii. 252-254) has given a graphic description. Among other things he says, "That unfortunate city gradually experienced the distress of scarcity, and at length the horrid calamity of famine." "A dark suspicion was entertained, that some desperate wretches fed on the bodies of their fellow-creatures whom they had secretly murdered; and even mothers—such were the horrid conflicts of the two most powerful instincts implanted by nature in the human breast— even mothers are said to have tasted the flesh of their slaughtered infants. Many thousands of the inhabitants of Rome expired in their houses, or in the streets, for want of sustenance; and, as the public sepulchres without the walls were in the power of the enemy, the stench, which arose from so many putrid and unburied carcases, infected the air; and the miseries of famine were succeeded and aggravated by a pestilential disease." The first siege was raised by the payment of an enormous ransom.—Gibbon, ii. 254. The second siege of Rome by the Goths occurred A.D. 409. This siege was carried on by preventing the supply of provisions, Alaric having seized upon Ostia, the Roman port, where the provisions for the capital were deposited. The Romans finally consented to receive a new emperor at the hand of Alaric, and Attalus was appointed in the place of the feeble Honorius, who was then at Ravenna, and who had abandoned the capital. Attalus, an inefficient prince, was soon publicly stripped of the robes of office, and Alaric, enraged at the conduct of the court at Ravenna towards him, turned his wrath a third time on Rome, and laid siege to the city. This occurred A. D, 410. "The king of the Goths, who no longer dissembled his appetite for plunder and revenge, appeared in arms under the walls of the capital; and the trembling senate, without any hope of relief, prepared, by a desperate effort, to delay the ruin of their country. But they were unable to guard against the conspiracy of their slaves and domestics; who, either from birth or interest, were attached to the cause of the enemy. At the hour of midnight, the Salarian gate was silently opened, and the inhabitants were awakened by the tremendous sound of the Gothic trumpet. Eleven hundred and sixty-three years after the foundation of Rome, the imperial city, which had subdued and civilized so considerable a part of mankind, was delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia."—Gibbon, ii. 26O.

(e) It is, perhaps, only necessary to add that the invasion of Alaric was in fact but one of the great events that led to the fall of the empire, and that, in announcing that fall, where a succession of events was to occur, it would properly be represented by the blast of one of the trumpets. The expressions employed in the symbol are, indeed, such as might be applied to any invasion of hostile armies, but they are such as would be used if the design were admitted to be to describe the invasion of the Gothic conqueror. For

(1) that invasion, as we have seen, would be well represented by the storm of hail and lightning that was seen in vision;

(2) by the red colour mingled in that storm—indicative of blood;

(3) by the fact that it consumed the trees and the grass. This, as we saw in the exposition, would properly denote the desolation produced by war— applicable, indeed, to all war, but as applicable to the invasion of Alaric as any war that has occurred, and it is such an emblem as would be used if it were admitted that it was the design to represent his invasion. The sweeping storm, prostrating the trees of the forest, is an apt emblem of the evils of war, and, as was remarked in the exposition, no more striking illustration of the consequences of a hostile invasion could be employed than the destruction of the "green grass." What is here represented in the symbol cannot, perhaps, be better expressed than in the language of Mr. Gibbon, when describing the invasion of the Roman empire under Alaric. Speaking of that invasion, he says: "While the peace of Germany was secured by the attachment of the Franks and the neutrality of the Alemanni, the subjects of Rome unconscious of their approaching calamities, enjoyed the state of quiet and prosperity which had seldom blessed the frontiers of Gaul. Their flocks and herds were permitted to graze in the pastures of the barbarians; their huntsmen penetrated, without fear or danger, into the darkest recesses of the Hyrcanian wood. The banks of the Rhine were crowned, like those of the Tiber, with houses and well-cultivated farms; and if a poet descended the river, he might express his doubt on which side was situated the territory of the Romans. This scene of peace and plenty was suddenly changed into a desert; and the prospect of the smoking ruins could alone distinguish the solitude of nature from the desolation of man. The flourishing city of Mentz was surprised and destroyed; and many thousand Christians were inhumanly massacred in the church. Worms perished after a long and obstinate siege; Strasburg, Spires, Rheims, Tournay, Arras, Amiens, experienced the cruel oppression of the German yoke; and the consuming flames of war spread from the banks of the Rhine over the greatest part of the seventeen provinces of Gaul. That rich and extensive country, as far as the ocean, the Alps, and the Pyrenees, was delivered to the barbarians, who drove before them, in a Promiscuous crowd, the bishop, the senator, and the virgin, laden with the spoils of their houses and altars," ii. 230. In reference, also, to the invasion of Alaric, and the particular nature of the desolation depicted under the first trumpet, a remarkable passage which Mr. Gibbon has quoted from Claudian, as describing the effects of the invasion of Alaric, may be here introduced. "The old man" says he, speaking of Claudian," who had passed his simple and innocent life in the neighbourhood of Verona, was a stranger to the quarrels both of kings and of bishops; his pleasures, his desires, his knowledge, were confined within the circle of his paternal farm; and a staff supported his aged steps on the same ground where he had sported in infancy. Yet even this humble and rustic felicity (which Claudinn describes with so much truth and feeling) was still exposed to the undistinguishing rage of war. His trees, his old contemporary trees, must blaze in the conflagration of the whole country; a detachment of Gothic cavalry must sweep away his cottage and his family; and the power of Alaric could destroy this happiness which he was not able either to taste or to bestow. 'Fame,' says the poet, 'encircling with terror or gloomy wings, proclaimed the march of the barbarian army, and filled Italy with consternation,'" ii. 218. And

(4) as to the extent of the calamity, there is also a striking propriety in the language of the symbol as applicable to the invasion of Alaric. I do not suppose, indeed, that it is necessary, in order to find a proper fulfilment of the symbol, to be able to show that exactly one third part of the empire was made desolate in this way, but it is a sufficient fulfilment of desolation spread over a considerable portion of the Roman world—as if a third part had been destroyed. No one who reads the account of the invasion of Alaric can doubt that it would be an apt description of the ravages of his arms to say that a third part was laid waste. That the desolations produced by Alaric were such as would be properly represented by this symbol, may be fully seen by consulting the whole account of that invasion in Gibbon, ii. 213-266.

Ingentem meminit parvo qui germine quercum
AEquaevumque videt consenuisse nemus.

A neighbouring wood born with himself he sees,
And loves his old contemporary trees.—Cowley

{c} "there followed" Eze 38:22

{d} "trees" Isa 2:13


Verse 8. And the second angel sounded. Compare See Barnes "Re 8:2,7".

This, according to the interpretation proposed above, refers to the second of the four great events which contributed to the downfall of the Roman empire. It will be proper in this case, as in the former, to inquire into the literal meaning of the symbol, and then whether there was any event that corresponded with it.

And as it were a great mountain. A mountain is a natural symbol of strength, and hence becomes a symbol of a strong and powerful kingdom; for mountains are not only places of strength in themselves, but they anciently answered the purposes of fortified places, and were the seats of power. Hence they are properly symbols of strong nations. "The stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth," Da 2:35. Compare Zec 4:7; Jer 51:25. We naturally, then, apply this part of the symbol to some strong and mighty nation—not a nation, necessarily, that issued from a mountainous region, but a nation that in strength resembled a mountain.

Burning with fire. A mountain in a blaze; that is, with all its woods on fire, or, more probably, a volcanic mountain. There would perhaps be no more sublime image than such a mountain, lifted suddenly from its base and thrown into the sea. One of the sublimest parts of the Paradise Lost is that where the poet represents the angels in the great battle in heaven as lifting the mountains—tearing them from their base— and hurling them on the foe:—

"From their foundations heaving to and fro,
They plucked the seated hills, with all their load,
Rocks, waters, woods, and by the shaggy tops
Uplifting, bore them in their hands," etc.—Book vi

The poet, however, has not, as John has, represented a volcano borne along and east into the sea. The symbol employed here would denote some fiery, impetuous, destructive power. If used to denote a nation, it would be a nation that was, as it were, burning with the desire of conquest—impetuous and fierce and fiery in its assaults—and consuming all in its way.

Cast into the sea. The image is very sublime; the scene, should such an event occur, would be awfully grand. As to the fulfilment of this, or the thing that was intended to be represented by it, there cannot be any material doubt. It is not to be understood literally, of course; and the natural application is to some nation, or army, that has a resemblance in some respects to such a blazing mountain, and the effect of whose march would be like casting such a mountain into the ocean. We naturally look for agitation and commotion, and particularly in reference to the sea, or to some maritime coasts. It is undoubtedly required in the application of this, that we should find its fulfilment in some country lying beyond the sea, or in some sea-coast or maritime country, or in reference to commerce.

And the third part of the sea became blood. Resembled blood; became as red as blood. The figure here is, that as such a blazing mountain cast into the sea would, by its reflection on the waters, seem to tinge them with red, so there would be something corresponding with this in what was referred to by the symbol. It would be fulfilled if there was a fierce maritime warfare, and if in some desperate naval engagement the sea should be tinged with blood.

{a} "burning" Jer 51:25

{b} "sea" Am 7:4

{c} "blood" Re 16:3; Ex 7:19-21


Verse 9. And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died. The effect was as if one third of all the fish in the sea were cut off. Of course, this is not to be taken literally. It is designed to describe an effect, pertaining to the maritime portion of the world, as if a third portion of all that was in the sea should perish. The natural interpretation would be to apply it to some invasion or calamity pertaining to the sea—to the islands, to the maritime regions, or to commerce. If the whole description pertains to the Roman empire, then this might be supposed to have particular reference to something that would have a bearing on the maritime parts of that empire.

And the third part of the ships were destroyed. This also pertains to the same general calamity, affecting the commerce of the empire. The destruction of the "ships" was produced, in some way, by casting the mountain into the sea—either by their being consumed by the contact with the burning mass, or by being sunk by the agitation of the waters. The essential idea is, that the calamity would be of such a nature as would produce the destruction of vessels at sea—either naval armaments, or ships of commerce. In looking now for the application or fulfilment of this, it is necessary

(a) to find some event or events which would have a particular bearing on the maritime or commercial part of the world; and

(b) some such event or events that, on the supposition that they were the things referred to, would be properly symbolized by the image here employed.

(1.) If the first trumpet had reference to the invasion of Alaric and the Goths, then in this we naturally look for the next succeeding act of invasion which shook the Roman empire, and contributed to its fall.

(2.) The next invasion was that under Genseric at the head of the Vandals.—Gibbon, ii. 306, seq. This occurred A.D. 428-468.

(3.) The symbol of a blazing or burning mountain, torn from its foundation, and precipitated into the ocean, would well represent this mighty nation moved from its ancient seat, and borne along towards the maritime parts of the empire, and its desolations there— as will be shown in the following remarks.

(4.) The acts of the Vandals, under Genseric, corresponded with the ideas expressed by the symbol. In illustrating this, I shall be indebted, as heretofore, principally to Mr. Gibbon.

(a) His general account of the Vandals is this: they are supposed (i. 138) to have been originally the same people with the Goths, the Goths and Vandals constituting one great nation living on the shores of the Baltic. They passed in connexion with them over the Baltic; emigrated to Prussia and the Ukraine; invaded the Roman provinces; received tribute from the Romans; subdued the countries about the Bosphorus; plundered the cities of Bithynia; ravaged Greece and Illyrium, and were at last settled in Thrace under the emperor Theodosius.—Gibbon, i. 136-166; ii. 110-150. They were then driven forward by the Huns, and having passed through France and Spain into Africa, conquered the Carthaginian territory, established an independent government, and thence through a long period harassed the neighbouring islands, and the coasts of the Mediterranean by their predatory incursions, destroying the ships and the commerce of the Romans, and were distinguished in the downfall of the empire by their ravages on the islands and the sea. Thus they were moved along from place to place until the scene of their desolations became more distinctly the maritime parts of the empire; and the effect of their devastations might be well compared with a burning mountain moved from its ancient base and then thrown into the sea.

(b) This will be apparent from the statements of Mr. Gibbon in regard to their ravages under their leader Genseric. "Seville and Carthagena became the reward, or rather the prey of the ferocious conquerors," [after they had defeated the Roman Castinus,] "and the vessels which they found in the harbour of Carthagena might easily transport them to the isles of Majorca and Minorca, where the Spanish fugitives, as in a secure recess, had vainly concealed their families and fortunes. The experience of navigation, and perhaps the prospect of Africa, encouraged the Vandals to accept the invitation which they received from Count Boniface," [to aid him in his apprehended difficulties with Rome, and to enter into an alliance with him by settling permanently in Africa.—Gibbon, ii. 305, 306;] "and the death of Genseric" [the Vandal king] "served only to forward and animate the bold enterprise. In the room of a prince, not conspicuous for any superior powers of the mind or body, they acquired his bastard brother, the terrible Genseric—a name which, in the destruction of the Roman empire, has deserved an equal rank with the names of Alaric and Attila. "The ambition of Genseric was almost, without bounds, and without scruples; and the warrior would dexterously employ the dark engines of policy to solicit the allies who might be useful to his success, or to scatter among his enemies the seeds of enmity and contention. Almost in the moment of his departure, he was informed that Hermantic, king of the Suevi, had presumed to ravage the Spanish territories, which he was resolved to abandon. Impatient of the insult, Genseric pursued the hasty retreat of the Suevi as far as Merida; precipitated the king and his army into the river Anas, and calmly returned to the sea-shore to embark his troops. The vessels which transported the Vandals over the modern straits of Gibraltar, a channel only twelve miles in breadth, were furnished by the Spaniards, who anxiously wished for their departure; and by the African general who had implored their formidable assistance."— Gibbon, ii. 306. Genseric, in the accomplishment of his purposes, soon took possession of the northern coast of Africa, defeating the armies of Boniface, and "Carthage, Cirta, and Hippo Regius were the only cities that appeared to rise above the general inundation."— Gibbon, ii. 308. "On a sudden," says Mr. Gibbon, (ii. 309,) "the seven fruitful provinces, from Tangier to Tripoli, were overwhelmed by the invasion of the Vandals; whose destructive rage has perhaps been exaggerated by popular animosity, religious zeal, and extravagant declamation. War, in its fairest form, implies a perpetual violation of humanity and justice; and the hostilities of barbarians are inflamed by the fierce and lawless spirit which perpetually disturbs their peaceful and domestic society. The Vandals, where they found resistance, seldom gave quarter; and the deaths of their valiant countrymen were expiated by the ruin of the cities under whose walls they had fallen," etc. The result of the invasion was the conquest of all Northern Africa; the reduction of Hippo and Carthage, and the establishment of a government under Genseric in Africa that waged a long war with Rome.—Gibbon, ii. 310, 311. The symbol before us has particular reference to maritime or naval operations and desolations, and the following extracts from Mr. Gibbon will show with what propriety, if this symbol was designed to refer to him, these images were employed. "The discovery and conquest of the Black nations, [in Africa,] that might dwell beneath the torrid zone, could not tempt the rational ambition of Genseric; but he cast his eyes towards the sea; he resolved to create a naval power, and his bold resolution was executed with steady and active perseverance. The woods of Mount Atlas afforded an inexhaustible supply of timber; his new subjects were skilled in the arts of navigation and shipbuilding; he animated his daring Vandals to embrace a mode of warfare which would render any maritime country accessible to their arms; the Moors and Africans were allured by the hope of plunder; and after an interval of six centuries, the fleets that issued from the port of Carthage again claimed the empire of the Mediterranean. The success of the Vandals, the conquest of Sicily, the sack of Palermo, and the frequent descents on the coasts of Lucania, awakened and alarmed the mother of Valentinian, and the sister of Theodosius. Alliances were formed; and armaments, expensive and ineffectual, were prepared for the destruction of the common enemy, who reserved his courage to encounter those dangers which his policy could not prevent or elude. The revolutions of the palace, which left the Western empire without a defender, and without a lawful prince, dispelled the apprehension, and stimulated the avarice of Genseric. He immediately equipped a numerous fleet of Vandals and Moors, and cast anchor at the mouth of the Tiber," etc.—Gibbon, ii. 352. "On the third day after the tumult [A. D. 455, on the death of Maximus] Genseric boldly advanced from the port of Ostia to the gates of the defenceless city. Instead of a sally of the Roman youth, there issued from the gates an unarmed and venerable procession of the bishop at the head of the clergy. But Rome and its inhabitants were delivered to the licentiousness of the Vandals and the Moors, whose blind passions revenged the injuries of Carthage. The pillage lasted fourteen days and nights; and all that yet remained of public or private wealth, of sacred or profane treasure, was diligently transported to the vessels of Genseric," etc. See the account of this pillage in Gibbon, ii. 355-366. The emperor Majorian (A.D. 457) endeavoured to "restore the happiness of the Romans," but he encountered the arms of Genseric, from his character and situation, their most formidable enemy. A fleet of Vandals and Moors landed at the mouth of the Liris, or Garigliano; but the imperial troops surprised and attacked the disorderly barbarians, who were encumbered with the spoils of Campania; they were chased with slaughter to their ships; and their leader, the king's brother-in-law, was found in the number of the slain. Such vigilance might announce the character of the new reign; but the strictest vigilance, and the most numerous forces, were insufficient to protect the long-extended coast of Italy from the depredations of a naval war."—Gibbon, ii. 363. "The emperor had foreseen that it was impossible, without a maritime power, to achieve the conquest of Africa. In the first Punic war, the republic had exerted such incredible diligence, that within sixty days after the first stroke of the axe had been given in the forest, a fleet of one hundred and sixty galleys proudly rode at anchor in the sea. Under circumstances much less favourable, Majorian equalled the spirit and perseverance of the ancient Romans. The woods of the Apennines were felled; the arsenals and manufactures of Ravenna and Misenium were restored; Italy and Gaul vied with each other in liberal contributions to the public service; and the imperial navy of three hundred large galleys, with an adequate proportion of transports and smaller vessels, was collected in the secure and capacious harbour of Carthagena in Spain."—Gibbon, ii. 363, 364. The fate of this large navy is thus described by Mr. Gibbon: "Genseric was saved from impending and inevitable ruin by the treachery of some powerful subjects, envious or apprehensive of their master's success. Guided by their secret intelligence, he surprised the unguarded fleet in the bay of Carthagena; many of the ships were sunk, or taken, or burnt; and the preparations of three years were destroyed in a single day," ii. 364. The farther naval operations and maritime depredations of the Vandals, under Genseric, are thus stated by Mr. Gibbon: "The kingdom of Italy, a name to which the Western empire was gradually reduced, was afflicted, under the reign of Ricimer, by the incessant depredations of Vandal pirates. In the spring of each year, they equipped a formidable navy in the port of Carthage; and Genseric himself, though in very advanced age, still commanded in person the most important expeditions. His designs were concealed with impenetrable secrecy, till the moment that he hoisted sail. When he was asked by the pilot what course he should steer—'Leave the determination to the winds,' replied the barbarian, with pious arrogance; 'they will transport us to the guilty coast whose inhabitants have provoked the Divine justice: but Genseric himself deigned to issue more precise orders; he judged the most wealthy to be the most criminal. The Vandals repeatedly visited the coasts of Spain, Liguria, Tuscany, Campanic, Lucania, Bruttium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia, Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece, and Sicily; they were tempted to subdue the island of Sardinia, so advantageously placed in the centre of the Mediterranean; and their arms spread desolation, or terror, from the columns of Hercules to the mouth of the Nile. As they were more ambitious of spoil than of glory, they seldom attacked any fortified cities or engaged any regular troops in the open field. But the celerity of their motions enabled them, almost at the same time, to threaten and to attack the most distant objects which attracted their desires; and as they always embarked a sufficient number of horses, they had no sooner landed than they swept the dismayed country with a body of light cavalry," ii. 366. How far this description agrees with the symbol in the passage before us—"a great mountain burning with fire cast into the sea;" "the third part of the ships were destroyed"—must be left to the reader to judge. It may be asked, however, with at least some show of reason, whether, if it be admitted that it was the design of the author of the book of Revelation to refer to the movements of the Vandals under Genseric as one of the important and immediate causes of the ruin of the Roman empire, he could have found a more expressive symbol than this? Indeed, is there now any symbol that would be more striking and appropriate? If one should now undertake to represent this as one of the causes of the downfall of, the empire by a symbol, could he easily find one that would be more expressive? It is a matter that is in itself perhaps of no importance, but it may serve to show that the interpretation respecting the second trumpet was not forced, to remark that I had gone through with the interpretation of the language of the symbol, before I looked into Mr. Gibbon with any reference to the application.


