Revelation 9:4
And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
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(4) And it was commanded . . .—Translate, And it was commanded them that they shall not injure the grass of the earth, nor yet any green thing, nor yet any tree; but only (or, except) the men whosoever have not the seal of God on their foreheads. The locusts which are sent not to injure the vegetation are clearly not literal locusts, and the security of those who have the seal of God in their foreheads (those who were described as sealed, and so assured of safety against the tempest blast: see Revelation 7:1-3, et seq.) may confirm us in this view. Whatever the plague be, it is one which cannot injure God’s children. “Nothing,” Christ has said, “shall by any means hurt you. I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). It is interesting and suggestive to notice that this promise of our Lord was given immediately after the saying, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” as the safety of the sealed ones is mentioned here after the vision of the star fallen from heaven. The coincidence is hardly undesigned; at least, the sense in which we understand the danger from which Christ promised His disciples protection may afford us a guiding meaning here. Now, none have maintained that Christ promised His disciples entire freedom from danger, pain, and death. He said, “They shall persecute you and kill you; ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake, but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” No real injury can happen to them; pain and death might be encountered, but all things work together for their higher good. They have a joy which no pain or peril can take away; they have a joy in this (it is the same chapter as above—Luke 10), that their “names are written in heaven.” For such, death has no sting, the grave no victory. They meet famine and nakedness, and peril and sword; but in these they are more than conquerors. No plague can hurt those who have the seal of God in their foreheads. A plague from which those whose way is through tribulation are exempt can hardly be a physical one.

Revelation 9:4-6. And it was commanded that they should not hurt the grass, &c. — This verse demonstrates that they were not natural, but symbolical locusts. The like injunctions were given to the Arabian officers and soldiers. When Yezid was marching with the army to invade Syria, Abubeker charged him with this among other orders: “Destroy no palm- trees, nor burn any fields of corn; cut down no fruit-trees, nor do any mischief to cattle, only such as you kill to eat.” Their commission is to hurt only those men who had not the seal of God in their foreheads — That is, those who were not the true servants of God, but were corrupt and idolatrous Christians. Now from history it appears evidently, that in those countries of Asia, Africa, and Europe, where the Saracens extended their conquests, the Christians were generally guilty of idolatry in the worshipping of saints, if not of images; and it was the pretence of Mohammed and his followers to chastise them for it, and to re-establish the unity of the Godhead. The parts which remained the freest from the general infection were Savoy, Piedmont, and the southern parts of France, which were afterward the nurseries and habitations of the Waldenses and Albigenses; and it is very memorable that when the Saracens approached these parts, they were defeated with great slaughter by the famous Charles Martel, in several engagements. To them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented, &c. — As the Saracens were to hurt only the corrupt and idolatrous Christians, so these they were not to kill, but only to torment, and should bring such calamities upon the earth, as should make men weary of their lives. Not that it could be supposed that the Saracens would not kill many thousands in their incursions. On the contrary, their angel (Revelation 9:11) hath the name of the destroyer. They might kill them as individuals, but still they should not kill them as a political body, as a state, or empire. They might greatly harass and torment both the Greek and the Latin churches, but they should not utterly extirpate the one or the other. They besieged Constantinople, and even plundered Rome, but they could not make themselves masters of either of those capital cities. The Greek empire suffered most from them, as it lay nearest to them. They dismembered it of Syria and Egypt, and some other of its best and richest provinces; but they were never able to subdue and conquer the whole. As often as they besieged Constantinople, they were repulsed and defeated. They attempted it in the reign of Constantine Pogonatus, A.D. 672; but their men and ships were miserably destroyed by the sea-fire invented by Callinicus, and after seven years fruitless pains they were compelled to raise the siege, and to conclude a peace. They attempted it again in the reign of Leo Isauricus, A.D. 718; but they were forced to desist by famine and pestilence, and losses of various kinds. In this attempt they exceeded their commission, and therefore they were not crowned with their usual success. The taking of this city, and the putting an end to this empire, was a work reserved for another power, as we shall see under the next trumpet.

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 it was commanded them - The writer does not say by whom this command was given, but it is clearly by someone who had the direction of them. As they were evoked from the "bottomless pit" by one who had the key to that dark abode, and as they are represented in Revelation 9:11 as under the command of one who is there called Abaddon, or Apollyon - the Destroyer - it would seem most probable that the command referred to is one that is given by him; that is, that this expresses one of the principles on which he would act in his devastations. At all events, this denotes what would be one of the characteristics of these destroyers. Their purpose would be to vex and trouble people; not to spread desolation over vineyards, olive-yards, and fields of grain.

