Revelation of John 16

CHAPTER XVI.

The angels are commanded to pour out their vials upon the

earth, 1.

The first pours out his vial on the earth, by which a grievous

sore is produced, 2.

The second angel pours out his trial on the sea, and it is

turned into blood, 3.

The third angel pours out his vial on the rivers and fountains,

and they are turned also into blood, 4-7.

The fourth angel pours out his vial on the sun, and men are

scorched with fire, 8, 9.

The fifth angel pours out his vial on the throne of the beast,

10, 11.

The sixth angel pours out his vial on the river Euphrates, 12.

Three unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the beast, dragon

and false prophet: and go forth to gather all the kings of the

world to battle, in the place called Armageddon, 13-16.

The seventh angel pours out his vial on the air, on which

followed thunders, lightnings, earth-quakes, and extraordinary

hail, 17-21.

NOTES ON CHAP. XVI.

Verse 1. Go your ways, and pour out] These ministers of the

Divine justice were ready to execute vengeance upon transgressors,

having full power; but could do nothing in this way till they

received especial commission. Nothing can be done without the

permission of God; and in the manifestation of justice or mercy

by Divine agency, there must be positive command.

Verse 2. A noisome and grievous sore] This is a reference to the

sixth Egyptian plague, boils and blains, Ex 9:8, 9, &c.

Verse 3. As the blood of a dead man] Either meaning blood in a

state of putrescency, or an effusion of blood in naval conflicts;

even the sea was tinged with the blood of those who were slain in

these wars. This is most probably the meaning of this vial. These

engagements were so sanguinary that both the conquerors and the

conquered were nearly destroyed; every living soul died in the

sea.

Verse 4. Upon the rivers and fountains of waters] This is an

allusion to the first Egyptian plague, Ex 7:20; and to those

plagues in general there are allusions throughout this chapter. It

is a sentiment of the rabbins that "whatever plagues God inflicted

on the Egyptians in former times, he will inflict on the enemies

of his people in all later times." See a long quotation on this

subject from Rabbi Tanchum in Schoettgen.

Verse 5. The angel of the waters] The rabbins attribute angels,

not only to the four elements so called, but to almost every thing

besides. We have already seen the angel of the bottomless pit,

Re 9:11, and

the angel of the fire, Re 14:18. The

angel of the earth is spoken of in Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 13, 2,

and is called Admael. They have also an angel that presides over

the grass; another that presides over the cattle which feed upon

the grass.

They say that God employed the angel of the sea to swallow up

the waters at the creation, that the dry land might appear. He

disobeyed, and God slew him; the name of the angel of the sea is

Rahab. See Baba bathra, fol. 74, 2. It is plain from several

places that the writer of the Apocalypse keeps these notions

distinctly in view.

Verse 6. Thou hast given them blood to drink] They thirsted

after blood and massacred the saints of God; and now they have got

blood to drink! It is said that when Tomyris, queen of the

Scythians, had vanquished Cyrus, she cut off his head and threw it

into a vessel of blood, saying these words: Satia te sanguine,

quem sitisti, cujusque insatiabilis semper fuisti; "Satisfy

thyself with blood, for which thou hast thirsted, and for which

thy desire has been insatiable." See Justin. Hist., lib. i. c. 8.

This figure of speech is called sarcasm in rhetoric.

"Sarcasmus with this biting taunt doth kill:

Cyrus, thy thirst was blood; now drink thy fill."

Verse 8. Poured out his vial upon the sun] Mr. Robert Fleming,

more than one hundred years ago, in his View of Scripture

Prophecy, supposed that the sun here meant the French empire,

and conjectured that this vial would be poured out on that empire

about the year 1794. And it is remarkable that in 1793 the French

king was beheaded by the National Assembly; and great and

unparalleled miseries fell upon the French nation, which nearly

extinguished all their nobility, and brought about a war that

lasted twenty-three years, and nearly ruined that country and all

the nations of Europe.

Verse 9. They repented not] No moral national amendment has

taken place in consequence of the above calamities in that unhappy

country, nor indeed any of those nations engaged against her in

that long and ruinous contest, which has now terminated, (1817,)

without producing one political, moral, or religious advantage to

herself or to Europe.

