Revelation 9:3
And there came out of the smoke locusts on the earth: and to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) And there came . . .—Better, And out of the smoke there came forth locusts upon the earth; and there was given to them power, as the scorpions of the earth (? land-scorpions) have power. The outcome of the gloom is the power of devastation and pain. We still have reference to the Egyptian plagues—this time to the locusts (Exodus 10:12-15): “They covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened.” Similarly, Joel describes the darkening of the land through the plague of locusts (Joel 2:3-10): “The sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.” But the locusts of our vision are armed with the power of scorpions, to sting and to torture (Revelation 9:5): the scorpions are called scorpions of the earth. Some have thought that this expression is equivalent to land-scorpions, in contradistinction from so-called sea-scorpions. This hardly seems likely or necessary. Their power to torment men is the prominent idea. The locusts are not literal locusts: this scorpion- like power given to them is enough to convince us of this, even it the next verse did not clearly show it. The scorpion-like power seems to depict a malicious energy, as the locusts depict a devastating multitude.

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 there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth - That is, they escaped from the pit with the smoke. At first they were mingled with the smoke, so that they were not distinctly seen, but when the smoke cleared away they appeared in great numbers. The idea seems to be, that the bottomless pit was filled with vapor and with those creatures, and that as soon as the gate was opened the whole contents expanded and burst forth upon the earth. The sun was immediately darkened, and the air was full, but the smoke soon cleared away, so that the locusts became distinctly visible. The appearance of these locusts is described in another part of the chapter, Revelation 9:7 ff. The locust is a voracious insect belonging to the grasshopper or grylli genus, and is a great scourge in Oriental countries. A full description of the locust may be seen in Robinson's Calmet, and in Kitto's Encyclo. vol. ii. pp. 258ff. There are ten Hebrew words to denote the locust, and there are numerous references to the destructive habits of the insect in the Scriptures. In fact, from their numbers and their destructive habits, there was scarcely any other plague that was so much dreaded in the East. Considered as a symbol, or emblem, the following remarks may be made in explanation:

(1) The symbol is Oriental, and would most naturally refer to something that was to occur in the East. As locusts have appeared chiefly in the East, and as they are in a great measure an Oriental plague, the mention of this symbol would most naturally turn the thoughts to that portion of the earth. The symbols of the first four trumpets had no special locality, and would suggest no particular part of the world; but on the mention of this, the mind would be naturally turned to the East, and we should expect to find that the scene of this woe would be located in the regions where the ravages of locusts most abounded. Compare, on this point, Elliott, Horae Apoc. i. 394-406. He has made it probable that the prophets, when they used symbolical language to denote any events, commonly, at least, employed those which had a local or geographical reference; thus, in the symbols derived from the vegetable kingdom, when Judah is to be symbolized, the olive, the vine, and the fig-tree are selected; when Egypt is referred to, the reed is chosen; when Babylon, the willow. And so, in the animal kingdom, the lion is the symbol of Judah; the wild ass, of the Arabs; the crocodile, of Egypt, etc. Whether this theory could be wholly carried out or not, no one can doubt that the symbol of locusts would most naturally suggest the Oriental world, and that the natural interpretation of the passage would lead us to expect its fulfillment there.

(2) locusts were remarkable for their numbers - so great often as to appear like clouds, and to darken the sky. In this respect they would naturally be symbolical of numerous armies or hosts of men. This natural symbol of numerous armies is often employed by the prophets. Thus, in Jeremiah 46:23;

"Cut down her forests (i. e. her people, or cities), saith Jehovah,

That it may not be found on searching;

Although they surpass the locusts in multitude,

And they are without number."

So in Nahum 3:15;

"There shall the fire devour thee;

The sword shall cut thee off; it shall devour thee as the locust,

Increase thyself as the numerous locusts."

So also in Nahum 3:17;

"Thy crowned princes are as the numerous locusts,

And thy captains as the grasshoppers;

continued...

3. upon—Greek, "unto," or "into."

as the scorpions of the earth—as contrasted with the "locusts" which come up from hell, and are not "of the earth."

have power—namely, to sting.

