Revelation 16:2
And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
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(2) And the first . . .—Translate, And the first went forth, &c. The angel which receives the command departs and pours forth his vial upon the earth. All the vials are poured forth “into the earth” (Revelation 16:1) generally; the first angel pours his vial forth upon the earth, that is, the dry land. And there came an evil and painful sore upon the men (i.e., upon that part of the human race) who, &c. The plague falls on those who carry the mark of the beast, and who worship it. Like the plagues of Egypt, they are directed against those who aid the oppressor. The plague here described resembles the sixth of the Egyptian plagues, the plague of boils (comp. Exodus 9:8-12; Deuteronomy 28:27). Egypt is one type of the world-power; and the plagues are used as types also, and are not to be understood literally. The plague of the “evil sore” denotes some throbbing and hateful sore, perhaps spiritual or mental, which distracts attention and disturbs the personal serenity and self-complacency of the worshippers of the world-power.

Revelation 16:2. And the first poured out his vial upon the earth — This, according to Mr. Fleming, denotes God’s judgments upon the foundation of the Papal kingdom; the earth being that on which we walk, and by the fruits of which we are supported. By this, therefore, he understands the Popish clergy, and the Papal dominions and revenues, by which they were upheld. This vial, he thinks, began with the Reformation, and continued until the time when these agents of Popery were thrown out of as many countries of Europe as embraced the Reformation. And we may easily conceive what a mortification it was to that party, when the pretended sanctity of their bishops, priests, monks, and nuns was discovered to be a mere cheat, and their miracles nothing but lies or tricks; and when their tales of purgatory were exposed to public contempt, and their pardons and indulgences would sell no longer; and consequently, when the pope and his mitred officers saw themselves driven out from so great a part of their dominions, their seminaries for training up their advocates and defenders, of all denominations and orders, pulled down, and so much of their yearly revenues lost. Whence they are said to fall under a noisome and grievous ελκος, ulcer, or sore — Being by this means pained and vexed inwardly, and rendered contemptible to the whole world, which looked upon them as no better than the plagues of mankind. So that this vial began with the rise of Zuinglius and Luther, and the other reformers, in the years 1516 and 1517, and continued to the year 1566; that is, about forty or fifty years; for by that time all the reformed churches were settled, and had published their creeds and confessions of faith against Rome, in opposition to the determinations of the Popish council of Trent, published A.D. 1563, and the creed of Pope Pius IV., which added twelve antichristian articles to the twelve primitive Christian ones, A.D. 1564.

16:1-7 We are to pray that the will of God may be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Here is a succession of terrible judgments of Providence; and there seems to be an allusion to several of the plagues of Egypt. The sins were alike, and so were the punishments. The vials refer to the seven trumpets, which represented the rise of antichrist; and the fall of the enemies of the church shall bear some resemblance to their rise. All things throughout their earth, their air, their sea, their rivers, their cities, all are condemned to ruin, all accursed for the wickedness of that people. No wonder that angels, who witness or execute the Divine vengeance on the obstinate haters of God, of Christ, and of holiness, praise his justice and truth; and adore his awful judgments, when he brings upon cruel persecutors the tortures they made his saints and prophets suffer.And the first went - Went forth from heaven, where the seat of the vision was laid.

And poured out his vial upon the earth - That is, upon the land, in contradistinction from the sea, the rivers, the air, the seat of the beast, the sun, as represented in the other vials. In Revelation 16:1, the word earth is used in the general sense to denote this world as distinguished from heaven; in this verse it is used in the specific sense, to denote land as distinguished from other things. Compare Mark 4:1; Mark 6:47; John 6:21; Acts 27:29, Acts 27:43-44. In many respects there is a strong resemblance between the pouring out of those seven vials, and the sounding of the seven trumpets, in Revelation 8-9, though they refer to different events. In the sounding of the first trumpet Revelation 8:7, it was the earth that was particularly affected in contradistinction from the sea, the fountains, and the sun: "The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth." Compare Revelation 8:8, Revelation 8:10, Revelation 8:12. In regard to the symbolical meaning of the term earth, considered with reference to divine judgments, see the notes on Revelation 8:7.