Verse 10. And the third angel sounded. Indicating, according to the interpretation above proposed, some important event in the downfall of the Roman empire.

And there fell a great star from heaven. A star is a natural emblem of a prince, of a ruler, of one distinguished by rank or by talent. Compare See Barnes "Re 2:28".

See Nu 24:17. See Barnes on "Isa 14:12".

A star failing from heaven would be a natural symbol of one who had left a higher station, or of one whose character and course would be like a meteor shooting through the sky.

Burning as it were a lamp. Or, as a torch. The language here is such as would describe a meteor blazing through the air; and the reference in the symbol is to something that would have a resemblance to such a meteor. It is not a lurid meteor (livid, pale, ghastly) that is here referred to, but a bright, intense, blazing star—emblem of fiery energy; of rapidity of movement and execution; of splendour of appearance—such as a chieftain of high endowments, of impetuousness of character, and of richness of apparel, would be. In all languages, probably, a star has been an emblem of a prince whose virtuese shone brightly, and who has exerted a beneficial influence on mankind. In all languages also, probably, a meteor flaming through the sky has been an emblem of some splendid genius causing or threatening desolation and ruin; of a warrior who has moved along in a brilliant but destructive path over the world; and who has been regarded as sent to execute the vengeance of heaven. This usage occurs because a meteor is so bright; because it appears so suddenly; because its course cannot be determined by any known laws; and because, in the apprehensions of men, it is either sent as a proof of the Divine displeasure, or is adapted to excite consternation and alarm. In the application of this part of the symbol, therefore, we naturally look for some prince or warrior of brilliant talents, who appears suddenly and sweeps rapidly over the world; who excites consternation and alarm; whose path is marked by desolation, and who is regarded as sent from heaven to execute the Divine purposes —who comes not to bless the world by brilliant talents well directed, but to execute vengeance on mankind.

And it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. On the phrase, "the third part," see Barnes "Re 8:7".

This reference to the "rivers" and to the "fountains of waters" seems, in part, to be for the purpose of saying that everything would be affected by this series of judgments. In the previous visions, the trees and the green grass, the sea and the ships, had been referred to. The rivers and the fountains of waters are not less important than the trees, the grass, and the commerce of the world, and hence this judgment is mentioned as particularly bearing on them. At the same time, as in the case of the other trumpets, there is a propriety in supposing that there would be something in the event referred to by the symbol which would make it more appropriate to use this symbol in this case than in the others. It is natural, therefore, to look for some desolations that would particularly affect the portions of the world where rivers abound, or where they take their rise; or, if it be understood as having a more metaphorical sense, to regard it as affecting those things which resemble rivers and fountains—the sources of influence; the morals, the religion of a people, the institutions of a country, which are often so appropriately compared with running fountains or flowing streams.

{a} "fell" Re 4:1; Isa 14:12


Verse 11. And the name of the star is called Wormwood. Is appropriately so called. The writer does not say that it would be actually so called, but that this name would be properly descriptive of its qualities. Such expressions are common in allegorical writings. The Greek word—aqinyov—denotes wormwood, a well-known bitter herb. That word becomes the proper emblem of bitterness. Compare Jer 9:15; 23:15; La 3:15,19.

And the third part of the waters became wormwood. Became bitter as wormwood. This is doubtless an emblem of the calamity which would occur if the waters should be thus made bitter. Of course, they would become useless for the purposes to which they are mostly applied, and the destruction of life would be inevitable. To conceive of the extent of such a calamity, we have only to imagine a large portion of the wells, and rivers, and fountains of a country made bitter as wormwood. Compare Ex 15:23-24.

And many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. This effect would naturally follow if any considerable portion of the fountains and streams of a land were changed by an infusion of wormwood. It is not necessary to suppose that this is intended to be literally true; for as, by the use of a symbol, it is not to be supposed that literally a part of the waters would be turned into wormwood by the baleful influence of a failing meteor, so it is not necessary to suppose that there is intended to be represented a literal destruction of human life by the use of waters. Great destruction and devastation are undoubtedly intended to be denoted by this—destruction that would be well represented in a land by the natural effects if a considerable part of the waters were, by their bitterness, made unfit to drink.

In the interpretation and application, therefore, of this passage, we may adopt the following principles and rules:

(a) It may be assumed, in this exposition, that the previous symbols, under the first and second trumpet-blasts, referred respectively to Alaric and his Goths, and to Genseric and his Vandals.

(b) That the next great and decisive event in the downfall of the empire is the one that is here referred to,

(c) That there would be some chieftain or warrior who might be compared with a blazing meteor; whose course would be singularly brilliant; who would appear suddenly like a blazing star, and then disappear like a star whose light was quenched in the waters.

(d) That the desolating course of that meteor would be mainly on those portions of the world that abounded with springs of water and running streams.

(e) That an effect would be produced as if those streams and fountains were made bitter; that is, that many persons would perish, and that wide desolations would be caused in the vicinity of those rivers and streams, as if a bitter and baleful star should fall into the waters, and death should spread over the lands adjacent to them, and watered by them. Whether any events occurred of which this would be the proper emblem is now the question. Among expositors there has been a considerable degree of unanimity in supposing that Attila, the king of the Huns, is referred to, and if the preceding expositions are correct, there can be no doubt on the subject. After Alaric and Genseric, Attila occupies the next place as an important agent in the overthrow of the Roman empire, and the only question is, whether he would be properly symbolized by this baleful star. The following remarks may be made to show the propriety of the symbol:

(1.) As already remarked, the place which he occupies in history, as immediately succeeding Alaric and Genseric in the downfall of the empire. This will appear in any chronological table, or in the table of contents of any of the histories of those times. A full detail of the career of Attila may be found in Gibbon, vol. ii. pp. 314-351. His career extended from A.D. 433, to A.D. 453. It is true that he was contemporary with Genseric, king of the Vandals, and that a portion of the operations of Genseric in Africa were subsequent to the death of Attila, (A.D. 455-A.D. 467;) but it is also true that Genseric preceded Attila in the career of conquest, and was properly the first in order, being pressed forward in the Roman warfare by the Huns, A.D. 428. See Gibbon, ii. 306, seq.

(2.) In the manner of his appearance, he strongly resembled a brilliant meteor flashing in the sky. He came from the east, gathering his Huns, and poured them down, as we shall see, with the rapidity of a flashing meteor, suddenly on the empire. He regarded himself also as devoted to Mars, the god of war, and was accustomed to array himself in a peculiarly brilliant manner, so that his appearance, in the language of his flatterers, was such as to dazzle the eyes of beholders. One of his followers perceived that a heifer that was grazing had wounded her foot, and curiously followed the track of blood, till he found in the long grass the point of an ancient sword, which he dug out of the ground and presented to Attila. "That magnanimous, or rather that artful prince," says Mr. Gibbon, "accepted with pious gratitude this celestial favour; and, as the rightful possessor of the sword of Mars, asserted his divine and indefeasible claim to the dominion of the earth. The favourite of Mars soon acquired a sacred character, which rendered his conquests more easy and more permanent; and the Barbarian princes confessed, in the language of devotion or flattery, that they could not presume to gaze, with a steady eye, on the divine majesty of the king of the Huns," ii. 317. How appropriate would it be to represent such a prince by the symbol of a bright and blazing star—or a meteor flashing through the sky!

(3.) There may be propriety, as applicable to him, in the expression— "a great star from heaven falling upon the earth." Attila was regarded as an instrument in the Divine hand in inflicting punishment. The common appellation by which he has been known is "the scourge of God." This title is supposed by the modern Hungarians to have been first given to Attila by a hermit of Gaul, but it was "inserted by Attila among the titles of his royal dignity."—Gibbon, ii, 321, footnote. To no one could the title be more applicable than to him.

(4.) His career as a conqueror, and the effect of his conquests on the downfall of the empire, were such as to be properly symbolized in this manner.

(a) The general effect of the invasion was worthy of an important place in describing the series of events which resulted in the overthrow of the empire. This is thus stated by Mr. Gibbon: "The western world was oppressed by the Goths and Vandals, who fled before the Huns; but the achievements of the Huns themselves were not adequate to their power and prosperity. Their victorious hordes had spread from the Volga to the Danube, but the public force was exhausted by the discord of independent chieftains; their valour was idly consumed in obscure and predatory excursions; and they often degraded their national dignity by condescending, for the hopes of spoil, to enlist under the banners of their fugitive enemies. In the reign of Attila, the Huns again became the terror of the world; and I shall now describe the character and actions of that formidable barbarian who alternately invaded and insulted the East and the West, and urged the rapid downfall of the Roman empire," vol. ii. pp. 314, 316.

(b) The parts of the earth affected by the invasion of the Huns were those which would be properly symbolized by the things specified at the blowing of this trumpet. It is said particularly, that the effect would be on "the rivers," and on "the fountains of waters." If this has a literal application, or if, as was supposed in the case of the second trumpet, the language used was such as had reference to the portion of the empire that would be particularly affected by the hostile invasion, then we may suppose that this refers to those portions of the empire that abounded in rivers and streams, and more particularly those in which the rivers and streams had their origin—for the effect was permanently in the "fountains of waters." As a matter of fact, the principal operations of Attila were in the regions of the Alps and on the portions of the empire whence the rivers flow down into Italy. The invasion of Attila is described by Mr. Gibbon in this general language: "The whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above five hundred miles from the Euxine to the Adriatic, was at once invaded, and occupied, and desolated, by the myriads of barbarians whom Attila led into the field," ii. 319, 320. After describing the progress and the effects of this invasion, (pp. 320-331,) he proceeds more particularly to detail the events in the invasion of Gaul and Italy, pp. 331-347. After the terrible battle of Chalons, in which, according to one account, one hundred and sixty-two thousand, and, according to other accounts, three hundred thousand persons were slain, and in which Attila was defeated, he recovered his vigour, collected his forces, and made a descent on Italy. Under pretence of claiming Honoria, the daughter of the empress of Rome, as his bride, "the indignant lover took the field, passed the Alps, invaded Italy, and besieged Aquileia with an innumerable host of barbarians." After endeavouring in vain for three months to subdue the city, and when about to abandon the siege, Attila took advantage of the appearance of a stork as a favourable omen to arouse his men to a renewed effort, "a large breach was made in the part of the wall where the stork had taken her flight; the Huns marched to the assault with irresistible fury; and the succeeding generation could scarcely discover the ruins of Aquileia. After this dreadful chastisement, Attila pursued his march; and as he passed, the cities of Altinum, Concordia, and Padua, were reduced into heaps of stones and ashes. The inland towns, Vicenza, Verona, and Bergarno, were exposed to the rapacious cruelty of the Huns. Milan and Pavia submitted, without resistance, to the loss of their wealth, and applauded the unusual clemency which preserved from the flames the public as well as the private buildings, and spared the lives of the captive multitude. The popular traditions of Comum, Turin, or Modena, may be justly suspected, yet they concur with more authentic evidence to prove that Attila spread his ravages over the rich plains of modern Lombardy, which are divided by the Po, and bounded by the Alps and the Apennines," ii. pp. 343, 344. "It is a saying worthy of the ferocious pride of Attila, that the grass never grew on the spot where his horse had trod."—Ibid, p. 345. Any one has only to look on a map, and to trace the progress of those desolations and the chief seats of his military operations, to see with what propriety this symbol would be employed. In these regions the great rivers that water Europe have their origin, and are swelled by numberless streams that flow down from the Alps; and about the fountains whence these streams flow were the principal military operations of the invader.

(c) With equal propriety is he represented in the symbol, as affecting "a third" part of these rivers and fountains. At least a third part of the empire was invaded and desolated by him in his savage march, and the effects of his invasion were as disastrous on the empire as if a bitter star had fallen into a third part of those rivers and fountains and had converted them into wormwood.

(d) There is one other point which shows the propriety of this symbol. It is, that the meteor, or star, seemed to be absorbed in the waters. It fell into the waters; embittered them; and was seen no more. Such would be the case with a meteor that should thus fall upon the earth—flashing along the sky, and then disappearing for ever. Now, it was remarkable in regard to the Huns, that their power was concentrated under Attila; that he alone appeared as the leader of this formidable host; and that when he died all the concentrated power of the Huns was dissipated, or became absorbed and lost. "The revolution," says Mr. Gibbon, (ii. 348,) "which subverted the empire of the Huns, established the fame of Attila, whose genius alone had sustained the huge and disjointed fabric. After his death, the boldest chieftains aspired to the rank of kings; the most powerful kings refused to acknowledge a superior; and the numerous sons, whom so many various mothers bore to the deceased monarch, divided and disputed, like a private inheritance, the sovereign command of the nations of Germany and Scythia." Soon, however, in the conflicts which succeeded, the empire passed away, and the empire of the Huns ceased. The people that composed it were absorbed in the surrounding nations, and Mr. Gibbon makes this remark, after giving a summary account of these conflicts, which continued but for a few years: "The Igours of the north, issuing from the cold Siberian regions, which produced the most valuable furs, spread themselves over the desert, as far as the Boristhenes and the Caspian gates, and finally extinguished the empire of the Huns." These facts may, perhaps, show with what propriety Attila would be compared with a bright but beautiful meteor; and that, if the design was to symbolize him as acting an important part in the downfall of the Roman empire, there is a fitness in the symbol here employed.

{b} "wormwood" De 24:18; Am 5:7; Heb 12:15

{c} "waters" Ex 15:23; Jer 9:15; 23:15


Verse 12. And the fourth angel sounded. See Barnes "Re 8:6, See Barnes "Re 8:7".

And the third part of the sea was smitten. On the phrase the third part, see Barnes on "Re 8:7".

The darkening of the heavenly luminaries is every, where an emblem of any great calamity— as if the light of the sun, moon, and stars should be put out. See Barnes "Re 6:12, See Barnes "Re 6:13".

There is no certain evidence that this refers to rulers, as many have supposed, or to anything that would particularly affect the government as such. The meaning is, that calamity would come as ifnature of the calamity is not indicated by the language, but anything that would diffuse gloom and disaster would accord with the fair meaning of the symbol. There are a few circumstances, however, in regard to this symbol, which may aid us in determining its application.

(1.) It would follow in the series of calamities that were to occur.

(2.) It would be separated in some important sense—of time, place, or degree—from those which were to follow, for there is a pause here, (Re 8:13) and the angel proclaims that more terrible woes are to succeed this series.

(3.) Like the preceding, it is to affect "one third part" of the world; that is, it is to be a calamity as if a third part of the sun, the moon, and the stars were suddenly smitten and darkened.

(4.) It is not to be total. It is not as if the sun, the moon, and the stars were entirely blotted out, for there was still some remaining light: that is, there was a continuance of the existing state of things—as if these heavenly bodies should still give an obscure and partial light.

(5.) Perhaps it is also intended by the symbol, that there would be light again. The world was not to go into a state of total and permanent night. For a third part of the day, and a third part of the night, this darkness reigned: but does not this imply that there would be light again—that the obscurity would pass away, and that the sun, and moon, and stars would shine again? That is, is it not implied that there would still be prosperity ill some future period?

