top of page

Poole on Revelation 8:10, 11: The Third Trumpet

Verse 10:[1] And the third angel sounded, (Is. 14:12; Rev. 9:1) and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, (Rev. 16:4) and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters…

[And fell[2] (with violence and precipitously, for it is said to have fallen, not to have descended; nor βληθεῖσα, to be cast, as in the first and second Trumpets,[3] for this heresy was the work of Satan: So also indeed the rest, but κατὰ τὸ πρέπον, correspondingly; what belongs to all the Trumpets is imputed to the third Trumpet, for it is more suitable unto that [Cotterius]) from heaven (that is, from celestial height, and spiritual and saving knowledge, into dark and earthly thoughts and pursuits [Cluverus]: or, from the visible Church and the pure preaching of the Gospel [Durham]) a great star burning like a torch] Or, a lamp (Beza, Mede). It appears to describe a Comet, among the types of which is the Meteor in Pliny[4] (Mede). They understand it, either, 1. properly and literally (certain interpreters in Pareus), of an aeriel star, for example, a comet, a falling star, or a similar meteor (Lapide); of a fiery exhalation, or rather a great multitude of exhalations condensed and set on fire, which, when it begins to fall, is whole (Ribera), but, breaking apart by its fall (Lapide), the shattered whole is divided into many little torches, which, falling upon various places, infect them (Lapide, similarly Ribera). What the Lord announced beforehand in general terms, Luke 21, not mystically, but historically as certainly future, that now John prophesies item by item (Ribera). But these things are inept: Fiery meteors of this sort are not at all rare. Also, the name of the star and embittering of the waters sufficiently prove that these things are not able to be taken properly. They make use of evasions, therefore, lest perhaps they be compelled in the end to come to the Apostasy of the Roman Pontiff (Pareus). By this star they understand, either, 1. a great Prince, as in Isaiah 14:12; 34:4; Cæsar Hesperium, or of the west, aptly figured by a falling star, on account of his brief duration; who after the established division of the Empire into East and West after the death of Theodosius I, hitherto remained the Emperor of Rome, but (after the death of Valentinian III, when Gensericus with his Vandals had again plundered Rome[5] [Mede’s Works 1125]), exercised by perpetual hardships, and of exceedingly brief time, was under the fated name of Augustulus completely overturned and destroyed[6] (Mede’s Works 576). Or, 2. some eminent Leader, perhaps Joseph, son of Matthias, who with great courage opposed the troops of Vespasian, yet for which reason he brought upon the Jews unbelievably great slaughters[7] (Hammond). Or, 3. some eminent Teacher (Piscator, similarly Forbes, Cluverus), or Teachers (Grotius, Durham), conspicuous for place, gifts, authority, appearance of piety (Durham); [but] straying from the truth (Grotius), heretics (Bede in Zegers, Lightfoot), one particular heresiarch, or several (Pareus, similarly Durham). Now, denoted here is, either, 1. that Egyptian impostor, concerning whom Acts 21:38 and Josephus’ Antiquities 20:6 and Jewish War 2:27, where it is said that he was held to be a Prophet by his own, advancing far and wide after the manner of fire[8] (Grotius). Or, 2. Mohammed, who was a worshipper of the true God, as is shown, both, by the fact that all historians condemn him ἀποστασίας, of apostasy; and, by his commerce with Sergius the Monk, with a certain John of Antioch known for heresies, and with a certain Jew given to magical arts;[9] and, by the fact that he had no ordinary knowledge of the Scriptures. The same was burning like a lamp, that is, was made a Teacher, and called the Prophet par excellence (Cotterius). This does not satisfy: This robber was altogether wicked, who was not able to be called a star, nor to be said to have fallen from heaven, in which he never was (Pareus). Or, 3. Origen (Cluverus out of Luther, Gravius), who, most celebrated for his learning, talent, eloquence, and holiness of life (Gravius), brought into the Church errors, in the end bitter and most grievous [concerning which see Cluverus] (Cluverus, similarly Gravius). Or, 4. Arius (certain interpreters in Mede). But he would have been rather the first Trumpet, since he disseminated his heresy before the Council of Nicea (Mede’s Works 734). Or, 5. Pelagius (Lyra, Durham), who was eminent for talent, zeal (Durham), and an appearance of holiness and learning (Pareus); who distorted the Doctrine concerning the Offices of Christ, and disseminated his errors far and wide. The time also agrees (Durham): for he began under Arcadius and Honorius[10] (Durham, Lyra). Now, I think rather that all heresiarch Apostates are noted here in general (Pareus); and that not so much a particular heresy is here denoted as the universal defection of the Church in the fifth Century, through Pelagius, Nestorius,[11] Eutyches,[12] etc. (Durham).