And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth; from the influence which the devil thus let loose had upon the world, came forth a generation of men, that in their practices resembled locusts. Who are to be understood by these locusts, is not easy to resolve. The locusts were an insect with which God sometimes plagued the Egyptians; they are much in the Eastcrn countries. It was an east wind which brought them upon Egypt, Exodus 10:12,13. God often hath punished people with them, they are therefore threatened, or mentioned as a judgment in case of disobedience, Deu 28:38,42 1 Kings 8:37 Joel 1:4 Joel 2:25. Two things are to be remarked of them:

1. They were wont to go in infinite numbers: Proverbs 30:27: They go forth by bands: Nahum 3:15, Make thyself many as the locusts: without number, Psalm 105:34.

2. The mischief they do is expressed there, Psalm 105:35, to eat up the herbs of the land, and to devour the fruit of the ground: so they did in Egypt.

We have a little specimen of them in our caterpillars in times of drought, usually caused from the wind hanging long in the east. The psalmist, Psalm 105:34, joineth the locusts and the caterpillars together. By the following description of these locusts, and the mischief which they did, Revelation 9:4,7-10, it appeareth plainly that these were no natural, but metaphorical locusts, men that, for their numbers and the mischief they did in the world, did resemble locusts; but who these were is the question. I find but two opinions that have any probability: the one is of a late learned writer, who judgeth them the popish clergy, to whom, indeed, many things agree.

1. They come out of the smoke, that is, the great influence which the devil hath upon the world.

2. They are numerous.

3. Their king is Abaddon; they destroy every green herb, nipping religion, in all places, in the bud.

But I cannot see how two or three things can agree to them:

1. That they do no hurt to the Lord’s sealed ones, whenas their particular malice is against the purest and strictest profession.

2. That they do not kill, but only torment men, Revelation 9:5.

3. And (which is the greatest) I cannot see how the period of time agreeth to them.

For this prophecy seemeth to respect the sixth and seventh age; and though all these things agree to the Romish clergy in later ages, especially since the Jesuits grew numerous, which is not much above one hundred and twenty years since, yet these three did not so agree to the Romish clergy in the sixth and seventh age. Their Benedictine orders began but in the year 530, and their orders of Dominicans, much more mischievous, not till upwards of the year 1200; the Jesuits, after the year 1500. I therefore rather agree with the learned and judicious Mr. Mede, with whom I also find John Napier and others agreeing, that by these locusts are meant the Turks and Saracens.

1. Their time agreeth; for they first appeared formidably to the world about the year 620.

2. They were always very numerous.

3. They came the locusts’ road, from Arabia, and the eastern parts.

The Arabians (which the Saracens are) are called the children of the east, and said to be like grasshoppers for multitude. Two things are objected:

1. That these locusts are commanded not to hurt the Lord’s sealed ones.

2. That their commission is but for five months.

As to the latter, we shall speak to it when we come to that clause. As to the former, why may it not denote the liberty that in their conquests they generally give to all religions, so as they put none to death upon that account? How far other things will agree to them, I leave to be further considered in the next verses.

And unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power; that is, such a power as scorpions have. We shall have a more particular account of this, Revelation 9:10. And there came out of the smoke locusts the earth,.... Not literally, for these locusts might not meddle with the grass, nor any green thing, or tree, as locusts do, only men, Revelation 9:4; and had a king over them, Revelation 9:11; which locusts have not, Proverbs 30:27, though the allusion is to such, which spawn and breed in pits, and may be properly said to come out of them; hence in the Hebrew tongue they are called from "a pit", or "ditch": nor are devils intended, though they may be compared to locusts for their original, hell, or the bottomless pit; and for their numbers, we read of a legion of them in one man; and for their hurtful and mischievous nature: nor are the Goths and Vandals designed; these, though they harassed some parts of the eastern empire, yet chiefly the western; besides, they appeared under the former trumpets: but these are to be understood of the western and eastern locusts, especially the latter. The western locusts are the clergy of the church of Rome, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks, and friars, of every order; these were not instituted by Christ, but rose out of the bottomless pit, from the antichristian smoke of councils, decrees, and traditions; and are fitly compared to locusts for their number, which have been almost as the sand of the sea innumerable, and have spread themselves all over the nations of the earth, that have gone by the name of Christendom; and for their devouring nature, living in plenty and idleness, upon the fat of the land, in the best commons, glutting themselves with the spoils of others, devouring widows' houses, and impoverishing countries and kingdoms wherever they come. The eastern locusts are the Saracens, and who are chiefly designed; and who were to harass and distress the eastern empire, and prepare for its ruin, which is brought on under the next trumpet by the Turks. These are fitly signified by locusts, because the locusts generally come out of the eastern parts: it was an east wind which brought the plague of locusts into Egypt, Exodus 10:13; and the children of the east, the Arabians, are compared to grasshoppers, or locusts, in Judges 7:12; and one of the names of a locust is "Arbeh", not much unlike in sound to an Arab. To which may be added, that it is a tradition of the Arabians, that there fell locusts into the hands of Mahomet, on whose backs and wings were written these words;

