7 The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
8 The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, 9 and a third of the creatures which were in the sea [f]and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10 The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11 The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.
12 The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.
13 Then I looked, and I heard [g]an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
[f] Lit the ones having – [g] Lit one eagle
With this post I’m continuing to offer insights from classic commentaries and other sources. I have to limit what is presented here, so in this post I’m offering materials on the third trumpet and “wormwood”.
It is my hope that you’ll think about this with me,
In every age Christians interpret events of the past, present, and future in light of God’s prophetic Word.
Wormwood is a plant from which bitter-tasting medicines and alcoholic drinks are made. “The English rendering ‘wormwood’ refers to the dark green oil produced by the plant.” (Wiki) Wormwood has been used to eliminate parasitic worms and to make absinthe, a drink with a high alcohol content that has been banned at times in various places.
Wormwood’s botanical name should jump off the page for students of God’s Word – artemisia absinthium.
Artemisia comes from Ancient Greek ἀρτεμισία, from Ἄρτεμις (Artemis). In Hellenistic culture, Artemis was a goddess. . . Absinthum comes from the Ancient Greek ἀψίνθιον, meaning the same. ~ Wiki
The alcoholic “spirit” absinthe has been said to be extremely addictive; to be an hallucinogenic; to cause convulsions and madness – though all of this is disputed and said to be disproved.
I’m not suggesting that the blazing star that poisons one-third of the rivers and springs of water, causing the death of many, is figurative language for drinking absinthe. However, I am highlighting a strange connection. Another connection, I feel, can be made to the catastrophic nuclear accident in the Ukraine at the plant at “Chernobyl” (“wormwood”). Because of this event “radioactive material precipitated onto parts of the western USSR and Europe” ~ Wiki.
“Wormwood | Absinth, Absinthe, Absinthe Suisse, Absinthii Herba, Absinthites, Absinthium, Afsantin, Ajenjo… is used for various digestion problems such as loss of appetite, upset stomach, gall bladder disease, and intestinal spasms. Wormwood is also used to treat fever, liver disease, depression, muscle pain, memory loss and worm infections. . . for Crohn’s disease and a kidney disorder called IgA nephropathy. . . Some people apply wormwood directly to the skin for osteoarthritis (OA), and healing wounds and insect bites. Wormwood oil is used as a counter-irritant to reduce pain. . .
“Thujone is a potentially poisonous chemical found in wormwood. Distilling wormwood in alcohol increases the thujone concentration.”
Absinthe is illegal in the U.S. but wormwood can get high billing as a “parasite-fighting, cancer-fighting super herb.” (Dr. Axe)
Wormwood in the Bible
“Heb. la’anah, the Artemisia absinthium of botanists. It is noted for its intense bitterness (Deuteronomy 29:18; Proverbs 5:4; Jeremiah 9:15; Amos 5:7). It is a type of [for] bitterness, affliction, remorse, punitive suffering. In Amos 6:12 this Hebrew word is rendered ‘hemlock’ (RSV, ‘wormwood’). In the symbolical language of the Apocalypse (Revelation 8:10; Revelation 8:11) a star is represented as falling on the waters of the earth, causing the third part of the water to turn to wormwood.
“The name by which the Greeks designated it, absinthion, means ‘undrinkable.’ The absinthe of France is distilled from a species of this plant. The ‘southernwood’ or ‘old man,’ cultivated in cottage gardens on account of its fragrance, is another species of it.”
Related passages – Wormwood in the Old Testament
15 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets,
‘Behold, I am going to feed them wormwood
And make them drink poisonous water,
For from the prophets of Jerusalem
Pollution has gone forth into all the land.’”
14 “Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today 16 (for you know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed; 17 moreover, you have seen their abominations and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold, which they had with them); 18 so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. 19 It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will [e]boast, saying, ‘I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order [f]to destroy the watered land with the dry.’ 20 The Lord shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and His jealousy will [g]burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will [h]rest on him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 Then the Lord will single him out for [i]adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law.