And there fell a noisome and grievous sore - The judgment here is specifically different from that inflicted under the first trumpet, Revelation 8:7. There it is said to have been that "the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up." Here it is that there fell upon people a "noisome and grievous sore." The two, therefore, are designed to refer to different events, and to different forms of punishment. The word rendered "sore" properly denotes a wound (Homer, Iliad xi. 812), and then, in later writers, an ulcer or sore. It is used in the New Testament only in the following places: Luke 16:21, "The dogs came and licked his sores"; and in Revelation 16:2, Revelation 16:11, where it is rendered "sore," and "sores." It is used in the Septuagint, in reference to the boils that were brought upon the Egyptians, in Exodus 9:9-12, and probably Deuteronomy 28:27; in reference to the leprosy, Leviticus 13:18-20, Leviticus 13:23; in reference to the boil, ulcer, or elephantiasis brought upon Job JObadiah 2:7; and in reference to any sore or ulcer, in Deuteronomy 28:35.

In all these places it is the translation of the word שׁחין shechiyn - rendered in our English version as "boil," Exodus 9:9-11; Leviticus 13:18-20, Leviticus 13:23; 2 Kings 20:7; Job 2:7; Isaiah 38:21; and "botch," Deuteronomy 28:27, Deuteronomy 28:35. The proper meaning, therefore, is that of a sore, ulcer, or boil of a severe and painful character; and the most obvious reference in the passage, to one who was accustomed to the language of Scripture, would be to some fearful plague like what was sent upon the Egyptians. In the case of Hezekiah 2 Kings 20:7; Isaiah 38:21, it was probably used to denote a "plague-boil," or the black leprosy. See the notes on Isaiah 38:21. The word "noisome" - κακὸν kakon, "evil, bad" - is used here to characterize the plague referred to as being especially painful and dangerous. The word "grievous" - πονηρον ponēron - "bad, malignant, hurtful" - is further used to increase the intensity of the expression, and to characterize the plague as particularly severe. There is no reason to suppose that it is meant that this would be literally inflicted, anymore than it is in the next plague, where it is said that the "rivers and fountains became blood." What is obviously meant is, that there would be some calamity which would be well represented or symbolized by such a fearful plague.

Upon the men - Though the plague was poured upon "the earth," yet its effects were seen upon "men." Some grievous calamity would befall them, as if they were suddenly visited with the plague.

Which had the mark of the beast - notes on Revelation 13:16-17. This determines the portion of the earth that was to be afflicted. It was not the whole world; it was only that part of it where the "beast" was honored. According to the interpretation proposed in Revelation 13, this refers to those who are under the dominion of the papacy.

And upon them which worshipped his image - See the notes on Revelation 13:14-15. According to the interpretation in Revelation 13, those are meant who sustained the civil or secular power to which the papacy gave life and strength, and from which it, in turn, received countenance and protection.

In regard to the application or fulfillment of this symbol, it is unnecessary to say that there have been very different opinions in the world, and that very different opinions still prevail. The great mass of Protestant commentators suppose that it refers to the papacy; and of those who entertain this opinion, the greater portion suppose that the calamity referred to by the pouring out of this vial is already past, though it is supposed by many that the things foreshadowed by a part of these "vials" are yet to be accomplished. As to the true meaning of the symbol before us, I would make the following remarks:

(1) It refers to the papal power. This application is demanded by the results which were reached in the examination of Revelation 13. See the remarks on the "beast" in the notes on Revelation 13:1-2, Revelation 13:11, and on "the image of the beast" in the notes on Revelation 13:14-15. This one mighty power existed in two forms closely united, and mutually sustaining each other - the civil or secular, and the ecclesiastical or spiritual. It is this combined and consolidated power - the papacy as such - that is referred to here, for this has been the grand anti-Christian power in the world.