"we are the army of the most high God; we are the ninety and nine eggs, and if the hundred should be made perfect, we should consume the whole world, and whatever is in it.''

And it was a law established by Mahomet, ye shall not kill the locusts, for they are the army of the most high God; and the Mahometans fancy that the locusts were made of the same clay as Adam was: and besides the tradition before mentioned, they say, that as Mahomet sat at table a locust fell, with these words on its back and wings;

"I am God, neither is there any Lord of the locusts besides me, who feed them; and when I please I send them to be food to the people, and when I please I send them to be a scourge unto them;''

hence his Saracens may well go by this name. Now these Saracens sprung up in the times of antichristian darkness, both Papal and Mahometan, and may be said to come out of the smoke of the bottomless pit; and the religion of Mahomet, which they embraced, was no other; and like locusts they were innumerable, they went in troops and bands, as locusts do, Proverbs 30:27; pillaging and ravaging all they could and their sudden and frequent incursions, the desolations and ravages which they made in the eastern empire, are very aptly expressed by the running to and fro of locusts; see Isaiah 33:4.

And unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power; that is, to torment then, by striking them with their stings in their tails, Revelation 9:5. These are called "scorpions of the earth", to distinguish them from sea scorpions, which are a kind of fish: so Aristotle (d) and (e) Pliny speak of terrestrial scorpions, which are the most hurtful; these are of the serpentine kind have an innocent and harmless look, but are soon angry; have stings in their tails, which they are always striking with, that they may miss no opportunity of doing mischief, and with which they strike in an oblique way (f); and which very fitly describes the Saracens, the race of the Ishmaelites, a generation of vipers, a subtle and treacherous sort of people, very furious and wrathful, and who lived by continual robbing and plundering of others at an unawares: and this may be applied to the western locusts, the monks and friars, who are the seed of the serpent; and who by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, have a form of godliness, and speak lies in hypocrisy, and lie in wait to deceive; and being provoked, are full of wrath and anger, and strike very hard with their anathemas and excommunications, and other sorts of punishment, which they have power to inflict.

(d) Hist. Animal. l. 5. c. 26. (e) Hist. Nat. l. 51. c. 25. (f) Hist. Nat. l. 51. c. 25.

