Revelation 9:10
And they had tails like to scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
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(10)And they had tails . . .—Better, And they have tails like to scorpions, and stings, and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months. In this verse the secret of their power is mentioned: they have tails like scorpions’ tails, and stings which wound and so cause agony to men. On the period of five months, see Revelation 9:5. In the exposition of this passage it is utterly vain to look for features of the ordinary natural locust corresponding to the several particulars set forth by the sacred seer: this is admitted even by those who seem anxious to find such counterparts. “We must regard the comparison as rather belonging to the supernatural portion of our description.” The rule is a good one. Like the description of the Divine Presence in Revelation 4, most of the visions of the book are incapable of pictorial realisation without incongruities which would be grotesque and profane; nor need we be surprised, since the principles and truths are the main points with the writer. This general rule must be kept in mind if we would avoid the danger of dwelling too much on the bearing of details. It is not in the locust that we shall find even the suggestive basis of the details in the description here. The smoke rises from the pit of the abyss; the heaven is darkened, and out of the smoke emerges the pitchy cloud of locusts. The seer then adds certain characteristics of this locust plague, partly drawn from the earlier prophets, but, as his custom is, with some original additions. They are locusts, but they have the malice of scorpions; they advance like horse-soldiers to battle; they wear crowns; they bear a resemblance to men; there is something womanlike also in their appearance, and in their voracity they are as lions. The exigencies of the symbolism are quite beyond the features of the ordinary locust: the sacred writer shows us a plague in which devastation, malice, kinglike authority, intelligence, seductiveness, fierceness, strength, meet together under one directing spirit, to torment men. Some parts may be purely graphic, as Alford says, but surely the vision shows us a great symbolical army multitudinous as locusts, malicious as scorpions, ruling as kings, intelligent as men, wily as womanhood, bold and fierce as lions, resistless as those clad in iron armour. The symbolism of course must not be pressed too closely, but its meaning must be allowed to widen as new elements are added, especially when those elements are not suggested by anything in the locust itself, but are additions clearly designed to give force to the symbol employed. The locust-like army has characteristics partly human, partly diabolical, partly civilised, partly barbarous. They have been variously interpreted: the historical school have seen in them the Saracens under Mohammed, who gave to them a religion which was “essentially a military system;” others are inclined to refer them to “the hordes of Goths and others whose unkempt locks and savage ferocity” resemble this locust host. There is a good ground for taking the vision to prefigure the hosts of a fierce invading army. Even those who believe that Joel’s prophecy foretold a plague of literal locusts, yet acknowledge that these “may in a subsidiary manner” represent “the northern, or Assyrian enemies of Judah” (Introduction to Joel, Speaker’s Commentary). But, as the writer there says, these were “themselves types of still future scourges;” so may we see here a vision which neither the history of the Zealots, nor that of Gothic hordes, nor of Saracens, have exhausted, but one which draws our thoughts mainly to its spiritual and moral bearing, and teaches us that in the history of advancing truth there will come times when confused ideas will darken simple truth and right, and out of the darkness will emerge strange and mongrel teachings, with a certain enforced unity, but without moral harmony, a medley of fair and hideous, reasonable and barbarous, dignified and debased, which enslave and torment mankind. The outcome of these teachings is oftentimes war and tyrannous oppression; but the sacred seer teaches us distinctly that those who hold fast by the seal of God are those who cannot be injured, for he would have us remember that the true sting of false conceptions is not in the havoc of open war, but in the wounded soul and conscience. Nor is it altogether out of place to notice (by way of one example) that the power of Mohammed was more in a divided and debased Christendom than in his own creed or sword; the smoke of ill-regulated opinions and erroneous teachings preceded the scourge. Here, as in other parts of the book, we may notice that subtle, plausible errors pave the way for dire troubles and often sanguinary revolutions. Falsehoods and false worships that have been diffused over the world become “the forerunners and foretellers of a conflict between the powers of good and evil.” Yet as the trumpet sounds we know that every battle is a step towards the end of a victorious war.

