Poole on Revelation 9:5: The Era of the Locust-Scorpions

Verse 5:[1] And to them it was given that they should not kill them, (Rev. 11:7; 9:10) but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.


[And it was given, etc.] That is, permitted by God (Piscator, Ribera). Now, was given to them power (Beza, Piscator).



[That they should not kill them] That is, with the death of the body (Piscator, thus Zegers, Durham, Pareus). That they should not kill the people with one great slaughter: which would have been easy for them after they had summoned the Idumeans, unless God had reserved this for the Romans[2] (Grotius). Hence it is proven that the locusts here are not civil, but Ecclesiastical; not manifest tyrants, but pseudo-clergy, etc. (Pareus). You will say that Antichrist is going to kill the witnesses, Revelation 11:3, 7. Response: Antichrist is considered with respect to, either, 1. the faithful, whom he kills bodily, Revelation 11, but here it is stipulated that he should not kill them spiritually; or, 2. hypocrites in the Church, whom, inasmuch as they are subject to him, he does not kill bodily, but torments spiritually. Therefore, although this is a threat of the sending of Antichrist for the punishment of the hypocrites of the Church, it is exhibited as a commandment to him as far as those only. This passage also shows what is the proper work of these locusts, namely, not to kill men bodily (from which the Roman clergy show themselves superstitiously to abstain, even while they set in motion bloody counsels), but to destroy souls (Durham). They do not kill, for they leave religion to men, but a poisonous and moribund one (Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 158). Others: The Arabian Locusts differ from the Horsemen of Euphrates, which are treated in the following Trumpet. It was given to the Saracens to torment the peoples of Roman name for a long time and savagely; but to deprive the very Roman Triental, so that thus I might speak, of either part of its life, it had by no means been given. For when, while the former Trumpets were sounding, out of the ruins of the political state, a new Pontifical King of old Rome, as if at an equal pace with the ruin of the other, had succeeded: neither the Kingdom of this, nor of that new Rome, Constantinople, were the Saracens able to destroy. On the other hand, the Trumpets, with the royal city captured, completely destroyed the Constantinopolitan Kingdom, as we hear in the following Trumpet (Mede’s Works 581).


