|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:13-21 The sixth angel sounded, and here the power of the Turks seems the subject. Their time is limited. They not only slew in war, but brought a poisonous and ruinous religion. The antichristian generation repented not under these dreadful judgments. From this sixth trumpet learn that God can make one enemy of the church a scourge and a plague to another. The idolatry in the remains of the eastern church and elsewhere, and the sins of professed Christians, render this prophecy and its fulfilment more wonderful. And the attentive reader of Scripture and history, may find his faith and hope strengthened by events, which in other respects fill his heart with anguish and his eyes with tears, while he sees that men who escape these plagues, repent not of their evil works, but go on with idolatries, wickedness, and cruelty, till wrath comes upon them to the utmost.
Verse 14. - Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet. Tregelles reads, "Saying to the sixth angel, Thou that hast the trumpet," etc.; but the common rendering is much more probable. Here the angel is represented as directly causing the incidents which follow; in the other cases, we are only told that each angel "sounded." Loose the four angels which are hound in the great river Euphrates. This vision has led to a great variety of interpretations. Some are obviously absurd; in all these is considerable doubt and difficulty. The following is offered as a possible solution to some extent, though it is not pretended that every difficulty is satisfactorily disposed cf. In making this suggestion, the following circumstances have been borne in mind:
(1) The trumpet visions seem constructed upon a systematic plan, and therefore it seems likely that this judgment, like the fifth and the seventh, is a spiritual one (vide supra).
(2) The objects of this punishment are those who commit the sins described in vers. 20, 21.
(3) The vision must have borne some meaning for these to whom it was first delivered. It seems unlikely, therefore, that events are here portrayed which could not possibly have been foreseen and understood by the early Christians. This seems to exclude (except possibly in a secondary sense) all reference to the papacy, etc. (as Wordsworth).
(4) Whether the angels here described are good angels or bad angels makes no material difference to the main part of the vision, which is to set forth punishment for the ungodly, sanctioned or originated by God.
(5) The object of the punishment is to bring men to repentance, but it largely fails to do so (ver. 21). We therefore conclude that the whole judgment portrays the spiritual evils which afflict the ungodly in this life, and which give them, as it were, a foretaste of their doom in the life to come. Sin frequently brings unrest and trouble immediately in its train; seldom, if ever, peace and satisfaction. The stings of sin are, perhaps, none the less potent because their effect is frequently unseen by the general public. The terror of the murderer, the shame of the thief, the abasement and physical suffering of the impure, the delirium tremens of the drunkard, are very real torments. The number of such inflictions is, indeed, great enough to be described as "two myriads of myriads" (ver. 16): they destroy a part, but not the greater part (ver. 15, "the third part") of men; and yet how largely they fail to bring men to repentance! Such punishment is a foretaste of hell, as seems to be foreshadowed in the "fire and smoke and brimstone" of vers. 17, 18. Wordsworth and others contend that the "four angels" are good angels, who have been hitherto restrained. As remarked above, the point is not a material one, but it seems more probable that evil angels are intended. Their loosing does not necessarily mean that they are loosed at a time subsequent to this vision, but only that they are under the control of God, Who allows them freedom to carry out this mission. Thus also, in the case of the other judgments, it has been pointed out that the period of their operation may extend throughout all ages, from the beginning to the end of the world. They arise from the Euphrates. Many writers point out that this river was looked upon by the Israelites as the natural source from which sprang their enemies (see Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 46:10). Indeed, the Euphrates was looked upon as the boundary of the Jewish kingdom (Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; 2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Chronicles 5:9); hence those coming from out of the Euphrates were frequently enemies. The expression may be merely accessory to the general filling up of the picture, or it may teach us that the punishments which follow flow from their natural source, viz. men's sins (cf. Revelation 16:12, where the Euphrates is certainly alluded to as the source from whence arise hostile hosts).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet,.... The sixth trumpet, which was given him, and he had prepared himself to sound, and had sounded:
loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates; not the four angels in Revelation 7:1; they stood upon the four corners of the earth; these were in, or at the river Euphrates; they held the four winds, that they should not blow, or restrained the savage nations, that they should not hurt; these are bound themselves, that they might not do mischief; nor are angels by nature at all intended; not evil angels, though they are bound in chains of darkness, and are reserved to judgment, they are admitted indeed to rove about in the air and earth, but are under the restraints of the power and providence of God; nor good angels, who are at the divine beck, and go in and out, and are detained and sent forth according to the pleasure of God, and are sometimes employed in killing great numbers of men; see 2 Samuel 24:15; but men are here meant, as appears from Revelation 9:16, and particularly the Turks, as most interpreters agree; who dwelt on the other side the river Euphrates, and were let loose, or suffered to pass over that river into the eastern empire, to ruin and destroy it, as they did: these are called "angels", because of their might and force, their power and strength, with which they bore all before them; and for their great swiftness and rapidity in the victories and conquests which the Ottoman family obtained; who, from very small beginnings, raised themselves, in a very little time, to a large monarchy, and founded the Turkish empire, which, from them, is to this day called the Ottoman empire. Ottoman the First subdued great part of Bithynia, and fixed the seat of his kingdom at Prusa; or rather his son Urchanes, who conquered Mysia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, Caria, and the rest, to the Hellespont, and the Euxine sea. Amurath his son took Callipolis, Hadrianople, and the adjacent provinces. Bajazet added to the empire Thessalia, Macedonia, Phocis, Attica, Mysia, and Bulgaria; and Mahomet the Second took Constantinople itself, and thereby put an end to the eastern empire; and all this was done in a very few years: it is said of this last, that he conquered two empires, and twelve kingdoms, and above two hundred cities (a). And these Ottoman Turks may be called angels, or messengers, because they were the messengers and executioners of God's wrath upon the eastern empire: they are signified by "four angels", either, as some think, because of the four names of Saracens, Turks, Tartars, and Arabians, though all Mahometans, under which they went, before they were united under one emperor, Ottoman; or rather because of the four principalities, or governments, into which they were divided, while they were upon the banks of, or near to the river Euphrates; the seat of one being at Iconium, another at Bagdad, a third at Aleppo, and a fourth at Damascus; and chiefly because, when they passed the river Euphrates, they had four princes at the head of them, Soliman Shak, and his three sons. Soliman himself, as he passed, not knowing the fords of the river, was drowned in it; at which his sons being so affrighted, two of them, Sankur Zengi, and Gun Tugdi, returned to Persia, but the third, Ortogrules, with his three sons (which made "four" again) Condoz, Sarubani, and Othman, or Ottoman, continued, to whom Aladdin, sultan of Iconium, gave them some land among the mountains of Armenia (b); and from hence, by degrees, as before observed, a large empire was raised. Now these are said to be "bound in the great river Euphrates"; which river is to be literally understood, and is the same with that which is so called in Genesis 2:14, and ran through Mesopotamia and Chaldea, and was the boundary of the Roman empire; so it was fixed by Hadrian (c); and beyond which the Turks, before this time did rarely go, and if they did, retired again: for till this time, as the historian says (d), the Turks had Asia, , "within Euphrates", and the Arabians Coelo-Syria and Phoenicia. Now here these were bound; they were not suffered to pass the river, or to make any inroads of any consequence further into the Roman empire; they were restrained, by the decree of God, from proceeding any further till this time; which, as he fixes a decreed place for the sea, that its waves should come thus far, and no further, so he restrains princes from their enterprises, and settles the bounds of empires, as long as he pleases; and they were kept back by the power of God from pouring in upon the empire, and pouring forth their fury upon it, who causes the wrath of men to praise him, and restrains the remainder of it; and they were also prevented from coming any further, as yet, through the internal divisions among themselves, and by the victories of the Christians in Palestine.
(a) Petav. Rationem. Temp. par. 1. l. 9. c. 7. (b) Pocock, Supplem. Hist. Dynast. Abulpharaji, p. 41, 42. (c) Rufi Fest. Brev. p. 368. Eutrop. Hist. Roman. l. 8. p. 502. (d) Nicephor. Gregor. Hist. Roman, l. 2. p. 29.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. in, &c.—Greek, "epi to potamo"; "on," or "at the great river."
Euphrates—(Compare Re 16:12). The river whereat Babylon, the ancient foe of God's people was situated. Again, whether from the literal region of the Euphrates, or from the spiritual Babylon (the apostate Church, especially Rome), four angelic ministers of God's judgments shall go forth, assembling an army of horsemen throughout the four quarters of the earth, to slay a third of men, the brunt of the visitation shall be on Palestine.
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