(2) it refers to some grievous and fearful calamity which would come upon that power, and which would be like a plague-spot on the human body - something which would be of the nature of a divine judgment, resembling what came upon the Egyptians for their treatment of the people of God.

(3) the course of this exposition leads us to suppose, that this would be the beginning in the series of judgments, which would terminate in the complete overthrow of that formidable power. It is the first of the vials of wrath, and the whole description evidently contemplates a series of disasters, which would be properly represented by these successive vials. In the application of this, therefore, we should naturally look for the first of a series of such judgments, and should expect to find some facts in history which would he properly represented by the vial "poured upon the earth."

(4) in accordance with this representation, we should expect to find such a series of calamities gradually weakening, and finally terminating the papal power in the world, as would be properly represented by the number seven.

(5) in regard now to the application of this series of symbolical representations, it may be remarked, that most recent expositors - as Elliott, Cunninghame, Keith, Faber, Lord, and others - refer them to the events of the French revolution, as important events in the overthrow of the papal power; and this, I confess, although the application is attended with some considerable difficulties, has more plausibility than any other explanation proposed. In support of this application, the following considerations may be suggested:

(a) France, in the time of Charlemagne, was the kingdom to which the papacy owed its civil organization and its strength - a kingdom to which could be traced all the civil or secular power of the papacy, and which was, in fact, a restoration or reconstruction of the old Roman power - the fourth kingdom of Daniel. See the notes on Daniel 7:24-28; and compare the notes on Revelation 13:3, Revelation 13:12-14. The restoration of the old Roman dominion under Charlemagne, and the aid which he rendered to the papacy in its establishment as to a temporal power, would make it probable that this kingdom would be referred to in the series of judgments that were to accomplish the overthrow of the papal dominion.


2. went—Greek, "went away."

poured out—So the angel cast fire into the earth previous to the series of trumpets (Re 8:5).

upon—so Coptic. But A, B, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "into."

noisome—literally, "evil" (compare De 28:27, 35). The very same Greek word is used in the Septuagint as here, Greek, "helkos." The reason why the sixth Egyptian plague is the first here is because it was directed against the Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Jambres, so that they could not stand before Moses; and so here the plague is sent upon those who in the beast worship had practiced sorcery. As they submitted to the mark of the beast, so they must bear the mark of the avenging God. Contrast Re 7:3; Eze 9:4, 6.

grievous—distressing to the sufferers.

sore upon the men—antitype to the sixth Egyptian plague.

which had the mark of the beast—Therefore this first vial is subsequent to the period of the beast's rule.

Here is a plain allusion to the plagues which God brought upon Pharaoh king of Egypt for his oppression of his ancient Israel; God hereby showing us, that he would deal by this Romish beast for his persecutions of his gospel churches, as he dealt by Pharaoh: as he turned the Egyptian rivers into blood, so as the fish died, and the waters stunk, Exodus 7:20,21, and as he plagued the Egyptians with boils and blains, Exodus 9:9; so he would plague the papacy by proportionable judgments, until, as Pharaoh with his whole party was at last drowned in the Red Sea, so all the antichristian party shall be rooted out. Here are two of the Egyptian plagues mentioned, but this vision begins with the sixth of the Egyptian plagues, viz. that of boils breaking out in blains. What is meant by this

grievous sore I must profess myself not to understand, but think Dr. More speaks very probably, interpreting it of trouble and vexation, which the popish party should have upon the first prospect of their kingdom’s going down; it being of the nature of sores to vex and disturb those that are affected with them, so as they are very uneasy so long as they are affected with them. And, indeed, I find many interpreters agree in this notion.

