Poole on Revelation 9:9, 10: The Locust-Scorpions Revisited, Part 2

Verse 9:[1] And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was (Joel 2:5-7) as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.


[Breastplates, etc., θώρακας, etc.] Thoraxes (or, breastplates [Beza, Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals]: A symbol of their garments or togas [Piscator]: The Thorax of horsemen, like the breastplate of footmen [Cotterius])…of iron (Piscator, etc.). By which they repel the blows of enemies (Ribera, similarly Pareus, Cotterius). Against all assaults they are fortified by privileges and immunities, exempt from all secular power, and feared by Kings themselves, as if subject to their own King Abaddon only (Forbes, similarly Pareus, Durham). In a certain way, this pertains to the nature of locusts, concerning which Claudian[2] says, …the covering on its back grows hard; nature gives armor to its skin (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:8:495). Suppose them to be such as Horace[3] describes, It had oak and threefold brass around its breast.[4] For by breastplate the Breast is understood; by iron, Hardness (Grotius). It denotes their obdurate and obstinate persistence against truth (Gagnæus, similarly Zegers). Others: of iron, that is, of the color of iron, that is, dark. Thus in verse 17, hyacinthine and sulfurous (Piscator).


And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; armed with the best armour of defence.


[And the voice (or, sound [Beza, Piscator], buzzing [Menochius]) of their wings (he says this because he gave to them the appearance of Locusts [Grotius]: Locusts fly with a great noise, as Cyril testifies: Thus Pliny’s Natural History 11:29, With such a great a buzzing of wings they fly, that some are thought to be birds: Ælian, in his History of Animals 6:19, calls it the buzzing locust [Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:5:475]) as the voice of chariots, etc.] They do all things with a great noise. An expression taken from Joel 2:5 (Grotius); that is to say, the Locusts were great (Ribera), and many (Ribera, similarly Cotterius), and rush into battles with the swiftest and most powerful charge (Cotterius). Their wings are privileges, by which they raise themselves above the lot of all men; and thence their confidence arose (Pareus), by which they spurn even Kings and keep them in fear (Pareus, similarly Forbes, Durham), with the terror of excommunication, etc. (Durham). By this symbol is indicated the most pugnacious spirit of the heretics, prone to disagreements (Cluverus), the confusion of debates, and the din of words, with which heretics attack the Church (Gagnæus).


And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle; like locusts, they moved very swiftly. This agreeth to the Saracens, who made such haste in their conquests, that (saith Mr. Mede) in little more than eighty years they had subdued Palestina, Syria, both the Armenias, almost all the Lesser Asia, Persia, India, Egypt, Numidia,[5] all Barbary,[6] Portugal, Spain; and within a few more, Sicily, Candia,[7] Cyprus, and were come to the very gates of Rome; so as they had many crowns on their heads, and moved as with wings.


Verse 10:[8] And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: (Rev. 9:5) and their power was to hurt men five months.


[Tails (that is, the Stingers of their tails [Grotius]) similar to those of scorpions[9] (or, to scorpions[10] [Montanus, Beza, Piscator], that is, the tails of scorpions [Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:29:634]), and the stingers, etc.] Concerning the tail of the scorpion it can be said what Chrysippus[11] said of the peacock, that the animal was created because of its tail. Lucian calls the scorpion πολυσφόνδυλον/many-jointed,[12] because it has many joints in its tail, namely, six or seven, as testify Strabo[13] in his “Concerning Mauritania”,[14] Pliny in his Natural History 11:25, Ælian in his History of Animals 6:20, and Avicenna. On the tip of its tail there is a spike, either simple, or sometimes twofold, bored through with a thin conduit, by which it infuses venom, Pliny’s Natural History 11:37, Ælian’s History of Animals 9:4, etc. With its prick it kills men, and lions, as Ambrose testifies, and camels and elephants, as Damir[15] observes. But in the case of the scorpion the most grievous thing is, that, with Pliny as an authority, the tail is always in striking mode, and at no moment does it cease to practice, lest at any time it miss an occasion. He says that the tail is in striking mode, because it is always erect and tense, so that it might be more prepared to strike. Yet there is also a type of scorpion which does not raise its tail, but it drags it lying on the ground (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:4:29:621). Nicander said, —Κέντρῳ κεκορυθμένον ἀλγινοέντι Σκόρπιον, the Scorpion is equipped with a grievous goad. Cicero, The dangerous scorpion carries before it its doleful sting.[16] Avienus,[17] …the Scorpion in the poisonous column of its tail is raised Highest. Tertullian, concerning Scorpions, One gestures of violence belonging to all, harming with the tail.[18] The power of other serpents is in the head; hence Scorpions wound from a part less expected. Thus the Zealots were wounding when they were not at all thought to be about to wound: they were entering as defenders, exiting as plunderers. Men barbarous and with ill habits were wont to be called scorpions, as Apuleius teaches us, but also Ezekiel in Ezekiel 2:6 (Grotius). The tail of the Locusts (that is, of the Saracens) is the final crowd of them, scattered the greatest distance from the head of the Empire. The head of the Empire was in Mesopotamia; therefore, the tail is in Africa and Spain. Now, by this tail, that is, by the Saracens conveyed out of Africa and Spain, the Provinces were afflicted to a remarkable extent, which Provinces were under the Roman Patriarch, as his proper Diocese (Mede’s Works 1113). Others: Just as the tail in the case of an animal is last, so also the conclusion in the case of an event. Therefore, they will be μελανοῦροι, black-tailed fish. The conclusion will show that those men did not at all sincerely wish well to those to whom they passed themselves off as friends in the beginning (Cotterius). Animals are coaxed by tails, like dogs, cats, etc. (Piscator). It denotes, therefore, the enticements (Piscator, thus Durham) of seducers, on which nevertheless there are stingers (Durham); with which they stealthily strike, while in the meantime they flatter to the face (Zegers): by the same part which they were using to please they bring ruin, and they seduce the incautious with flattering words, Romans 16:18 (Durham). The teacher of lies is the tail, Isaiah 9:15 (Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 158).