Now, in regard to the application of this, if the explanation of the preceding symbols is correct, there can be little difficulty. If the previous symbols referred to Alaric, to Genseric, and to Attila, there can be no difficulty in applying this to Odoacer, and to his reign—a reign in which, in fact, the Roman dominion in the West came to an end, and passed into the hands of this barbarian. Any one has only to open the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" to see that this is the next event that should be symbolized if the design were to represent the downfall of the empire. These four great barbarian leaders succeed each other in order, and under the last, Odoacer, the barbarian dominion was established; for it is here that the existence of the Roman power, as such, ended. The Western empire terminated, according to Mr. Gibbon, (ii. p. 380,) about A.D. 476 or 479. Odoacer was "King of Italy" from A.D. 476 to A.D. 490.—Gibbon, ii. 379. The Eastern empire still lingered; but calamity, like blotting out the sun, and moon, and stars, had come over that part of the world which for so many centuries had constituted the seat of power and dominion.—Odoacer was the son of Edecon, a barbarian, who was in the service of Attila, and who left two sons—Onulf and Odoacer. The former directed his steps to Constantinople; Odoacer "led a wandering life among the barbarians of Noricum, with a mind and fortune suited to the most desperate adventures; and when he had fixed his choice, he privily visited the cell of Severinus, the popular saint of the country, to solicit his approbation and blessing. The lowness of the door would not admit the lofty stature of Odoacer; he was obliged to stoop: but in that humble attitude the saint could discern the symptoms of his future greatness; and addressing him in a prophetic tone, 'Pursue,' said he, 'your design; proceed to Italy; you will cast away the coarse garment of skins; and your wealth will be adequate to the liberality of your mind.' The barbarian, whose daring spirit accepted and ratified this prediction, was admitted into the service of the Western empire, and soon obtained an honourable rank in the guards. His manners were gradually polished, his military skill improved, and the confederates of Italy would not have elected him for their general unless the exploits of Odoacer had established a high opinion of his courage and capacity. Their military acclamations saluted him with the title of king; but he abstained during his whole reign from the use of the purple and the diadem, lest he should offend those princes, whose subjects, by their accidental mixture, had formed the victorious army which time and policy might insensibly unite into a great nation."—Gibbon, ii. 379, 380. In another place Mr. Gibbon says, "Odoacer was the first barbarian who reigned in Italy, over a people who had once asserted their superiority above the rest of mankind. The disgrace of the Romans still excites our respectful compassion, and we fondly sympathize with the imaginary grief and indignation of their degenerate posterity. But the calamities of Italy had gradually subdued the proud consciousness of freedom and glory. In the age of Roman virtue, the provinces were subject to the arms, and the citizens to the laws, of the republic; till those laws were subverted by civil discord, and both the city and the provinces became the property of a servile tyrant. The forms of the constitution which alleviated or disguised their abject slavery were abolished by time and violence; the Italians alternately lamented the presence or the absence of the sovereigns whom they detested or despised; and the succession of five centuries inflicted the various evils of military license, capricious despotism, and elaborate oppression. During the same period the barbarians had emerged from obscurity and contempt, and the warriors of Germany and Scythia were introduced into the provinces, as the servants, the allies, and at length the masters of the Romans, whom they insulted or protected," ii. 381, 382. Of the effect of the reign of Odoacer, Mr. Gibbon remarks: "In the division and decline of the empire, the tributary harvests of Egypt and Africa were withdrawn; the numbers of the inhabitants continually decreased with the means of subsistence; and the country was exhausted by the irretrievable losses of war, famine, and pestilence. St. Ambrose has deplored the ruin of a populous district, which had been once adorned with the flourishing cities of Bologna, Modena, Regium, and Placentia. Pope Gelasius was a subject of Odoacer; and he affirms, with strong exaggeration, that in AEmilia, Tuscany, and the adjacent provinces, the human species was almost extirpated. One third of those ample estates, to which the ruin of Italy is originally imputed, was extorted for the use of the conquerors," ii. 383. Yet the light was not wholly extinct. It was "a third part" of it which was put out; and it was still true that some of the forms of the ancient constitution were observed—that the light still lingered before it wholly passed away. In the language of another, "The authority of the Roman name had not yet entirely ceased. The senate of Rome continued to assemble as usual. The consuls were appointed yearly, one by the Eastern emperor, one by Italy and Rome. Odoacer himself governed Italy under a title—that of Patrician—conferred on him by the Eastern emperor. There was still a certain, though often faint, recognition of the supreme imperial authority. The moon and the stars might seem still to shine in the West, with a dim, reflected light. In the course of the events, however, which rapidly followed in the next half century, these too were extinguished. After above a century and a half of calamities unexampled almost, as Dr. Robertson most truly represents it,* in the history of nations, the statement of Jerome—a statement couched under the very Apocalyptic figure of the text, but prematurely pronounced on the first taking of Rome by Alaric—might be considered at length accomplished: 'Clarissimum terrarum lumen extinctum est'—'The world's glorious sun has been extinguished;' or, as the modern poet Byron (Childe Harold, canto iv.) has expressed it, still under the Apocalyptic imagery-

"She saw her glories star by star expire,"
till not even one star remained to glimmer in
the vacant and dark night."—Elliott, i. 360, 361.

I have thus endeavoured to explain the meaning of the four first trumpets under the opening of the seventh seal, embracing the successive severe blows struck on the empire by Alaric, Genseric, Attila, and Odoacer, until the empire fell to rise no more. I cannot better conclude this part of the exposition than in the words of Mr. Gibbon, in his reflections on the fall of the empire. "I have now accomplished," says he, "the laborious narrative of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, from the fortunate age of Trajan and the Antonines to its latest extinction in the West, about five centuries after the Christian era. At that unhappy period, the Saxons fiercely struggled with the natives for the possession of Britain; Gaul and Spain were divided between the powerful monarchies of the Franks and the Visigoths, and the dependent kingdoms of the Suevi and the Burgundians; Africa was exposed to the cruel persecution of the Vandals, and the savage insults of the Moors; Rome and Italy, as far as the banks of the Danube, were afflicted by an army of barbarian mercenaries, whose lawless tyranny was succeeded by the reign of Theodosia, the Ostrogoth. All the subjects of the empire, who, by the use of the Latin language, more particularly deserved the name and privileges of Romans, were oppressed by the disgrace and calamities of foreign conquest; and the victorious nations of Germany established a new system of manners and government in the western countries of Europe. The majesty of Rome was faintly represented by the princes of Constantinople, the feeble and imaginary successors of Augustus."—Vol. ii. pp. 440, 441. "The splendid days of Augustus and Trajan were eclipsed by a cloud of ignorance, [a fine illustration of the language 'the third part of the sun was smitten, and the day shone not, and the night likewise;'] and the barbarians subverted the laws and palaces of Rome."—Ibid, p. 446.

Thus ended the history of the Gothic period, and, as I suppose, the immediate symbolic representation of the affairs of the Western empire. An interval now occurs (Re 8:13) in the sounding of the trumpets, and the scene is transferred, in the three remaining trumpets, to the Eastern parts of the empire. After that, the attention is directed again to the West, to contemplate Rome under a new form, and exerting a new influence in the nations, under the Papacy, but destined ultimately to pass away in its spiritual power, as its temporal power had yielded to the elements of internal decay in its bosom, and to the invasions of the Northern hordes.

"If we were called on to fix a period most calamitous, it would be that from the death of Theodosius to the establishment of the Lombards." —Charles V., pp. 11, 12.

{a} "sun" Isa 13:10; Jer 4:21; Eze 32:7,8; Joe 2:10; Am 8:9


Verse 13. And I beheld. My attention was attracted by a new vision.

And heard an angel flying, etc. I heard the voice of an angel making this proclamation.

Woe, woe, woe. That is, there will be great woe. The repetition of the word is intensive, and the idea is, that the sounding of the three remaining trumpets would indicate great and fearful calamities. These three are grouped together, as if they pertained to a similar series of events, as the first four had been. The two classes are separated from each other by this interval and by this proclamation—implying that the first series had been completed, and that there would be some interval, either of space or time, before the other series would come upon the world. All that is fairly implied here would be fulfilled by the supposition that the former referred to the West, and that the latter pertained to the East, and were to follow when those should have been completed.

{a} "flying" Re 14:6




THE three remaining trumpets (chap. 9-11.) are usually called the woe-trumpets, in reference to the proclamation of woes, Re 8:13. —Prof. Stuart. The three extend, as I suppose, to the end of time, or, as it is supposed by the writer himself, (Re 11:15,) to the period when "the kingdoms of this world shall have become the kingdoms of Christ," embracing a succinct view of the most material events that were to occur, particularly in a secular point of view. See the Analysis prefixed to the book. In Re 11:19, as I understand it, a new view is commenced, referring to the church internally; the rise of Antichrist, and the effect of the rise of that formidable power on the internal history of the church, to the time of its overthrow, and the triumphant establishment of the kingdom of God. This, of course, synchronizes in its beginning and its close with the portion already passed over, but with a different view. See the Analysis prefixed to Re 11:19, seq.

This chapter contains properly three parts. First, a description of the first of those trumpets, or the fifth in the order of the whole, Re 9:1-12. This woe is represented under the figure of calamities brought upon the earth by an immense army of locusts. A star is seen to fall from heaven—representing some mighty chieftain, and to him is given the key of the bottomless pit. He opens the pit, and then comes forth an innumerable swarm of locusts that darken the heavens, and they go forth upon the earth. They have a command given them to do a certain work. They are not to hurt the earth, or any green thing, but they are sent against those men which have not the seal of God on their foreheads. Their main business, however, was not to kill them, but to torment them for a limited time—for five months. A description of the appearance of the locusts then follows. Though they are called locusts, because in their general appearance, and in the ravages they commit, they resemble them, yet, in the main, they are imaginary beings, and combine in themselves qualities which are never found united in reality. They had a strong resemblance to horses prepared for battle; they wore on their heads crowns of gold; they had the faces of men, but the hair of women, and the teeth of lions. They had breastplates of iron, and tails like scorpions, with stings in their tails. They had a mighty king at their head, with a name significant of the destruction which he would bring upon the world. These mysterious beings had their origin in the bottomless pit, and they are summoned forth to spread desolation upon the earth. Second, a description of the second of these trumpets, the sixth in order, Re 9:13-19. When this is sounded, a voice is heard from the four horns of the altar which is before God. The angel is commanded to loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. These angels are loosed—angels which had been prepared for a definite period—a day, and a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men. The number of the army that would appear—composed of cavalry—is stated to amount to two hundred thousand, and the peculiarities of these horsemen are then stated. They are remarkable for having breastplates of fire, and jacinth, and brimstone; the heads of the horses resemble lions; and they breathe forth fire and brimstone. A third part of men fall before them, by the fire, and the smoke, and the brimstone. Their power is in their mouth and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents. Third, a statement of the effect of the judgments brought upon the world under these trumpets, Re 19:20,21. The effect, so far as the reasonable result could have been anticipated, is lost. The nations are not turned from idolatry. Wickedness still abounds, and there is no disposition to repent of the abominations which had been so long practised on the earth.

Verse 1. And the fifth angel sounded. See Barnes on "Re 8:6-7".

And I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth. This denotes, as was shown in the See Barnes "Re 8:10, a leader, a military chieftain, a warrior. In the fulfilment of this, as in the former case, we look for the appearance of some mighty prince and warrior, to whom is given power, as it were, to open the bottomless pit, and to summon forth its legions. That some such agent is denoted by the star is farther apparent from the fact that it is immediately added, that "to him [the star] was given the key of the bottomless pit." It could not be meant that a key would be given to a literal star, and we naturally suppose, therefore, that some intelligent being of exalted rank, and of baleful influence, is here referred to. Angels, good and bad, are often called stars; but the reference here, as in Re 8:10, seems to me not to be to angels, but to some mighty leader of armies, who was to collect his hosts, and to go through the world in the work of destruction.

And to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. Of the under-world, considered particularly of the abode of the wicked. This is represented often as a dark prison-house, enclosed with walls, and accessible by gates or doors. These gates or doors are fastened, so that none of the inmates can come out, and the key is in the hand of the keeper or guardian. In Re 1:18, it is said that the keys of that world are in the hand of the Saviour, (compare See Barnes "Re 1:18") here it is said that for a time, and for a temporary purpose, they are committed to another. The word pit—frear—denotes properly a well, or a pit for water dug in the earth; and then any pit, cave, abyss. The reference here is doubtless to the nether world, considered as the abode of the wicked dead, the prison-house of the guilty. The word bottomless, abussov— whence our word abyss—means properly without any bottom, (from a, pr., and buyov, depth, bottom.) It would be applied properly to the ocean, or to any deep and dark dell, or to any obscure place whose depth was, unknown. Here it refers to Hades—the region of the dead—the abode of wicked spirits—as a deep, dark place whose bottom was unknown. Having the key to this, is to have the power to confine those who are there, or to permit them to go at large. The meaning here is, that this master-spirit would have power to evoke the dead from these dark regions; and it would be fulfilled if some mighty genius, that could be compared with a fallen star, or a lurid meteor, should summon forth followers which would appear like the dwellers in the nether world called forth to spread desolation over the earth.

{a} "star" Re 8:10; Lu 10:18

{b} "pit" Re 17:8; 20:1


Verse 2. And he opened the bottomless pit. It is represented before as wholly confined, so that not even the smoke or vapour could escape.

And there arose a smoke out of the pit. Compare Re 14:11. The meaning here is, that the pit, as a place of punishment, or as the abode of the wicked, was filled with burning sulphur, and consequently that it emitted smoke and vapour as soon as opened. The common image of the place of punishment, in the Scriptures, is that of a "lake that burns with fire and brimstone." Compare Re 14:10; Re 19:20; 20:10; 21:8.

See also Ps 11:6; Isa 30:33; Eze 38:22.

It is not improbable that this image was taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Ge 19:24. Such burning sulphur would produce, of course, a dense smoke or vapour; and the idea here is, that the pit had been closed, and that as soon as the door was opened, a dense column escaped that darkened the heavens. The purpose of this is, probably, to indicate the origin of the plague that was about to come upon the world. It would be of such a character that it would appear as if it had been emitted from hell; as if the inmates of that dark world had broke loose upon the earth. Compare Barnes on "Re 6:8".

As the smoke of a great furnace. So in Ge 19:28, whence probably this image is taken: "And he looked towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace."

And the sun and the air were darkened, etc. As will be the case when a smoke ascends from a furnace. The meaning here is, that an effect would be produced as if a dense and dark vapour should ascend from the under-world. We are not, of course, to understand this literally.

{c} "darkened" Joe 2:2

{d} "locusts" Ex 10:4


Verse 3. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth. That is, they escaped from the pit with the smoke. At first they were mingled with the smoke so that they were not distinctly seen, but when the smoke cleared away, they appeared in great numbers. The idea seems to be, that the bottomless pit was filled with vapour and with those creatures, and that as soon as the gate was opened the whole contents expanded and burst forth upon the earth. The sun was immediately darkened and the air was full, but the smoke soon cleared away, so that the locusts became distinctly visible. The appearance of these locusts is described in another part of the chapter, Re 9:7, seq. The locust is a voracious insect belonging to the grasshopper or grylli genus, and is a great scourge in Oriental countries. A full description of the locust may be seen in Robinson's Calmet, and in Kitto's Encyclo. vol. ii. pp. 258, seq. There are ten Hebrew words to denote the locust, and there are numerous references to the destructive habits of the insect in the Scriptures. In fact, from their numbers, and their destructive habits, there was scarcely any other plague that was so much dreaded in the East. Considered as a symbol, or emblem, the following remarks may be made in explanation:

(1.) The symbol is Oriental, and would most naturally refer to something that was to occur in the East. As locusts have appeared chiefly in the East, and as they are in a great measure an Oriental plague, the mention of this symbol would most naturally turn the thoughts to that portion of the earth. The symbols of the first four trumpets had no especial locality, and would suggest no particular part of the world; but, on the mention of this, the mind would be naturally turned to the East, and we should expect to find that the scene of this woe would be located in the regions where the ravages of locusts most abounded. Compare, on this point, Elliott, Horae. Apoc. i. 394-406. He has made it probable that the prophets, when they used symbolical language to denote any events, commonly, at least, employed those which had a local or geographical reference. Thus, in the symbols derived from the vegetable kingdom, when Judah is to be symbolized, the olive, the vine, and the fig-tree are selected; when Egypt is referred to, the reed is chosen; when Babylon, the willow. And so, in the animal kingdom, the lion is the symbol of Judah; the wild ass, of the Arabs; the crocodile, of Egypt, etc. Whether this theory could be wholly carried out or not, no one can doubt that the symbol of locusts would most naturally suggest the Oriental world, and that the natural interpretation of the passage would lead us to expect its fulfilment there.

(2.) Locusts were remarkable for their numbers—so great often as to appear like clouds, and to darken the sky. In this respect, they would naturally be symbolical of numerous armies or hosts of men. This natural symbol of numerous armies is often employed by the prophets. Thus, in Jer 6:23:

"Cut down her forest, [i.e. her people, or cities,] saith Jehovah, That it may not be found on searching; Although they surpass the locusts in multitude, And they are without number."

So in Na 3:15: "There shall the fire devour thee; The sword shall cut thee off; it shall devour thee as the locust, Increase thyself as the numerous locust."

So also in Na 3:17: "Thy crowned princes are as the numerous locust, And thy captains as the grasshoppers; Which encamp in the fences in the cold day, But when the sun ariseth they depart, And their place is not known where they were."

See also De 28:38,42; Ps 78:46; Am 7:1.

Compare Jud 6:3-6; 7:12 and Joel 1-2.

