Poole on Revelation 8:12: The Fourth Trumpet

Verse 12:[1] (Is. 13:10; Amos 8:9) And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

[Was smitten a third part of the sun, etc.] Just as by sailors lands are said to depart, so to those pressed by calamity the Sun, Moon, and Stars are said to fall. See on Matthew 24:29, and the Chaldean Paraphrase on Isaiah 13:10,[2] and on Jeremiah 15:9. Darkness of Sun, Moon, and Stars signifies ruin in Achmet’s Oneirocriticon 166. In this place are signified the towns of Galilee and other parts, seized by Vespasian with the destruction of a great many Jews.[3] Because nearly a third…part of Judea at that time met with this calamity, therefore the stars are said to have failed in their third part (Grotius). Others: The Temple is often described in Scripture as an army. This army is aptly portrayed by Sun, Moon, and Stars, which are wont to be called the armies of heaven: the Temple also is signified by the name of Heaven. The sense, therefore, is that now a Grievous Calamity was lying upon the Temple and its worship, which was performed both in the day and at night, with vigils also held at night.[4] Or rather, the Sun here is the Temple; the Moon, the City; the Stars, the people; and all together denote the entire nation, against which this woe is denounced (Hammond). Others: This Trumpet advances a thorough deprivation of the Light of Roman Majesty in the city of Rome, with Royal power and Consular dignity, and the authority of the Senate and of the rest of the Magistrates removed, the City burned by Totila,[5] and the third part of it destroyed, devoid of all inhabitants, and finally recovered indeed, but prostrated by whirlwind and lightnings a little afterwards; at one time the Queen of Cities now decayed unto an ignoble Dukedom, and under the Exarchate of Ravenna, over which it had formerly ruled, forced to serve and pay tribute.[6] Oh the darkness, and the notable mockery of fortune! With this understanding Sun, Moon, and Stars are often taken, as in Isaiah 13:10; 60:20; Jeremiah 15:9; Ezekiel 32:7 (Mede’s Works 578). [But to this most sorrowful state of affairs the striking of the entire Sun appears to agree to a greater extent, and the withdrawing of all its light, etc., than that only a third part, etc., is obscured.] Others: This Trumpet denotes a great eclipse of glory, both in the Church through superstition, and in the Empire by enemies internal and external, and that before the appearance of the Papacy, which is revealed under the following Trumpet. The eclipse of the prosperity of a people is wont to be expressed by these phrases, as in Isaiah 13:9, 10; Joel 2:10 (Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 158). This Trumpet denotes a higher degree of Apostasy (Forbes, similarly Durham), and a further spreading of it, and defection made gradually and insensibly from purity of doctrine, simplicity of worship, and the practice of piety, with traditions brought in little by little, and human ceremonies and superstitions. I refer these things to the sixth Century, in which few were the men renowned with respect to learning; and the ancient heresies were restored, as that of Eutyches, which Anastasius the Emperor approved and favored;[7] and the eclipse of zeal and piety was great; but pride arose, namely, in John Bishop of Constantinople, who by the consent of Emperor Mauritius[8] and the Bishops of the East took to himself the title of universal Bishop, which name Gregory himself, the Roman Bishop, at that time wrote, in Epistles 7:33, to be an indication and precursor of Antichrist[9] (Durham). It here denotes the thick and blind ignorance lying upon the world at that time, etc. (Forbes). Others: A heresy is denoted here, [either] the Eutychian heresy (Lyra), or, that of the Cathars,[10] Donatists,[11] and Pelagians (Gravius). But in the sixth century there was no new heresy, etc. (Durham). Others: I refer this Trumpet to the darkness brought into the Church after the times of Sylvester[12] unto the appearance of Antichrist through three hundred years, yet only in a third part, that is, in Europe alone (Pareus). The sense: In a third part of the World, namely, in the Western and European Churches, this failure of Pastors and the light of divine truth happened (Cotterius). By Sun, Moon, and Stars, I understand every sort of light, the purity of doctrine, which is compared to light, Psalm 119:105; 2 Peter 1:19; and the light of order and holy conversation, Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15. The beauty of the Church is also signified by these words, Song of Songs 6:10; Isaiah 30:26 (Durham). The Sun here is Christ (Forbes, Cluverus), the sun of righteousness, Malachi 4:2; the light of the world, John 8:12; 9:5; 12:46, who, after the likeness of the Sun, suffers an eclipse, not properly and in Himself, but inasmuch as His light and brightness and glory are intercepted, lest men should see Him (Cluverus). The Moon and stars are those that prevail to diffuse into the hearts of others the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ, etc. (Forbes). Others: Pastors are the Sun, who are the brightest luminaries of the world; who before this are called stars, here sun, by Progression (Cotterius). The Moon here is the Church (Cotterius, Cluverus), Revelation 12:1, 4, which has light from Christ, Matthew 4:16; it is inferior to the stars, that is, Teachers; the Church shines, Philippians 2:15, increases and decreases, and suffers a true Eclipse (Cluverus). The Stars here are, either Christians, or the sons of the Church (Cotterius): or, Teachers (Cluverus).

[In such a way, etc., ἵνα σκοτισθῇ, etc.] In such a way that (ἵνα, so that, in the place of ὥστε/that: For it does not denote purpose, but result, as in Revelation 9:20;[13] 1 John 5:20;[14] etc. [Piscator]) a third part of them was darkened (Beza, Piscator). But this shall be done at the end of the world (Menochius, similarly Ribera). But in these trumpets it has not yet come unto the end of the world, as the following shows (Pareus).

