Revelation 9:16
And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
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(16) And the number . . .—Translate, And the number of the armies of the cavalry was two myriads of myriads. I heard the number of them. The writer heard, perhaps from some herald angel, the number of this vast army of horsemen; it was twice ten-thousand times ten thousand—i.e., two hundred millions. The number is like an echo from Psalm 68:17—“The chariots of God are twenty thousand (two myriads), even thousands (or, thousands of thousands) of angels.” This utterly bewildering number might have been sufficient to keep interpreters from looking for some slavishly literal fulfilment: it simply stands for an immense host, and may serve to point out the prolific powers of retribution—the harvest of sin is misery, multiplied thirty, sixty, one hundred-fold.

Revelation 9:16-19. The number of the army of horsemen were two hundred thousand — A description is here given of the forces, and of the means and instruments by which the Othmans should effect the ruin of the eastern empire. The armies are described as very numerous, myriads of myriads. When Mohammed the Second besieged Constantinople, he had about four hundred thousand men in his army, besides a powerful fleet of thirty larger and two hundred lesser ships. They are described, too, chiefly as horsemen; and so they are described both by Ezekiel and by Daniel; (see Bishop Newton’s last dissertation upon Daniel;) and it is well known that their armies consisted chiefly of cavalry, especially before the order of Janizaries was instituted by Amurath the First. The Timariots, or horsemen, holding lands by serving in the wars, are the strength of the government; and are in all accounted between seven and eight hundred thousand fighting men. Some say they are a million; and besides these, there are Spahis and other horsemen in the emperor’s pay.

In the vision — That is, in appearance, and not in reality, they had breast- plates of fire and of hyacinth and brimstone — The colour of fire is red, of hyacinth blue, and of brimstone yellow: and this “hath a literal accomplishment; for the Othmans, from the first time of their appearance, have affected to wear such warlike apparel of scarlet, blue, and yellow.” Of the Spahis particularly, some have red, and some have yellow standards, and others red or yellow, mixed with other colours. In appearance, too, the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions — To denote their strength, courage, and fierceness; and out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone — A manifest allusion to great guns and gunpowder, which were invented under this trumpet, and were of such signal service to the Othmans in their wars. For by these three was the third part of men killed — By these the Othmans made such havoc and destruction in the Greek or eastern empire. Amurath the Second broke into Peloponnesus, and took several strong places by means of his artillery. But his son Mohammed, at the siege of Constantinople, employed such great guns as were never made before. One is described to have been of such a monstrous size, that it was drawn by seventy yoke of oxen, and by two thousand men. Two more discharged a stone of the weight of two talents. Others emitted a stone of the weight of half a talent. But the greatest of all discharged a ball of the weight of three talents, or about three hundred pounds; and the report of this cannon is said to have been so great, that all the country round about was shaken to the distance of forty furlongs. For forty days the wall was battered by these guns, and so many breaches were made, that the city was taken by assault, and an end put to the Grecian empire.

Moreover they had power to do hurt by their tails as well as by their mouths, their tails being like unto serpents, and having heads — In this respect they very much resemble the locusts, only the different tails are accommodated to the different creatures, the tails of scorpions to locusts, the tails of serpents, with a head at each end, to horses. By this figure it is meant, that the Turks draw after them the same poisonous trains as the Saracens; they profess and propagate the same imposture, they do hurt not only by their conquests, but also by spreading their false doctrine; and wherever they establish their dominion, there too they establish their religion. Many indeed of the Greek Church remained, and are still remaining among them; but they are subjected to a capitation-tax, which is rigorously exacted from all above fourteen years of age; are burdened besides with the most heavy and arbitrary impositions; are compelled to the most servile drudgery; are abused in their persons, and robbed of their property: but notwithstanding these and greater persecutions, some remains of the Greek Church are still preserved among them, as we may reasonably conclude, to serve some great and mysterious ends of providence.

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.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 what struck the beholder was the immense and unparalleled number of horsemen.

Were two hundred thousand thousand - A thousand thousand is one million, and consequently the number here referred to would be 200 million. 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 be readily 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 uniqueness in the manner of reckoning them. The language is, "two myriads of myriads" - δύο μυριάδες μυριάδων duo muriades muriadōn. 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 numbers 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.

16. Compare with these two hundred million, Ps 68:17; Da 7:10. The hosts here are evidently, from their numbers and their appearance (Re 9:17), not merely human hosts, but probably infernal, though constrained to work out God's will (compare Re 9:1, 2).

and I heard—A, B, Aleph, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Cyprian omit "and."

