Revelation 9:5 MEANING

Revelation 9:5
(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.

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.

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 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.

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