[Upon the third part (that is, that which was flowing past the seats of the more guilty men [Ribera]) of the rivers (that is, of the Churches, which are after the likeness of rivers, from which it is allowed to draw up an abundance of living water [Cotterius]) and upon the fountains of waters] That is, all, that is, which are only fountains, not also the beginnings of rivers (Ribera). He calls the very truth of God fountains, which, even indeed the whole, this one corrupted. Whence he does not say a third part of fountains, as he had said of the rivers; but fountains, for the Churches are many, and therefore divisible: but the truth of God is one and indivisible (Cotterius). Others: Excluded from the city, he invaded lesser towns and villages, which are thus called rivers and fountains, just as the great city is called the sea (Grotius). Others: Rivers and fountains here denote, either, 1. Cities and provincial Magistrates (Mede’s Works 576), Roman governors and administrators of justice, failing on account of the Eclipse of that star, the western Cæsarate (Mede’s Works 1125). Or, 2. the doctrines of the Gospel, or the covenant of Grace and offices of Christ, and the manner of exhibiting those to sinners by the instituted forms of worship. These are called the wells of salvation, Isaiah 12:3; thus Psalm 87:7; and of water, Ezekiel 47:1, to which those are similar, both, with respect to purity and simplicity, utility and the highest necessity; and, with respect to abundance, by which they are offered to all, Isaiah 55:1; Zechariah 13:1. Compare Isaiah 41:17, 18 (Durham). Or, 3. the Bishops of the Church, who carry waters into the common sea (Forbes). Rivers denote, either. 1. Bishops, through whom heavenly doctrine is derived to others (Pareus); or, 2. Ecclesiastical assemblies. Fountains denote, either, 1. schools, or seminaries of doctrine (Cluverus); or, 2. the Sacred Scripture (Pareus, thus Forbes), and its interpretation. These things are a further degree of corruption, in which not only does religion fail in the hearts and manners of men, and worship is polluted (which things are able to happen, with the word and its interpretation in the meantime uncorrupted), but even the Sacred Scriptures are twisted by false and heretical glosses, with the fountains corrupted by poison, etc. Rivers and fountains are of a nature somewhat subtler and purer than the sea; just as the sea is than the earth (Forbes).

There fell a great star from heaven: stars, in their metaphorical notion, signify some eminent persons in the state, or in the church; accordingly interpreters are divided in their senses; some thinking that it is meant of a political star, some eminent civil governor, and apply it to Caesar Augustulus, who, about the year 480, was forced to give over the empire, by Odoacer;[13] of him Mr. Mede understands this prophecy. Others understand it of some ecclesiastical star, who apostatized, and apply it to Pelagius. I do rather incline to those who apply it to some ecclesiastical star; and Pelagius might be pointed at, as probably as any other in these times, for he was a great professor, and so burned as a lamp. And it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and did corrupt a great part of the church.

Verse 11:[14] (Ruth 1:20) And the name of the star is called Wormwood: (Ex. 15:23; Jer. 9:15; 23:15) and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.


[And, etc., καὶ—Ἄψινθος] Perhaps his name was Scihu, which signifies a sort of Absinthium/wormwood in those parts. And I doubt whether it was not here written ὁ Ἀψίνθιος, Apsinthios, and next, εἰς ἄψινθον, into apsinthon/wormwood [perhaps ἀψίνθιον/apsinthion], for Ἄψινθος was the name of a city, whence the name of the herb there sprouting forth, ἀψίνθιον (Grotius). Now, the name of the star was called (that is, the form is prophetic, by which imposition of name is indicated the fate or quality of the object: Word in the place of the thing, as in Luke 1:38, and to be called in the place of to be, as in Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Isaiah 56:7 compared with Luke 19:46: So also Jeremiah 20:3, 4; 23:6; Zechariah 6:12; Revelation 19:13 [Mede’s Works 577]). Absinthium: From its effect (Piscator, Erasmus, Durham, Ribera, Pareus), for it renders the rivers and fountains bitter (Menochius), corrupts the sweetest doctrine of Evangelical grace (Durham), renders the Scriptures bitter and pernicious to those drinking. There is an allusion to those bitter waters of Exodus 15:23. Absinthium is not taken scientifically here (inasmuch as the herb is certainly bitter, but a healer), but theologically; just as it signifies sometimes the bitter judgments of God, as in Jeremiah 9:15; 23:15; sometimes the overturning of the law and equity, and barbarity, as in Amos 5:7; 6:12 (Pareus); sometimes corruption in the hearts and manners of men, as in Deuteronomy 29:18; Acts 8:23 (Durham). Others: An abstract is here in the place of a concrete, Absinthius, that is, Absinthites, namely, the Prince of bitterness and afflictions. Of which sort in reality was, if anyone ever was, that Cæsar Hesperius or of the West, whose lot was most bitter both to himself and to others (Mede’s Works 577).