[But, etc., ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα βασανισθῶσι, etc.] Or, βασανίσωσι, they might torment [as Grotius reads]. In a manuscript it reads βασανισθήσονται, shall be tormented,[3] namely, αὐτοί, they themselves (Grotius). But that they might be tormented (or, cause that they might be tormented [Camerarius], understand, those[4] [Piscator], either, 1. bodily [Cotterius], that they might be vexed with various tortures [Menochius], so that even thus the tormented might repent [Gagnæus]; or, 2. in their consciences (Piscator, Pareus), which these Ecclesiastical imposters terrify with a fear of purgatory and gehenna instilled, and torment with constant anxiety and doubt, extending vain and poisonous remedies, etc. [Pareus]) for five months. Until the coming of Titus. See Josephus’ Jewish War 5:11 (Grotius). These months are understood, either, 1. indefinitely (Durham, Forbes), for comfort; so that it might teach that this plague is not always going to prevail (Forbes), but that the time for it is limited (Pareus, thus Durham). Others: With respect to the entire time of life (Zegers, Gagnæus), which is comprised of five ages, infancy, childhood, adolescence, youth, and old age (Gagnæus). He says five months, for locusts born in the Spring die around the end of Summer, and they are not wont to live more than five months (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:8:495, similarly Mede’s Works 582, Pareus, Durham). See Pliny’s Natural History 11:29 (Mede). But neither do scorpions harm for a longer time, for they grow lethargic in the cold, as Macrobius testifies in his Saturnalia[5] 1:21 (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:29:640). Others: He gives five months to this evil, so that he might, by an equal period of time, and similar forms of attached expressions, lead us to find some similar case in the Old Testament of some general plague against the world, which the sealed ones however escaped: of which sort there is one, namely the Flood. For that, 1. was a general plague upon the whole world; 2. from that only those were rescued whom God sealed, and enclosed in the Ark (a type of the true Church); 3. that plague increased by degrees to vast proportions, but after one hundred and fifty days, or five months, it decreased little by little. Of such a kind also is this plague of Antichrist, namely, general in the entire Christian world, etc. (Forbes). Or, 2. definitely (certain interpreters), five months, namely, uniform and τριακονθήμεροι, of thirty days, that is, by prophetic expression, in which a day is taken for a year (Cotterius), one hundred and fifty years (Cotterius, Piscator, Cluverus, Gravius, Mede). For so many years, not more, the Arian heresy continued, namely, as far as its political power, tyranny, and the persecutions (Gravius, similarly Cluverus). For so many years, Italy, the prince of the earth, and the protagonist of the sin which drew the plague, was vexed by the Saracen Locusts, namely, from the year 830 to the year 980. Indeed, upon other lands, especially the Eastern lands, this plague sat for a longer time. Again, Italy in a singular way appears to have felt the sting of the Tail of the Locusts. For, with the entire swarm compared to the Body, and with the anterior parts, as it was suitable, assigned to the East, where the Head of that Empire was, how were the African hoards extended to such a great distance from the head into the West, except as a Tail? And from these was all the calamity of Italy. And to this perhaps verse 10 has regard, where there is a repeated mention of the Months: where the Complutensian Codex, with the support of the Syriac, Primasius, Andreas Cæsarius, and Arethas (Mede’s Works 582), and Plantinus,[6] does not read, as we do following the Royal Codex,[7] καὶ ἔχουσιν οὐρὰς ὁμοίας σκορπίοις, καὶ κέντρα ἦν ἐν ταῖς οὐραῖς αὐτῶν· καὶ ἡ ἐξουσία, etc., and they have tails like scorpions, and stings were in their tails, and their authority, etc., but thus, καὶ ἔχουσιν οὐρὰς ὁμοίας σκορπίοις, καὶ κέντρα· καὶ ἐν ταῖς οὐραῖς αὐτῶν ἐξουσίαν ἔχουσιν, etc. (Mede’s Works 1108), and they were having tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails they were having power to hurt men for five months, etc. (Mede’s Works 582). Thus these five months are not the entire time of the plague of Locusts, but rather the time in which they were tormenting with their tails (Mede’s Works 1108). Now, inasmuch as this same number is repeated in verse 10 (which sort of thing I do not recall being done elsewhere in the continuous description of the same Type), it appears that there is some mystery beneath this, perhaps, that the reckoning should be doubled, so that it might correspond to a more eminent antitype with respect to a certain space of time. Thus there will be three hundred years, which number makes twice the five annual months, which will comprehend that well-known period of the Saracen Kingdom: which is reckoned from the beginning of the Caliphate of the Abbasids (who first fixed the throne of the Empire in Baghdad),[8] until the same Baghdad was captured by King Togrulbecus of the Turks (who agrees to our Tangrolipix),[9] that is, from about the year 750 to about the year 1055. For of the five years, which exceed, there is no account. Aptly also this interval begins with the yoke of the Exarchate lifted from the City of Rome,[10] with which the calamity of the preceding Trumpet left off (Mede’s Works 582).


[As the torment of a scorpion, etc.] That is, venomous, inflicted stealthily and from concealment (Ribera), the greatest, or harshest torment (Cotterius, Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals, thus Zegers, Durham). One stung by a Scorpion, he is vehemently afflicted with pain, as if from the punctures of needles, and he feels fiery burning: concerning which see Dioscorides’ Concerning Healing Substances 6 and the Scholiast on Nicander (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:29:640).


[Ὡς βασανισμὸς , etc., as the torment, etc.] Not only other goods, but also necessary provisions, they will snatch away from the wretched citizens (Grotius).