(3.) Locusts are an emblem of desolation or destruction. No symbol of desolation could be more appropriate or striking than this, for one of the most remarkable properties of locusts is, that they devour every green thing, and leave a land perfectly waste. They do this even when what they destroy is not necessary for their own sustenance. "Locusts seem to devour not so much from a ravenous appetite as from a rage for destroying. Destruction, therefore, and not food, is the chief impulse of their devastations, and in this consists their utility; they are, in fact, omnivorous. The most poisonous plants are indifferent to them; they will prey even upon the crowfoot, whose causticity burns even the hides of beasts. They simply consume everything, without predilection—vegetable matter, linens, woollens, silk, leather, etc.; and Pliny does not exaggerate them when he says, fores quoque tectorum—'even the doors of houses'—for they have been known to consume the very varnish of furniture. They reduce everything indiscriminately to shreds, which become manure."—Kitto's Enclyco. fl. 263. Locusts become, therefore, 'a most striking symbol of an all-devouring army, and as such are often referred to in Scripture. So also in Josephus, de Bello Jud. book v. chap. vii.: "As after locusts we see the woods stripped of their leaves, so, in the rear of Simon's army, nothing but devastation remained." The natural application of this symbol, then, is to a numerous and destructive army, or to a great multitude of people committing ravages, and sweeping off everything in their march.

And unto them was given power. This was something that was imparted to them beyond their ordinary nature. The locust in itself is not strong, and is not a symbol of strength. Though destructive in the extreme, yet neither as individuals, nor as combined, are they distinguished for strength. Hence it is mentioned as a remarkable circumstance that they had such power conferred on them.

As the scorpions of the earth have power. The phrase "the earth" seems to have been introduced here because these creatures are said to have come up from "the bottomless pit," and it was natural to compare them with some well-known objects found on the earth. The scorpion is an animal with eight feet, eight eyes, and a long, jointed tail, ending in a pointed weapon or sting. It is the largest and the most malignant of all the insect tribes. It somewhat resembles the lobster in its general appearance, but is much more hideous. See Barnes "Lu 10:19".

Those found in Europe seldom exceed four inches in length, but in tropical climates, where they abound, they are often found twelve inches long. There are few animals more formidable, and none more irascible, than the scorpion. Goldsmith states that Maupertius put about a hundred of them together in the same glass, and that as soon as they came into contact they began to exert all their rage in mutual destruction, so that in a few days there remained but fourteen, which had killed and devoured all the rest. The sting of the scorpion, Dr. Shaw states, is not always fatal; the malignity of their venom being in proportion to their size and complexion. The torment of a scorpion, when he strikes a man, is thus described by Dioscorides, lib. vii. cap. 7, as cited by Mr. Taylor: "When the scorpion has stung, the place becomes inflamed and hardened; it reddens by tension, and is painful by intervals, being now chilly, now burning. The pain soon rises high, and rages, sometimes more, sometimes less. A sweating succeeds, attended by a shivering and trembling; the extremities of the body become cold, the groin swells, the hair stands on end, the members become pale, and the skin feels throughout the sensation of a perpetual pricking, as if by needles."—Fragments to Calmet's Dic. vol. iv. 376, 377. "The tail of the scorpion is long, and formed after the manner of a string of beads, the last larger than the others, and longer; at the end of which are, sometimes, two stings which are hollow, and filled with a cold poison, which it ejects into the part which it stings."—Calm. Dic. The sting of the scorpion, therefore, becomes the emblem of that which causes acute and dangerous suffering. On this comparison with scorpions, see the remark of Niebuhr, quoted in See Barnes "Re 9:7".

{e} "scorpions" Re 9:10


Verse 4. And it was commanded them. The writer does not say by whom this command was given, but it is clearly by some one who had the direction of them. As they were evoked from the "bottomless pit" by one who had the key to that dark abode, and as they are represented in Re 9:11 as under the command of one who is there called Abaddon, or Apollyon—the Destroyer—it would seem most probable that the command referred to is one that is given by him; that is, that this expresses one of the principles on which he would act in his devastations. At all events, this denotes what would be one of the characteristics of these destroyers. Their purpose would be to vex and trouble men; not to spread desolation over vineyards, oliveyards, and fields of grain.

That they should not hurt the grass of the earth, etc. See Barnes "Re 8:7".

The meaning here is plain. There would be some sense in which these invaders would be characterized in a manner that was not common among invaders, to wit, that they would show particular care not to carry their devastations into the vegetable world. Their warfare would be with men, and not with orchards and green fields.

But only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. See Barnes on "Re 7:2-3".

They commenced war against that part of the human race only. The language here properly denotes those who were not the friends of God. It may here refer, however, either to those who in reality were not such, or to those who were regarded by him who gave this command as not being such. In the former case, the commission would have respect to real infidels in the sight of God—that is, to those who rejected the true religion; in the latter, it would express the sentiment of the leader of this host, as referring to those who in his apprehension were infidels or enemies of God. The true interpretation must depend on the sense in which we understand the phrase "it was commanded;" whether as referring to God, or to the leader of the host himself. The language, therefore, is ambiguous, and the meaning must be determined by the other parts of the passage. Either method of understanding the passage would be in accordance with its fair interpretation.

{a} "them" Re 6:6

{b} "seal" Re 7:3; Ex 7:23; Job 2:6; Eze 9:4


Verse 5. And to them it was given. There is here the same indefiniteness as in the former verse, the impersonal verb being here also used. The writer does not say by whom this power was given, whether by God, or by the leader of the host. It may be admitted, however, that the most natural interpretation is to suppose that it was given them by God, and that this was the execution of his purpose in this case. Still it is remarkable that this is not directly affirmed, and that the language is so general as to admit of the other application. The fact that they did not kill them, but tormented them—if such a fact should be found to exist—would be in every sense a fulfilment of what is here said.

That they should not kill them. This is in accordance with the nature of the symbol. The locusts do not themselves destroy any living creature; and the sting of the scorpion, though exceedingly painful, is not usually fatal. The proper fulfilment of this would be found in that which would not be generally fatal, but which would diffuse misery and wretchedness. Compare Re 9:6. Perhaps all that would be necessarily meant by this would be, not that individual men would not be killed, but that they would be sent to inflict plagues and torments rather than to take life, and that the characteristic effects of their appearing would be distress and suffering rather than death. There may be included in the fair interpretation of the words, general distress and sorrow; acts of oppression, cruelty, and violence; such a condition of public suffering that men would regard death as a relief if they could find it.

But that they should be tormented. That is, that they should be subjected to ills and troubles which might be properly compared with the sting of a scorpion.

Five months. So far as the words here are concerned, this might be taken literally, denoting five months or one hundred and fifty days; or as a prophetic reckoning, where a day stands for a year. Compare Barnes on "Da 9:24, seq. The latter is undoubtedly the correct interpretation here, for it is the character of the book thus to reckon time. See Barnes on "Re 9:15".

If this be the true method of reckoning here, then it will be necessary to find some events which will embrace about the period of one hundred and fifty years, during which this distress and sorrow would continue. The proper laws of interpretation demand that one or the other of these periods should be found—either that of five months literally, or that of a hundred and fifty years. It may be true, as Professor Stuart suggests, (in loc.,) that "the usual time of locusts is from May to September inclusive—five months." It may be true, also, that this symbol was chosen partly because that was the fact, and they would, from that fact, be well adapted to symbolize a period that could be spoken of as "five months;" but still the meaning must be more than simply it was "a short period," as he supposes. The phrase a few months might designate such a period; but if that had been the writer's intention, he would not have selected the definite number five.

And their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, etc. See Barnes "Re 9:3".

That is, it would be painful, severe, dangerous.


Verse 6. And in those days shall men seek death, etc. See Barnes on "Re 9:5".

It is very easy to conceive of such a state of things as is here described, and, indeed, this has not been very uncommon in the world. It is a state where the distress is so great that men would consider death a relief, and where they anxiously look to the time when they may be released from their sufferings by death. In the case before us, it is not intimated that they would lay violent hands on themselves, or that they would take any positive measures to end their sufferings; and this, perhaps, may be a circumstance of some show the importance to that the persons referred to were servants of God. When it is said that "they would seek death," it can only be meant that they would look out for it—or desire it—as the end of their sorrows. This is descriptive, as we shall see, of a particular period of the world; but language is beautifully applicable to what occurs in all ages, and in all lands. There is always a great number of sufferers who are looking forward to death as a relief. In cells and dungeons; on beds of pain and languishing; in scenes of poverty and want; in blighted hopes and disappointed affections, how many are there who would be glad to die, and who have no hope of an end of suffering but in the grave! A few, by the pistol, by the halter, by poison, or by drowning, seek thus to end their woes. A large part look forward to death as a release, when, if the reality were known, death would furnish no such relief, for there are deeper and longer woes beyond the grave than there are this side of it. Compare See Barnes "Job 3:20, seq. But to a portion death will be a relief. It will be an end of sufferings. They will find peace in the grave, and are assured they shall suffer no more. Such bear their trials with patience, for the end of all sorrow to them is near, and death will come to release their spirits from the suffering clay, and to bear them in triumph to a world where a pang shall never be felt, and a tear never shed.

{a} "men seek death" Job 3:21; Jer 8:3


Verse 7. And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for battle. The resemblance between the locust and the horse, dissimilar as they are in most respects, has been often remarked. Dr. Robinson (Bib. Research. i. 59) says, "We found to-day upon the shrubs an insect, either a species of black locust, or much resembling them, which our Bedouin called Faras el Jundy, 'soldiers' horses.' They said these insects were common on Mount Sinai, of a green colour, and were found on dead trees, but did them no injury." The editor of the Pictorial Bible makes the following remarks: "The first time we saw locusts browsing with their wings closed, the idea of comparing them to horses arose spontaneously to our minds—as we had not previously met with such a comparison, and did not at that time advert to the present text, [Joe 2:4.] The resemblance in the head first struck our attention, and this notion, having once arisen, other analogies were found or imagined in its general appearance and action in feeding. We have since found the observation very common. The Italians, indeed, from this resemblance, call the locust cavaletta, or little horse. Sir W. Ouseley reports, 'Zakaria Cazvini divides the locusts into two classes, like horsemen and footmen—mounted and pedestrian.' Niebuhr says that he heard from a Bedouin, near Bussorah, a particular comparison of the locust to other animals; but as this passage of Scripture did not occur to him at the time, he thought it a mere fancy of the Arab's, till he heard it repeated at Bagdad. He compared the head of the locust to that of the horse; the feet to those of the camel; the belly with that of a serpent; the tail with that of a scorpion; and the feelers (if Niebuhr remembered rightly) to the hair of a virgin."—Pict. Bib. on Joel 2:4. The resemblance to horses would naturally suggest the idea of cavalry, as being referred to by the symbol.

And on their heads were as it were crowns like gold. The writer does not say either that these were literally crowns, or that they were actually made of gold. They were "as it were" (wv) crowns, and they were like (omoioi) gold. That is, as seen by him, they had a resemblance to crowns or diadems, and they also resembled gold in their colour and brilliancy. The word crown —stefanov—means properly a circlet, chaplet, encircling the head,

(a) as an emblem of royal dignity, and as worn by kings;

(b) as conferred on victors in the public games—a chaplet, a wreath;

(c) as an ornament, honour, or glory, Php 4:1. No particular shape is designated by the word stefanov—stephanos—and perhaps the word crown does not quite express the meaning. The word diadem would come nearer to it. The true notion in the word is that of something that is passed around the head, and that encircles it, and as such it would well describe the appearance of a turban as seen at a distance. On the supposition that the symbolic beings here referred to had turbans on their heads, and on the supposition that something was referred to which was not much worn in the time of John, and, therefore, that had no name, the word stephanos, or diadem, would be likely to be used in describing it. This, too, would accord with the use of the phrase "as it were"—wv. The writer saw such head-ornaments as he was unaccustomed to see. They were not exactly crowns or diadems, but they had a resemblance to them, and he therefore uses this language: "and on their heads were as it were crowns." Suppose that these were turbans, and that they were not in common use in the time of John, and that they had, therefore, no name, would not this be the exact language which he would use in describing them? The same remarks may be made respecting the other expression.

Like gold. They were not pure gold; but they had a resemblance to it. Would not a yellow turban correspond with all that is said in this description?

And their faces were as the faces of men. They had a human countenance. This would indicate that, after all, they were human beings that the symbol described, though they had come up from the bottomless pit. Horsemen, in strange apparel, with a strange head-dress, would be all that would be properly denoted by this.

{b} "shapes" Joe 2:4

{c} "crowns" Na 3:17

{d} "faces" Da 7:4,8


Verse 8. And they had hair as the hair of women. Long hair; not such as men commonly wear, but such as women wear. See Barnes "1 Co 11:14".

This struck John as a peculiarity, that, though warriors, they should have the appearance of effeminacy indicated by allowing their hair to grow long. It is clear from this, that John regarded their appearance as unusual and remarkable. Though manifestly designed to represent an army, yet it was not the usual appearance of men who went forth to battle. Among the Greeks of ancient times, indeed, long hair was not uncommon, See Barnes "1 Co 11:14" but this was by no means the usual custom among the ancients; and the fact that these warriors had long hair like women was a circumstance that would distinguish them particularly from others. On this comparison of the appearance of the locusts with the hair of women, see the remarks of Niebuhr, in See Barnes "Re 9:7".

And their teeth were as the teeth of lions. Strong; fitted to devour. The teeth of the locust are by no means prominent, though they are strong, for they readily cut down and eat up all vegetable substances that come in their way. But it is evident that John means to say that there was much that was unusual and remarkable in the teeth of these locusts. They would be ravenous and fierce, and would spread terror and desolation like the lions of the desert.

{e} "teeth" Ps 57:4; Joe 1:6


Verse 9. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron. Hard, horny, impenetrable, as if they were made of iron. The locust has a firm and hard cuticle on the forepart of the breast, which serves for a shield or defence while it moves in the thorny and furzy vegetation. On those which John saw, this was peculiarly hard and horny, and would thus be well adapted to be an emblem of the breastplates of iron commonly worn by ancient warriors. The meaning is, that the warriors referred to would be well clad with defensive armour.

And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses, running to battle. The noise made by locusts is often spoken of by travellers, and the comparison of that noise with that of chariots rushing to battle, is not only appropriate, but also indicates clearly what was symbolized. It was an army that was symbolized, and everything about them served to represent hosts of men, well armed, rushing to conflict. The same thing here referred to is noticed by Joe 2:4-5,7:—

The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses;
and as horsemen so shall they run. Like the noise of
chariots on the tops of mountains, shall they leap
Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble;
As a strong people set in battle array.
They shall run like mighty men;
They shall climb the wall like men of war;
And they shall march every one his ways, and shall not
break their ranks, etc.

It is remarkable that Volney, who had no intention of illustrating the truth of Scripture, has given a description of locusts, as if he meant to confirm the truth of what is here said. "Syria," says he, "as well as Egypt, Persia, and almost all the south of Asia, is subject to another calamity no less dreadful [than earthquakes]; I mean those clouds of locusts so often mentioned by travellers. The quantity of these insects is incredible to all who have not themselves witnessed their astounding numbers; the whole earth is covered with them for the space of several leagues. The noise they make in browsing on the trees and herbage may be heard to a great distance, and resembles that of an army foraging in secret."—Travels in Egypt and Syria, vol. i., pp. 283, 284.


Verse 10. And they had tails like unto scorpions. The fancy of an Arab now often discerns a resemblance between the tail of the locust and the scorpion. See the remark of Niebuhr, quoted in See Barnes "Re 9:7".

And there were stings in their tails. Like the stings of scorpions. See Barnes on "Re 9:3".

This made the locusts which appeared to John the more remarkable, for, though the fancy may imagine a resemblance between the tail of a locust and a scorpion, yet the locusts have properly no sting. The only thing which they have resembling a sting is a hard bony substance, like a needle, with which the female punctures the bark and wood of trees in order to deposit her eggs. It has, however, no adaptation, like a sting, for conveying poison into a wound. These, however, appeared to be armed with stings properly so called.

And their power was to hurt men. Not primarily to kill men, but to inflict on them various kinds of tortures. See Barnes "Re 9:5".

The word here used—adikhsai, rendered to hurt—is different from the word in Re 9:5—basanisywsi, rendered should be tormented. This word properly means to do wrong, to do unjustly, to injure, to hurt; and the two words would seem to convey the idea that they would produce distress by doing wrong to others, or by dealing unjustly with them. It does not appear that the wrong would be by inflicting bodily torments, but would be characterized by that injustice towards others which produces distress and anguish.

Five months. See Barnes "Re 9:5".


Verse 11. And they had a king over them. A ruler who marshalled their hosts. Locusts often, and indeed generally, move in bands, though they do not appear to be under the direction of any one as a particular ruler or guide. In this case, it struck John as a remarkable peculiarity that they had a king—a king who, it would seem, had the absolute control, and to whom was to be traced all the destruction which would ensue from their emerging from the bottomless pit.

Which is the angel of the bottomless pit. See Barnes "Re 9:1".

The word angel here would seem to refer to the chief of the evil angels, who presided over the dark and gloomy regions from whence the locusts seemed to emerge. This may either mean that this evil angel seemed to command them personally, or that his spirit was infused into the leader of these hosts.

Whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon. The name Abaddon means literally destruction, and is the same as Apollyon.

But in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. From apollumi, — to destroy. The word properly denotes a destroyer, and the name is given to this king of the hosts, represented by the locusts, because this would be his principal characteristic.

After this minute explanation of the literal meaning of the symbol, it may be useful, before attempting to apply it, and to ascertain the events designed to be represented, to have a distinct impression of the principal image—the locust. It is evident that this is, in many respects, a creature of the imagination, and that we are not to expect the exact representation to be found in any forms of actual existence in the animal creation.

