Revelation 9:5
And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
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(5) And to them . . .—Better, And it was given to them that they should not kill them (i.e., those who had not the seal of God in their foreheads), but that they should be tortured five months. The general period of a locust plague is about five months: “as the natural locusts commit their ravages only for five months, so the ravages of these symbolical ones will be only for a short period” (Stuart). Their power is to inflict torment, and not death. The next verse tells us that men would consider death preferable to this torment; but the relief of the grave is denied them.

And their torment . . .—Literally, and the torture of them (i.e., the torture inflicted by them) is as the torture of a scorpion when it has stricken a man. The wound of a scorpion occasions intense suffering: we have in it the symbol of the malicious cruelty of the merciless. The emblem is used in Ezekiel: the rebellious and malicious opponents of the prophet being compared to scorpions (Ezekiel 2:6). We may compare the similar imagery of the bee for the Assyrian power (Isaiah 7:18), and the Psalmist’s complaint that his enemies came about him like bees—a swarm, irritating him with wing and sting. The tenth verse tells us the way in which the injury was inflicted: there were stings in their tails.

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 to them it was given - There is here the same indefiniteness as in the former verse, the impersonal verb being here also used. The writer does not say by whom this power was given, whether by God, or by the leader of the host. It may be admitted, however, that the most natural interpretation is to suppose that it was given them by God, and that this was the execution of his purpose in this case. Still it is remarkable that this is not directly affirmed, and that the language is so general as to admit of the other application. The fact that they did not kill them, but tormented them - if such a fact should be found to exist - would be in every sense a fulfillment of what is here said.

That they should not kill them - This is in accordance with the nature of the symbol. The locusts do not themselves destroy any living creature; and the sting of the scorpion, though exceedingly painful, is not usually fatal. The proper fulfillment of this would be found in what would not be generally fatal, but which would diffuse misery and wretchedness. (Compare Revelation 9:6.) Perhaps all that would be necessarily meant by this would be, not that individual people would not be killed, but that they would be sent to inflict plagues and torments rather than to take life, and that the characteristic effects of their appearing would be distress and suffering rather than death. There may be included in the fair interpretation of the words, "general distress" and "sorrow"; acts of oppression, cruelty, and violence; such a condition of public suffering that people would regard death as a relief if they could find it.

But that they should be tormented - That is, that they should be subjected to ills and troubles which might be properly compared with the sting of a scorpion.

Five months - So far as the words here are concerned this might be taken literally, denoting five months or one hundred and fifty days; or as a prophetic reckoning, where a day stands for a year. Compare the notes on Daniel 9:24 ff. The latter is undoubtedly the correct interpretation here, for it is the character of the book thus to reckon time. See the notes on Revelation 9:15. If this be the true method of reckoning here, then it will be necessary to find some events which will embrace about the period of one hundred and fifty years, during which this distress and sorrow would continue. The proper laws of interpretation demand that one or the other of these periods should be found - either that of five months literally, or that of 150 years. It may be true, as Prof. Stuart suggests (in loco), that "the usual time of locusts is from May to September inclusive - five months." It may be true, also, that this symbol was chosen partly because that was the fact, and they would, from that fact, be well adapted to symbolize a period that could be spoken of as "five months"; but still the meaning must be more than simply it was "a short period," as he supposes. The phrase a few months might designate such a period; but if that had been the writer's intention, he would not have selected the definite number five.

And their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, ... - See the notes on Revelation 9:3. That is, it would be painful, severe, dangerous.

5. they … they—The subject changes: the first "they" is the locusts; the second is the unsealed.

five months—the ordinary time in the year during which locusts continue their ravages.

their torment—the torment of the sufferers. This fifth verse and Re 9:6 cannot refer to an invading army. For an army would kill, and not merely torment.

Supposing the Saracens and Turks here meant by the locusts, here arise two difficulties:

1. How it can be said of them, that they had no power to kill, but only torment men.

2. How their time is set for five months, whereas they have already tormented the world more than a thousand years; and how long they shall yet continue to do so, God only knows: they are both great difficulties.

