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Posted on CCPC's website 2022
The study Index page.
Again. This study is verse by verse, IMAGE by Image, IDEA by Idea, and concept by concept. Which means it is a Marathon.
We are using sources that John the Apostle and those mentioned as the recipients of the letter, the Seven Churches and other First Century Christians, the majority of which were Jews, would / should / could have been familiar with. We will also reference newer translations and versions of the book, beginning with the 1560 Geneva Bible (the bulk source for the 1611 KJV, which we also use) all the way up to much more current publications, and examinations of the text from various scholars, as well as beginning the analysis of the text from the Greek.
It should be said here, as we are beginning with the Greek, we are going in remembering that John was writing in an 'apocalyptic' style. It seems many translations have forgotten that and 'moderated' the language.
This chapter opens with the fifth trumpet and an “astera” (star-like object) from “ouranou” (heaven or the sky) fell to Earth. And “auto” (this person) was given the “kleis” (key) to the “phreatos tes abyssou” (pit of the 'unfathomable' Abyss)...
A Deep Tangent
From this and other references, the Pit mentioned is not an oubliette, it is, however, a prison. And a very specific prison from Jewish, and other regional, mythologies.
In Egypt two of the primordial gods, Nu (Nun) and Nanuet, represented the 'watery abyss' from which the world was created and who gave birth (so to speak) of the other, and now more famous, gods. The older Sumerian legend names the original underworld as Abzu, a void of water before the world was made which was home to Enki/Ea. Of course Greece also had a pit beneath the Earth, Tartarus, which also doubled as a prison for souls awaiting judgment, as well as the resident primordial being that hung out there. The other entities from before the beginning were Gaia, Nyx, and Chronos (Earth, Night, and Time).
Oh, there's a question:
“Wait a minute, isn't there another deep watery void of creation?”
Yes. The words in Genesis 1 were “tohu wabohu” (formless void) and “tahowm” (the deep). Later in Genesis 7 and 8 it talks about the “fountains of the deep” opening, and Job 38 says God walks there. It is also mentioned in Psalms and Proverbs. More to the point for us in Revelation, Ezekiel 31 talks about 'the deep' in terms of 'sheol'.
The idea that the 'pit' of the abyss (a hole in a hole, which may be thought of as an oubliette in a basement, obscure reference explained below) in Revelation is 'bottomless' is obviously figurative in terms of depth, however, the word may also include the idea of time, which it may well be considering the context.
2 and 3
The pit in the abyss is “enoixen” (opened) and “kapnos” (smoke) like from a “megales” (mega) “kaminou” ('man-made burning device' such as an oven, kiln, or furnace) that “eskotothe” darkened the sun and the air.
And out of the smoke came “akrides” (locusts). “And unto them was given power, as the 'skorpioi' of the Earth have power”. The word is “exousian”, meaning 'mastery, influence, privilege, freedom' and so on. When you think about it, who bothers a scorpion?
4 and 5
The locusts are not to “adikesousin” (harm, do wrong, injure) the “chorton” (grass) any “chloron” (green thing) or any “dendron” (tree). They are only to harm the humans who do not have the “sphragida tou Theou” (Mark of God) on them. This is counterintuitive, locusts have always been a scourge to farmers and gardeners. A swarm can eat an entire crop in a large field in hours....
"Imagine a swarm the size of Manhattan in New York, which is not a very big swarm," Cressman says. "That single swarm in one day will eat the same amount of food as everybody in New York and California."5 continues:
Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer, UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (see below)
One of the most terrifying verses in the entire Bible.
The NIV, Living, KJV and other mainstream translations are in line with the Greek except toward the end.
Death doesn't just 'elude' them. Death “pheugei” vanishes.
“tonight's nightmare inducing monster on the late movie....”
7 - 10
And these 'locusts' are NOT your typical 'second cousin to a grasshopper' locust.
Their “homoiomata” (appearance and resemblance) was like “hippois hetoimasmenois eis polemon” (horses prepared for warfare).
They also had “hos” (something like a) “stephanoi” (crown or wreath or even a chaplet 'string of beads', but not a 'halo') of “chryso” (gold) on their heads.
The next few clauses are a bit murkier: the locusts “prosopa” (countenance, presence, or appearance) was like a “anthropon” (humans). They had “trichas” (hair) like “gynaikon” (women). And their “odontes” (teeth) like “leonton” (lions). And they had “thorakas” (chest armor) of “siderous” (iron).
And the “phone” (tone, sound) of their “pterygon” (wings) was like many “hippon harmaton” (horses and chariots) “trechonton” (running, including charging) into battle. And the locusts have “skorpiois” tails, then there is a restatement that they can “adikesai” (injure, harm) men for five months.