The question now is, whether any events occurred in history, subsequent to, and succeeding those supposed to be referred to in the fourth seal, to which this symbol would be applicable. Reasons have already been suggested for supposing that there was a transfer of the seat of the operations to another part of the world. The first four trumpets referred to a continual series of events of the same general character, and having a proper close. These have been explained as referring to the successive shocks which terminated in the downfall of the Western empire. At the close of that series there is a pause in the representation, (Re 8:13) and a solemn proclamation that other scenes were to open distinguished for woe. These were to be symbolized in the sounding of the remaining three trumpets, embracing the whole period till the consummation of all things—or sketching great and momentous events in the future, until the volume sealed with the seven seals (Re 5:1) should have been wholly unrolled and its contents disclosed. The whole scene now is changed. Rome has fallen. It has passed into the hands of strangers. The power that had spread itself over the world has, in that form, come to an end, and is to exist no more—though, as we shall see, (Revelation 11 seq.) another power, quite as formidable, existing there, is to be described by a new set of symbols. But here (Revelation 9) a new power appears. The scenery is all Oriental, and clearly has reference to events that were to spring up in the East. With surprising unanimity, commentators have agreed in regarding this as referring to the empire of the Saracens, or to the rise and progress of the religion, and the empire set up by Mohammed. The inquiry now is, whether the circumstances introduced into the symbol find a proper fulfilment in the rise of the Saracenic power, and in the conquests of the Prophet of Mecca.

(1.) The country where the scene is laid. As already remarked, the scene is Oriental—for the mention of locusts naturally suggests the East—that being the part of the world where they abound, and they being in fact peculiarly an Oriental plague. It may now be added, that, in a more strict and proper sense, Arabia may be intended; that is, if it be admitted that the design was to symbolize events pertaining to Arabia, or the gathering of the hosts of Arabia for conquest, the symbol of locusts would have been employed, for the locust, the groundwork of the symbol, is peculiarly Arabic. It was the east wind which brought the locusts on Egypt, (Ex 10:13) and they must therefore have come from some portion of Arabia—for Arabia is the land that lies over against Egypt in the east. Such, too, is the testimony of Volhey, "the most judicious," as Mr. Gibbon calls him, "of modern travellers." "The inhabitants of Syria," says he, "have remarked that locusts come constantly from the desert of Arabia," chapter 20 section 5. All that is necessary to say further on this point is, that on the supposition that it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration in the passage before us to refer to the followers of Mohammed, the image of the locusts was that which would be naturally selected. There was no other one so appropriate and so striking; no one that would so naturally designate the country of Arabia. As some confirmation of this, or as showing how natural the symbol would be, a remark may be introduced from Mr. Forster. In his Mohammedanism Unveiled, (i. 217,) he says, "In the Bedoween romance of Antar, the locust is introduced as the national emblem of the Ishmaelites. And it is a remarkable coincidence that Mohammedan tradition speaks of locusts having dropped into the hands of Mohammed, bearing on their wings thin inscription—'We are the army of the Great God.'" These circumstances will show the propriety of the symbol on the supposition that it refers to Arabia and the Saracens.

(2.) The people. The question is, whether there was anything in the symbol, as described by John, which would properly designate the followers of Mohammed, on the supposition that it was designed to have such a reference.

(a) As to numbers. Jud 6:5: "They (the Midiunite Arabs) came as locusts for multitude." See Barnes "Re 9:3".

Nothing would better represent the numbers of the Saracenic hordes that came out of Arabia, and that spread over the east, over Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Spain, and that threatened to spread over Europe, than such an army of locusts. "One hundred years after his flight [Mohammed] from Mecca," says Mr. Gibbon, "the arms and reigns of his successors extended from India to the Atlantic Ocean, over the various and distant provinces which may be comprised under the names of Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain," iii. 410. "At the end of the first century of the Hegira, the caliphs were the most potent and absolute monarchs on the globe. Under the last of the Ommiades, the Arabian empire extended two hundred days' journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean."—Ibid, p. 460. In regard to the immense hosts employed in these conquests, an idea may be formed by a perusal of the whole fifty-first chapter in Gibbon, (vol. iii. pp. 408-461.) Those hosts issued primarily from Arabia, and in their numbers would be well compared with the swarms of locusts that issued from the same country, so numerous as to darken the sky.

(b) The description of the people.

Their faces were as the faces of men. This would seem to be in contrast with other people, or to denote something that was peculiar in the appearance of the persons represented. In other words, the meaning would seem to be, that there was something manly and warlike in their appearance, so far as their faces were concerned. It is remarkable that the appearance of the Goths (represented, as I suppose, under the previous trumpets) is described by Jerome (compare on Isaiah 8) as quite the reverse. They are described as having faces shaven and smooth; faces, in contrast with the bearded Romans, like women's faces. ( Fromincas incisas facies praeferentes, virorum et bene barbatorum fugieata terga confodiunt.) Is it fancy to suppose that the reference here is to the beard and moustache of the Arabic hosts? We know with what care they regarded the beard; and if a representation was made of them, especially in contrast with nations that shaved their faces, and who thus resembled women, it would be natural to speak of those represented in the symbol as "having faces as the faces of men."

They had hair as the hair of women. A strange mingling of the appearance of effeminacy with the indication of manliness and courage. See Barnes on "Re 9:8".

And yet this strictly accords with the appearance of the Arabs or Saracens. Pliny, the contemporary of John, speaks of the Arabs then as having the hair long and uncut, with the moustache on the upper lip, or the beard: Arabes mitrati sunt, cut intonso crine. Barba abraditur, praeterquam in superiore labro. Aliis et haec intonsa.—Nat. Hist. vi. 28. So Solinus describes them in the third century (Plurimis crinis intonsus, mitrata capita, pars rasa in cutem barba, c. 53;) so Ammianus Marcellinus, in the fourth century, (Crinitus quidam a Saracencrum cuneo, 31. 16;) and so Claudian, Theodore of Mopsuesta, and Jerome, in the fifth. Jerome lived about two centuries before the great Saracen invasion; and as he lived at Bethlehem, on the borders of Arabia, he must have been familiar with the appearance of the Arabs. Still later, in that most characteristic of Arab poems, Antar, a poem written in the time of Mohammed's childhood, we find the moustache, and the beard, and the long flowing hair on the shoulder, and the turban, all specified as characteristic of the Arabians: "He adjusted himself properly, twisted his whiskers, and folded up his hair under his turban, drawing it from off his shoulders," i. 340. "His hair flowed down on his shoulders," i. 169. "Antar cut off Maudi's hair in revenge and insult," iii. 117. "We will hang him up by his hair," iv. 325. See Elliott, i. 411, 412. Compare Newton on the Prophecies, p. 485.

And on their heads were as it were crowns of gold. See Barnes "Re 9:7".

That is, diadems, or something that appeared like crowns, or chaplets. This will agree well with the turban worn by the Arabs or Saracens, and which was quite characteristic of them in the early periods when they became known. So in the passage already quoted, Pliny speaks of them as Arabes mitrati; so Solinus, mitrata capita; so in the poem of Antar, "he folded up his hair under his turban." It is remarkable also that Ezekiel (Eze 23:42) describes the turbans of the Subcan or Keturite Arabs under the very appellation here used by John: "Subcans from the wilderness, which put beautiful crowns upon their heads." So in the Preface to Antar, it is said, "It was a usual saying among them, that God had bestowed four peculiar things on the Arabs; that their turbans should be unto them instead of diadems, their tents instead of walls and houses, their swords instead of intrenchments, and their poems instead of written laws." Mr. Forster, in his Mohammedanism Unveiled, quotes as a precept of Mohammed, "Make a point of wearing turbans, because it is the way of angels." Turbans might then with propriety be represented as crowns, and no doubt these were often so gilded and ornamented that they might be spoken of as "crowns of gold."

They had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron. See Barnes on "Re 9:9".

As a symbol, this would be properly descriptive of the Arabians or Saracens. In the poem Antar, the steel and iron cuirasses of the Arab warriors are frequently noticed: "A warrior immersed in steel armour," ii. 203. "Fifteen thousand men armed with cuirasses, and well accoutred for war," ii. 42. "They were clothed in iron armour, and brilliant cuirasses," i. 23. "Out of the dust appeared horsemen clad in iron," iii. 274. The same thing occurs in the Koran: "God hath given you coats of mail to defend you in your wars," ii. 104. In the history of Mohammed, we read expressly of the cuirasses of himself and of his Arab troops. Seven cuirasses are noted in the list of Mohammed's private armoury.—Gagnier, iii. 328—334. In his second battle with the Koreish, seven hundred of his little army are spoken of by Mr. Gibbon as armed with cuirasses. See Elliott, i. 413. These illustrations will show with what propriety the locusts in the symbol were represented as having breastplates like breastplates of iron. On the supposition that this referred to the Arabs and the Saracens, this would have been the very symbol which would have been used. Indeed, all the features in the symbol are precisely such as would properly be employed on the supposition that the reference was to them. It is true that, beforehand, it might not have been practicable to describe exactly what people were referred to, but

(a) it would be easy to see that some fearful calamity was to be anticipated from the ravages of hosts of fearful invaders; and

(b) when the events occurred, there would be no difficulty in determining to whom this application should be made.

(3.) The time when this would occur. As to this, there can be no difficulty in the application to the Saracens. On the supposition that the four first trumpets refer to the downfall of the Western empire, then the proper time supposed to be represented by this symbol is subsequent to that; and yet the manner in which the last three trumpets are introduced (Re 8:13) shows that there would be an interval between the sounding of the last of the four trumpets and the sounding of the fifth. The events referred to, as I have supposed, as represented by the fourth trumpet, occurred in the close of the fifth century, (A. D. 476-490.) The principal events in the seventh century were connected with the invasions and conquests of the Saracens. The interval of a century is not more than the fair interpretation of the proclamation in Re 8:13 would justify.

(4.) The commission given to the symbolical locusts. This embraces the following things:

(a) They were not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing;

(b) they were especially to go against those who had not the seal of God in their foreheads;

(c) they were not to kill them, but were to torment them.

They were not to hurt the grass of the earth, etc. Barnes on "Re 9:4".

This agrees remarkably with an express command in the Koran. The often quoted order of the Caliph Aboubekir, the father-in-law and successor of Mohammed, issued to the Saracen hordes on heir invasion of Syria, shows what was understood to be the spirit of their religion: "Remember that you are always in the presence of God, on the verge of death, in the assurance of judgment, and the hope of paradise. Avoid injustice and oppression; consult with your brethren, and study to procure the love and confidence of your troops. When you fight the battle of the Lord, acquit yourselves like men, without turning your backs; but let not the victory be stained with the blood of women or children. Destroy no palm-trees, nor burn any fields of corn. Cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat. When you make any covenant or article, stand to it, and be as good as your word. As you go on you will find some religious persons who have retired in monasteries, and propose to themselves to serve God in that way; let them alone, and neither kill them [and to them it was given that they should not kill them,' Re 9:5], nor destroy their monasteries," etc.— Gibbon iii. 417-418. So Mr. Gibbon notices this precept of the Koran: "In the siege of Tayaf," says he, "sixty miles from Mecca, Mohammed violated his own laws by the extirpation of the fruit-trees," ii. 392. The same order existed among the Hebrews, and it is not improbable that Mohammed derived his precept from the command of Moses, (De 20:19) though what was mercy among the Hebrews was probably mere policy with him. This precept is the more remarkable because it has been the usual custom in war, and particularly among barbarians and semi-barbarians, to destroy grain and fruit, and especially to cut down fruit-trees, in order to do greater injury to an enemy. Thus we have seen, (See Barnes "Re 8:7") that in the invasion of the Goths their course was marked by desolations of this kind. Thus, in more modern times, it has been common to carry the desolations of war into gardens, orchards, and vineyards. In the single province of Upper Messenia, the troops of Mohammed Ali, in the war with Greece, cut down half a million of olive-trees, and thus stripped the country of its means of wealth. So Scio was a beautiful spot, the seat of delightful villas, and gardens, and orchards; and in one day all this beauty was destroyed. On the supposition, therefore, that this prediction had reference to the Saracens, nothing could be more appropriate. Indeed, in all the history of barbarous and savage warfare, it would be difficult to find another distinct command that no injury should be done to gardens and orchards.

This note is continued in next verse. See Barnes "Re 9:12"


Continuation of Barnes Notes on Revelation 9:11

(d) Their commission was expressly against "those men who had not the seal of God in their foreheads." See Barnes on "Re 9:4".

That is, they were to go either against those who were not really the friends of God, or those who in their estimation were not. Perhaps, if there were nothing in the connexion to demand a different interpretation, the former would be the most natural explanation of the passage; but the language may be understood as referring to the purpose which they considered themselves as called upon to execute: that is, that they were to go against those whom they regarded as being strangers to the true God, to wit, idolators. Now, it is well known that Mohammed considered himself called upon, principally, to make war with idolaters, and that he went forth, professedly, to bring them into subjection to the service of the true God. "The means of persuasion," says Mr. Gibbon, "had been tried, the season of forbearance was elapsed, and he was now commanded to propagate his religion by the sword, to destroy the monuments of idolatry, and, without regarding the sanctity of days or months, to pursue the unbelieving nations of the earth," iii. 387. "The fair option of friendship, or submission, or battle, was proposed to the enemies of Mohammed."—Ibid. "The sword," says Mohammed, "is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven; at the day of judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim."—Gibbon, iii. 387. The first conflicts waged by Mohammed were against the idolaters of his own country—those who can, on no supposition, be regarded as "having the seal of God in their foreheads;" his subsequent wars were against infidels of all classes, that is, against those whom he regarded as not having the "seal of God in their foreheads," or as being the enemies of God.

(e) The other part of the commission was "not to kill, but to torment them." Barnes on "Re 9:5".

Compare the quotation from the command of Aboubekir, as quoted above: "Let not the victory be stained with the blood of women and children." "Let them alone, and neither kill them nor destroy their monasteries." The meaning of this, if understood as applied to their commission against Christendom, would seem to be, that they were not to go forth to "kill," but to "torment" them; to wit, by the calamities which they would bring upon Christian nations for a definite period. Indeed, as we have seen above, it was an express command of Aboubekir that they should not put those to death who were found leading quiet and peaceable lives in monasteries, though against another class he did give an express command to "cleave their skulls." See Gibbon, iii. 418. As applicable to the conflicts of the Saracens with Christians, the meaning here would seem to be, that the power conceded to those who are represented by the locusts was not to cut off and to destroy the church, but it was to bring upon it various calamities to continue for a definite period. Accordingly, some of the severest afflictions which have come upon the church have undoubtedly proceeded from the followers of the Prophet of Mecca. There were times in the early history of that religion when, to all human appearance, it would universally prevail, and wholly supplant the Christian church. But the church still survived, and no power was at any time given to the Saracenic hosts to destroy it altogether. In respect to this, some remarkable facts have occurred in history. The followers of the false prophet contemplated the subjugation of Europe, and the destruction of Christianity, from two quarters—the East and the West—expecting to make a junction of the two armies in the north of Italy, and to march down to Rome. Twice did they attack the vital part of Christendom by besieging Constantinople: first, in the seven years' siege, which lasted from A. D. 668 to A. D. 675; and, secondly, in the years 716-718, when Leo the Isaurian was on the imperial throne. But on both occasions they were obliged to retire defeated and disgraced. —Gibbon, iii. 461, seq. Again, they renewed their attack on the West. Having conquered Northern Africa, they passed over into Spain, subdued that country and Portugal, and extended their conquests as far as the Loire. At that time they designed to subdue France, and having united with the forces which they expected from the East, they intended to make a descent on Italy, and complete the conquest of Europe. This purpose was defeated by the valour of Charles Martel, and Europe and the Christian world were saved from subjugation.—Gibbon, iii. 467, seq. "A victorious line of march," says Mr. Gibbon, "had been prolonged above a thousand miles, from the rock of Gibraltar to the mouth of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the highlands of Scotland. The Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or the Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelations of Mohammed." The arrest of the Saracen hosts before Europe was subdued, was what there was no reason to anticipate, and it even yet perplexes historians to be able to account for it. "The calm historian," says Mr. Gibbon, "who strives to follow the rapid course of the Saracens, must study to explain by what means the church and state were saved from this impending, and, as it should seem, inevitable danger." "These conquests," says Mr. Hallam, "which astonish the careless and superficial, are less perplexing to a calm inquirer than their cessations—the loss of half the Roman empire than the preservation of the rest."— Middle Ages, ii. 3, 169. These illustrations may serve to explain the meaning of the symbol—that their grand commission was not to annihilate or root out, but to annoy and afflict. Indeed, they did not go forth with a primary design to destroy. The announcement of the Mussulman always was "the Koran, the tribute, or the sword," and when there was submission, either by embracing his religion or by tribute, life was always spared. "The fair option of friendship, or submission, or battle," says Mr. Gibbon, (iii. 387,) "was proposed to the enemies of Mohammed." Compare also vol. iii. 453, 456. The torment mentioned here, I suppose, refers to the calamities brought upon the Christian world—on Egypt, and Northern Africa, and Spain, and Gaul, and the East, by the hordes which came out of Arabia, and which swept over all those countries, like a troublesome and destructive host of locusts. Indeed, would any image better represent the effects of the Saracenic invasions than such a countless host of locusts? Even now, can we find an image that would better represent this ?

(5.) The leader of this host.

(a) He was like a star that fell from heaven, (Re 9:1) a bright and illustrious prince, as if heaven-endowed, but fallen. Would anything better characterize the genius, the power, and the splendid but perverted talent of Mohammed? Mohammed was, moreover, by birth, of the princely house of the Koreish, governors of Mecca,.and to no one could the term be more appropriate than to one of that family.

(b) He was a king. That is, there was to be one monarch—one ruling spirit to which all these hosts were subject. And never was anything more appropriate than this title as applied to the leader of the Arabic hosts. All those hosts were subject to one mind—to the command of the single leader that originated the scheme.

(c) The name, Abaddon, or Apollyon—Destroyer, Re 9:11. This name would be appropriate to one who spread his conquests so far over the world; who wasted so many cities and towns; who overthrew so many kingdoms; and who laid the foundation of ultimate conquests by which so many human beings were sent to the grave.