[And, etc., καὶ ἡ ἡμέρα μὴ φαίνῃ τὸ τρίτον αὐτῆς] In the place of κατὰ τὸ τρίτον, for a third,[15] understanding μέρος/part (Piscator). Others: It is a Hebraism, in the place of τὸ τρίτον ἡμέρας μὴ φαίνῃ, that is, a third part of the day was lacking with respect to the accustomed brightness (Grotius).

[And of the night, etc.] Refer this to the light of the moon and stars (Piscator, similarly Cotterius, Cluverus). The brightness of the night also, less than accustomed by a third part. The sense is that in a third part of Judea both work and travel ceased, of which the former was wont to a great extent in those regions to be performed starting with the day, the latter starting with the night. Indeed, less evil than in Egypt, Exodus 10:22; but approaching unto it (Grotius).

Odoacer's Triumph

And the fourth angel sounded, etc.: Interpreters (setting aside one or two, who conceit the Revelation is nothing but a repetition of things that happened in Judea before John’s time) generally agree, that the period of time to which this prophecy relates, is from the year 480, when the western empire ceased. The history of the age next following, both relating to civil and ecclesiastical things, doth so fit this prophecy, that interpreters are much divided about the sense of it, whether it be to be understood of the miseries befalling the Roman empire or the church in that time; for, as great princes in the former, so great lights in the latter, are metaphorically expressed in Scripture under the notions of the sun, moon, and stars, in regard of the great influence they have upon men, as those luminaries of heaven have upon the earth. Mr. Mede understands it of political magistrates, here expressed (as in Joseph’s dream) by the sun, moon, and stars: and to show us how the event fitted the prophecy, he tells us out of the best authors, that when Odoacer had routed Augustulus, and turned him out of the empire, himself ruled Rome under the title of a king sixteen years, and destroyed all their old magistracy, but after two years restored it. That Theodoricus, following him in the government of Italy, restored all their rights again, which so continued under three kings (all Goths) for near fifty years.[16] But after the year 546, Rome was taken and burnt once and again, and a third part of it demolished by Totilas. Others understand it of Pelagius, or some famous heretic in that time. But to speak freely, the words of the prophecy, and the histories we have, rather agree to Mr. Mede’s sense; for (except Pelagius, who began about the year 406) we read of none in this age to whom the words of this prophecy will agree in any good sense.

[1] Greek: Καὶ ὁ τέταρτος ἄγγελος ἐσάλπισε, καὶ ἐπλήγη τὸ τρίτον τοῦ ἡλίου καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῆς σελήνης καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν ἀστέρων, ἵνα σκοτισθῇ τὸ τρίτον αὐτῶν, καὶ ἡ ἡμέρα μὴ φαίνῃ τὸ τρίτον αὐτῆς, καὶ ἡ νὺξ ὁμοίως. [2] Chaldean Paraphrase of Isaiah 13:10: “For the stars of heaven and their constellations (ונפיליהון) shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth; and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.” The giants of the old world were called נְפִילִים/Nephilim, and the constellation Orion also went by this name. It is thought that נְפִילִים/Nephilim is derived from the verbal root נפל, to fall, because they caused the downfall of the world. [3] Vespasian conducted campaigns against Galilee (67 AD) and Judea (68-69 AD), which resulted in the destruction of many towns and the deaths of thousands of Jews. [4] See Joel 1:13. [5] Totila, or Baduila, was king of the Ostrogoths from 541 until his death in 552. He attacked Rome three times between 546 and 549, destroying portions of the city by fire. [6] Ravenna, a city in Northern Italy near the Adriatic Sea, was the capital of the Western Roman Empire from 402 to 476, the capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom from 493 to 540, and the seat of the Exarch (the Byzantine governor) of the Italian province of the Byzantine Empire from 584 to 751, known as the Exarchate of Ravenna. [7] Flavius Anastasius, or Anastasius I (c. 430-518) was Byzantine Emperor from 491 to 518. He was a Miaphysite. [8] Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus (539-602) was Byzantine Emperor from 582 to 602. He was a supporter of the Council of Chalcedon, but tolerant towards Monophysitism. [9] Patriarch John IV of Constantinople (also known as John Nesteutes or John the Faster) served as Patriarch from 582 until his death in 595. He was the first to claim the tile “Universal Bishop” or “Ecumenical Patriarch”; he was opposed by Gregory the Great. [10] These Cathars are not the Albigeneses of medieval France, but the Novatians of the third century. They were the schismatic followers of the Antipope Novatius (c. 250-258), who were deemed heretical for their refusal to readmit Christians who lapsed during persecution. [11] The Donatists were schismatics of the fourth and fifth centuries; they followed Donatus Magnus (died c. 355), who likewise taught that readmission ot the church of Christians who had lapsed under persecution was to be denied. [12] Sylvester I was the Roman Bishop from 314 to 335. It is said that he baptized Constantine the Great. [13] Revelation 9:20a: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that (ἵνα) they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood…” [14] 1 John 5:20: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that (ἵνα) we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” [15] Φαίνω, to shine, is intransitive; thus τὸ τρίτον, the third, is not to be taken as the direct object. Consequently, it would seem that some sort of preposition needs to be supplied. [16] KingsReignTheodoric the Great471-526Athalaric526-534Theodahad534-536Witiges536-540

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