That they should not hurt the grass of the earth, ... - See the notes on Revelation 8:7. The meaning here is plain. There would be some sense in which these invaders would be characterized in a manner that was not common among invaders, to wit, that they would show particular care not to carry their devastations into the vegetable world. Their warfare would be with people, and not with orchards and green fields.

But only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads - See the notes on Revelation 7:2-3. They commenced war against that part of the human race only. The language here properly denotes those who were not the friends of God. It may here refer, however, either to those who in reality were not such, or to those who were regarded by him who gave this command as not being such. In the former case, the commission would have respect to real infidels in the sight of God - that is, to those who rejected the true religion; in the latter it would express the sentiment of the leader of this host, as referring to those who in his apprehension were infidels or enemies of God. The true interpretation must depend on the sense in which we understand the phrase "it was commanded"; whether as referring to God, or to the leader of the host himself. The language, therefore, is ambiguous, and the meaning must be determined by the other parts of the passage. Either method of understanding the passage would be in accordance with its fair interpretation.

4. not hurt the grass … neither … green thing … neither … tree—the food on which they ordinarily prey. Therefore, not natural and ordinary locusts. Their natural instinct is supernaturally restrained to mark the judgment as altogether divine.

those men which—Greek, "the men whosoever."

in, &c.—Greek, "upon their forehead." Thus this fifth trumpet is proved to follow the sealing in Re 7:1-8, under the sixth seal. None of the saints are hurt by these locusts, which is not true of the saints in Mohammed's attack, who is supposed by many to be meant by the locusts; for many true believers fell in the Mohammedan invasions of Christendom.

And it was commanded them; that is, these locusts; God so ordered it by his providence.

That they should not hurt, &c.: this makes it appear, that these locusts were no insects so called, but typical; for natural locusts live upon green things; they were only to hurt profane men, and hypocrites. It is a sure rule, that when things are attributed: to living creatures which do not agree to their natures, the terms are to be understood typically, not literally. Locusts use not to kill men; we may therefore be assured, that the locusts here intended, were men, not insects.

And it was commanded them,.... The locusts, by Christ, who has a sovereign power over all men, and lays them under the restraints of his providence:

that they should not hurt the grass of the earth: true Christians, private believers, it may be those of the lower class; who for their numbers, and for their flourishing estate under the dews of heavenly grace, and the distillations of the doctrine of grace, and the clear shining of the sun of righteousness upon them, and for their weakness, may be compared to grass; and yet as these being a company reserved by Christ for himself, who will not break nor bruise them, so neither will he suffer others to hurt them, and resents every offence done to these little ones:

neither any green thing; who have the truth of grace in them, are spiritually alive, and in prosperous circumstances, in a fruitful condition, being filled with the fruits of righteousness from Christ, the green fir tree, and whose leaves of profession continue green; and are themselves, as David says of himself; like a green olive tree in the house of God, Psalm 3:8.

Neither any tree; any trees of righteousness, good and righteous who are often compared to trees planted by rivers of water, Psalm 1:3 Jeremiah 17:8; it may be the ministers of the Gospel, then of great grace and gifts, the tall cedars in Lebanon, may be intended; and so by these various expressions, Christians of every size, from the lowest to the highest class, may be signified. Green things and leaves of trees are what the locusts generally destroy, as appears from the plague of them in Egypt, Exodus 10:5; and as they did in Syria in the year 1586, as Thuanus reports (g). Now as grass, green things, and trees, are what locusts most desire to feed upon and hurt, so real believers, truly godly persons, are those which both the eastern and western locusts, the Mahometans and Papists, have been very desirous of rooting out and destroying; but Christ takes care of these; these are as the apple of his eye, his jewels, his sheep, his sealed ones; none shall hurt them, they shall never perish; he knows them that are his, and he will preserve them amidst fire and smoke, amidst all the corruptions and calamities in the world:

but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads; see Revelation 7:2; the antichristian party, those of the Romish apostasy, the Papists; and these were they that suffered most by the Saracens, who abhorred image worship, and fell foul on the idolaters of this kind: and, on the other hand, the western locusts, the clergy of the church of Rome, had only influence over the reprobate part of mankind, and only wrought with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, who were giver, up to believe a lie, that they might be damned, but not upon any of the chosen ones, 2 Thessalonians 2:11.

(g) Hist. sui Temporis, par. 4. l. 84. p. 162. Ed. Francofurt.