Verse 10. The seat of the beast] επιτονθρονοντουθηριου Upon

the throne of the wild beast. The regal family was smitten by the

fourth vial; they did not repent: then the fifth angel pours out

his vial on the throne of the wild beast, or antichristian

idolatrous power.

Was full of darkness] Confusion, dismay, and distress.

Verse 11. Blasphemed the God of heaven] Neither did they repent;

therefore other judgments must follow. Some think that the sun was

Vitellius, the Roman emperor, and that his throne means Rome;

and the darkening refers to the injuries she sustained in her

political consequence by the civil wars which then took place,

from which she never entirely recovered. Others apply it all to

papal Rome, and in this respect make out a very clear case! Thus

have men conjectured, but how much nearer are we to the truth?

Verse 12. Upon the great river Euphrates] Probably meaning the

people in the vicinity of this river; though some think that the

Tiber is intended.

The water thereof was dried up] The people discomfited, and all

impediments removed.

The kings of the east] There seems to be an allusion here to the

ruin of Babylon by Cyrus, predicted by the Prophet Jeremiah,

Jer 50:1-51:64. But what city or people is pointed out by this

Babylon it is in vain to conjecture.

Verse 13. Three unclean spirits] Perhaps false teachers, called

afterwards spirits of devils, which persuade the kings of the

earth by lying miracles to come forth to the place of general

slaughter, Re 16:14, 16,

Some good critics apply this to Vespasian, and his pretended

miracles. See the account in Tacitus, lib. iv. c. 81.

Verse 15. Behold, I come as a thief.] Here is a sudden but

timely warning to put every man on his guard, when this sudden and

generally unexpected tribulation should take place.

Keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked] Here is a plain

allusion to the office of him who was called the prefect or

overseer, of the mountain of the temple. His custom was to go

his rounds during the watches of the night; and if he found any of

the Levites sleeping on his watch, he had authority to beat him

with a stick, and burn his vestments. See Middoth, fol. 34, 1, and

Tamid. fol. 27, 2; 28, 1. Such a person being found on his return

home naked, it was at once known that he had been found asleep at

his post, had been beaten, and his clothes burnt; thus his

shame was seen-he was reproached for his infidelity and irreligion.

Verse 16. Armageddon.] The original of this word has been

variously formed, and variously translated. It is

har-megiddon, "the mount of the assembly;" or chormah

gedehon, "the destruction of their army;" or it is

har-megiddo, "Mount Megiddo," the valley of which was remarkable

for two great slaughters: one of the Israelites, 2Ki 23:29, the

other of the Canaanites, Jud 4:16; 5:19. But

Mount Megiddo, that is Carmel, is the place, according to some,

where these armies should be collected.

But what is the battle of Armageddon? How ridiculous have been

the conjectures of men relative to this point! Within the last

twenty years this battle has been fought at various places,

according to our purblind seers and self-inspired prophets! At one

time it was Austerlitz, at another Moscow, at another Leipsic,

and now Waterloo! And thus they have gone on, and will go on,

confounding and being confounded.

Verse 17. Poured out his vial into the air] To signify that this

plague was to be widely diffused, and perhaps to intimate that

pestilences and various deaths would be the effect of this vial.

But possibly air in this place may have some emblematical meaning.

It is done.] It is said, Re 10:7, that in the days of the

seventh trumpet the mystery of God should be finished; so here we

find it completed. γεγονε All's over! Fuimus Troes! Ilium fuit!

Once there were Trojans, and they had a city; but now all are

extinct.

Verse 18. A great earthquake] Most terrible commotions, both

civil and religious. Or a convulsion, shaking, or revolution.

Verse 19. The great city] Some say Jerusalem, others Rome pagan,

others Rome papal.

The cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.] Alluding to

the mode of putting certain criminals to death, by making them

drink a cup of poison. See Clarke on Heb 2:9.

Verse 20. Every island fled away] Probably meaning the capture

of seaport towns, and fortified places.

Verse 21. A great hail-about the weight of a talent] Has this

any reference to cannon balls and bombs? It is very doubtful; we

are all in the dark in these matters.

The words ωςταλαντιαια, as a talent, are used to express

something great, excessively oppressive; as νοσηματωνταλαντιαιων,

terrible diseases, not diseases of the weight of a talent. See

Rosenmuller.

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