And the first went,.... The Arabic and Ethiopic versions read, "the first angel", and who undoubtedly is meant, who readily and cheerfully obeyed the orders given him, as did the rest; by this angel cannot be meant Pope Adrian, as Lyra, a Popish interpreter, imagines; for a pope would never hurt the worshippers of the beast, as this angel does; rather some Christian Protestant prince or magistrate is designed, and Brightman applies it to Queen Elizabeth; though a set of kings and princes yet to come seem to be intended:

and poured out his vial upon the earth; not upon the whole earth, and the inhabitants of it; not upon the temple or church of God, and the worshippers in it, which are measured, hid, and protected; nor upon the Roman Pagan empire, which was destroyed under the sixth seal, and which never had any worshippers of the beast and his image in it, for then he was not risen; nor upon the whole apostate church, only a part of it: some think the meaner and vulgar sort of Papists are meant, who were reformed by the Waldenses, Wycliff, Huss, and others before Luther; but rather the antichristian powers on the continent are designed, and particularly Germany; for as the first trumpet affected the earth, Revelation 8:7 and brought the Goths into Germany, and other inland countries on the continent; so this first vial affects the earth, and brings distress upon the Popish party in the same place: and this respects not the Reformation by Luther, as some have thought, nor the wars of the Turks here in the last age; though were it not for some things unfulfilled, which are to precede these vials, one would be tempted to think that this vial was now pouring out upon the empire; but I rather think this refers to a time of distress yet to come on those parts, and which will issue in a reformation from Popery again; for it should be observed, and it may be observed once for all, that though these vials are so many plagues upon antichrist, they are each of them so many steps to the advancement of Christ's kingdom and glory:

and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image; that is, who were professors of the Popish religion, and adherents of the pope of Rome in those parts; see Revelation 13:15 who will only feel the effects of this vial, and that by a noisome and grievous sore falling on them, in allusion to the plague of boils in Egypt, Exodus 9:8 by which may be meant, either literally something external, but not the plague in Dioclesian's time, for then the beast was not risen; and there were none that could have his mark or worship his image: some have thought the French disease is intended, which first appeared in the world in 1490, among the Papists, as a just judgment upon them for the horrible and unnatural lusts and uncleanness of the Romish clergy; and others understand it of a very great heat, which will be before the burning of the world, and will raise blisters and boils upon men: or rather this may design something internal, either the remorse of their consciences, reflections on their past practices, and black despair and horror of mind; and their madness, wrath, and fury, their malice and envy at the success of the preachers of the Gospel, and of Protestant states and princes against them; see Deuteronomy 28:27. Moreover, their secret and wicked practices, both in political and ecclesiastical affairs, will be discovered, and they will appear with boils and blotches upon them all over, which will render them odious to the people, and be the means of a general reformation. Mr. Daubuz thinks the curse of wickedness in the ninth and tenth centuries, after the invocation of saints and angels, and the worship of images were settled, is meant.

{2} And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the {3} mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

(2) The history of the first angel, whose plague on the earth is described almost in the same words with that sixth plague of the Egyptians in Ex 9:9. But it does signify a spiritual vicar, and that torture or butchery of conscience seared with a hot iron, which accuses the ungodly within, and both by truth of the word (the light of which God has now so long shown forth) and by bitterness stirs up and forces out the sword of God's wrath.

(3) See Re 13:16

Revelation 16:2. The first vial poured forth upon the earth (εἰς τὴν γῆν, in relation to Revelation 16:1, as Revelation 8:7 to Revelation 8:5) produces a severe ulcer.

ἔλκος κακὸν καὶ πονηρόν. Cf. Exodus 9:10 sqq.; Deuteronomy 28:35.[3670] The πονηρόν[3671] designates, besides the ΚΑΚῸΝ, which expresses only the evil nature, the virulence, malignity, and affliction of the ulcer.[3672]

ἘΠῚ ΤΟῪς ΑΝΘΡ., Κ.Τ.Λ., The accus. after ἘΠΊ results[3673] from the idea that the plague extends to the men.[3674]

Τ. ἜΧ. ΤῸ ΧΆΡΑΓΜΑ, Κ.Τ.Λ. Cf. Revelation 13:15 sqq., Revelation 14:9 sqq. Of such a pestilence as there was at Rome[3675] in Nero’s time, nothing is said.

[3670] LXX.: ἔλκος πονηρόν. So also Job 2:7.

[3671] Suidas: ἐπιπονον.

[3672] Cf. my commentary on 1 John 3:12.

