Poole on Revelation 9:3: Locusts out of the Smoke!

Verse 3:[1] And there came out of the smoke (Ex. 10:4; Judg. 7:12) locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, (Rev. 9:10) as the scorpions of the earth have power.



[And (καὶ/and here means for: It renders the reason why that doctrine was lamentable, for thence arose an extremely wicked faction of Zealots, which in Jerusalem and throughout Judea spoiled others loving of peace and vexed them in a great many ways: concerning whose crimes, Josephus speaks at length [Grotius]) from the smoke of the well came forth locusts upon the earth] That is, hastening upon earthly men (Gravius): or, upon Judea, as we have often already seen. Here also regard is paid to the plague of Egypt, although in an Allegorical sense, as above in the case of the Hail-storm. See Exodus 10:4 (Grotius). There appears to be an allusion here to the manner of hunting locusts, concerning which thus Agatharcides[2] and Diodorus,[3] They kindle a great amount of smokey material injected into deep and wide chasms, and the locusts, flying above and being suffocated by the smoke, fall to the earth (Bochart’s[4] A Sacred Catalogue of Animals[5] 2:4:8:495). Locusts, a kind of insect, consume grass, shrubs, and the fruits of the earth. These are of the greatest number in Africa and Asia. Whence here they aptly denote a multitude of men (Cotterius). Here he understands locusts, either, 1. properly and literally, which are here described, not with respect to their habits, but with respect to their external form and figure, and the structure of their bodies; namely, that in face they were like unto men, in hair like unto women, in form of body like unto armed horses. It is proven from the following: 1. Those that take it mystically give no account of that matter. [It will be evident that this is not spoken according to truth.] 2. Herbs, trees, etc., are to be understood literally. 3. They are certainly not men, for they lack reason, and therefore they are governed by an Angel, Revelation 9:11. Neither are they impious men, for these men, indeed men of every sort, are injured by locusts (Anonymous). [But concerning these things the reader will easily pass judgment from the following things.] Or, 2. figuratively, as they are often taken in the Prophets, which will more clearly appear from the explanation of what follows (Ribera). [Now, here they vary:] Are called locusts here, either, 1. Demons (Zegers, Ribera, Lapide), which put on the appearance and form of locusts (Lapide out of Ribera); but new and monstrous, inasmuch as mixed and stitched together from various Animals, the Lion, Scorpion, Horse, and Man. For they proceed from hell, and are therefore infernal (Lapide). Or, 2. men undertaking the ruin of Christians (Cotterius). Or, 3. plunderers [namely, the Zealots, as Grotius said above], which are compared to locusts, for they leave all things waste after themselves. This similitude occurs in Josephus’ Jewish War 4:7, and Aristophanes’ The Acharnians, where the Scholiast says that a multitude is signified by locusts. Thus also Judges 7:12. Thus also Achmet’s Oneirocriticon 300. In Joel, the armies of Pul,[6] Tilgath-Pilneser,[7] Shalmaneser,[8] Sennacherib,[9] are called erucæ,[10] locusts, bruchi,[11] attelabi,[12] as we said there[13] (Grotius). Or, 4. men, wild and skilled in destruction (Ribera), like the Goths, Vandals, etc. (Ribera, Lapide), likewise the Agareni[14] and Turks (Lapide). Objection: But they are of those not sealed, who nevertheless rage against those not sealed. Response: Not all of those not sealed are to be tormented by the locusts, but certain ones only, who, it is not strange, are afflicted by infidels either of their own, or another, sect (Ribera). Here the locusts are Saracens or Arabs, a race populous and numerous after the likeness of locusts, aroused unto the destruction of so many Nations by the stupefaction of the Pseudo-prophecy of Mohammed (Mede’s Works 579, Napier, Brightman). For this make, both, 1. that the Egyptian Locusts also came out of the same Arabia, Exodus 10:13, 14; and, 2. that the Arabs are similar to locusts on account of multitude, Judges 7:12, where, as elsewhere, they are called the Children of the East, as Arabia itself is called קֶדֶם, the East, certainly with respect to Egypt,[15] where the Israelites had learned thus to speak; and, 3. that Achmet refers locusts seen to hostile armies, and their multitude, Oneirocriticon 300 (Mede’s Works 579). But to this opinion it is objected, that these locusts did not harm good men, but only evil men; neither were they killing men, but only tormenting their bodies, and that for no more than five months; which things cannot be said of the Saracens, but neither of the Zealots in Judea, nor of the Goths and Vandals (Anonymous 76). Or, 5. false Teachers (Piscator, thus Cluverus out of Primasius and Haymo[16] and Anselm[17] and others), the companions and forerunners of Antichrist (a great many interpreters in Cluverus), heresiarchs and heretics (Lapide, thus Zegers), who imitate locusts both with respect to their inconstancy, and inasmuch as they pollute all with their ulcerous mouths, etc. (certain interpreters in Lapide). However, heretics