He saith nothing of the infantry, but leaves us to conjecture how great that must be, from the number of the horse; we must not think there was precisely this number, but the meaning is, that the armies should be vastly great, as we know all the Turkish armies are. Magog’s army is described from the cavalry, Ezekiel 38:4,15.

And the number of the army of the horsemen,.... This shows that the four angels before mentioned were men, and design generals of armies, or armies of men, even of horsemen; and manifestly point at the Turks, who were not only originally Persians, and had their name, as some say (e), from Turca in Persia, and from whence the Persians have their name, signifies an horseman; but the armies of the Turks chiefly consisted of horse, and what for show and for use, they had generally double the number of horses and mules as of men (f); and they are very good horsemen, and very dextrous at leaping on and off (g); and the horse's tail is still carried before the general, and principal officers, as an ensign expressive of their military exploits, and showing where their main strength lies. And the number of this mighty army, it is said,

were two hundred thousand thousand; or "two myriads of myriads"; two hundred millions, or twenty thousand brigades of ten thousand each; that is, a very large and prodigious number, almost infinite and incredible, like the army of Gog and Magog, as the sand of the sea, Revelation 20:8. The Turks used to bring, and still do bring vast armies into the field: in the year 1396, Bajazet, with three hundred thousand men, fell upon sixty thousand Christians, killed twenty thousand of them, and lost sixty thousand of his own: against him afterward, in the year 1397, came Tamerlane the Tartar, with four hundred thousand horse, and six hundred thousand foot, and having killed two hundred thousand Turks, took Bajazet prisoner, and carried him about in a cage, in golden chains. In the year 1438, Amurath entered into Pannonia, with three hundred thousand horsemen: and in the year 1453, Mahomet took Constantinople with the like number (h); yea, it is said, that the army at the siege of that city consisted of forty myriads, or four hundred thousand men (i). It is reported, that the great Turk contemptuously sent to the emperor of the Romans a camel, or a dromedary, loaden with wheat, with this vow by a message, that he should bring against him as many fighting men as there were grains of wheat therein (k). And it is related (l), that when Ladislaus, king of Hungary, went out against Amurath with four and twenty thousand horse, Dracula, governor of Walachia, advised him not to attack the emperor of the Turks with so small an army, since he went out every day a hunting with more men than such a number:

and I heard the number of them; expressed by some angel, and therefore John was certain of it, otherwise he could not have told them.

(e) Laonic. Chalcocondylas de reb. Turc. l. 1. p. 6. (f) Ib. l. 7. p. 227, 255. (g) Laonic. Chalcocond. l. 2. p. 65. (h) Alsted. Chronol. p. 321. (i) Laonic. Chalcocond. l. 7. p. 255. (k) Napier in loc. (l) Bonfinius apud Pareum in loc.

And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
Revelation 9:16-19. Description of the army led by the four released angels; its immense size, Revelation 9:16; its supernatural nature, and terrible effect (Revelation 9:17-19.)

τοῦ ἵππου. The explanatory variations τοῦ ἱππικοῦ and τῶν ἵππων arose from the offence taken because John did not write, in accordance with classical usage, τῆς ἵππου.

δισμυριάδες μυριάδων; i.e., two hundred millions.