[3673] Cf. Luke 1:65; Luke 3:2. De Wette.

[3674] Cf. Winer, p. 380.

[3675] Volkm.

Revelation 16:2. The sixth Egyptian plague, “a noisome and painful ulcer” (the punishment of the impious and rebellious, according to Philo, de Execr. Revelation 16:6) breaks out on the adherents of the Cæssar-cult.

2. went] Lit., went away, from the Angels’ place in Heaven before the Temple to the edge or “window” whence they can look down upon the earth.

a noisome and grievous sore] The plagues that accompany these vials have a close analogy to those of the trumpets in ch. 8 sqq., and, like them, have some to the plagues of Egypt: here cf. Exodus 9:9. The epithets translated “noisome and grievous” are somewhat more general: “bad and evil” would be perhaps their most exact equivalents.

Revelation 16:2. Ὁ πρῶτος, the first) Thus, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, without the noun angel.[177] The style expresses a very quick outpouring of the vials, of which quickness this also is a proof, that the vials have no periods of times expressed. These bear a great resemblance to the plagues of Egypt, which the Hebrews generally suppose to have been inflicted at intervals of months. See Meyer ad Seder Olam, p. 287. What if the same thing should be about to happen in the case of the vials? Their whole outpouring indeed is as yet among the things to come.—ἕλκος πονηρὸν, a grievous sore) Deuteronomy 28:35, בשחין רע, in the LXX. ἘΝ ἝΛΚΕΙ ΠΟΝΗΡῷ. [This, I believe, will be a new and hitherto unheard of plague.—V. g.]

[177] Rec. Text adds ἄγγελος in ver. 3, with B: ACh Vulg. oppose it. In ver. 4 also: ABCh Vulg. opposing it. In ver. 8, 10, 12 also, with h: ABC Vulg. opposing it. In ver. 17 also, with h: AB Vulg. and Syr. opposing it.—E.

Verse 2. - And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; his bowl into, etc. (Revised Version). (On "vial," see on Revelation 5:8.) The preposition εἰς, "into," distinguishes the first three vials from the last four, which have ἐπί, "upon," and some writers make this the basis for classifying the vials into groups of three and four; but it seems better to divide into groups of four and three (see on ver. 1, and preliminary remarks on the trumpet visions). And there fell; and it became (Revised Version). Compare the phraseology of Exodus 9:10. A noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. The counterpart of the sixth plague of Egypt. The word ε{λκος, "sore," used here, is the same used in LXX., Exodus 9. It is impossible to say with certainty what (if any) particular judgment upon the ungodly is intended to be signified by St. John in this plague. From amongst the numerous interpretations which have been given to illustrate this passage, we may mention that of Andreas, who sees in it a reference to the "ulcer" (ἕλκος) of conscience. Or it may be that the writer has in contemplation that bodily disease which is the inevitable outcome of sin, and which often afflicts men in this world as the direct result of their misdoings; though, of course, it cannot always be asserted to be a consequence of a man's own personal misdoings. (On the latter part of the verse, see on Revelation 13.) Revelation 16:2And the first went

Each angel, as his turn comes, with draws (ὑπάγετε, see on John 6:21; see on John 8:21) from the heavenly scene.

There fell (ἐγένετο)

Lit., there came to pass. Rev., it became. Elliott, very aptly, there broke out.

Noisome and grievous (κακὸν καὶ πονηρὸν)

Similarly the two cognate nouns κακία and πονρία malice and wickedness occur together in 1 Corinthians 5:8. Πονηρός emphasizes the activity of evil. See on Luke 3:19.

Sore (ἕλκος)

See on Luke 16:20. Compare the sixth Egyptian plague, Exodus 9:8-12, where the Septuagint uses this word ἕλκος boil. Also of the boil or scab of leprosy, Leviticus 13:18; king Hezekiah's boil, 2 Kings 20:7; the botch of Egypt, Deuteronomy 28:27, Deuteronomy 28:35. In Job 2:7 (Sept.) the boils are described as here by πονηρός sore.

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