(d) The description of the leader "as the angel of the bottomless pit," Re 9:11. If this be regarded as meaning that "the angel of the bottomless pit"—the spirit of darkness himself—originated the scheme, and animated these hosts, what term would better characterize the leader? And if it be a poetic description of Mohammed as sent out by that presiding spirit of evil, how could a better representative of the spirit of the nether world have been sent out upon the earth than he was—one more talented, more sagacious, more powerful, more warlike, more wicked, more fitted to subdue the nations of the earth to the dominion of the Prince of darkness, and to hold them for ages under his yoke?

(6.) The duration of the torment. It is said (Re 9:5) that this would be five months; that is, prophetically, a hundred and fifty years. See Barnes on "Re 9:5".

The Hegira, or flight of Mohammed, occurred A.D. 622; the Saracens first issued from the desert into Syria, and began their series of wars on Christendom, A.D. 629. Reckoning from these periods respectively, the five months, or the hundred and fifty years, would extend to A.D. 772 or 779. It is not necessary to understand this period of a hundred and fifty years of the actual continued existence of the bodies symbolized by the locusts, but only of the period in which they would inflict their "torment"—" that they should be tormented five months." That is, this would be the period of the intensity of the woe inflicted by them; there would be at that time some marked intermission of the torment. The question then is, whether, in the history of the Saracens, there was any period after their career of conquest had been continued for about a hundred and fifty years, which would mark the intermission or cessation of these "torments." If so, then this is all that is necessary to determine the applicability of the symbol to the Arabian hordes. Now, in reply to this question, we have only to refer to Mr. Gibbon. The table of contents prefixed to chapters forty-one and forty-two of his work would supply all the information desired. I looked at that table, after making the estimate as to what period the "five months," or hundred and fifty years, would conduct us to, to see whether anything occurred at about that time in the Mohammedan power and influence, which could be regarded as marking the time of the intermission or cessation of the calamities inflicted by the Arabic hordes on the Christian world. After Mr. Gibbon had recorded in detail (vol. iii. 360-460) the character and conquests of the Arabian hordes under Mohammed and his successors, I find the statement of the decline of their power at just about the period to which the hundred and fifty years would lead us, for at that very time an important change came over the followers of the prophet of Mecca, turning them from the love of conquest to the pursuits of literature and science. From that period, they ceased to be formidable to the church; their limits were gradually contracted; their power diminished; and the Christian world, in regard to them, was substantially at peace. This change in the character and purposes of the Saracens is thus described by Mr. Gibbon, at the close of the reign of the caliph Abdalrahman, whose reign commenced A. D. 755, and under whom the peaceful sway of the Ommiades of Spain began, which continued for a period of two hundred and fifty years. "The luxury of the caliphs, so useless to their private happiness, relaxed the nerves, and terminated the progress, of the Arabian empire. Temporal and spiritual conquest had been the sole occupation of the successors of Mohammed; and after supplying themselves with the necessaries of life, the whole revenue was scrupulously devoted to the salutary work. The Abassides were impoverished by the multitude of their wants, and their contempt of economy. Instead of pursuing the great object of ambition, their leisure, their affections, and the powers of their minds, were diverted by pomp and pleasure: the rewards of valour were embezzled by women and eunuchs, and the royal camp was encumbered by the luxury of the palace. A similar temper was diffused among the subjects of the caliph. Their stern enthusiasm was softened by time and prosperity: they sought riches in the occupations of industry, fame in the pursuits of literature, and happiness in the tranquillity of domestic life. War was no longer the passion of the Saracens; and the increase of pay, the repetition of donative, were insufficient to allure the posterity of these voluntary champions who had crowded to the standard of Abubeker and Omar for the hopes of the spoil of paradise," iii. 477, 478. Of the Ommiades, or princes who succeeded Abdalrahman, Mr. Gibbon remarks in general—"Their mutual designs or declarations of war evaporated without effect; but instead of opening a door to the conquest of Europe, Spain was dissevered from the trunk of the monarchy, engaged in perpetual hostility with the East, and inclined to peace and friendship with the Christian sovereigns of Constantinople and France," iii. p. 472. How much does this look like some change occurring by which they would cease to be a source of "torment" to the nations with whom they now dwelt! From this period, they gave themselves to the arts of peace; cultivated literature and science; lost entirely their spirit of conquest, and their ambition for universal dominion, until they gradually withdrew, or were driven, from those parts of the Christian world where they had inspired most terror, and which in the days of their power and ambition they had invaded. By turning merely to the "table of contents" of Mr. Gibbon's history, the following periods, occurring at about the time that would be embraced in the "five months," or hundred and fifty years, are distinctly marked:—

A. D. 668-675. First siege of Constantinople by the Arabs.

— 677. Peace and tribute.
— 716-718. Second siege of Constantinople.
— — Failure and retreat of the Saracens.
— — Invention and use of the Greek fire.
— 721. Invasion of France by the Arabs.
— 732. Defeat of the Saracens by Charles Martel.
— They retreat before the Franks.
— 746-750. The elevation of the Abassides.
— 750. Fall of the Ommiades.
— 755. Revolt of Spain.
— — Triple division of the caliphate.
— 750-960. Magnificence of the caliphs.
— — Its consequence on private and public happiness.
— 734, etc. Introduction of learning among the Arabians.
— — Their real progress in the sciences."

It will be seen from this that the decline of their military and civil power; their defeats in their attempts to subjugate Europe; their turning their attention to the peaceful pursuits of literature and science, synchronize remarkably with the period that would be indicated by the five months, or the hundred and fifty years. It should be added, also, that in the year 762, Almanzor, the caliph, built Bagdad, and made it the capital of the Saracen empire. Henceforward that became the seat of Arabic learning, luxury, and power, and the wealth and talent of the Saracen empire were gradually drawn to that capital, and they ceased to vex and annoy the Christian world. The building of Bagdad occurred within just ten years of the time indicated by the "five months"—reckoning that from the Hegira, or flight of Mohammed; or reckoning from the time when Mohammed began to preach, (A.D. 609—Gibbon, iii. 383,) it wanted but three years of coinciding exactly with the period.

These considerations show with what propriety the fifth trumpet— the symbol of the locusts—is referred to the Arabian hordes under the guidance of Mohammed and his successors. On the supposition that it was the design of John to symbolize these events, the symbol has been chosen which of all others was best adapted to the end. If, now that these events are passed, we should endeavour to find some symbol which would appropriately represent them, we could not find one that would be more striking or appropriate than that which is here employed by John.

Verse 12. One woe is past. The woe referred to in Re 9:1-11. In Re 8:13, three woes are mentioned which were to occur successively, and which were to embrace the whole of the period comprised in the seven seals and the seven trumpets. Under the last of the seals, we have considered four successive periods, referring to events connected with the downfall of the Western empire; and then we have found one important event, worthy of a place in noticing the things which would permanently affect the destiny of the world—the rise, the character, and the conquests of the Saracens. This was referred to by the first woe-trumpet. We enter now on the consideration of the second. This occupies the remainder of the chapter, and in illustrating it the same method will be pursued as heretofore: first, to explain the literal meaning of the words, phrases, and symbols; and then to inquire what events in history, if any, succeeding the former, occurred, which would correspond with the language used.

And, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. Two momentous and important events that will be attended with sorrow to mankind. It cannot be intended that there would be no other evils that would visit mankind; but the eye, in glancing along the future, rested on these as having a special preeminence in affecting the destiny of the church and the world.


Verse 13. And the sixth angel sounded. See Barnes "Re 8:2-7, seq.

And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God. In the language here used there is an allusion to the temple, but the scene is evidently laid in heaven. The temple in its arrangements was designed, undoubtedly, to be in important respects a symbol of heaven, and this idea constantly occurs in the Scriptures. Compare the Epistle to the Hebrews passim. The golden altar stood in the holy place, between the table of shew-bread and the golden candlestick. See Barnes on "Heb 9:1-2".

This altar, made of shittim or acacia wood, was ornamented at the four corners, and overlaid throughout with laminee of gold. Hence it was called "the golden altar," in contradistinction from the altar for sacrifice, which was made of stone. Compare See Barnes "Mt 21:12, seq. On its four corners it had projections which are called horns, (Ex 30:2-3,) which seem to have been intended mainly for ornaments. See Jahn, Arch. % 332; Josephus Ant. iii. 6, 8. When it is said that this was "before God," the meaning is, that it was directly before or in front of the symbol of the Divine presence in the most holy place. This image, in the vision of John, is transformed to heaven. The voice seemed to come from the very presence of the Deity; from the place where offerings are made to God.


Verse 14. Saying to the sixth angel, which had the trumpet. See Barnes "Re 8:2".

Loose, etc. This power, it would seem, was given to the sixth angel in addition to his office of blowing the trumpet. All this, of course, was in vision, and cannot be literally interpreted. The meaning is, that the effect of his blowing the trumpet would be the same as if angels that had been bound should be suddenly loosed and suffered to go forth over the earth: that is, some event would occur which would be properly symbolized by such an act.

The four angels. Compare See Barnes "Re 8:2".

It was customary to represent important events as occurring under the ministry of angels. The general meaning here is, that, in the vicinity of the river Euphrates, there were mighty powers which had been bound or held in check, which were now to be let loose upon the world. What we are to look for in the fulfilment is evidently this—some power that seemed to be kept back by an invisible influence as if by angels, now suddenly let loose and suffered to accomplish the purpose of desolation mentioned in the subsequent verses. It is not necessary to suppose that angels were actually employed in these restraints, though no one can demonstrate that their agency was not concerned in the transactions here referred to. Compare See Barnes "Da 10:12-13".

It has been made a question why the number four is specified, and whether the forces were in any sense made up of four divisions, nations, or people. While nothing certain can be determined in regard to that, and while the number four may be used merely to denote a great and strong force, yet it must be admitted that the most obvious interpretation would be to refer it to some combination of forces, or to some union of powers, that was to accomplish what is here said. If it had been a single nation, it would have been more in accordance with the usual method in prophecy to have represented them as restrained by an angel, or by angels in general, without specifying any number.

Which are bound. That is, they seemed to be bound. There was something which held them, and the forces under them, in check, until they were thus commanded to go forth. In the fulfilment of this, it will be necessary to look for something of the nature of a check or restraint on these forces, until they were commissioned to go forth to accomplish the work of destruction.

In the great river Euphrates. The well-known river of that name, commonly called, in the Scriptures, "the great river," and, by way of eminence, "the river," Ex 23:31; Isa 8:7. This river was on the east of Palestine; and the language here used naturally denotes that the power referred to under the sixth trumpet would spring up in the East, and that it would have its origin in the vicinity of that river. Those interpreters, therefore, who apply this to the invasion of Judaea by the Romans have great difficulty in explaining this—as the forces employed in the destruction of Jerusalem came from the West, and not from the East. The fair interpretation is, that there were forces in the vicinity of the Euphrates which were, up to this period, bound or restrained, but which were now suffered to spread woe and sorrow over a considerable portion of the world.


Verse 15. And the four angels were loosed. Who had this mighty host under restraint. The loosening of the angels was, in fact, also a letting loose of all these hosts, that they might accomplish the work which they were commissioned to do.

Which were prepared. See Re 9:7. The word here used properly refers to that which is made ready, fitted up, arranged for anything: as persons prepared for a journey, horses for battle, a road for travellers, food for the hungry, a house to live in, etc. See Rob. Lex., s. voce etoimazw. As used here, the word means that whatever was necessary to prepare these angels—the leaders of this host—for the work which they were commissioned to perform, was now done, and that they stood in a state of readiness to execute the design. In the fulfilment of this it will be necessary to look for some arrangements existing in the vicinity of the Euphrates, by which these restrained hosts were in a state of readiness to be summoned forth to the execution of this work, or in such a condition that they would go forth spontaneously if the restraints existing were removed.

For an hour, etc. Marg., at. The Greek—eiv—means properly unto, with reference to; and the sense is, that, with reference to that hour, they had all the requisite preparation. Professor Stuart explains it as meaning that they were "prepared for the particular year, month, day, and hour, destined by God for the great catastrophe which is to follow." The meaning, however, rather seems to be that they were prepared, not for the commencement of such a period, but they were prepared for the whole period indicated by the hour, the day, the month, and the year; that is, that the continuance of this "woe" would extend along through the whole period. For

(a) this is the natural interpretation of the word "for"—eiv;

(b) it makes the whole sentence intelligible for though it might be proper to say of anything that it was "prepared for an hour," indicating the commencement of what was to be done, it is not usual to say of anything that it is "prepared for an hour, a month, a day, a year," when the design is merely to indicate the beginning of it; and

(c) it is in accordance with the prediction respecting the first "woe," (Re 9:5,) where the time is specified in language similar to this, to wit, "five months." It seems to me, therefore, that we are to regard the time here mentioned as a prophetic indication of the period during which this woe would continue.

An hour, and a day, and a month, and a year. If this were to be taken literally, it would, of course, be but little more than a year. If it be taken, however, in the common prophetic style, where a day is put for a year, (Barnes on "Da 9:24, seq.,) then the amount of time (360 + 30 + 1 + an hour) would be three hundred and ninety-one years, and the portion of the year indicated by an hour—a twelfth or twenty-fourth part, according as the day was supposed to be divided into twelve or twenty-four hours. That this is the true view seems to be clear, because this accords with the usual style in this book; because it can hardly be supposed that the "preparation" here referred to would have been for so brief a period as the time would be if literally interpreted; and because the mention of so small a portion of time as an "hour," if literally taken, would be improbable in so great transactions. The fair interpretation, therefore, will require us to find some events that will fill up the period of about three hundred and ninety-one years.

For to slay the third part of men. Compare Re 8:7,9,12.

The meaning here is, that the immense host which was restrained on the Euphrates would, when loosed, spread desolation over about a third part of the world. We are not to suppose that this is to be understood in exactly a literal sense; but the meaning is, that the desolation would be so widespread that it would seem to embrace a third of the world. No such event as the cutting off of a few thousands of Jews in the siege of Jerusalem would correspond with the language here employed, and we must look for events more general and more disastrous to mankind at large.


Verse 16. And the number of the army of the horsemen. It is to be observed here that the strength of the army seemed to be cavalry. In the former plagues there is no distinct mention of horsemen; but here that which struck the beholder was the immense and unparalleled number of horsemen.

Were two hundred thousand thousand. A thousand thousand are a million, and consequently the number here referred to would be two hundred millions. This would be a larger army than was ever assembled, and it cannot be supposed that it is to be taken literally. That it would be a very large host—so large that it would not readily be numbered—is clear. The expression in the original, while it naturally conveys the idea of an immense number, would seem also to refer to some peculiarity in the manner of reckoning them. The language is, two myriads of myriads—duo muriadev muriadwn. The myriad was ten thousand. The idea would seem to be this. John saw an immense host of cavalry. They appeared to be divided into large bodies that were in some degree separate, and that might be reckoned by ten thousands. Of these different squadrons there were many, and to express their great and unusual number he said that there seemed to be myriads of them— two myriads of myriads, or twice ten thousand myriads. The army thus would seem to be immense; an army, as we should say, to be reckoned by tens of thousands.

And I heard the number of them. They were so numerous that he did not pretend to be able to estimate the number himself, for it was beyond his power of computation; but he heard it stated in these round numbers, that there were "two myriads of myriads" of them.


Verse 17. And thus I saw the horses in the vision. That is, he saw them as he proceeds to describe them, for the word thus—outwv—refers to what follows. Compare Rob. Lex. on the word, (b,) and see Mt 1:18; 2:5; Joh 21:1; Heb 4:4.

Professor Stuart, however, refers it to what precedes. The meaning, as it seems to me, is, that he fixed his attention on the appearance of the immense army—the horses and their riders, and proceeded to describe them as they struck him.

And them that sat on them. He fixed the attention on horse and rider. Their appearance was unusual, and deserved a particular description.

Having breastplates of fire. That is, those who sat on them had such breastplates. The word here rendered breastplate denoted properly a coat of mail that covered the body from the neck to the thighs. See Barnes on "Eph 6:14".

This would be a prominent object in looking at a horseman. This was said to be composed of "fire, and jacinth, and brimstone;" that is, the part of the body usually encased in the coat of mail had these three colours. The word "fire" here simply denotes red. It was burnished and bright, and seemed to be a blaze of fire. The word "jacinth"—uakinyinouv— means hyacinthine. The colour denoted is that of the hyacinth—a flower of a deep purple or reddish blue. Then it refers to a gem of the same colour, nearly related to the zircon of the mineralogists, and the colour here mentioned is deep purple or reddish blue. The word rendered "brimstone"—yeiwdhv—means properly sulphurous, that is, made of sulphur, and means here simply yellow. The meaning of the whole then is, that these horsemen appeared to be clad in a peculiar kind of armour—armour that shone like fire, mingled with blue and yellow. It will be necessary to look for the fulfilment of this in cavalry that was so caparisoned.

And the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions. Resembled, in some respects, the heads of lions. He does not say that they were the heads of lions, or that the riders were on monsters, but only that they, in some respects, resembled the heads of lions. It would be easy to give this general appearance by the way in which the head-dress of the horses was arrayed.

And out of their mouths issued. That is, appeared to issue. It is not necessary to understand this as affirming that it actually came from their mouths, but only that, to one looking on such an approaching army, it would have this appearance. The heathen poets often speak of horses breathing out fire and smoke, (Virg. Geor. ii. 140; iii. 85; Ovid, Met. vii. 104,) meaning that their breath seemed to be mingled smoke and fire. There is an image superadded here not found in any of the classic descriptions, that this was mingled with brimstone. All this seemed to issue from their mouths; that is, it was breathed forth in front of the host, as if the horses emitted it from their mouths.