“The word wormwood appears several times in the Old Testament, translated from the Hebrew term לענה (la’anah, which means ‘curse’ in Hebrew).” ~ Wiki
A 17th – 18th Century Expositor
“Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714) was a nonconformist minister and author, born in Wales but spending much of his life in England. He is best known for the six-volume biblical commentary Exposition of the Old and New Testaments.” ~ Wiki
“Most expositors agree that the seven seals represent the interval between the apostle’s time and the reign of Constantine, but that the seven trumpets are designed to represent the rise of antichrist, some time after the empire became Christian. . .
“III. The third angel sounded, and the alarm had the like effects as before: There fell a great star from heaven, etc., v. 10. Some take this to be a political star, some eminent governor, and they apply it to Augustulus, who was forced to resign the empire to Odoacer, in the year 480. Others take it to be an ecclesiastical star, some eminent person in the church, compared to a burning lamp, and they fix it upon Pelagius, who proved about this time a falling star, and greatly corrupted the churches of Christ. Observe,
“1. Where this star fell: Upon a third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.
“2. What effect it had upon them; it turned those springs and streams into wormwood, made them very bitter, that men were poisoned by them; either the laws, which are springs of civil liberty, and property, and safety, were poisoned by arbitrary power, or the doctrines of the gospel, the springs of spiritual life, refreshment, and vigour to the souls of men, were so corrupted and embittered by a mixture of dangerous errors that the souls of men found their ruin where they sought for their refreshment.”
A 19th Century Historicist Explains the Third Trumpet
E. B. Elliott (1793 – 1875)
Recently I shared that I’d bought a copy of Edward Bishop Elliott’s Horae Apocalypticae in a pdf file format for a reasonable price at Puritan Downloads. This week I found this work at WordPress as an ongoing project with Volume I completed (it’s under copyright). So take a look at an amazing 19th century interpretation of the third trumpet! Even if you cannot agree with Elliott, this is a really interesting.
Elliott believed that in the first four trumpets the Apostle John was given a vision of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, that the trumpets describe its extinction. Like others he believed that the fall of this “christianized” empire happened because of its sins, including the idolatrous practice of petitioning saints and martyrs for protection. The fall began in this way,
It was in 395, as I said, after the pious Theodosius, just like King Josiah, had been taken away from the coming evil, that the empire was shaken, as by an earthquake, with this Gothic revolt.
Vesuvius From Portici by Joseph Wright of Derby
“3rd Trumpet. . . The Historical Fulfillment. . .
“. . . yet another plague was commissioned against the devoted empire; I mean ‘the scourge of God,’ the king of the Huns, Attila. Alone of conquerors, ancient or modern, he united at this time under his sway the two mighty kingdoms of Germany and Scythia. For the Huns had advanced their course and their conquests, since the time when the Goths fled before them some 70 years earlier, in the days of Valens, to the furthest limits, West and North, of Germany. The kings of the Ostrogoth and Gepidae were among Attila’s subject princes; and a crowd of vulgar kings watched his nod. Superstitious awe concerning him added to his power. He was deemed something greater than human.
“‘The barbaric princes could not presume to gaze with steady eye on [what they deemed] his divine majesty.’ How much less his enemies! He was in their eyes like the baleful meteor that even then blazed in the heavens, boding ruin and war. For the first eight years from his accession (which was in AD. 433) he had been occupied with other wars in Germany, Persia, Scythia. Then, descending on the Danube, he fixed the royal village near where it takes its great bend to the southward, not far from the modern Buda: crossed it to attack the Eastern empire; and, after ravaging the provinces of Thrace and Maesia, and tracing the river course downwards in blood as far as the Euxine, retired not until the Eastern emperor (AD. 446) had purchased peace by surrendering to him a slip of territory south of the Danube, from Belgrade to Novae. ‘The Huns’ says Gibbon, ‘were acknowledged masters (of this part of the lower half) of the great river.’— But it is specially the river frontier of the same Western third of the empire to which the other Trumpets refer, that I suppose to be chiefly intended in the present. Accordingly, about AD. 450, in fulfillment of a treaty with Genseric, he moved against the Western provinces along the Danube: reached and crossed the Rhine at Basle; and thence, tracing the same great frontier stream of the West down to Belgium, made its valley one scene of desolation and woe; burning the cities, (of which Strasburg, Spires, Worms, Mentz, Andernach, Treves, Tongres, and Maestricht, are specially particularized), massacring the inhabitants, and laying the country waste:— until, at length, having left that valley, which had been marked out as one destined scene of his ravaging, and advanced farther into the interior, his course was arrested, and he was repulsed in the tremendous battle of Chalons.— And whither then, when thus forced to retrace his steps, did he direct them? Whither but to fall on another destined scene of ravage, ‘the European fountains of waters,’ in the Alpine heights and Alpine valleys of Italy. Then Aquileia, Padua, Verona, Mantua, Milan, Pavia, and Turin, felt his vengeance.
