Revelation 8:9
And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
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8:7-13 The first angel sounded the first trumpet, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood. A storm of heresies, a mixture of dreadful errors falling on the church, or a tempest of destruction. The second angel sounded, and a great mountain, burning with fire, was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood. By this mountain some understand leaders of the persecutions; others, Rome sacked by the Goths and Vandals, with great slaughter and cruelty. The third angel sounded, and there fell a star from heaven. Some take this to be an eminent governor; others take it to be some person in power who corrupted the churches of Christ. The doctrines of the gospel, the springs of spiritual life, comfort, and vigour, to the souls of men, are corrupted and made bitter by the mixture of dangerous errors, so that the souls of men find ruin where they sought refreshment. The fourth angel sounded, and darkness fell upon the great lights of heaven, that give light to the world, the sun, and the moon, and the stars. The guides and governors are placed higher than the people, and are to dispense light, and kind influences to them. Where the gospel comes to a people, and has not proper effects on their hearts and lives, it is followed with dreadful judgments. God gives alarm by the written word, by ministers, by men's own consciences, and by the signs of the times; so that if people are surprised, it is their own fault. The anger of God makes all comforts bitter, and even life itself burdensome. But God, in this world, sets bounds to the most terrible judgments. Corruption of doctrine and worship in the church are great judgments, and also are the usual causes and tokens of other judgments coming on a people. Before the other three trumpets were sounded, there was solemn warning how terrible the calamities would be that should follow. If lesser judgments do not take effect the church and the world must expect greater; and when God comes to punish the world, the inhabitants shall tremble before him. Let sinners take warning to flee from the wrath to come; let believers learn to value and to be thankful for their privileges; and let them patiently continue in well doing.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 fulfillment 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. 306ff). This occurred 428-468 ad.

(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 toward 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 connection 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 neighboring 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 harbor 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 Goaderic" (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 could 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 Hermanric, 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 seashore 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 east his eyes toward 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 ship-building; he animated his daring Vandals to embrace a mode of warfare which would render every 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 (455 a.d., on the death of Maximus) Genseric boldly advanced from the port of Ostia to the gates of the defenseless 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 (457 a.d.) endeavored 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 favorable 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 300 large galleys, with an adequate proportion of transports and smaller vessels, was collected in the secure and capacious harbor 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 further 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 until 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 if Genseric himself deigned to issue more precise orders, he judged the most wealthy to be the most criminal.


9. The symbolical interpreters take the ships here to be churches. For the Greek here for ships is not the common one, but that used in the Gospels of the apostolic vessel in which Christ taught: and the first churches were in the shape of an inverted ship: and the Greek for destroyed is also used of heretical corruptings (1Ti 6:5). Phrases all signifying the miserable catastrophe that should follow the destruction of this city, by the slaughter of men, the ruin of houses and towns in Italy, &c. History (as Mr. Mede showeth) excellently agreeth with this. In the year 410, Rome was taken by Alaricus; this was followed with great devastations both in France and Spain. Honorius, to recover the empire, was glad to give the Goths a seat and government in France, and the Burgundians and Vandals a place near unto the river Rhone; and, Anno 415, to the Vandals a place in Spain; and, Anno 455, Rome was again taken by Gensericus the Vandal, who divided the whole empire into ten kingdoms:

1. That of the Britrons, ruled by Vortimer.

2. The Saxons, ruled by Hengist.

3. The Franks, ruled by Childeric.

4. The Burgundians, ruled by Gundericus.

5. The Visigoths, ruled by Theodoricus II.

6. The Alans and Suevi, ruled by Riciarius.

7. The Vandals, ruled by Gensericus.

8. The Germans, ruled by Sumanus.

9. The Ostrogoths, ruled by Theodemirus.

10. The Grecians, ruled by Marcianus.

This is the sum of what Mr. Mede saith, and to this tract of time, between the years 410 and 455, the second trumpet seemeth to relate.

And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea,.... The fishes; by whom men are meant, the inhabitants of the Roman empire; see Ezekiel 29:4, where by fish the Targum understands mighty princes and governors:

and had life, died; were put to death by these savage and barbarous people, who killed all they met with, men, women, and children, young and old, rich and poor, high and low:

and the third part of the ships were destroyed; by which may be designed either the cities and towns within such a part of the Roman jurisdiction, which were burnt or plundered by them; or their goods and effects, which they pillaged, and carried off the wealth and riches of the people, even all their substance, as Austin (p) and Jerom (q), who lived in those times, affirm.

(p) De Civitate Dei, l. 1. c. 10. vid. L. Vivem in ib. (q) Ad Eustochium.

And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
Revelation 8:9. Διεφθάρησαν[93]) See App. Ed. ii. The Singular number, at the beginning of a sentence, creates no difficulty: for the singular is followed by the plural also in Revelation 8:7, ἘΓΈΝΕΤΟ ΧΆΛΑΖΑ ΚΑῚ ΠῦΡ ΜΕΜΙΓΜΈΝΑ ἘΝ ΑἽΜΑΤΙ. That is a similar instance which Wolf notices, a third part of the men were slain: ch. Revelation 9:18.

[93] A has διεφθάρησαν. Bh Vulg. have διεφθάρη: so Rec. Text—E.

Revelation 8:9Life (ψυχὰς)

See on 3 John 1:2.

Ships (πλοίων)

See on Luke 5:2.

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