[And their power (understand, was [Beza, Piscator]) to harm, etc.] More specifically, by the prick of false doctrine (Piscator), but not to kill (Drusius, Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 158). He repeats this a second time (Grotius, Durham, Cluverus), [either] lest someone should think that that plague is interminable and perpetual (Cluverus): [or] because the time exactly defined presents an eminent testimony to Divine Prividence (Grotius), and confirms our faith concerning this: [or, 3.] because there it is mentioned by way of limitation, insofar as they would not torment them for a long time, but here it shows that the duration is going to be for so long a time until the foreordained time should come (Durham): [or, 4.] so that the calculation might be doubled (Mede’s Works 583) [concerning which see the things said on verse 5].



And they had tails like unto scorpions; a kind of venomous serpents that have their stings in their tails, with which they presently kill both men and beasts. And their power was to hurt men five months; what these five months mean is very hard to say; certainly it is a certain number for an uncertain, and mentioned rather than any other time, because it is (as they say) the usual time of the life of locusts; though some observe, that five months have in them (counting as the Hebrews, thirty days to the month) one hundred and fifty days, and a day standing for a year, as in prophetical writings, it denoteth the just time the Saracens raged in Italy, from the year 830 to the year 980; as to which I refer my reader to search histories.

[1] Greek: καὶ εἶχον θώρακας ὡς θώρακας σιδηροῦς, καὶ ἡ φωνὴ τῶν πτερύγων αὐτῶν ὡς φωνὴ ἁρμάτων ἵππων πολλῶν τρεχόντων εἰς πόλεμον. [2] Claudian (late fourth-early fifth century AD) was a Roman poet from Alexandria. A fragment of his twenty-third epigram, “The Locust”, survives. [3] Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC-8 AD) was a Roman poet, perhaps the greatest of his day. [4]Odes 1:3. [5] Numidia was a Berber kingdom and Roman province (202-246 BC), situated in what is now Tunisia and Algeria, in north Africa. [6]The Barbary Coast was a term used by Europeans to refer to the middle and western portions of North Africa. The name is derived from the indigenous Berber people. [7] Candia is the island of Crete. [8] Greek: καὶ ἔχουσιν οὐρὰς ὁμοίας σκορπίοις, καὶ κέντρα ἦν ἐν ταῖς οὐραῖς αὐτῶν· καὶ ἡ ἐξουσία αὐτῶν ἀδικῆσαι τοὺς ἀνθρώπους μῆνας πέντε. [9] The Vulgate reading: caudas similes scorpionum. [10] Greek: οὐρὰς ὁμοίας σκορπίοις. [11] Chrysippus (c. 280 BC-c. 207 BC) was a Greek, Stoic philosopher. [12]Dipsas 3. [13] Strabo (c. 63 BC-c. 24 AD) was a geographer and historian. [14]Mauritania is located on the northwestern coast of Africa. Strabo discusses Mauritania (also known as Maurusia) in his Geography 17:3. [15] Ad-Damir, or Mohammed Ibn Mura Iban Ita Ibn Abdi-l-kadir (flourished c. 1350), an Arabian naturalist, was born at Demir, near Damietta, in Egypt. He wrote several works of natural history, and a history of the khalifs. [16]Phænomena Aratea 686. [17] Rufius Festus Avienus (fourth century) was a Roman aristocrat, probably serving as proconsul of Africa and Achaia at various times. He did important work in geography, paraphrasing Dionysius’ work, and providing his own description of the coasts of the Mediterranean, Caspian, and Black Seas, of which description only fragment remain. [18]De Scorpiace 1.

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