Revelation 9:10-11. They had tails like unto scorpions — They are thrice compared to scorpions, namely, Revelation 9:3; Revelation 9:5, as well as in this verse. But whether these tails and stings, as of scorpions, were designed to express that these Saracens should spread the poison of error and delusion where they came, or only to signify the great pain and uneasiness their invasion should occasion, seems doubtful. Bishop Newton, however, interprets the metaphor in the former sense, as intended to signify, that wherever they carried their arms, there also they should distil the venom of a false religion. And their power was to hurt men five months — “One difficulty,” says Bishop Newton, “and the greatest of all, remains yet to be explained; and that is the period of five months assigned to these locusts, which being twice mentioned, merits the more particular consideration. They tormented men five months, Revelation 9:5; and again here, their power was to hurt men five months. It is said, without doubt, in conformity to the type; for locusts are observed to live about five months; that is, from April to September. Scorpions, too, as Bochart asserts, are noxious for no longer a term, the cold rendering them torpid and inactive. But of these locusts it is said, not that their duration or existence was only for five months, but their power of hurting and tormenting men continued five months. Now, these months may either be months commonly so taken; or prophetic months, consisting each of thirty days, as St. John reckons them, and so making one hundred and fifty years, at the rate of each day for a year; or the number being repeated twice, the sums may be thought to be doubled, and five months and five months, in prophetic computation, will amount to three hundred years. If these months be taken for common months, then, as the natural locusts live and do hurt only in the five summer months, so the Saracens, in the five summer months too, made their excursions, and retreated again in the winter. It appears that this was their usual practice, and particularly when they first besieged Constantinople in the time of Constantine Pogonatus. For from the month of April to September, they pertinaciously continued the siege, and then, despairing of success, departed to Cyzicum, where they wintered, and in spring again renewed the war: and this course they held for seven years, as the Greek annals tell us. If these months be taken for prophetic months, or one hundred and fifty years, it was within that space of time that the Saracens made their principal conquests. Their empire might subsist much longer, but their power of hurting and tormenting men was exerted chiefly within that period. Read the history of the Saracens, and you will find that their greatest exploits were performed, their greatest conquests were made, between the year 612, when Mohammed first opened the bottomless pit, and began publicly to teach and propagate his imposture, and the year 762, when the Calif Almansor built Bagdad, to fix there the seat of his empire, and called it the city of peace. Syria, Persia, India, and the greatest part of Asia; Egypt, and the greatest part of Africa; Spain, and some parts of Europe, were all subdued in the intermediate time. But when the califs, who before had removed from place to place, fixed their habitation at Bagdad, then the Saracens ceased from their incursions and ravages, like locusts, and became a settled nation; then they made no more such rapid and amazing conquests as before, but only engaged in common and ordinary wars, like other nations; then their power and glory began to decline, and their empire by little and little to moulder away; then they had no longer, like the prophetic locusts, one king over them; Spain having revolted in the year 736, and set up another calif in opposition to the reigning house of Abbas. If these months be taken doubly, or for three hundred years, then, according to Sir Isaac Newton, ‘the whole time that the califs of the Saracens reigned with a temporal dominion at Damascus and Bagdad together, was three hundred years; namely, from the year 637 to the year 936 inclusive; when their mighty empire was broken and divided into several principalities or kingdoms. So that, let these five months be taken in any possible construction, the event will still answer, and the prophecy will still be fulfilled; though the second method of interpretation and application appears much more probable than either the first or the third. And they had a king over them — By this is signified that the same person should exercise temporal as well as spiritual sovereignty over them; and the califs were their emperors, as well as the heads of their religion. The king is the same as the star or angel of the bottomless pit, whose name is Abaddon in Hebrew, and Apollyon in Greek; that is, the destroyer. Mede imagines that this is some allusion to the name of Obodas, the common name of the kings of that part of Arabia from whence Mohammed came, as Pharaoh was the common name of the kings of Egypt, and Cesar of the emperors of Rome; and such allusions are not unusual in the style of Scripture. However that be, the name agrees perfectly well with Mohammed, and the califs his successors, who were the authors of all those horrid wars and desolations, and openly taught and professed their religion was to be propagated and established by the sword.9:1-12 Upon sounding the fifth trumpet, a star fell from heaven to the earth. Having ceased to be a minister of Christ, he who is represented by this star becomes the minister of the devil; and lets loose the powers of hell against the churches of Christ. On the opening of the bottomless pit, there arose a great smoke. The devil carries on his designs by blinding the eyes of men, by putting out light and knowledge, and promoting ignorance and error. Out of this smoke there came a swarm of locusts, emblems of the devil's agents, who promote superstition, idolatry, error, and cruelty. The trees and the grass, the true believers, whether young or more advanced, should be untouched. But a secret poison and infection in the soul, should rob many others of purity, and afterwards of peace. The locusts had no power to hurt those who had the seal of God. God's all-powerful, distinguishing grace will keep his people from total and final apostacy. The power is limited to a short season; but it would be very sharp. In such events the faithful share the common calamity, but from the pestilence of error they might and would be safe. We collect from Scripture, that such errors were to try and prove the Christians, 1Co 11:19. And early writers plainly refer this to the first great host of corrupters who overspread the Christian church.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 the notes on Revelation 9:7.

