Poole on Revelation 9:4: A Most Wise and Powerful Bounding

Verse 4:[1] And it was commanded them (Rev. 6:6; 7:3) that they should not hurt (Rev. 8:7) the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not (Rev. 7:3; see Exod. 12:23; Ezek. 9:4) the seal of God in their foreheads.

[And, etc., καὶ ἐρρέθη,[2] etc.] But it was said to them (namely, by God [Pareus, Durham], with the bridle of His providence restraining them [Pareus]: This word properly signifies the commandment of God, as it appears from Matthew 5, where the precepts of the Decalogue are described by this expression, ἐῤῥέθῃ ἀρχαίοις, it was said to/by the ancients [Hammond]: God is said, or the Angels, to say those things, the causes of which they regulate [Grotius]: It signifies that they were brought by the freedom of their nature against the worshippers of God, and were restrained, not by their own intention, but by the providence of God [Cotterius]) that they should not hurt (you will say that the pious were killed by these: Correct; yet were they not harmed, for their salvation is not obstructed [Pareus], and the witnesses killed by these will come to life again [Pareus on verse 3]) the grass of the earth, etc. God did not permit them to burn either crops, or the City and Temple: which afterwards the Romans did, with God coming by certain degrees unto extremes. The Hebrews also call crops χόρτον/grass, as it is evident from Matthew 13:26.[3] See also what things are on Matthew 6:30.[4] The word δένδρον/tree was discussed in the sections on Revelation 7:1, 3. It is characteristic of locusts to ravage both crops and trees, Exodus 10:5. There is an allusion here to that passage (Grotius). Hence it is evident that these are not locusts properly so called (Lapide, thus Zegers, Pareus, Cluverus, Mede), whose nourishment is in herbs (Lapide, similarly Pareus). It is manifest that not insects, but men, are here designated, for things which are not agreeable to them by nature are attributed to them, for example, to have a human face, the hair of a woman, golden crowns, iron breastplates, etc. For this rule is sound, that, when what is attributed to a Prophetic Type is not agreeable by nature to the same, it directs to the understanding of the thing signified by the type (Mede’s Works 581). Three degrees of the faithful are here denoted: infants with respect to faith and piety are figured by χόρτον/grass; adolescents by χλωρὸν, a green thing; adults by trees. Consult 1 John 2:13, 14 (Cotterius). By these words, grass, etc., he signifies the elect sprouting with the verdure of grace, and bringing forth the most pleasant fruit of virtue (Zegers). Believing commoners are here called Grass, as in Revelation 8:7 (Pareus, Piscator): A Green Thing, either, more powerful believers, who opposed themselves to the Antichrist (Pareus); or, men of an average or humble condition: Trees, illustrious men, as in Revelation 8:7 (Piscator), or, Orthodox Teachers (Pareus). But the mystery is not to be sought in the signification and distinction of these, but inasmuch as they are to be referred unto τὸ πρέπον, the suitability, of the figure. See Exodus 10:15 (Mede’s Works 581).

[Except, etc., εἰ μὴ, etc.] This particle is to be explained, either, 1. exceptively (Grotius, similarly Piscator), if you look to the sense (Piscator); which is of such a kind, That no herb (for this is χόρτος to the Hellenists), nor green thing, nor tree, they should hurt, except those herbs, trees, and green things only, which were not sealed, etc., namely, so that men, and herbs, trees and green things, mutually explain each other (Mede’s Works 580); or, that they should not hurt any man, whether small or great, except those only which, etc. (Piscator). Or, 2. adversatively (Mede, thus Beza, Grotius), so that εἰ μὴ, except, might be taken in the place of ἀλλὰ/but (Mede, Beza); as in Matthew 12:4;[5] Romans 14:14,[6] and elsewhere (Mede’s Works 580), and in Revelation 21:27[7] (Beza); just as ἐάν μὴ is taken in Galatians 2:16[8] (Grotius). [Thus they render the words:] But those men only (it explains what the herbs, etc., signify [Mede’s Works 280]) which have not the seal, etc. (Beza, Piscator). Concerning which see Revelation 7:3 (Piscator), that is, those who are not the servants of God, for servants were bearing the names of their lords on their foreheads; those that are not marked with the symbol of true faith and charity (Gagnæus). Antichrist himself and the locusts are men not sealed, from whom nevertheless they are here distinguished, for now they do not represent men, but the organs of Satan. Hence we learn, 1. that most men are going to run after Antichrist, and those that run after him are certainly going to perish. 2. That in the midst of the darkness of Antichrist God preserved some in faithfulness, etc. (Pareus). Others: It gives the reason why to those wickedest men such power was given over Jerusalem, namely, because those who remained in the city of Jerusalem had not professed the faith of Christ, which is here signified ἀλληγορικῶς/ allegorically by the sign on the forehead; μόνους/only and αὐτῶν/their[9] are wanting in a manuscript[10] (Grotius).

And it was commanded them; that is, these locusts; God so ordered it by his providence. That they should not hurt, etc.: this makes it appear, that these locusts were no insects so called, but typical; for natural locusts live upon green things; they were only to hurt profane men, and hypocrites. It is a sure rule, that when things are attributed to living creatures which do not agree to their natures, the terms are to be understood typically, not literally. Locusts use not to kill men; we may therefore be assured, that the locusts here intended, were men, not insects.

[1] Greek: καὶ ἐρρέθη αὐταῖς ἵνα μὴ ἀδικήσωσι τὸν χόρτον τῆς γῆς, οὐδὲ πᾶν χλωρόν, οὐδὲ πᾶν δένδρον, εἰ μὴ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους μόνους οἵτινες οὐκ ἔχουσι τὴν σφραγῖδα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπὶ τῶν μετώπων αὐτῶν. [2] Ἐρρέθην is an aorist passive form of λέγω, to say. [3] Matthew 13:26: “But when the blade (ὁ χόρτος) was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.” [4] Matthew 6:30: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass (τὸν χόρτον) of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” [5] Matthew 12:4: “How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only (εἰ μὴ, except) for the priests?” [6] Romans 14:14: “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but (εἰ μὴ, except) to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” [7] Revelation 21:27: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but (εἰ μὴ, except) they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” [8] Galatians 2:16a: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but (ἐάν μὴ, except) by the faith of Jesus Christ…” [9] Revelation 9:4b: “…but only (μόνους) those men which have not the seal of God in their (αὐτῶν) foreheads.” [10] Both words are wanting in Codex Alexandrinus. The exclusion of μόνους is favored by the majority of Byzantine manuscipts and Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus. The exclusion of αὐτῶν is favored by some Byzantine manuscripts and Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus. The Textus Receptus includes both.

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