ἥκουσα, κ.τ.λ., is added by asyndeton, since an explanation is necessary as to whence it was that John knew of the immense number.[2652] Beda, who prefers to render the Greek expression by “bis myriades myridaum,” than with the Vulg., “vicies millies dena millia,” finds here “a deceitful duplicity of the perverse army.” Beng. thinks that the Turkish army could readily have reached that number; viz., in the course of the entire two hundred and seven years of their dominion (cf. Revelation 9:15). Hengstenb. recognizes the unnaturalness of the number, and concludes thence that it is meant allegorically; it is to be ascribed to no particular war, but to “the class personified,” as in all the preceding trumpet-visions. But since the army itself, Revelation 9:17 sqq., is not described allegorically, the number can be allegorical as little as the local designation, Revelation 9:14 : but this number is likewise schematical;[2653] i.e., the army, which is on all occasions beheld as definite, individual, and supernatural in its entire character, appears also in a concrete but supernatural numerical quantity. An allusion to Psalm 68:18 may be regarded as the substratum of the concrete number here presented to the prophet in his vision. [See Note LXI., p. 293.] That John, when he now wishes to describe the horses and riders seen by him (καὶ οὕτως εἰδον, κ.τ.λ.), adds explicitly ἐν τῇ ὁράσει to the εἰδον τ. ἵππ., can occasion surprise only as this formula, ordinarily employed by the ancient prophets,[2654] does not occur more frequently in the Apoc.; but from the fact that it is nowhere found except in this passage, although it could stand everywhere with the εἶδον indicating a prophetic ὅρασις, nothing less follows than that the present vision has an allegorical meaning, as Beng. and Hengstenb.[2655] affirm; the latter of whom, spiritualizing throughout, says, “In the vision every thing is seen; that which is inner must imprint itself on what is outward, the spiritual must assume a body;” and thus in the color of the breastplate, described immediately afterwards, he sees only a “pictorial expression” of the murderous spirit of the soldiers, who are to be understood literally. But even granting that the idea of vision here presupposed were correct, the εἰδον, in itself, would here, as everywhere, point to this allegorizing. For, why should we find just here the express addition ἐν τῇ ὁράσει? In it, no intention whatever is to be perceived, and least of all, that of giving an exegetical hint: it is possible, therefore, that John here added the ἐν τῇ ὅρασει to his εἱδον involuntarily, because, in the sixth trumpet-vision, what has thus far been advanced is what he has heard, while he now intends to describe the forms as they appeared to him in the vision.

The first part of the description, ἔχοντας θώρακας

θείωδεις, is referred by Beng., Ewald, De Wette, Hengstenb., Bleek, only to τοὺς καθημένους ἐπʼ αὐτ., as if the description of the horses were given uninterruptedly and completely, only after that of the riders had been given more incidentally. But Züll. and Ebrard have more correctly referred the ἔχοντας, κ.τ.λ., to the horses and the riders; for it is the more improbable that the first feature of the description, which is expressly stated to be a description of the horses, should not apply to them, as the color of the breastplates has a correspondence with the things proceeding from the mouths of the horses. In general, the treatment is not concerning the riders, but the horses; so that the words καὶ τ. καθημ. ἐπʼ αὐτ. contain only what is incidental, and in no way hinder the reference of ἔχ. θώρ., κ.τ.λ., to τ. ἳππουσ.

θώρακας πυρίνους, κ.τ.λ. The πυρνους and the θειώδεις designate, just as the ὑακίνθινους, only the color;[2656] and, besides, there are three colors to be regarded in their particularity, because they correspond to the three things coming from the mouths of the horses.[2657] The ὙΑΚΙΝΘΊΝΟΥς, which designates dark red,[2658] corresponds excellently with the succeeding ΚΑΠΝΌς.

The heads of the horses were like the heads of lions, possibly similar to lion heads in the size of the mouths and the length of the manes;[2659] it is a definite, monstrous appearance, that is represented, and not in general that the heads of the horses are “fierce and terrible,”[2660] which, of course, is suited better to the allegorical explanation.

Κ. ἘΚ Τ. ΣΤΟΜΆΤΩΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ. How seriously the description is meant, may be inferred from the fact, that in Revelation 9:18 the fire, the smoke, and the sulphur, proceeding from the mouths of the horses, are expressly designated as the three plagues whereby[2661] these armies are to slay men, just as the locusts tormented them with their scorpion stings. Fire, smoke, and sulphur—of which the latter, according to the analogy of Revelation 21:8, Revelation 14:10, Revelation 19:20, indicates the infernal nature of the plagues[2662]—are as little intended to be allegorical as, e.g., the famine or the killing in the seal-visions.[2663] The allegorical interpretation, therefore, manifests also here the most singularly arbitrary expedients. They who understand the whole of heretics interpret the fire as “the desire for injuring;” the smoke, as “the seeming zeal of faith,” because smoke is blue like the heavens; the sulphur, as “the deformity of vices.”[2664] Similar is the interpretation in Aret., Luther, Calov., etc., who think, it is true, of the Turks, but have especially in view their erroneous doctrine. What proceeds from the mouths of the horses is, according to Calov., properly the Koran, which comprehends within itself “sulphurous lust, the smoke of false doctrines, and the fires of wars.” To expositors who understand the armies, Revelation 9:16 sqq., of actual soldiers,—even notwithstanding the fact that what is said in the text refers not to horsemen, the supposed “cavalrymen,” so much as to the horses,—nothing is readier than to ascribe the fire, smoke, and sulphur, to fiery missiles. Much more correctly, therefore, from the standpoint of the allegory, did, e.g., Grotius understand the firebrands cast into Jerusalem,[2665] than Hengstenb., who understands “the fierce animosity, the spirit of murder, and lust for destruction,” described by personification as soldiers; after the example of Bengel, who only is unwilling to think of cannon and powder-smoke, because the followers of Mohammed did not, as yet, possess such implements of war.