Time for a Monstrous Tangent:
These things, like the "four beasts" in Revelation Four, and others that we'll meet later, have distant relatives throughout the Middle East and elsewhere in the classical world. For instance, we'll look at the legendary 'Scorpion Men' of Babylon, the "aqrabuamelu". They had the upper body of a man, and the lower body and tail of a scorpion. In some of the ancient stone reliefs they can be seen with helmets on their heads and holding a bow. (See a good starter page link below.)
But given that the creatures in chapter four also have the wings and perhaps other aspects of a locust, they would be more of a Chimera. While the ancient monster had specific attributes of three or four animals (usually the head of a lion, with parts of a goat (including another head) and a third head as a snake for a tail, and perhaps horses hooves), today the word is used to apply to literal monstrosities such as is being described in the verses we're looking at.
Many of these sorts of creatures, including the famous Griffin (front of an eagle back end of a lion), and the Centaur (a man / horse), have come down to us from the far flung past. And occasionally today, when they're not lurking just around the corner in a video game, they can be seen in the roles they occupied in their original jobs. Working for various ancient gods. The "scorpion men" and the griffins were often depicted as guardians, sometimes of the realm of the gods and sometimes of a great treasure. In other legends, similar creatures were warriors, or perhaps a better word would be 'mercenaries'. We'll revisit this tangent later when another 'monster' appears in another role later.
Of course, our friends from Revelation 9 are unique in their physical aspect and mission, and that they have been given 'power' to torture men, but not to kill them. One aspect of this is the locust factor. Other than their wings, they don't seem to have a lot of that ingredient visible, including their diet. However, there is one other factor we must consider. Perhaps the only other hing 'locust-y' about them is that they appear as locusts do: In uncountable numbers as an irresistible swarm.
The “they” this verse is referring to is apparently the 'locusts'. Their “basilea” (sovereign ruler) is the “angelon tes abyssou” (angel of the abyss). Both the listed Hebrew and Greek names come out about the same in translation: The Destroyer.
The first “Ouai” is over. “Idou”/ “Behold”, or, in modern terms, “Oh, by the way...” there's two more 'woes' to go.
The sixth angel sounds his trumpet, and a voice comes from the horns of the Altar.
Back to the Altar, semi-tangent:
In the Altar Tangent of chapter 6 we went through the references to the Altars in the Temple. The specifications from Exodus 27 include a 'horn' at each corner. Later the Prophet Amos said the horns would be cut off the altar because of Israel's idolatry.
All of the sudden, those horns speak as one, with one voice. It isn't exactly clear from the text if only one of the horns speak or all of them. And it isn't important. What IS important is that the Altar Before God is talking to the Sixth trumpet player, telling him to do something.
Think about it. This is an inanimate object speaking. And not the last one either.
The four horns tell the angel with the sixth trumpet to do something very specific. 1611: “Loose the four Angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.” There is a KJV mis-translation here. The four “angelous” are not 'bound in', but “dedemenous epi” (bound at). So if you go canoeing along the 1700 mile river looking for where the angels are imprisoned, you may well be wasting your time. To find them, you need to check out the Book of Enoch, chapter 56.
Also, these, as far as we know, are NOT the four angels of the winds from the beginning of chapter 7. They weren't bound, they were just holding back the wind.
Geographical and Historical Note:
The Euphrates river is born in the extreme eastern mountain ranges of Turkey, unless you look at the Sumerian creation myth, as linked below, the 'hero god' Marduk killed the primordial 'villain' Tiamat, and the great rivers of the Middle East, the Tigris and the Euphrates flowed from her eyes. One of the fifty attributes of Marduk was as the god of rivers and canals (all freshwater) was as Enbilulu. The one that made life in the desert world of Sumer possible.
This river, through the ancient fertile crescent where civilization began, is effectively the prison wall for the bound angels. Or is it the barrier for the Parthian empire from the East? They had been enemies of Rome since Rome had existed, from give or take 250 BC, until just after 200 AD. There had been several clashes between the two, most famously against an army headed by Mark Anthony, (the same Mark Anthony whose brother Lucius, wrote the letter about the Jews in Sardis, from chapter 3).
Later there were several back and forth battles and exchanges of territory. Eventually, the empire fell apart due to various internal factions fighting over the throne.
TIME OUT FOR CHRISTMAS STORY REFERENCE:
The “wise men” AKA: the Astrologers from the East, who were the first Gentile Believers in the Newborn Messiah, were most likely from the area that was under the dominion of the Parthian Empire and had crossed the armed and uneasy frontier between it and the Roman Empire to come first to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem with their gifts fit for a king. That they were kings (as in the Christmas song) is nonsense, and a topic for another time.