do not torment the impious alone, but rather the pious and orthodox: whom indeed they poison with their venom, torment not in such a way that they wish for death, but entice with the dainties of this life in such a way that they very much dread death, and intensely desire life (Tirinus on verse 11). The locusts were men, even indeed Ecclesiastical men, as it is evident from this, that they are subject to their own Monarch, Abaddon, or Antichrist, verse 11. Out of the smoke they come, for out of the corruption of doctrine arise corrupt Teachers, as we see in 2 Chronicles 11:14, 15 and 2 Timothy 4:3 (Durham’s Commentary upon the Book of Revelation 438). Here are vividly depicted the Roman clergy (Forbes, similarly Lightfoot, Durham, Brightman, Pareus, etc.), and their religious Orders (Durham’s Commentary upon the Book of Revelation 443), as shows the lengthy hair, after the likeness of the Nazarites, which is an indication of a vow (Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 158): who are deservedly called locusts, 1. on account of the vast number of them (Durham), and overflowing herd (Forbes); 2. because they are useless, and pernicious, consuming all things, etc. (Durham); 3. on account of their insatiable gluttony, by which they devour all the most excellent things on the earth, and efface spiritual life in men (Forbes).


[And was given to them power (either, 1. by the Angel of the well of the abyss [Durham]; or, 2. by God [certain interpreters]: Ἐξουσία here and below is to be referred to the permission of God [Grotius]), as the scorpions of the earth have power] That is, Those that live on the earth (Piscator), not those that live in the Sea (Drusius). Although by the name of scorpions terrestrial ones are wont to be understood almost exclusively, for the common people did not know others; yet those that speak more deliberately, with the Epithet added as it is here, say terrestrial scorpions, like Ctesias[18] in the place concerning the manticore,[19] Aristotle in his History of Animals[20] 5:26, Pliny in his Natural History 11:25, Dioscorides in his Concerning Healing Substances,[21] Hesychius,[22] and Philoxenus,[23] so that they might distinguish them from others (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:29:635). Therefore, John thus speaks διακριτικῶς/ diacritically, for scorpions are of three sorts (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:1:5:34), 1. aerial and flying, or winged, concerning which speak Lucian[24] in Concerning Snakes,[25] Pliny in his Natural History 11:25, Ælian[26] in his History of Animals[27] 16, Pausanius[28] in his “Concerning Beotia”,[29] Nicander,[30] Epiphanius,[31] Avicenna,[32] etc.: 2. Marine, concerning which speak Aristotle, Dioscorides, Athenæus,[33] Galen, etc. These have nothing in common with the terrestrial ones, beyond poisonous spines, not in the tail, but scattered on the head and whole body. 3. Terrestrial, of which there are nine kinds, etc. (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:29:634). This animal is venomous, striking with its tail and hurting with its venom (Drusius, similarly Mede). They look like locusts, but they strike after the likeness of scorpions (Durham). A wondrous thing, a Locust Scorpion! Now, what sort of evil this indicates, the Symbol of the serpentine species appears to tell: since a Scorpion is of the serpentine genus. Now, with the appearance of this, by which the Devil deceived the first men, hereafter the Holy Spirit is fond of introducing him as being about to lead away men, Revelation 12:9; 20:2. The tail, therefore, of the Scorpion with the stinger denotes the offspring of the Mohammedan Pseudo-prophecy with its entire apparatus. And this long train of most filthy errors the first Saracens after the originating men drew after themselves; nor (I believe) by a similar imposture concerning relgion, and under the pretext of destroying the worship of Idolaters, had any people at any time propped up before these contended for the Empire of the World (Mede). The Scorpion signifies loss and Disease, says Achmet in Oneirocriticon 285. These [Zealots] were wasting the City by a lingering evil, as Scorpions are wont to do, Pliny’s Natural History 11:25; Proverbs 23:32. See Revelation 9:5, 10 (Grotius). This animal is famous for its malice, ferocity, vindictiveness and injury; whence the proverb, thou dost rouse the eight-legged Scorpion, and σκορπιόω/skorpioo is to provoke unto anger: it carries its stinger always stretched forth, strikes the incautious obliquely, kills men, but with a lingering suffering, etc. Those that do things equal to these are here designated (Lapide). The adversaries are not plain and evident, but cunning and hidden, often displaying an image of piety; but, like Scorpions, spreading deadly poison in the inferior parts (Zegers). Ezekiel 2:6: Thou dwellest with scorpions. Jerome on this passage: Those that are untameable in heart are called scorpions. Apuleius,[34] Thou art aware of a certain barbarous councilman of our city, whom the common people call a Scorpion because of the sickness of his behavior (Drusius). They are cunning and deadly, cleverly pouring in their venomous doctrine (Durham).


