Exegetical look into Revelation 9: 1-6

  • The fifth angel. He sets off a plague of locusts, of devastation, perhaps commanded by demonic forces. This can be taken literally, as a plague of locusts can cause severe devastation. Locusts, in ancient times and in many parts of the world today, mean starvation for people if they come in sufficient numbers (Rev. 13:1-10). Ancient Jewish literature speaks of imprisoned, evil angels waiting their chance to unleash their revenge, inflicting chaos and mayhem.
  • A star. Ancient cultures saw stars as divinities or angels; thus, this could refer to a mighty angel. This is the “star” of Rev. 8:10, referring to a cosmic disturbance, an Angel or servant, or an instrument of God (Rev. 20:1).
  • Abyss/bottomless pit means “very deep” (the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament word for bottomless). Jewish tradition saw this as a literal, subterranean place, used for the imprisonment of evil demons and Satan, which was actually on the earth. Angels were assigned to guard it and were given keys to it. Now, with our better understanding of science and biblical interpretation, most scholars see this as an extra dimension or residence, the exact locale we cannot fathom. This is where Dante got his “Inferno” and where we get our cultural view of hell (1 Enoch). John is using this vibrant imagery not to be a literal place we can see, but rather to show that hell, as well as demons, are real. (Gen. 1:2; 7:11; Prov. 8:28; Luke 8:31; Rev. 20:1).
  • Smoke rose. John uses this imagery to make his point more powerfully.
  • The sun and sky were darkened. This is a reference to a significant astronomical or supernatural event in the form of Old Testament judgment language (Psalm 18:6-19; Isa. 13:10; 24:23; 34:4; Jer. 4:20-28; Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 3:14; Zech. 14:6; Matt. 24:29-51). The question is not if or when, as many of us obsess over. Rather, it shows He will come and we had better be prepared with our attitude and mindsets! This is a most frightening prediction (Ex. 9:21-23)! 
  • Locusts refer to a terrible invasion of some sort by demons, peoples, nature, or all of the above; this is a metaphor for the elements and behavior of nature that God controls and directs (Psalm 148:1-12; Zech. 6:5). It is a prophesy from Joel, too, of the desolation that will come with the “day of the Lord.” Perhaps it is literal insects, which have terrorized farmers of all times; they eat everything and leave nothing in the wake of their desolation. They do not bother people directly, but their effect certainly does. This would strike terror to John’s readers (who lived in an agrarian society) more profoundly than an invading army of men, as the threat of a locust “invasion” was always at hand. This is reminiscent of the eighth plague in Egypt and Joel’s prediction. Locusts sometimes move in vast swarms and can easily strip away all the crops. It is reported that from 1866 to 1869, in the country of Algiers on the Mediterranean Sea, over 200,000 people died from the result of famine from a locust plague. More recently, in June of 1993, locusts were devouring the harvests of Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti. (Exodus 10:1-20; Joel 1:2-2:27).
  • Were given power. God is still in control, and sets limits upon them.
  • Scorpions refer to a spider-like insect with a poisonous barb in its tail. This is a symbol of a sometimes-used instrument of God’s judgment. Its sting can severely injure or kill a large man (1 Kings 12:11; 2 Chron. 10:14).
  • They were told not to harm the grass. A statement of comfort and of God’s grace. Even in the greatest sufferings, it is not as bad as it can or should be.
  • Did not have the seal of God. Refers to those who are immoral and depraved and who refuse to accept what Christ has done or to lead honest and proper lives. Wickedness caused by such people is reciprocal, as it is self-defeating, not only tormenting others, but harming themselves too. These were the people in the locust’s targets. Sometimes, God allows those who are wicked to suffer in this life, as we would like to see, but their real judgment is still to come. We can take comfort as they only attack those who are wicked and who refuse God’s grace (Rev. 20:11-15).
  • Torture. Do not worry; this does not concern the “servants of God,” just as God’s protection of the Israelites from His judgment upon Egypt (Ex. 8:22; 9:4, 26; 10:23; 11:7; Rev. 7:3).
  • Five months. Refers to limiting; whatever happens, it will not last long. Locusts eat their fill in a few days and then move on. It is interesting to note that the life cycle of a typical locust is about five months.
  • Sting of a scorpion. Referred to the most intense pain an ancient person could conceive of.
  • Men will seek death. Denotes that the sufferings they receive will cause them to seek death as relief (Jer. 8:3; Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30).
  • Death will elude them. God will not allow relief to those who refuse Him. Their pain cannot be squelched, and it is further complicated in that they can do nothing about it, although they would be able to do by receiving Christ’s free offer (Phil. 1:23-24).

 

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