And there were stings in their tails - Like the stings of scorpions. See the notes on Revelation 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 subsubstance 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 people, but to inflict on them various kinds of tortures. See the notes on Revelation 9:5. The word used here - ἀδικῆσαι adikēsai, rendered "to hurt" - is different from the word in Revelation 9:5 - βασανισθῶσιν basanisthōsin, 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 deeding unjustly with them. It does not appear that the wrong would be by inflicting bodily torments, but would be characterized by that injustice toward others which produces distress and anguish.

Five months - See the notes on Revelation 9:5; (also Editor's Preface).

10. tails like unto scorpions—like unto the tails of scorpions.

and there were stings—There is no oldest manuscript for this reading. A, B, Aleph, Syriac, and Coptic read, "and (they have) stings: and in their tails (is) their power (literally, 'authority': authorized power) to hurt."

And they had tails like unto scorpions; a kind of venomous serpents that have their

stings in their tails, with which they presently kill both men and beasts.

And their power was to hurt men five months; what these five months mean is very hard to say; certainly it is a certain number for an uncertain, and mentioned rather than any other time, because it is (as they say) the usual time of the life of locusts; though some observe, that five months have in them (counting as the Hebrews, thirty days to the month) one hundred and fifty days, and a day standing for a year, as in prophetical writings, it denoteth the just time the Saracens raged in Italy, from the year 830 to the year 980; as to which I refer my reader to search histories. And they had tails like unto scorpions,.... Locusts are said to have the tail of a serpent, and of the vipers of the earth (u); See Gill on Revelation 9:3, Revelation 9:5. And there were stings in their tails; either in the baser sort of them, the Saracens and Papists; or in their doctrines, the prophet being the tail, Isaiah 9:15; with which both Mahomet, who set himself up for a prophet, and the Romish clergy, who set up their decrees and unwritten traditions above the word of God, have poisoned and destroyed multitudes of souls:

and their power was to hurt men five months; See Gill on Revelation 9:5.

(u) Scriptores Arab.

{7} And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.

(7) The form of these hellish spirits and administers, is outlined by signs and visible figures in this manner: that they are very expert and swift: that wherever they are in the world, the kingdom is theirs: that they manage all their affairs with cunning and skill, in this verse: that making show of mildness and tender affection to draw on men with, they most impudently rage in all mischief: that they are most mighty to do hurt Re 9:8 that they are freed from being hurt by any man, as armed with the colour of religion and sacred authority of privilege: that they fill all things with horror, Re 9:9 that they are fraudulent: that they are poisonous and extremely offensive though their power is limited. Re 9:10. All these things are found in the infernal powers and communicated by them to their ministers and vassals.

10. And they had … in their tails] Read, And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings: and in their tails [is] their power, to hurt,” &c.Verse 10. - And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings (Revised Version). The next words are included in the following clause. Not that their tails possessed the appearance of scorpions (as Bengel, Hengstenberg, and others), but that their tails were like the tails of scorpions in respect of having stings in them. Cf. 2 Samuel 22:34; Psalm 18:33, "He maketh my feet like hands" (omit "feet"); also Revelation 13:11, "Two horns like a lamb" (see the description of the scorpion quoted above, under ver. 3). And their power was to hurt men five months; and in their tails is their power to hurt, etc. (Revised Version) (see the preceding clause). As no Greek manuscript gives the reading of the Textus Receptus followed by the Authorized Version, the probability is that this is an example of a passage in which the Greek of his edition was supplied by Erasmus, by the simple process of retranslating into Greek the Vulgate Version. By the possession of the noxious sting, the locusts here described are represented as being yet more terrible than the natural locusts. (See the description of the locusts given under ver. 3. For the signification of the "five months," see on ver. 5.) They limit the period of this judgment to the time of man's existence on this earth.
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