ἡ γὰρ ἐξουσία, κ.τ.λ. Cf. Revelation 9:3; Revelation 9:10. With reference to Revelation 9:18, it is especially emphasized, that the proper power of the horses lies in their mouths; besides this, a second point is added, καὶ ἐν ταῖς οὐραῖς αὐτων. But in how far there is also in the tails an ἐξουσία, is explained (γὰρ): αἱ γὰρ οὐραὶ αὐτῶν ὁμοιαι ὅφεσιν, κ.τ.λ. The tails of the horses are, therefore, serpent-like,[2666] especially because these tails have heads; so that they are such as to do injury (ἐν αὐταῖς, sc., οὐραις, ἀδικ.). It is entirely inapplicable to explain this feature in the description of the monstrous horses, from the analogy of the ancient fiction[2667] concerning the so-called ἀμφίσβαινα (i.e., the serpent moving forwards and backwards) with two heads;[2668] since here nothing whatever is said of two-headed serpents, but instead of the usual horse-tail, something in serpent form, viz., which has a serpent’s head, is presented.

Hengstenb.[2669] finds here the “malignity” of war symbolized. But why should Bengel be mistaken, who explains that the horsemen (the Turks), even when they turn their backs and seem to flee, do injury? Or is it not still more consistent when Grot. mentions, with reference to this, that with the ancients infantry frequently sat back of the cavalry? Volkm., without seeming to exercise the best judgment, is satisfied with referring this to the kicking-back of the horses.

[2652] Cf. Revelation 7:4.

[2653] Cf. Revelation 7:4.

[2654] Cf. Daniel 8:2; Daniel 9:21.

[2655] Klief. also, who explains (p. 152) the troops of riders identical with the “worldly war-power” described in Revelation 9:1-12, which now proceeds to slay men.

[2656] Against Züll., who understands a breastplate of copper, blue steel, and brass. Cf. also Eichh., who thinks of an iron and bronze breastplate polished and shining in the sunlight. Still more inaptly, Heinr.: πυρ. is truly fiery; ὑακινθ. signifies polished steel; θειωδ., exhaling a sulphurous odor.

[2657] Against Ewald: “Regard therefore the red, shining, and glowing colors brought together in order to denote the height of brilliancy.”

[2658] See the lexicons.

[2659] Ewald.

[2660] Beng., Hengstenb.

[2661] ἀπὸ. Cf. Winer, p. 348.

[2662] Hengstenb.

[2663] The classical myth, in accordance with which Ovid (Met., vii. 104 sq.) writes:—

[2664] N. de Lyra. Cf. also Ebrard.

[2665] “They seemed to proceed from the mouth of the horses, because they flew from before their mouths.”

[2666] See on Revelation 9:10.

[2667] Wetst., Beng., Herd., Ew., etc.

[2668] Plin., H. N., viii. 35: “The double head of the amphisbaenae, i.e., also at the tail.”

[2669] Cf. also Stern, Ebrard.

“Ecce, adamanteis vulcanum naribus efflant Acripedes tauri, tactaeque vaporibus herbae Ardent.”

[“So the brazen-footed oxen breathe fire from their adamantine nostrils, and the grass touched by the vapors glows”], (cf. Virg., Georg. 2:140: “Tauri spirantes naribus ignem,” “Oxen breathing fire from their nostrils”), may be compared, as it expresses with all seriousness that those oxen were actually fire-breathing.


LXI. Revelation 9:16. δισμυριάδες μυριάδων

Beck interprets the number literally, and explains it by colossal military expeditions and wars to occur throughout the whole world, as intimated by Revelation 9:15; Revelation 9:18, τὸ τρίτον τῶν ἀνθρώπων, and Revelation 9:20, οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων: “a universal war involving all races of men, analogous to the migrations of nations, the first appearance of Mohammedanism, the Crusades,” and illustrates its probability by referring to the now estimated one thousand millions of the earth’s inhabitants.