{5} And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

(5) A description of the malignant spirits invading the world, taken from their nature, power, form and order. From their nature, for that they are like certain locust, in quickness, subtilty, hurtfulness, number, and such like, in this verse. From their power, for that they are as the scorpions of the earth, of a secret force to hurt: for our battle is not here with flesh and blood, but with powers Eph 6:12 This place of the power of the devils, generally noted in this verse, is particularly declared afterwards in Re 9:4-6.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 9:3-4. The dense smoke resolves itself into a swarm of infernal demons in the form of locusts but rendered more formidable by their additional power of stinging like scorpions. Instead of preying on their natural food (Exodus 10:15), already plagued (Revelation 8:7) they are let loose upon men unmarked by the Divine seal (though the expected blast of winds is dropped), the idea being similar to that reproduced in Ps. Sol. 13:1–3, 4, 5, 15:1, 9 (see above, on Revelation 8:3). The nations under command of Holofernes (Jdg 2:20) are also likened by the Jewish romancer to a swarm of innumerable locusts; and from the mouth of the beast in Hermas issue ἀκρίσες πύριναι to persecute the virgin church. Josephus, too, compares the army of Simeon to locusts (B. J. iv. 9 7). Why are trees (Revelation 7:1) exempted? For the reason suggested in Ps. Sol. 11:6, 7?3. the scorpions of the earth] i.e. common natural scorpions: these infernal locusts are able to hurt men, as common scorpions are, but common locusts are not.Verse 3. - And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth. The locust is constantly referred to in the Bible, and various illustrations are drawn from their characteristic features. In the East they appear in great numbers and men are helpless against their devastating power. Sometimes an attempt is made to check their progress by lighting fires, and this practice may have suggested the above description of the locusts proceeding from the smoke. The irresistible destruction which they cause is alluded to in Deuteronomy 28:38; Joel 2:25; 2 Chronicles 7:13; their number in Psalm 105:34; Nahum 3:15. The air is sometimes tainted with their dead bodies (Joel 2:20). The natural features of the locust are fully dwelt upon in vers. 7-10. As an illustration, we may quote Niebuhr, who gives an Arab's description of the locust: "In head like the horse, in breast like the lion, in feet like the camel, in body like the serpent, in tail like the scorpion, in antennae like a virgin's hair." Three out of these five points of resemblance are mentioned in vers. 7-10. The locusts here symbolize heretics and infidels. Some writers (e.g. Wordsworth) apply the symbol to the Mohammedans (see Wordsworth, in loc., where the parallel is very fully worked out). But though this may be, and probably is, a fulfilment of the vision, it would be wrong to thus restrict our interpretation. Scarcely any one cause has contributed more to the trouble and destruction of men than the violence which is the result of religious hatred. Whether it be the heathen idolater, the warlike Mohammedan, or the Christian bigot, who is the agent, the effect is the same. It may be said, too, that if the minds of Christians also had not been darkened by the prejudicial influence of Satan, who is the cause of their unhappy divisions, heresies, and apostasies, these troubles could scarcely have fallen upon mankind. The innumerable occasions of such violence may be well illustrated by the countless number of the locusts; and the effect lives after the death of the authors, tainting the moral atmosphere. It is true that the true Christian sometimes suffers also; but tidal is an aspect which is set forth in the visions of the seals. Here another view is set forth, namely, that the ungodly are themselves punished, and punished severely, by means of this evil influence of the devil. Many other interpretations have been suggested:

(1) evil spirits (Andrea,);

(2) Roman wars in Judaea (Grotius);

(3) the Gothic invasion (Vitringa);

(4) De Wette and Alford believe that the interpretation is unknown. And unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. That is to say, just as the natural scorpions of the earth have power to cause suffering, so these allegorical locusts of the vision appeared to possess the means wherewith to plague mankind. The scorpion is "generally found in dry and in dark places, under stones and in ruins, chiefly in warm climates.... The sting, which is situated at the extremity of the tail, has at its base a gland that secretes a poisonous fluid, which is discharged into the wound .... In hot climates the sting often occasions much suffering and sometimes alarming symptoms" (Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible '). Locusts (ἀκρίδες)

The idea of this plague is from the eighth plague in Egypt (Exodus 10:14, Exodus 10:15). Compare the description of a visitation of locusts in Joel 2. There are three Hebrew words in the Old Testament which appear to mean locust, probably signifying different species. Only this word is employed in the New Testament. Compare Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6.

Scorpions

See Ezekiel 2:6; Luke 10:19; Luke 11:12. Shaped like a lobster, living in damp places, under stones, in clefts of walls, cellars, etc. The sting is in the extremity of the tail. The sting of the Syrian scorpion is not fatal, though very painful. The same is true of the West Indian scorpion. Thomson says that those of North Africa are said to be larger, and that their poison frequently causes death. The wilderness of Sinai is especially alluded to as being inhabited by scorpions at the time of the Exodus (Deuteronomy 8:15); and to this very day they are common in the same district. A part of the mountains bordering on Palestine in the south was named from these Akrabbim, Akrab being the Hebrew for scorpion.

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