[And was made (or, turned [Beza, Piscator, Grotius]) a third part of the waters (that is, the sweet waters, in rivers and fountains [Piscator]) into absinthium] It was made bitter (Piscator, similarly Zegers, Drusius). A great part of the Jews began to follow him at first, then to imitate his deeds: who were called murderers, a bitter Grape, Deuteronomy 32:32. He made me drunk with absinthium, Lamentations 3:15 (Grotius). It signifies that the defection was great indeed, but not yet universal: for some were preserved (Durham).

[Many…died, etc.] With a death, either, 1. temporal (certain interpreters). Many were killed by men affected by that faction, just as men that drink infected waters are wont to die: concerning which matter we spoke in Concerning the Law of War and Peace[15] 3:4, 16, 17. Concerning these murderers see Concerning the Law of War and Peace 2:23 (Grotius). By mutual treacheries and butcheries they died, etc. (Mede’s Works 576). Or, 2. spiritual (Durham), and eternal (Piscator, Durham), because of heretical depravity (Forbes). This plague differs from the two preceding, 1. in its object, which is here Evangelical grace: 2. in its rise, from an eminent Teacher, and with the pretext of piety: 3. in mode, which is not by blood and persecution, which accompanied the preceding plagues, but by the pollution of others (Durham).

The name of the star is called Wormwood: Pelagius’ doctrine was as bitter as wormwood; and he was the ruin of many souls. But if any do rather choose to understand it of a political star, Mr. Mede’s notion bids as fair for the sense as any, because the western empire determined in Augustulus, and he reigned but a very short time; and he was a prince of many sorrows and afflictions, and many perished with him in those sorrows and afflictions which he underwent. Whether we understand it of some eminent political magistrate, (such was Augustulus,) or some eminent light in the church, (such was Pelagius,) they both fell about this time, the one from his terrene dignity, the other spiritually from the honour he had in the church; and many fell with them, either in a civil or in a spiritual sense.

[1] Greek: Καὶ ὁ τρίτος ἄγγελος ἐσάλπισε, καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἀστὴρ μέγας καιόμενος ὡς λαμπάς, καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν ποταμῶν, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς πηγὰς ὑδάτων. [2] Greek: καὶ ἔπεσεν. [3] Revelation 8:7, 8: “The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast (ἐβλήθη) upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast (ἐβλήθη) into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood…” [4] Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (23-79), distinguished himself as a learned author, a celebrated Roman Procurator, and a courageous soldier. In his Natural History, Pliny in encyclopedic fashion attempts to cover the entire field of human knowledge as it stood in his day. It remains an invaluable resource in the fields of history, geography, literature, and Biblical studies. [5] Flavius Pacidus Valentinianus, or Valentinian III (419-455) was one of the last Western Roman Emperors, reigning from 422 to 455. Gensericus sacked Rome in 455, just months after the death of Valentinian III. [6] Romulus Augustus, or Augustulus (“Little Augustus”), was the last Western Roman Emperor; he reigned from 475 to 476. His death marks the end of the Western Roman Empire. [7] Josephus, or Joseph son of Matthias (c. 37-100), the famous Jewish historian, was also a Jewish military leader. He survived the Roman siege and massacre at the Jewish garrison of Yodfat. His compatriots agreed to a collective suicide rather than surrender to the Romans, but Josephus remained alive and eventually surrendered to Vespasian, who continued his conquest of Judea. It was after his release that he began to write his famous histories. [8] The revolt instigated by this unnamed Egyptian pseudo-prophet was suppressed by Felix. [9] Christian polemicists claimed that Mohammed was instructed in religion by the heretical monk Sergius (or, Bahira), who is said to have been a Nestorian, and by a Persian Jew. [10] Flavius Arcadius was the Byzantine Emperor from 395 to 408, while his brother, Honorius, reigned in the West from 395 to 423. [11] Nestorius (c. 386-451) taught that in Christ, there are not only two natures, but two persons, Jesus of Nazareth and the eternal Son of God. Some believe that this was not actually Nestorius’ view, but rather his opponents’ caricature of his beliefs. [12] Eutyches (c. 380-c. 456) was a presbyter of Constantinople. He opposed Nestorius, arguing that Christ was a mixture of human and divine elements. He was excommunicated at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. [13] Odoacer (435-493) was an Arian Christian and a Germanic general who, by conquest, became the ruler of Italy (476). [14] Greek: καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ ἀστέρος λέγεται Ἄψινθος· καὶ γίνεται τὸ τρίτον τῶν ὑδάτων εἰς ἄψινθον, καὶ πολλοὶ ἀνθρώπων ἀπέθανον ἐκ τῶν ὑδάτων, ὅτι ἐπικράνθησαν. [15] De Jure Belli ac Pacis.

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page