Alsted tells us: That Mahomet began in the year 622, and the Saracens entered Spain 714, where they were called Moors, and kept possession of that kingdom eight hundred years, and that in the year 719, they besieged Constantinople with a navy of three thousand ships and three hundred thousand land soldiers; that before this time they had made themselves masters of Arabia, Palestina, Syria, Persia, Egypt, Africa, and Spain; and in the year 726, carried into France an army consisting of three hundred and seventy-five thousand, where they were beaten by Charles Martell, father to King Pepin. Mr, Mede telleth us, that the Saracens grievously vexed the countries subject to the Roman emperor, but could not take either Rome or Constantinople. The latter was taken by the Turks, in the year 1457, commanded by Sultan Mahomet. This is but a hard interpretation of those words,

that they should not kill them; which, it may be, hath made some other interpreters choose to interpret these locusts to signify the Roman clergy, who indeed did not kill men for religion, of many years. But both the one and the other tormented the world enough, and that like a scorpion, which pierceth a man with a venomous sting, and puts him to great pain. For the five months, we shall again meet with them, Revelation 9:10.

And to them it was given that they should not kill them,.... As the power of the locusts was limited with respect to the persons they should hurt, so with regard also to the mischief they should do; for even those whom they were suffered to annoy they might not kill, that is, utterly root out and destroy, so as that they were no more: and thus, though the Saracens killed great numbers in the eastern empire, by their frequent incursions and ravages, and made large conquests, yet they could never destroy the empire itself, or bring it in subjection to them; nor did they ever take Constantinople, the metropolis and seat of the empire, though they often besieged it. And as for the western locusts, the months, friars, &c. though they kill the souls, yet not the bodies of men that are under their power and influence:

but that they should be tormented five months; that is, not that the locusts should be tormented, but men by the locusts; and so the eastern empire was grievously teased and tormented by the Saracens, and many parts of it were conquered, plundered, and pillaged by them, though it was not killed and put an end to. In the year 628, Mahomet with his Saracens having obtained a place in Arabia Felix to dwell in, died in the year 631; from which time his successors, the Saracens, by little and little, subdued Palestine, Syria, and Egypt; and, in the year 640, took Persis, putting King Hormisda to flight; they laid siege to Constantinople seven years, but without success; in the year 698, Carthage was taken by them; and in following times many countries on the continent, and many of the islands, were grievously infested and distressed by them; though the empire itself did not fall into their hands; it was tormented by them, but not destroyed. And the western locusts have most dreadfully tormented men by their exorbitant dues demanded of them; and by obliging them to confessions, and to attend Mass; by enjoining them whippings, fastings, pilgrimages, and penances, and with the terrors of purgatory, and the like. The time that the locusts should torment men, which is "five months", seems not to design any determinate time; but only that seeing five months is the time that locusts live, and are in their strength and power, even the five, hottest months in the year, from April to September (h), this seems to denote, that as long as the locusts live, the Saracens in the east, and the monks and friars in the west, so long men should be tormented by them; for it is certain that these have had power to torment men longer time than barely five months; yea, even though these should be understood, according to the prophetic style used in this book, of five months of years, or an hundred and fifty years; and though this should be doubled, seeing they are repeated, Revelation 9:10; and so make up in all three hundred ears; for both the Saracens and the Romish clergy have distressed men, either of them, longer time than this: indeed, the flourishing condition of the Saracens was but about three hundred years, or two five months; but their empire or dominion lasted longer, even from the year 622, which was the year of the "Hegira", or flight of Mahomet, to the year 1057 (i), when the Turkish empire succeeded it: though it is pretty remarkable, that from the year 612, in which Mahomet began to preach publicly, and so let out the smoke with the locusts, to the year 762, in which the city of Bagdad was built, when and where the Saracens settled, and made no more excursions of any consequence, were just an hundred and fifty years, or five months of years, as Mr. Daubuz observes; and I will not say that this is not intended by this prophecy. Noah's flood prevailed over the earth one hundred and fifty days, or five months, Genesis 7:24.