And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth; from the influence which the devil thus let loose had upon the world, came forth a generation of men, that in their practices resembled locusts. Who are to be understood by these locusts, is not easy to resolve. The locusts were an insect with which God sometimes plagued the Egyptians; they are much in the Eastern countries. It was an east wind which brought them upon Egypt, Exodus 10:12, 13. God often hath punished people with them, they are therefore threatened, or mentioned as a judgment in case of disobedience, Deuteronomy 28:38, 42; 1 Kings 8:37; Joel 1:4; 2:25. Two things are to be remarked of them: 1. They were wont to go in infinite numbers: Proverbs 30:27, They go forth by bands: Nahum 3:15, Make thyself many as the locusts: without number, Psalm 105:34. 2. The mischief they do is expressed there, Psalm 105:35, to eat up the herbs of the land, and to devour the fruit of the ground: so they did in Egypt. We have a little specimen of them in our caterpillars in times of drought, usually caused from the wind hanging long in the east. The psalmist, Psalm 105:34, joineth the locusts and the caterpillars together. By the following description of these locusts, and the mischief which they did, Revelation 9:4, 7-10, it appeareth plainly that these were no natural, but metaphorical locusts, men that, for their numbers and the mischief they did in the world, did resemble locusts; but who these were is the question. I find but two opinions that have any probability: the one is of a late learned writer, who judgeth them the popish clergy, to whom, indeed, many things agree. 1. They come out of the smoke, that is, the great influence which the devil hath upon the world. 2. They are numerous. 3. Their king is Abaddon; they destroy every green herb, nipping religion, in all places, in the bud. But I cannot see how two or three things can agree to them: 1. That they do no hurt to the Lord’s sealed ones, when as their particular malice is against the purest and strictest profession. 2. That they do not kill, but only torment men, verse 5. 3. And (which is the greatest) I cannot see how the period of time agreeth to them. For this prophecy seemeth to respect the sixth and seventh age; and though all these things agree to the Romish clergy in later ages, especially since the Jesuits grew numerous, which is not much above one hundred and twenty years since, yet these three did not so agree to the Romish clergy in the sixth and seventh age. Their Benedictine orders began but in the year 530, and their orders of Dominicans, much more mischievous, not till upwards of the year 1200; the Jesuits, after the year 1500. I therefore rather agree with the learned and judicious Mr. Mede, with whom I also find John Napier and others agreeing, that by these locusts are meant the Turks and Saracens. 1. Their time agreeth; for they first appeared formidably to the world about the year 620. 2. They were always very numerous. 3. They came the locusts’ road, from Arabia, and the eastern parts. The Arabians (which the Saracens are) are called the children of the east, and said to be like grasshoppers for multitude.[35] Two things are objected: 1. That these locusts are commanded not to hurt the Lord’s sealed ones. 2. That their commission is but for five months. As to the latter, we shall speak to it when we come to that clause. As to the former, why may it not denote the liberty that in their conquests they generally give to all religions, so as they put none to death upon that account? How far other things will agree to them, I leave to be further considered in the next verses. And unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power; that is, such a power as scorpions have. We shall have a more particular account of this, verse 10.