Revelation 9:16. The second woe is an irruption of fiendish cavalry.

16. of the horsemen] It is implied that the way the four angels will slay the third part of men will be by means of a vast invading army. The word rendered “horsemen” is not here plural but collective, as we should say “the cavalry.” But it is not that he gives the number of one arm only of an army containing more: apparently this army consists of cavalry exclusively. This illustrates the use of the name Euphrates, just so far as to make it possible that the image was suggested to St John’s mind by the fact that the Parthian cavalry were the most formidable barbarian force of his own day. More than this we can hardly say, as to the meaning of the vision, and any partial fulfilment that it may have had or be about to have.

two hundred thousand thousand] The number is perhaps suggested by Psalm 68:17 : still, it hardly seems as if these horsemen were celestial (like those of Revelation 19:14), though they are not distinctly infernal, like the locusts of the previous visions.

and I heard] Omit “and.”

Revelation 9:16. Δισμυριάδες μυριάδων) A chiliad is 1000; but a myriad, 10,000. Myriads (the plural number being taken in its strictest sense, for a twofold number, as ch. Revelation 12:14), 20,000. Therefore one chiliad of chiliads is 1,000,000; a chiliad of myriads is 10,000,000; a myriad of myriads, 100,000,000; myriads of myriads, 200,000,000. But what are δισμυριάδες μυριάδων, δὶς being added in the best copies[102] to the plural number of myriads? ΔΙΣΜΎΡΙΟΙ often occurs in the 2d Book of Maccabees. Thence ΔΙΣΜΥΡΙᾺς (like ΔΙΣΧΙΛΙᾺς, the former part of the compound being unchangeable, as is the case with numerals), that is, a myriad doubled [400 millionen, auf das wenigste.—Not. Crit.]: such as also are those expressions, Genesis 32:2, two camps; Ecclesiastes 6:6, a thousand years twice (told); Psalm 68:17, two myriads, thousands upon thousands: Geier especially being the interpreter. Whoever translated it in Primasius, as 80,000, was neither a Grecian nor an arithmetician: and yet he also appears to have read δισμυριάδες μυριάδων, as others did in Primasius; and, unless I am deceived, he at first thought that myriads of myriads, which appeared to denote something squared, were four myriads, or 40,000: then having doubled this very sum, on account of the particle δὶς, he took it as 80,000, when there were in reality 400,000,000 horsemen. The Apocalypse expresses in a twofold manner several periods of times, especially under the first and third woe: but it marks the duration of the second woe once only, by an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year; and in turn under that woe, instead of a second indication of time, it indicates the number of equestrian armies, that is, of the horsemen. The second woe is a period of about 207 years of men: therefore for every year (if there arose other or fresh horsemen every year) the immense body of 2,000,000, or at least, if that δὶς is not satisfactory to any one, 1,000,000 horsemen, are collected. When John adds, that their number was heard by him, he hints, that the certain number specified, if it is put for an uncertain one, yet has not a wide uncertainty; and that the greatness of the number, however incredible it may appear, is still to be credited. At the last even a greater multitude springs forth: ch. Revelation 20:8.

[102] A and Cypr. have δισμυριάδες.: Vulg. “vicies millies dena millia:” Rec. Text, δύο μυρ.: B, μυριαδες.—E.

Verse 16. - And the number of the army of the horsemen; and the number of the armies of the cavalry. No horsemen have hitherto been Minded to; but they are apparently the destroying host under the direction of the four angels. The symbol is, no doubt, chosen to signify power, of which horsemen or cavalry are an emblem. Were two hundred thousand thousand; or, twice myriads of myriads (cf. Jude 1:14-16, which is a quotation from Enoch; also Daniel 7:10). The number is, of course, not to be taken literally, but as signifying an exceeding great multitude. And I heard the number of them. Omit "and." St. John "heard the number" possibly from one of the elders, who had before instructed him (cf. Revelation 7:13). He states this, since so vast a multitude would be innumerable. Revelation 9:16Of the horsemen (τοῦ ἱππικοῦ)

Singular number, like the English the horse or the cavalry.

Two hundred thousand thousand (δύο μυριάδες μυριάδων)

Lit., two ten-thousands of ten-thousands. See on Revelation 5:11. Rev., twice ten-thousand times ten-thousand. Compare Psalm 68:17; Daniel 7:10; Hebrews 12:22; Jde 1:14.

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