December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- 1 Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star 2 that had fallen from the sky to the earth. It was given the key for the passage to the abyss.
- It opened the passage to the abyss, and smoke came up out of the passage like smoke from a huge furnace. The sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the passage.
- Locusts came out of the smoke onto the land, and they were given the same power as scorpions 3 of the earth.
- They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or any tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
- They were not allowed to kill them but only to torment them for five months; 4 the torment they inflicted was like that of a scorpion when it stings a person.
- During that time these people will seek death but will not find it, and they will long to die but death will escape them.
- 5 The appearance of the locusts was like that of horses ready for battle. On their heads they wore what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,
- and they had hair like women's hair. Their teeth were like lions' teeth,
- and they had chests like iron breastplates. The sound of their wings was like the sound of many horse-drawn chariots racing into battle.
- They had tails like scorpions, with stingers; with their tails they had power to harm people for five months.
- They had as their king the angel of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon 6 and in Greek Apollyon.
- The first woe has passed, but there are two more to come.
- 7 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the [four] 8 horns of the gold altar before God,
- telling the sixth angel who held the trumpet, "Release the four angels 9 who are bound at the banks of the great river Euphrates."
- So the four angels were released, who were prepared for this hour, day, month, and year to kill a third of the human race.
- The number of cavalry troops was two hundred million; I heard their number.
- Now in my vision this is how I saw the horses and their riders. They wore red, blue, 10 and yellow breastplates, and the horses' heads were like heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and sulfur.
- By these three plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur that came out of their mouths a third of the human race was killed.
- For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like snakes, with heads that inflict harm.
- The rest of the human race, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, 11 to give up the worship of demons and idols made from gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.
- Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic potions, their unchastity, or their robberies.
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1 [1-12] The fifth trumpet heralds a woe containing elements from the eighth and ninth plagues of Egypt (Exodus 10:12-15, 21-23) but specifically reminiscent of the invasion of locusts in Joel 1:4-2:10.
2  A star: late Judaism represented fallen powers as stars (Isaiah 14:12-15; Luke 10:18; Jude 1:13), but a comparison with Rev 1:20 and Rev 20:1 suggests that here it means an angel. The passage to the abyss: referring to Sheol, the netherworld, where Satan and the fallen angels are kept for a thousand years, to be cast afterwards into the pool of fire; cf Rev 20:7-10. The abyss was conceived of as a vast subterranean cavern full of fire. Its only link with the earth was a kind of passage or mine shaft, which was kept locked.
3  Scorpions: their poisonous sting was proverbial; Ezekiel 2:6; Luke 11:12.
4  For five months: more or less corresponding to the life-span of locusts.
5 [7-10] Eight characteristics are listed to show the eschatological and diabolical nature of these locusts.
6  Abaddon: Hebrew (more precisely, Aramaic) for destruction or ruin. Apollyon: Greek for the "Destroyer."
7 [13-21] The sixth trumpet heralds a woe representing another diabolical attack symbolized by an invasion by the Parthians living east of the Euphrates; see the note on Rev 6:2. At the appointed time (Rev 9:15), the frightful horses act as God's agents of judgment. The imaginative details are not to be taken literally; see Introduction and the note on Rev 6:12-14.
8  [Four]: many Greek manuscripts and versions omit the word. The horns were situated at the four corners of the altar (Exodus 27:2; 30:2-3); see the note on Rev 8:3.
9 [14-15] The four angels: they are symbolic of the destructive activity that will be extended throughout the universe.
10  Blue: literally, "hyacinth-colored." Yellow: literally, "sulfurous."
11  The works of their hands: i.e., the gods their hands had made.
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