Fire and smoke and brimstone. The exact idea, whether that was intended or not, would be conveyed by the discharge of musketry or artillery. The fire, the smoke, and the sulphurous smell of such a discharge, would correspond precisely with this language, and if it be supposed that the writer meant to describe such a discharge, this would be the very language that would be used. Moreover, in describing a battle, nothing would be more proper than to say that this appeared to issue from the horses' mouths. If, therefore, it should be found that there were any events where fire-arms were used, in contradistinction from the ancient mode of warfare, this language would be appropriate to describe that; and if it were ascertained that the writer meant to refer to some such fact, then the language here used would be that which he would adopt. One thing is certain, that this is not language which would be employed to describe the onset of ancient cavalry in the mode of warfare which prevailed then. No one describing a charge of cavalry among the Persians, the Greeks, or the Romans, when the only armour was the sword and the spear, would think of saying that there seemed to be emitted from the horses' mouths fire, and smoke, and brimstone.


Verse 18. By these three. Three things—explained immediately as referring to the fire, the smoke, and the brimstone.

Was the third part of men killed. See Barnes on "Re 8:7-12, on each of which verses we have notices of calamities that came upon the third part of the race, of the sea, of rivers, etc. We are not to suppose that this is to be taken literally, but the description is given as it appeared to John. Those immense numbers of horsemen would sweep over the world, and a full third part of the race of men would seem to fall before them.


Verse 19. For their power is in their mouth. That is, as described, in the fire, smoke, and brimstone that proceeded out of their mouths. What struck the seer as remarkable on looking on the symbol was, that this immense destruction seemed to proceed out of their mouths. It was not that they trampled down their enemies; nor that they destroyed them with the sword, the bow, or the spear: it was some new and remarkable power in warfare—in which the destruction seemed to proceed from fire and smoke and sulphur issuing from the mouths of the horses themselves.

And in their tails. The tails of the horses. This, of course, was something unusual and remarkable in horses, for naturally they have no power there. The power of a fish, or a scorpion, or a wasp, may be said to be in their tails, for their strength or their means of defence or of injury are there, but we never think of speaking in this way of horses: It is not necessary, in the interpretation of this, to suppose that the reference is literally to the tails of the horses, any more than it is to suppose that the smoke and fire and brimstone literally proceeded from their mouths. John describes things as they appeared to him in looking at them from a considerable distance. From their mouths the horses belched forth fire, and smoke, and sulphur, and even their tails seemed to be armed for the work of death.

For their tails were like unto serpents. Not like the tails of serpents, but like serpents themselves.

And had heads. That is, there was something remarkable in the position and appearance of their heads. All serpents, of course, have heads; but John saw something unusual in this—or something so peculiar in their heads as to attract special attention. It would seem most probable that the heads of these serpents appeared to extend in every direction —as if the hairs of the horses' tails had been converted into snakes, presenting a most fearful and destructive image. Perhaps it may illustrate this to suppose that there is reference to the Amphisbsena, or two-headed snake. It is said of this reptile that its tail resembles a head, and that with this it throws out its poison.—Lucan, ix. 179; Pliny's Hist. Nat. viii. 35. It really has but one head, but its tail has the appearance of a head, and it has the power of moving in either direction to a limited degree. If we suppose these snakes fastened to the tail of a horse, the appearance of heads would be very prominent and remarkable. The image is that of the power of destruction. They seemed like ugly and poisonous serpents instead of tails.

And with them they do hurt. Not the main injury, but they have the power of inflicting some injury by them.


Verse 20. And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, etc. One third part is represented as swept off, and it might have been expected that a salutary effect would have been produced on the remainder, in reforming them, and restraining them from error and sin. The writer proceeds to state, however, that these judgments did not have the effect which might reasonably have been anticipated. No reformation followed; there was no abandonment of the prevailing forms of iniquity; there was no change in their idolatry and superstition. In regard to the exact meaning of what is here stated, (Re 9:20-21,) it will be a more convenient arrangement to consider it after we have ascertained the proper application of the passage relating to the sixth trumpet. What is here stated (Re 9:20-21) pertains to the state of the world after the desolations which would occur under this woe-trumpet; and the explanation of the words may be reserved therefore, with propriety, until the inquiry shall have been instituted as to the general design of the whole.

With respect to the fulfilment of this symbol—the sixth trumpet— it will be necessary to inquire whether there has been any event, or class of events, occurring at such a time, and in such a manner, as would be properly denoted by such a symbol. The examination of this question will make it necessary to go over the leading points in the symbol, and to endeavour to apply them. In doing this, I shall simply state, with such illustrations as may occur, what seems to me to have been the design of the symbol. It would be an endless task to examine all the explanations which have been proposed, and it would be useless to do so.

The reference, then, seems to me to be to the Turkish power, extending from the time of the first appearance of the Turks in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, to the final conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The general reasons for this opinion are such as the following:

(a) If the previous trumpet referred to the Saracens, or to the rise of the Mohammedan power among the Arabs, then the Turkish dominion, being the next in succession, would be that which would most naturally be symbolized.

(b) The Turkish power rose on the decline of the Arabic, and was the next important power in affecting the destinies of the world.

(c) This power, like the former, had its seat in the East, and would be properly classified under the events occurring there as affecting the destiny of the world.

(d) The introduction of this power was necessary, in order to complete the survey of the downfall of the Roman empire—the great object kept in view all along in these symbols. In the first four of these trumpets, under the seventh seal, we found the decline and fall of the Western empire; in the first of the remaining three—the fifth in order—we found the rise of the Saracens, materially affecting the condition of the Eastern portion of the Roman world; and the notice of the Turks, under whom the empire at last fell to rise no more, seemed to be demanded in order to the completion of the picture. As a leading design of the whole vision was to describe the ultimate destiny of that formidable power—the Roman—which, in the time when the Revelation was given to John, ruled over the whole world; under which the church was then oppressed; and which, either as a civil or ecclesiastical power, was to exert so important an influence on the destiny of the church, it was proper that its history should be sketched until it ceased—that is, until the conquest of the capital of the Eastern empire by the Turks. Here the termination of the empire, as traced by Mr. Gibbon, closes; and these events it was important to incorporate in this series of visions. The rise and character of the Turkish people may be seen stated in full in Gibbon, Dec. and Fall, iii. 101—103, 105, 486; iv. 41, 42, 87, 90, 91, 93, 100, 127, 143, 151,258, 260, 289, 350. The leading facts in regard to the history of the Turks, so far as they are necessary to be known before we proceed to apply the symbols, are the following:

(1.) The Turks, or Turkroans, had their origin in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea, and were divided into two branches, one on the east, and the other on the west. The latter colony, in the tenth century, could muster forty thousand soldiers; the other numbered a hundred thousand families.—Gibbon, iv. 90. By the latter of these, Persia was invaded and subdued, and soon Baghdad also came into their possession, and the seat of the caliph was occupied by a Turkish prince. The various details respecting this, and respecting their conversion to the faith of the Koran, may be seen in Gibbon, iv. 90-93. A mighty Turkish and Moslem power was thus concentrated under Togrul, who had subdued the caliph, in the vicinity of the Tigris and the Euphrates, extending east over Persia and the countries adjacent to the Caspian Sea, but it had not yet crossed the Euphrates to carry its conquests to the west. The conquest of Bagdad by Togrul, the first prince of the Seljuk race, was an important event, not only in itself, but as it was by this event that the Turk was constituted temporal lieutenant of the prophet's vicar, and so the head of the temporal power of the religion of Islam. "The conqueror of the East kissed the ground, stood some time in a modest posture, and was led toward the throne by the vizier and an interpreter. After Togrul had seated himself on another throne, his commission was publicly read, which declared him the temporal lieutenant of the prophet. He was successively invested with seven robes of honour, and presented with seven slaves the natives of the seven climates of the Arabian empire, etc. Their alliance [of the sultan and the caliph] was cemented by the marriage of Togrul's sister with the successor of the prophet," etc.—Gibbon, iv. 93. The conquest of Persia, the subjugation of Bagdad, the union of the Turkish power with that of the caliph, the successor of Mohammed, and the foundation of this powerful kingdom in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates, is all that is necessary to explain the sense of the phrase "which were prepared for an hour," etc., Re 9:15. The arrangements were then made for the important series of events which were to occur when that formidable power should be summoned from the East, to spread the predicted desolation over so large a part of the world. A mighty dominion had been forming in the East, that had subdued Persia, and that, by union with the Caliphs, by the subjugation of Bagdad, and by embracing the Mohammedan faith, had become "prepared" to play its subsequent important part in the affairs of the world.

(2.) The next important event in their history was the crossing of the Euphrates, and the invasion of Asia Minor. The account of this invasion can be best given in the words of Mr. Gibbon: "Twenty-five years after the death of Basil, [the Greek emperor,] his successors were suddenly assaulted by an unknown race of barbarians, who united the Scythian valour with the fanaticism of new proselytes, and the art and riches of a powerful monarchy. The myriads of Turkish horse overspread a frontier of six hundred miles from Taurus to Arzeroum, and the blood of one hundred and thirty thousand Christians was a grateful sacrifice to the Arabian prophet. Yet the arms of Togrul did not make any deep or lasting impression on the Greek empire. The torrent rolled away from the open country; the Sultan retired without glory or success from the siege of an Armenian city; the obscure hostilities were continued or suspended with a vicissitude of events; and the bravery of the Macedonian legions renewed the fame of the conqueror of Asia. The name of Alp Arslan, the valiant lion, is expressive of the popular idea of the perfection of man; and the successor of Togrul displayed the fierceness and generosity of the royal animal. ['The heads of the horses were as the heads of lions.'] He passed the Euphrates at the head of the Turkish cavalry, and entered Ceasarea, the metropolis of Cappadocia, to which he had been attracted by the fame and the wealth of the temple of St. Basil."—Vol. iv. 93; 94: compare also p. 95.

(3.) The next important event was the establishing of the kingdom of Roum in Asia Minor. After a succession of victories and defeats; after being driven once and again from Asia Minor, and compelled to retire beyond its limits; and after subjecting the East to their arms (Gibbon, iv. 95—100) in the various contests for the crown of the Eastern empire, the aid of the Turks was invoked by one party or the other, until they secured for themselves a firm foothold in Asia Minor, and established themselves there in a permanent kingdom—evidently with the purpose of seizing upon Constantinople itself when an opportunity should be presented. —Gibbon, iv. 100, 101. Of this kingdom of Roum, Mr. Gibbon (iv. 101) gives the following description, and speaks thus of the effect of its establishment on the destiny of the Eastern empire: "Since the first conquests of the Caliphs, the establishment of the Turks in Anatolia, or Asia Minor, was the most deplorable loss which the church and empire had sustained. By the propagation of the Moslem faith, Soliman deserved the name of Gazi, a holy champion; and his new kingdom of the Romans, or of Roum, was added to the table of Oriental geography. It is described as extending from the Euphrates to Constantinople, from the Black Sea to the confines of Syria; pregnant with mines of silver and iron, of alum and copper, fruitful in corn and wine, and productive of cattle and excellent horses. The wealth of Lydia, the arts of the Greeks, the splendour of the Augustine age existed only in books and ruins, which were equally obscure in the eyes of the Scythian conquerors. By the choice of the Sultan, Nice, the metropolis of Bithynia, was preferred for his palace and fortress, the seat of the Seljukian dynasty of Roum was planted one hundred miles from Constantinople; and the divinity of Christ was denied and derided in the same temple in which it had been pronounced in the first general synod of the Catholics. The unity of God, and the mission of Mohammed, were preached in the mosques; the Arabian learning was taught in the schools; the Cadis judged according to the law of the Koran; the Turkish manners and language prevailed in the cities; and Turkman camps were scattered over the plains and mountains of Anatolia," etc.

(4.) The next material event in the history of the Turkish power was the conquest of Jerusalem. See this described in Gibbon, iv. 102-106. By this, the attention of the Turks was turned for a time from the conquest of Constantinople—an event at which the Turkish power all along aimed, and in which they doubtless expected to be ultimately successful. Had they not been diverted from it, by the wars connected with the Crusades, Constantinople would have fallen long before it did fall, for it was too feeble to defend itself if it had been attacked.

(5.) The conquest of Jerusalem by the Turks, and the oppressions which Christians experienced there, gave rise to the Crusades, by which the destiny of Constantinople was still longer delayed. The war of the Crusades was made on the Turks, and as the crusaders mostly passed through Constantinople and Anatolia, all the power of the Turks in Asia Minor was requisite to defend themselves, and they were incapable of making an attack on Constantinople, until after the final defeat of the crusaders, and restoration of peace. See Gibbon, iv. 106-210.

(6.) The next material event in the history of the Turks was the conquest of Constantinople in A. D. 1453—an event which established the Turkish power in Europe, and which completed the downfall of the Roman empire.—Gibbon, iv. 333-359.

After this brief reference to the general history of the Turkish power, we are prepared to inquire more particularly whether the symbol in the passage before us is applicable to this series of events. This may be considered in several particulars.

(1.) The time. If the first woe-trumpet referred to the Saracens, then it would be natural that the rise and progress of the Turkish power should be symbolized as the next great fact in history, and as that under which the empire fell. As we have seen, the Turkish power rose immediately after the power of the Saracens had reached its height, and identified itself with the Mohammedan religion, and was, in fact, the next great power that affected the Roman empire, the welfare of the church, and the history of the world. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the time is such as is demanded in the proper interpretation of the symbol.

(2.) The place. We have seen (Barnes on "Re 9:14") that this was on or near the river Euphrates, and that this power was long forming and consolidating itself on the east of that river before it crossed it in the invasion of Asia Minor. It had spread over Persia, and had even invaded the region of the East as far as the Indies; it had secured, under Togrul, the conquest of Bagdad, and had united itself with the Caliphate, and was, in fact, a mighty power "prepared" for conquest before it moved to the West. Thus Mr. Gibbon (iv. 92) says, "The more rustic, perhaps the wisest, portion of the Turkroans continued to dwell in the tents of their ancestors; and from the Oxus to the Euphrates these military colonies were protected and propagated by their native princes.'- So again, speaking of Alp Arslan, the son and successor of Togrul, he says, (iv. 94,) "He passed the Euphrates at the head of the Turkish cavalry, and entered Caesarea, the metropolis of Cappadocia, to which he was attracted by the fame and the wealth of the temple of St. Basil." If it be admitted that it was intended by John to refer to the Turkish power, it could not have been better represented than as a power that had been forming in the vicinity of that great river, and that was prepared to precipitate itself on the Eastern empire. To one contemplating it in the time of Togrul or Alp Arslan, it would have appeared as a mighty power growing up in the neighbourhood of the Euphrates.

(3.) The four angels: "Loose the four angels which are bound." That is, loose the powers which are in the vicinity of the Euphrates, as if they were under the control of four angels. The most natural construction of this would be, that under the mighty power that was to sweep over the world, there were four subordinate powers, or that there were such subdivisions that it might be supposed they were ranged under four angelic powers or leaders. The question is, whether there was any such division or arrangement of the Turkish power, that, to one looking on it at a distance, there would seem to be such a division. In the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (iv. 100;) we find the following statement: "The greatness and unity of the Persian empire expired in the person of Malek Shah. The Vacant throne was disputed by his brother and his four sons; and, after a series of civil wars, the treaty which reconciled the surviving candidates confirmed a lasting separation in the Persian dynasty, the oldest and principal branch of the house of Seljuk. The three younger dynasties were those of Kerman, of Syria, and of Roum; the first of these commanded an extensive, though obscure, dominion on the shores of the Indian Ocean; the second expelled the Arabian princes of Aleppo and Damascus; and the third [our peculiar case] invaded the Roman provinces of Asia Minor. The generous policy of Malek contributed to their elevation: he allowed the princes of his blood, even those whom he had vanquished in the field, to seek new kingdoms worthy of their ambition; nor was he displeased that they should draw away the more ardent spirits who might have disturbed the tranquillity of his reign. As the supreme head of his family and nation, the great Sultan of Persia commanded the obedience and tribute of his royal brethren: the thrones of Kerrnan and Nice, of Aleppo and Damascus; the Atabeks and emirs of Syria and Mesopotamia erected their standards under the shadow of his sceptre, and the hordes of Turkroans overspread the plains of Western Asia. After the death of Malek, the bands of union and subordination were gradually relaxed and dissolved; the indulgence of the house of Seljuk invested their slaves with the inheritance of kingdoms; and, in the Oriental style, a crowd of princes arose from the dust of their feet." Here it is observable, that, at the period when the Turkman hordes were about to precipitate themselves on Europe, and to advance to the destruction of the Eastern empire, we have distinct mention of four great departments of the Turkish power: the original power that had established itself in Persia, under Malek Shah, and the three subordinate powers that sprung out of that of Kerman, Syria, and Roum, It is observable

(a) that this occurs at the period when that power would appear in the East as advancing in its conquests to the West;

(b) that it was in the vicinity of the great river Euphrates;

(c) that it had never before occurred—the Turkish power having been before united as one; and

(d) that it never afterwards occurred—for, in the words of Mr. Gibbon, "after the death of Malek, the bands of union and subordination were relaxed and finally dissolved." It would not be improper, then, to look upon this one mighty power as under the control of four spirits that were held in check in the East, and that were "prepared" to pour their energies on the Roman empire.

(4.) The preparation: "Prepared for an hour," etc. That is, arranged; made ready—as if by previous discipline—for some mighty enterprise. Applied to the Turkmans, this would mean that the preparation for the ultimate work which they executed had been making as that power increased and became consolidated under Togrul, Alp Arslan, and Malek Shah. In its successful strides, Persia and the East had been subdued; the Caliph at Bagdad had been brought under the control of the Sultan; a union had been formed between the Turks and the Saracens; and the Sultanies of Kerman, Syria, and Roum had been established—embracing together all the countries of the East, and constituting this by far the most mighty nation on the globe. All this would seem to be a work of preparation to do what was afterwards done as seen in the visions of John.