And to them it was given, etc.: Supposing the Saracens and Turks here meant by the locusts, here arise two difficulties: 1. How it can be said of them, that they had no power to kill, but only torment men. 2. How their time is set for five months, whereas they have already tormented the world more than a thousand years; and how long they shall yet continue to do so, God only knows: they are both great difficulties. Alsted[11] tells us: That Mahomet began in the year 622, and the Saracens entered Spain 714, where they were called Moors, and kept possession of that kingdom eight hundred years, and that in the year 719, they besieged Constantinople with a navy of three thousand ships and three hundred thousand land soldiers; that before this time they had made themselves masters of Arabia, Palestina, Syria, Persia, Egypt, Africa, and Spain; and in the year 726, carried into France an army consisting of three hundred and seventy-five thousand, where they were beaten by Charles Martell,[12] father to King Pepin.[13] Mr. Mede telleth us, that the Saracens grievously vexed the countries subject to the Roman emperor, but could not take either Rome or Constantinople. The latter was taken by the Turks, in the year 1457, commanded by Sultan Mahomet. This is but a hard interpretation of those words, that they should not kill them; which, it may be, hath made some other interpreters choose to interpret these locusts to signify the Roman clergy, who indeed did not kill men for religion, of many years. But both the one and the other tormented the world enough, and that like a scorpion, which pierceth a man with a venomous sting, and puts him to great pain. For the five months, we shall again meet with them, verse 10.

[1] Greek: καὶ ἐδόθη αὐταῖς ἵνα μὴ ἀποκτείνωσιν αὐτούς, ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα βασανισθῶσι μῆνας πέντε· καὶ ὁ βασανισμὸς αὐτῶν ὡς βασανισμὸς σκορπίου, ὅταν παίσῃ ἄνθρωπον. [2] Josephus relates that twenty thousand Idumeans were allowed into Jerusalem to serve as defenders of the city. Once within the city, the Idumeans turned and proceeded to rob and kill the Jews of Jerusalem. However, the Idumeans were slaughtered along with the Jews by the Romans, and thus Idumea came to an end. [3] The great majority of Byzantine manuscripts read βασανισθῶσι; a few Byzantine manuscripts, together with Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus, read βασανισθήσονται. [4] Latin: illi, nominative plural (serving as the subject). [5] Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius’ (395-423) Saturnalia is a dialogue in which all sorts of historical, mythological, and linguistic curiosities are discussed. [6] Christopher Plantinus (c. 1520-1589) was a French publisher; he settled in Antwerp and established the famous Plantin Press. He published the 1572 Biblia Polyglotta, which was intended to establish the original text of the Old and New Testaments on a scientific basis. The Hebrew of the Old Testament is accompanied by Greek, Latin, and Aramaic translations. The Greek of the New Testament is accompanied by Latin and Syriac translations. [7] The Royal Codex is the 1550 edition of the Greek New Testament published by Robert Estienne. It is called the Editio Regia because of the handsome Greek font used in the printing. [8] The Abbasid Caliphate, or the Caliphate of Baghdad, was established in the year 750. [9] Togrulbecus (c. 990-1063) was the ruler of the Turkish Seljuq dynasty. He conquered Persia, and was commissioned to capture Baghdad in 1055 (which was soon accomplished). He relegated the Abbasid Caliphs to mere figurehead status. [10] The Exarchate of Ravenna fell to the Lombards in 750. [11] John Henry Alsted (1588-1638), a German Protestant, labored as Professor of Philosophy and Divinity at Herborn. The breadth of his learning led to the production of three encyclopedias. [12] The Battle of Tours occurred in October of 732, between the Frankish forces of Charles Martel (c. 668-741) and the army of the Umayyad Caliphate. It was a decisive victory for Martel, arresting the northward expansion of the Islamic invasion of western Europe. [13] Pepin (714-768) was the son of Charles Martel and the father of Charlemagne. He was the King of the Franks from 751-768.

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