End 'time out' and note.
The time sequence mentioned is interesting: “horan kai hemeran kai mena kai eniauton” (hour, day, month). The four angels were “hetoimasmenoi” (prepared) for this specific moment, forever. The phrase is a partial echo of Matthew 25 :13, but is the only place in Scripture where that sequence is used in this way.
And this time there is no provision against killing believers, the phrase is “a third of mankind”.
16 - 19
The “arithmos” (number) of the “strateumaton” (army) and the “hippikou” (horse force 'cavalry') works out to 200,000. But, as is the way with numbers in Revelation, this could well be a way of saying “a really big army” or “an armed force beyond count”.
John sees the “hippous” (horses) “en te horasei” (in the vision) and the “kathemenous” (riders) have “thorakas pyrinous kai hyakinthinous kai theiodeis” (breastplate that are blazing and are purple or blue 'flower color' and burning sulfur 'brimstone'). The “kephalai ton hippon” (heads of the horses) were like the head of a “leonton”. And out of their mouths “ekporeuetai” (discharged / projected) “pyr” (fire) and “kapnos” (smoke) and “theion” (brimstone).
Eighteen explains that these three things killed a third of humanity, the fire, smoke, and brimstone from their mouths.
The reasons for the “exousia” (mastery / force / power) in their mouth, and in their tails, for their “ourai” (tails) are “homoiai” (similar to) “ophesin” (serpent (also deceitful person, and is used to describe Satan)) having a “kephalas” (head) with which they “adikousin” (harm unjustly).
These 'horses' are a sort of Chimera (minus the mid-back goat's head). These monsters are part of mythology going back to at least 700 BC in Greek Mythology with similar creatures appearing such as Sekhmet, a lion headed goddess. Her name means “one who is powerful” and is also known as “she who mauls”. Some images of Marduk and related Babylonian gods are rendered as bodies of lions, with human heads, and at least one image where his tail could be a snake.
The ancient Greek monster did breathe fire and was associated with the active volcanic formations around Mount Cragus southeast of Patmos near the city of Patara in the Lycia region of Turkey. So it is likely those in the Seven Cities may well have been familiar with such critters.
20 and 21
The “loipoi” (remaining) people who were “ouk apektanthesan” (not killed) by these “plegais” (plagues) did not “metenoesan” (repent) of the works of their hands....
Then there is a greatest hits list of bad things: “proskynesousin ta daimonia” (actual worship of demons), idols made of various substances which can not: “blepein” (see and perceive), “akouein” (hear and comprehend), “peripatein” (conduct one's own business, includes moving around).
- AND -
They did not repent of: “phonon” (unjust killing / murders), “pharmakon” (practicing sorcery, as versus witchcraft (see upcoming special focus essay)), “porneias” (all manner of 'whoredom'), and “klemmaton” (stealing).
Selected Sources for this chapter:
An 'Oubliette' is a deep hole with no outlet into which you cast things, and people, that are to be forgotten.
“The Castle Dungeon and the Oubliette” https://www.exploring-castles.com/castle_designs/castle_dungeon/
Sumer: Enki/Ea (god): Mischievous god of wisdom, magic and incantations who resides in the ocean under the earth. http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/enki/
Greece: Tartaros, and a link to his pit https://www.theoi.com/Protogenos/Tartaros.html
“Locust Swarms Threaten Parts Of East Africa” (includes the quote from earlier) From NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/19/958543535/locust-swarms-threaten-parts-of-east-africa
“Evaluation of scorpion sting incidence in Turkey” https://www.scielo.br/j/jvatitd/a/NMdQhpxZXGmVvssxG9bgnWQ/?lang=en
Babylonian Scorpion Men: https://www.ancientpages.com/2016/01/19/aqrabuamelu-mysterious-scorpion-men-babylonian-mythology/
“The Euphrates River discharges an average volume of 356 cubic meters of water per second and a maximum volume of 2,514 cubic meters of water per second.” https://www.worldatlas.com/rivers/euphrates-river.html
The Babylonian Creation Story: https://www.worldhistory.org/article/225/enuma-elish---the-babylonian-epic-of-creation---fu/
The Met looks at the Parthian Empire with some artifacts: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/part/hd_part.htm
the Chimera https://www.britannica.com/topic/Chimera-Greek-mythology
Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/1.htm
the Geneva Bible downloadable https://archive.org/details/TheGenevaBible1560
the 1611 KJV https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611-Bible/
The study Index page.
NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.
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