(5.) The fact that they were bound: "Which are bound in the great river Euphrates." That is, they were, as it were, restrained and kept back for a long time in that vicinity. It would have been natural to suppose that that vast power would at once move on toward the West to the conquest of the capital of the Eastern empire. Such had been the case with the Huns, the Goths, and the Vandals. But these Turkish hordes had been long restrained in the East. They had subdued Persia. They had then achieved the conquest of India. They had conquered Bagdad, and the entire East was under their control. Yet for a long time they had now been inactive, and it would seem as if they had been bound or restrained by some mighty power from moving in their conquests to the West.

Part 2 of this 4 Part note See Barnes "Re 9:21"
Part 3 of this 4 Part note See Barnes "Re 10:5"
Part 4 of this 4 Part note See Barnes "Re 10:10

{c} "yet repented" Jer 5:3; 8:6

{d} "devils" Le 17:7; 1 Co 10:20

{e} "idols" Ps 135:15; Isa 40:19,20


This is part 2 of 4 Parts of the Note for Revelation 9:20-21.

(7.) Their numbers: "And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand." That is, it was vast, or it was such as to be reckoned by myriads, or by tens of thousands— duo muriadev muriadwn two myriads of myriads. Thus Mr. Gibbon (iv. 94) says, "The myriads of Turkish horse overspread," etc. It has been suggested by Daubuz that in this there may be probably an allusion to the Turkman custom of numbering by tomans, or myriads. This custom, it is true, has existed elsewhere, but there is probably none with whom it has been so familiar as with the Tartars and Turks. In the Seljukian age, the population of Samarcand was rated at seven tomans, (myriads,) because it could send out 70,000 warriors. The dignity and rank of Tamerlane's father and grandfather was thus described, that "they were the hereditary chiefs of a toman, or 10,000 horse"—a myriad, (Gibbon, iv. 270;) so that it is not without his usual propriety of language that Mr. Gibbon speaks of the myriads of the Turkish horse, or of the cavalry of the earlier Turks of Mount Altai, "being, both men and horses, proudly computed by myriads." One thing is clear, that to no other invading hosts could the language here used be so well applied, and, if it were supposed that John was writing after the event, this would be the language which he would be likely to employ—for this is nearly the identical language employed by the historian Gibbon.

(8.) Their personal appearance: "Them that sat on them having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone"—as explained above, in a "uniform" of red, and blue, and yellow. This might, undoubtedly, be applicable to other armies besides the Turkish hordes; but the proper question here is, whether it would be applicable to them. The fact of the application of the symbol to the Turks in general must be determined from other points in the symbol which designate them clearly; the only natural inquiry here is, whether this description would apply to the Turkish hosts, for if it would not, that would be fatal to the whole interpretation. On the application of this passage to the Turks, Mr. Daubuz justly remarks, that "from their first appearance the Ottomans have affected to wear warlike apparel of scarlet, blue, and yellow: a descriptive trait the more marked from its contrast to the military appearance of the Greeks, Franks, or Saracens contemporarily." Mr. Elliott adds, "It only needs to have seen the Turkish cavalry, (as they were before the late innovations,) whether in war itself, or in the djerrid war's mimicry, to leave an impression of the absolute necessity of some such notice of their rich and varied colourings, in order to give in description at all a just impression of their appearance," i. 481.

(9.) The remarkable appearance of the cavalry: "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." It was remarked in the exposition of this passage, that this is just such a description as would be given of an army to which the use of gunpowder was known, and which made use of it in these wars. Looking now upon a body of cavalry in the heat of an engagement, it would seem, if the cause were not known, that the horses belched forth smoke and sulphurous flame. The only question now is, whether in the warfare of the Turks there was anything which would peculiarly or remarkably justify this description. And here it is impossible not to advert to the historical fact that they were among the first to make use of gunpowder in their wars, and that to the use of this destructive element they owed much of their success, and their ultimate triumphs. The historical truth of this it is necessary now to advert to, and this will be done by a reference to Mr. Gibbon, and to the account which he has given of the final conquest of Constantinople by the Turks. It will be seen how he puts this new instrumentality of war into the foreground in his account; how prominent this seemed to him to be in describing the victories of the Turks; and how probable, therefore, it is that John, in describing an invasion by them, would refer to the "fire and smoke and brimstone," that seemed to be emitted from the mouths of their horses. As preparatory to the account of the siege and conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, Mr. Gibbon gives a description of the invention and use of gunpowder. "The chemists of China or Europe had found, by casual or elaborate experiments, that a mixture of saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal produces, with a spark of fire, a tremendous explosion. It was soon observed that if the expansive force were compressed in a strong tube, a ball of stone or iron might be expelled with irresistible and destructive velocity. The precise era of the invention and application of gunpowder is involved in doubtful traditions and equivocal language; yet we may clearly discern that it was known before the middle of the fourteenth century; and that before the end of the same, the use of artillery in battles and sieges, by sea and land, was familiar to the states of Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and England. The priority of nations is of small account; none would derive any exclusive benefit from their previous or superior knowledge; and on the common improvement they stand on the same level of relative power and military science. Nor was it possible to circumscribe the secret within the pale of the church; it was disclosed to the Turks by the treachery of apostates and the selfish policy of rivals; and the sultans had sense to adopt, and wealth to reward, the talents of a Christian engineer. By the Venetians, the use of gunpowder was communicated without reproach to the sultans of Egypt and Persia, their allies against the Ottoman power; the secret was soon propagated to the extremities of Asia; and the advantage of the European was confined to his easy victories over the savages of the new world," iv. 291. In the description of the conquest of Constantinople, Mr. Gibbon makes frequent mention of their artillery, and of the use of gunpowder, and of its important agency in securing their final conquests, and in the overthrow of the Eastern empire. "Among the implements of destruction, he [the Turkish sultan] studied with peculiar care the recent and tremendous discovery of the Latins; and his artillery surpassed whatever had yet appeared in the world. A founder of cannon, a Dane or Hungarian, who had almost starved in the Greek service, deserted to the Moslems, and was liberally entertained by the Turkish sultan. Mohammed was satisfied with the answer to his first question, which he eagerly pressed on the artist: 'Am I able to cast a cannon capable of throwing a ball or stone of sufficient size to batter the walls of Constantinople? I am not ignorant of their strength, but were they more solid than those of Babylon, I could oppose an engine of superior power; the position and management of that engine must be left to your engineers.' On this assurance a foundry was established at Adrianople; the metal was prepared; and at the end of three months Urban produced a piece of brass ordnance of stupendous and almost incredible magnitude: a measure of twelve palms is assigned to the bore; and the stone bullet weighed above six hundred pounds. A vacant place before the new palace was chosen for the first experiment: but to prevent the sudden and mischievous effects of astonishment and fear, a proclamation was issued that the cannon would be discharged the ensuing day. The explosion was felt or heard in a circuit of a hundred furlongs; the ball, by force of gunpowder, was driven about a mile; and on the spot where it fell, it buried itself a fathom deep in the ground," iv. 339. So in speaking of the siege of Constantinople by the Turks, Mr. Gibbon says of the defence by the Christians, (iv. 343,) "The incessant volleys of lances and arrows were accompanied with the smoke, the sound, and the fire of their musketry and cannon." "The same destructive secret," he adds, "had been revealed to the Moslems, by whom it was employed with the superior energy of zeal, riches, and despotism. The great cannon of Mohammed has been separately noticed—an important and visible object in the 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 was ambiguously expressed that it was mounted with one hundred and thirty guns, and that it discharged one hundred and thirty bullets," iv. 343, 344. Again: "The first random shots were productive of more sound than effect; and it was by the advice of a Christian that the engineers were taught to level their aim against the two opposite sides of the salient angles of a bastion. However imperfect, the weight and repetition of the fire made some impression on the walls," iv. 344. And again: "A circumstance that distinguishes the siege of Constantinople is the re-union of the ancient and modern artillery. The cannon were intermingled with the mechanical engines for casting stones and darts; the bullet and the battering-ram were directed against the same walls; nor had the discovery of gunpowder superseded the use of the liquid and inextinguishable fire," iv. 344. So again, ill the description of the final conflict when Constantinople was taken, Mr. Gibbon says, "From the lines, the galleys, and the bridge, the Ottoman artillery thundered on all sides; and the camp and city, the Greeks and the Turks, were involved in a cloud of smoke which could only be dispelled by the final deliverance or destruction of the Roman empire," iv. 350. Assuredly, if such was the fact in the conquests of the Turks, it was not unnatural in one who was looking on these warriors in vision to describe them as if they seemed to belch out "fire and smoke and brimstone." If Mr. Gibbon had designed to describe the conquest of the Turks as a fulfilment of the prediction, could he have done it in a style more clear and graphic than that which he has employed? If this had occurred in a Christian writer, would it not have been charged on him that he had shaped his facts to meet his notions of the meaning of the prophecy?

(10.) The statement that "their power was in their mouth, and in their tails," Re 9:19. The former part of this has been illustrated. The inquiry now is, what is the meaning of the declaration that "their power was in their tails." In Re 9:19, their tails are described as resembling "serpents, having heads," and it is said that "with them they do hurt." See Barnes on "Re 9:19" that verse. The allusion to the "serpents" would seem to imply that there was something in the horses' tails, as compared with them, or in some use that was made of them, which would make this language proper; that is, that their appearance would so suggest the idea of death and destruction, that the mind would easily imagine they were a bundle of serpents. The following remarks may show how applicable this was to the Turks:

(a) In the Turkish hordes there was something, whatever it was, that naturally suggested some resemblance to serpents. Of the Turkmans when they began to spread their conquests over Asia, in the eleventh century, and an effort was made to rouse the people against them, Mr. Gibbon makes the following remark: "Massoud, the son and successor of Mahmoud, had too long neglected the advice of his wisest Omrahs. 'Your enemies,' [the Turkmans,] they repeatedly urged, 'were in their origin a swarm of ants; they are now little snakes; and unless they be instantly crushed, they will acquire the venom and magnitude of serpents," iv. 91.

(b) It is a remarkable fact that the horse's tail is a well-known Turkish standard—a symbol of office and authority. "The pashas are distinguished, after a Tartar custom, by three horsetails on the side of their tents, and receive by courtesy the title of beyler beg, or prince of princes. The next in rank are the pashas of two tails, the beys who are honoured with one tail." —Edin. Ency. Art. Turkey. In the times of their early warlike career, the principal standard was once lost in battle, and the Turkman commander, in default, cut off his horse's tail, lifted it on a pole, made it the rallying ensign, and so gained the victory. So Tournefort in his Travels states. The following is Ferrario's account of the origin of this ensign: "An author acquainted with their customs says, that a general of theirs, not knowing how to rally his troops that had lost their standards, cut off a horse's tail, and fixed it to the end of a spear; and the soldiers rallying at that signal, gained the victory." He adds farther, that whereas "on his appointment a pasha of the three tails used to receive a drum and a standard, now for the drum there have been substituted three horses' tails, tied at the end of a spear, round a gilded haft. One of the first officers of the palace presents him these three tails as a standard." Elliott, i. 485, 486. This remarkable standard or ensign is found only among the Turks, and, if there was an intended reference to them, the symbol here would be the proper one to be adopted. The meaning of the passage where it is said that "their power is in their tails" would seem to be, that their tails were the symbol or emblem of their authority—as in fact the horse's tail is in the appointment of a pasha. The image before the mind of John would seem to have been, that he saw the horses belching out fire and smoke, and, what was equally strange, he saw that their power of spreading desolation was connected with the tails of horses. Any one looking on a body of cavalry with such banners or ensigns would be struck with this unusual and remarkable appearance, and would speak of their banners as concentrating and directing their power.

(11.) The number slain, Re 9:18. That is said to have been "the third part of men." No one in reading the accounts of the wars of the Turks, and of the ravages which they have committed, would be likely to feel that this is an exaggeration. It is not necessary to suppose that it is literally accurate, but it is such a representation as would strike one in looking over the world, and contemplating the effect of their invasions. If the other specifications in the symbol are correct, there would be no hesitation in admitting the propriety of this.

(12.) The time of the continuance of this power. This is a material, and a more difficult point. It is said (Re 9:15) to be "an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year;" that is, as explained, three hundred and ninety-one years, and the portion of a year indicated by the expression "an hour:" to wit, an additional twelfth or twenty-fourth part of a year. The question now is, whether, supposing the time to which this reaches to be the capture of Constantinople, and the consequent downfall of the Roman empire—the object in view in this series of visions— in reckoning back from that period for 391 years, we should reach an epoch that would properly denote the moving forward of this power towards its final conquest; that is, whether there was any such marked epoch that, if the 391 years were added to it, it would reach the year of the conquest of Constantinople, A.D. 1453. The period that would be indicated by taking the number 391 from 1453 would be 1062—and that is the time in which we are to look for the event referred to. This is on the supposition that the year consisted of 360 days, or twelve months of thirty days each. If, however, instead of this, we reckon 365 days and six hours, then the length of time would be found to amount to 396 years and 106 days.*

* "As the Julian year equalled 365 days 6 hours, the Apocalyptic period would, on the year day principle, be in amount as follows :—

A year = 365 1/4 days = 365 years + 1/4 of a year.
A month = 30 days = 30 years,
A day = = 1 year.
________________ Years 396

1/4 of a prophetic day or year (left out above) = 91 1/4 days.

An hour = 1/24 of a prophetic day or year = 15 1/6 days.

Total = years 396 + 106 days." Elliott, i. p. 493

This would make the time of the "loosening of the angels," or the moving forward of this power, to be A.D. 1057. In the uncertainty on this point, and in the unsettled state of ancient chronology, it would, perhaps, be vain to hope for minute accuracy, and it is not reasonable to demand it of an interpreter. On any fair principle of interpretation, it would be sufficient if at about one of these periods—A. D. 1062, or A.D. 1057—there was found such a definite or strongly marked event as would indicate a movement of the hitherto restrained power toward the West. This is the real point, then, to be determined. Now, in a common work on chronology, I find this record: "A. D. 1055, Turks reduce Bagdad, and overturn the empire of the Caliphs." In a work still more important to our purpose, (Gibbon, iv. 92, 93,) under the date of A. D. 1055, I find a series of statements which will show the propriety of referring to that event as the one by which this power, so long restrained, was "let loose;" that is, was placed in such a state that its final conquest of the Eastern empire certainly followed. The event was the union of the Turkish power with the Caliphate in such a way that the sultan was regarded as "the temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet." Of this event Mr. Gibbon gives the following account. After mentioning the conversion of the Turks to the Moslem faith, and especially the zeal with which the son of Seljuk had embraced that faith, he proceeds to state the manner in which the Turkish sultan Togrul came in possession of Bagdad, and was invested with the high office of the "temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet." There were two caliphs, those of Bagdad and Egypt, and "the sublime character of the successor of the prophet" was "disputed" by them, iv. 93. Each of them became "solicitous to prove his title in the judgment of the strong though illiterate barbarians." Mr. Gibbon then says, "Mahmoud the Gaznevide had declared himself in favour of the line of Abbas; and had treated with indignity the robe of honour which was presented by the Fatimite ambassador. Yet the ungrateful Hashemite had changed with the change of fortune; he applauded the victory of Zendecan, and named the Seljukian sultan his temporal vicegerent over the Moslem world.—As Togrul executed and enlarged this important trust, he was called to the deliverance of the caliph Cayem, and obeyed the holy summons, which gave a new kingdom to his arms. In the palace of Bagdad, the commander of the faithful still slumbered, a venerable phantom His servant or master, the prince of the Bowides, could no longer protect him from the insolence of meaner tyrants; and the Euphrates and the Tigris were oppressed by the revolt of the Turkish and Arabian armies. The presence of a conqueror was implored as a blessing; and the transient mischiefs of fire and sword were excused as the sharp but salutary remedies which alone could restore the health of the Republic. At the head of an irresistible force, the sultan of Persia marched from Hamadan; the proud were crushed, the prostrate were spared; the prince of the Bowides disappeared; the heads of the most obstinate rebels were at the feet of Togrul; and he inflicted a lesson of obedience on the people of Mosul and Bagdad. After the chastisement of the guilty, and the restoration of peace, the royal shepherd accepted the reward of his labours; and a solemn amnesty represented the triumph of religious prejudice over barbarian power. The Turkish sultan embarked on the Tigris, landed at the gate of Racca, and made his public entry on horseback. At the palace gate he respectfully dismounted, and walked, on foot, preceded by his emirs without arms. The caliph was seated behind his black veil; the black garment of the Abbassides was cast over his shoulders, and he held in his hand the staff of the Apostle of God. The conqueror of the East kissed the ground, stood some time in a modest posture, and was led toward the throne by the vizier and an interpreter. After Togrul had seated himself on another throne, his commission was publicly read, which declared him the temporal lieutenant of the vicar of the prophet. He was successively invested with seven robes of honour, and presented with seven slaves, the natives of the seven climates of the Arabian empire. His mystic veil was perfumed with musk; two crowns were placed on his head; two scimetars were girded to his side, as the symbols of a double reign over the East and West. Their alliance was cemented by the marriage of Togfurs sister with the successor of the prophet," iv. 93, 94. This event, so described, was of sufficient importance, as constituting a union of the Turkish power with the Moslem faith, as making it practicable to move in their conquests toward the West, and as connected in its ultimate results with the downfall of the Eastern empire, to make it an epoch in the history of nations. In fact, it was the point which one would have particularly looked at, after describing the movements of the Saracens, (Re 9:1-11,) as the next event that was to change the condition of the world.

Part 1 of this 4 Part Note See Barnes "Re 9:20"
Part 3 of this 4 Part Note See Barnes "Re 10:5"
Part 4 of this 4 Part Note See Barnes "Re 10:10

{f} "sorceries" Re 22:15

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