“‘From the Alps to the Apennines,’ says Sigonius, ‘all was flight, depopulation, slaughter, slavery, burning, and despair.’ Many fled to the low and marshy islands at the mouth of the Adige, Po, and Brenta, as their only safe refuge. And he who has seen the fair Venice, may do well to remember that he has seen in it a memorial of the terrors and ravages of that scourge of God, the Hun Attila— But what further of his course of devastation? Surely, with all Italy defenseless before him, one might have expected that, like his predecessor Alaric, he would have continued it on to Rome and the far coast of Bruttium. Instead of this, behold, an embassy from the Western emperor Valentinian, accompanied by the venerable Romish bishop Leo the First, was successful at this point in deprecating his wrath: and, having granted them peace, he passed the Alps, and retired; leaving bands only of Heruli and Ostrogoths in the Tyrolese country intermediate.— Wherefore a result, humanly speaking, so unlikely? The prediction had expressly marked the term of Attila’s desolating progress;—’the third of the rivers, and the fountains of waters.’ Already Attila had made bitter, besides the surplus age of more Eastern scenes, the river line of the upper Danube and Rhine, and the Alpine fountains of waters. Many had died, and still continued to die, that drank of the waters, through famine, disease, and pestilence. This being done, his course was to end. ‘Thus far thou shalt go, and no further.’ Returned from Italy, he recrossed the Danube; reached the royal village between it and the Teiss; and there, the very next year, was suddenly cut off by apoplexy. This occurred AD. 453. So the meteor was extinct; the empire and power of the Huns broken. The woe of the third Trumpet had past away.”
A little Greek for some of you from a 19th/20th Century Teacher
“Burning as a torch (kaiomeno w lampa). See Zephaniah 4:5; Matthew 2:2, perhaps a meteor, striking at the fresh-water supply (rivers potamwn, springs phga) as in the first Egyptian plague also..
“Wormwood (o Apsinqo). Absinthe. Usually feminine (h), but masculine here probably because asthr is masculine. Only here in N.T. and not in LXX (pikria, bitterness, colh, gall, etc.) except by Aquila in Proverbs 5:4; Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 23:15. There are several varieties of the plant in Palestine. Became wormwood (egeneto ei apsinqon). This use of ei in the predicate with ginomai is common in the LXX and the N.T. ( Jeremiah 16:19; John 16:20; Acts 5:36). Of the waters (ek twn udatwn). As a result of (ek) the use of the poisoned waters. Were made bitter (epikranqhsan). First aorist passive indicative of pikrainw. Old verb (from pikro, bitter), as in Acts 10:9. In a metaphorical sense to embitter in Colossians 3:19.”
A 20th Century Handbook
Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965, p. 716
“’Great Burning Star,’ Third Trumpet, fell upon the Rivers (8:10,11). Attila the Hun, from the depth of Central Asia, appeared (A.D. 440), on the banks of the Danube, at the head of 800,000 fighting men. Pushing westward, he met the Roman armies, and defeated them with awful slaughter, successively, on the River Marne, the River Rhone, and the River Po, so that these rivers actually ran with Blood. Loaded with spoil, he returned to the Danube. When he died, the River was turned aside, and his body buried beneath its bed. The waters still flow over his grave. He was indeed a scourge of the rivers.”
Attila “not only made the Huns the most effective fighting force of the time, but he also built a vast empire from virtually nothing in less than ten years. At its height, this empire stretched from central Asia across to modern-day France and down through the Danube Valley.” ~ Encyclopedia of Ancient History