[1] Greek: καὶ ἐκ τοῦ καπνοῦ ἐξῆλθον ἀκρίδες εἰς τὴν γῆν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐταῖς ἐξουσία, ὡς ἔχουσιν ἐξουσίαν οἱ σκορπίοι τῆς γῆς. [2] Agatharcides (second century BC) was a Greek historian. Only fragments of his works on history and geography survive. [3] Diodorus Siculus (c. 90-c. 30 BC), a Greek historian, wrote the massive Bibliotheca Historia in forty books. Unhappily, only fifteen books have survived. [4] Samuel Bochart (1599-1667) was a French pastor and scholar with a wide variety of interests, including philology, theology, geography, and zoology. He was on familiar terms with many of the greatest men of his age. [5]Hierozoicon, sive Bipertitum Opus de Animalibus Scripturæ. [6] 2 Kings 15:19, 20. [7] 2 Chronicles 28:20. [8] 2 Kings 17:3; 18:9. [9] 2 Kings 18:13; 19; 2 Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36:1; 37. [10] A sort of caterpillar. [11] A sort of wingless locust. [12] A sort of wingless locust. [13] See Joel 1:4. [14] Agareni, or Hagarites, are descendants of Hagar. The name was sometimes applied to the Saracens. [15] Exodus 10:13: “And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind (ר֥וּחַ קָדִים֙) upon the land all that day, and all that night; and the east wind (וְר֙וּחַ֙ הַקָּדִ֔ים), when it was morning, brought the locusts.” [16] Haymo of Auxerre (died c. 855) was a Benedictine monk. Little is known about his life. He wrote a commentary on Revelation in the Historicist tradition. [17] Anselm (c. 1034-1109) was Archbishop of Canterbury, remembered for his expression of the ontological argument for the existence of God, and of the satisfaction theory of the atonement. He wrote Enarrationes in Apocalysim Sancti Joannis Apostoli. [18] Ctesias of Cnidus (fourth century BC) was a Greek physician and historian. He wrote a twenty-three volume history of Assyria, Babylon and Persia, but it survives only in an abridgment by Photius and in the quotations of other authors. [19] The manticore was a mythological, man-eating creature, with the head of a man, the body of a lion or tiger, and the tail of a scorpion or dragon. [20]Historia Animalium. [21] Padanius Dioscorides (c. 40-c. 90 AD) was a Greek physician and pharmacologist. He traveled all over the Roman world in search of substances with medicinal properties. He wrote a five volume work, De Materia Medica, which was in use until the seventeenth century. [22] Hesychius of Alexandria (fifth century AD) composed a Greek lexicon of almost fifty-one thousand entries, filled with explanations of rare and obscure words and phrases. [23] This is likely Philoxenus, the Greco-Egyptian physician, who lived before the first century BC. [24] Lucian of Samosata (c. 120-c. 180) was a trained rhetorician, particularly skilled in satire. [25]De Dipsadibus. [26] Claudius Ælianus (c. 175-c. 235) was a Roman rhetorician and teacher. [27] De Natura Animalium. [28] Pausanius (second century AD) was a Greek geographer; he wrote a Description of Greece. [29] “De Bæoticis”. Beotia, in Greece, is located north of the eastern part of the Gulf of Corinth. [30] Nicander was a second century BC Greek poet and physician. [31] The profound erudition of Epiphanius (c. 310-403) led to his installation as Bishop of Salamis. He was something of a heresy hunter, combating Apollinaris, the disciples of Origen, and even at one point Chrysostom. [32] Avicenna, or Ibn Sina (980-1037), was a Muslim philosopher and physician. He is remembered for his critical interaction with Aristotle and his groundbreaking work in medicine. [33] Athenæus of Naucratis (late first-early second century AD) wrote Deipnosophistæ (or Banquet of the Learned), a dialogue in which the characters discuss a wide range of topics including food. [34] Apuleius’ (c. 125-c. 180) novel, Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass, is the only Latin novel from this period that has survived in its entirety. [35] See Judges 6:3-5.

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