And their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when he striketh a man; which gives great pain, is very distressing, and their stings are poisonous and mortal: it signifies how troublesome and afflictive those locusts were; to be among them was to live among scorpions, as in Ezekiel 2:6. As these locusts are like scorpions, so scorpions have been seen sometimes with wings like locusts; such an one, Pausanias (k) relates, was brought into Ionia by a Phrygian.

(h) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 29. (i) Petav. Rationar. par. 1. l. 7. c. 13. & l. 8. c. 13. (k) Boeotica, sive l. 9. p. 573. Vid. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 25. & Aelian. Hist. Animal. l. 6. c. 20. & l. 16. c. 41, 42.

And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.
Revelation 9:5. παίσῃ here, like ἐπάταξεν Jam 4:7, represents LXX, tr. of נכה in sense of reptile’s bite; the scorpion with its long-fanged tail stings the prey which it has already gripped with its claws (cf. Sen. Hercul. 1218). Scorpions were a natural symbol for vicious and dangerous opponents (cf. Ezekiel 2:6, Luke 10:9), whose attacks were always painful and might be mortal. “The sting is not perilous.… The wounded part throbs with numbness and aching till the third day, there is not much swelling” (Doughty, Ar. Des. i. 328). But the effects were not always so mild (Arist. H. N. ix. 29).

5. five months] It has been conjectured that this period is named, as being the time for which a plague of the literal locusts is liable to last. But more probably the period is to be reckoned on the same principle—whatever that be—as the other periods of time indicated in this book.

Revelation 9:5. Μῆνας πέντε) Some Lat. MSS. have six months. I was long ago, but easily added to V. The number five is repeated, Revelation 9:10. Five months in prophecy are 79 complete ordinary years, from A. 510 to 589. The men who were tormented were Israelites, who had not received the Divine seal: the locusts were Persians, who dreadfully harassed them.

Verse 5 - And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months; and it was given them [i.e. the locusts] that they [the locusts] should not kill them [the unsealed], but that they [the unsealed] should be tormented five months. The devil and his agents have not unlimited power committed to them; they are restrained within limits by the will of God. The evils which follow in the train of heresy and infidelity are not as yet permitted to kill (cf. Job 1:12), for this judgment extends only to the natural life of man. God reserves the final killing to himself at the great judgment day. This is shown in the limitation, "five months." This apparently meaningless period becomes explicable, when we remember that the usual duration of a locust plague is five months, viz. from April to September. The visitation is for the natural period of such occurrences; the torment is to extend to the natural period of man's sojourn on the earth. It does not extend into the next life; other and special means are adopted for man's punishment then, as set forth under the seventh trumpet. Various other explanations have been given of the five months.

(1) Five years of Gothic rule (Vitringa).

(2) Five months = 5 × 30 days; each day represents one year; therefore 150 years are signified, viz.

(a) of the Saracens, A.D. 830 - A.D. 980 (Mede);

(b) Mohammed's conquests, A.D. 612 - A.D. 762 (Elliott).

(3) Hengstenberg believes 5 to signify a part of the complete number 10, and thus to symbolize an incomplete period, as compared with the period of the seventh trumpet.

(4) Bengel, following the principles assumed by him, makes the five months to equal 79 natural years, and assigns the period to A.D. - A.D. 589.

(5) Others take the expression to mean "a short time" merely.

(6) Wordsworth interprets it as meaning a limited time permitted by God, and thinks the Mohammedan period is signified, and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. "Their torment," that is, the torment of the unsealed, according to Alford; the torment of the locusts (viz. that which they inflict), according to others. In either ease the meaning is the same. The last clause, "when he striketh a man," is perhaps added in contradistinction to the injury naturally inflicted by locusts, whose efforts are directed against the vegetation. Revelation 9:5They should be tormented (βασανισθῶσιν)

See on torments, Matthew 4:24.

Striketh (παίσῃ)

Dr. Thomson says that the scorpion cannot strike sideways. All accounts agree as to the fearful pain from its sting.

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