{6} And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

(6) Here the power of the devils is described according to their actions and the effects of the same. Their actions are said to be limited by the counsel of God: both because they do not hurt all men, but only the reprobate (for the godly and elect, in whom there is any part of a better life, God guards by his decree) whom Christ shall not have sealed, in this verse: and also because they did not have all power nor at all time, no not over those that are their own, but limited in manner and time, by the prescript of God in Re 9:5. So their power to afflict the godly is none, and for the wicked is limited in act and in effect, by the will of God: for the manner was prescribed to them that they should not slay, but torment this wretched world. The time is for five months, or for a hundred and fifty days, that is, for so many years, in which the devils have indeed mightily perverted all things in the world: and yet without that public and unpunished license of killing, which afterwards they usurped when the sixth angel had blown his trumpet, as shall be said in Re 9:13. Now this space is to be accounted from the end of that thousand years mentioned in Re 20:3 and that is from the reign of pope Gregory the seventh, a most monstrous Necromancer, who before was called Hidebrandus Senensis: for this man being made altogether of impiety and wickedness, as a slave of the devil, whom he served, was the most wicked firebrand of the world: he excommunicated the emperor Henry the fourth: went about by all manner of treachery to set up and put down Empires and kingdoms as he liked: and did not hesitate to set Rodolph the Swedon over the Empire instead of Henry, sending to him a crown, with this verse annexed to it: Petra dedid Petro, Petrus diadema Rodolpho that is, The Rock to Peter gave the Crown, and Peter Rodolph doth renown. Finally, he so finely bestirred himself in his affairs, as he miserably set all Christendom on fire, and conveyed over to his successors the burning brand of the same who enraged with like ambition, never ceased to nourish that flame, and to kindle it more and more: by which cities, commonwealths and whole kingdoms set together by the ears amongst themselves by most expert cut-throats, came to ruin, while they miserably wounded one another. This term of a hundred and fifty years, ends in the time of Gregory the ninth or Hugolinus Anagniensis (as he was called before) who caused Raimond his chaplain and confessor to compile the writings of Decretals, and by permission of the kings and princes, published them in the Christian world, and established them as Law: For by this trick at length the popes gave themselves licence to kill whom they would, while others were unaware: and without fear established a butchery out of many of the wicked Canons of the Decretals, which the trumpet of the fifth angel had expressly forbidden and had hindered until this time. The effects of these bloody actions are declared in Re 9:6 that the miserable world languishing in so great calamities, should willingly seek death and prefer the it over life, by reason of the severity of the miseries that oppressed them.

Revelation 9:4-5. There is here a further description as to how this plague of the locusts, proceeding from the abyss, is entirely different from that which the ordinary earthly locusts bring.

καὶ ἐῤῥεθη αὐτ., κ.τ.λ., cf. Revelation 6:11. The ready recollection of the Egyptian plague of locusts[2539] makes the plague here appointed appear the more wonderful and dreadful. Not the grass and all the fresh verdure of field and trees, which are elsewhere devoured by locusts, are now regarded,[2540] but only[2541] men, those, viz., ὍΙΤΙΝΕς ΟὐΚ ἜΧΟΥΣΙ ΤῊΝ ΣΦΡΑΓῚΔΑ, Κ.Τ.Λ. Only as those without the seal,[2542] are they subjected to the plague proceeding from the abyss. The allegorizing interpretation of Beda and many others, according to which the rage of heretics (locusts) against the orthodox is regarded as here represented, miscarries—even though in its individual features it is refuted—chiefly in that, according to this exposition, the godly (the sealed) must appear as they who suffer. The explanation also which refers the entire trumpet-vision to the Jewish war, and understands by the locusts the Zealots, is also embarrassed on this point, so that Heinr. must remark: “We are unwilling to inquire here whether the Zealots were really grievous and pestilential to the better or the worse part of the race. The poet certainly imagines the latter.”

The injury which, in Revelation 9:4, the locusts were commanded to inflict upon men, is more precisely defined in Revelation 9:5; viz., that they are to torment men with the scorpionic power given them, but are not to inflict death.

ἘΔΌΘΗ ΑὐΤ. ἽΝΑ, Κ.Τ.Λ. Cf. Revelation 9:3. That the not killing is to be strictly taken, but that it is not to be said that “only the not killed draw attention to themselves, because their number is the greater, and their lot the harder,”[2543] is shown by the tenor of the words, the antithesis ἈΛΛʼ ἽΝΑ ΒΑΣΑΝΙΣΘΉΣΟΝΤΑΙ, and the further description, Revelation 9:6.

ΒΑΣΑΝΙΣΘΉΣΟΝΤΑΙ. It harmonizes well with the change of subject, that the indic. fut. now follows ἽΝΑ. Cf. a similar change of inf. and indic. fut., Revelation 6:4.

ΜῆΝΑς ΠΈΝΤΕ. The allegorizing explanations depend, as always, upon extreme arbitrariness. Beda: “That heretics temporarily attack the good. For by five months it signifies the time of a generation, on account of the five senses which we use in this life.” Others reckon five mystical months, as 5 × 30, i.e., 150 mystical days; i.e., ordinary years, which time is referred by Vitr. to the dominion of the Goths, and by Calov. to the duration of Arianism. Bengel fixes five prophetic months as equal to 79 ⅓ years, and proposes the sufferings of the Jews in Persia during the sixth century, which were of that length. Utterly out of place is the reference to Genesis 7:24;[2544] or that to the five sins, Revelation 9:20 sqq.,[2545] for even if the number of sins were marked there in any way as five, it would nevertheless be preposterous if an entirely special feature of one vision found its significance not within this itself, but only in another. Yet the five months are not to be passed by as “mystical” without an explanation, as if this must be actually given only by its fulfilment.[2546] Besides, Hengstenb. says, arbitrarily, the number five “is absolutely the sign of the half, unfinished, as the broken number. Five months are mentioned, because only the five, in its relation to the twelve months of the year, gives the idea of relatively long duration and dreadfulness;” against which Ebrard already replies that to this sense the number six, the half of the twelve months, would most simply correspond. Eichh., Ew., De Wette,[2547] have properly recognized the designation of the five months as a feature in the vision, which is derived from the popular idea that the locusts usually appeared during the five months from May.[2548] As generally the entire description of visionary locusts, however supernatural they appear, depends upon the basis of a natural view, so, also, that natural conception lies at the foundation of the period given; yet even in this point the natural relation is heightened, as the locusts remain out of the abyss for fully five months, while, naturally, it is only within this time that occasionally a swarm of locusts may come.

ὁ βασανισμὸς αὐτῶν. The ΑὐΤῶΝ is the gen. subj., as in the corresponding Ὡς ΒΑΣΑΝ. ΣΚΟΡΠΊΟΥ. The subj. again is the ἈΚΡΊΔΕς, and ΒΑΣΑΝΙΣΜΌς has an active sense, as the form corresponds.[2549]

ὍΤΑΝ ΠΑΊΣῌ ἈΝΘΡ., when he shall have struck a man.[2550] The correct Greek mode of expression regards a case naturally possible as having already occurred. Significant is the expression ΠΑΊΕΙΝ, which in the LXX., besides ΠΑΤΆΣΣΕΙΝ,[2551] corresponds to the Heb. חִכָֹּה.[2552] The Latins also speak forcibly of the scorpion’s stroke.[2553]

[2539] Exodus 10:12-15. Cf. also Joel 1:2.

[2540] Cf. also Revelation 8:7.

[2541] εἰ μή. Cf. Matthew 12:4; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:16.

[2542] Cf. Revelation 7:1 sqq.

[2543] Heugstenb.

[2544] Züll.

[2545] Hofmann.

[2546] Ebrard.

[2547] Cf. already Calov., Vitr., etc.

[2548] Cf. Bochart, Hieroz. ii. 495.

[2549] De Wette.

[2550] Cf. Winer, p. 289.

[2551] Jonah 4:7.

[2552] Numbers 22:28; 2 Samuel 14:6.

[2553] Plin., H. N., vi. 28.

4. that they should not hurt the grass, &c.] i.e. not to do the damage that natural locusts do—these natural objects having been plagued already, Revelation 8:7—but other damage, still more directly distressing the sinful world.

the seal of God] See Revelation 7:3 and note.

Verse 4. - And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree. The force of this plague is to fall directly upon mankind, not, as in the former judgments, upon the earth, and then indirectly upon men. This appears to be stated with the greater plainness, because it might readily be inferred, from the nature of locusts, that the immediate object of their destructiveness would be the vegetation of the world. But only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads; but only such men as have not, etc. (Revised Version; cf. Revelation 7:3, to which this is an allusion). Here, by proleipsis, the servants of God are described as "those that have the seal of God in their foreheads." It is not stated, nor is it necessarily implied, that the seal is visible to man at the time of the infliction of this judgment upon the ungodly. In a similar way our Lord speaks of the elect (Matthew 24:22), not thereby implying that there is any visible manifestation by which the elect may be known to men, though known to God (so also Titus 1:1; Mark 13:22, etc.). Thus also it is said in 2 Timothy 2:19, "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." The frequent use of the term to denote those who were sealed by baptism may have led to the employment of the expression in this place, as being equivalent to "the servants of God" (cf. Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22). The locusts may not hurt God's servants (see on ver. 3). Thus we are taught that God in reality preserves his own, though it may sometimes appear to man as though the innocent suffer with the guilty. Revelation 9:4Green

See on Revelation 6:8.

Men which (ἀνθρώπους οἵτινες)

The double relative denotes the class. Rev., such men as have, etc.

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