on Revelation 16 :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.
on Revelation 16 :3
And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea - So the second trumpet Revelation 8:8, "And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood." For the meaning of this as a symbol, see the notes on that verse.
And it became as the blood of a dead man - "Either very bloody, like a mangled corse, or else colored, as it were, with the dark and almost black blood of a dead man" (Prof. Stuart, in loco). The latter would seem to be, most probably, the meaning; implying that the ocean would become discolored, and indicating that this was the effect of blood shed in great quantities on its waters. In Revelation 8:8 it is, "the sea became blood"; here the allusion to the blood of a dead man would more naturally suggest the idea of naval conflicts, and of the blood of the slain poured in great quantities into the deep.
And every living soul died in the sea - In Revelation 8:9 it is said that "the third part of the creatures that were in the sea died, and the third part of the ships were destroyed." Here the destruction is more general; the calamity is more severe and awful. It is as if every living thing - πᾶσα ψυχὴ ζῶσα pasa psuchē zōsa - had died. No emphasis should be put on the word "soul" here, for the word means merely "a creature, a living thing, an animal," Acts 2:43; Acts 3:23; Romans 13:1; 1 Corinthians 15:45. See Robinson, Lexicon sub voce, c. The sense here is, that there would be some dreadful calamity, as if the sea were to be changed into dark blood, and as if every living thing in it were to die.
In inquiring into the proper application of this, it is natural to look for something pertaining to the sea, or the ocean (see the notes on Revelation 8:8-9), and we should expect to find the fulfillment in some calamity that would fall on the marine force, or the commerce of the power that is here referred to; that is, according to the interpretation all along adopted, of the papal power; and the proper application, according to this interpretation, would be the complete destruction or annihilation of the naval force that contributed to sustain the papacy. This we should look for in respect to the naval power of France, Spain, and Portugal, for these are the only papal nations that have had a navy. We should expect, in the fulfillment of this, to find a series of naval disasters, reddening the sea with blood, which would tend to weaken the power of the papacy, and which might be regarded as one in the series of events that would ultimately result in its entire overthrow.
Accordingly, in pursuance of the plan adopted in explaining the pouring out of the first vial, it is to be observed that immediately succeeding, and connected with, the events thus referred to, there was a series of naval disasters that swept away the fleets of France, and that completely demolished the most formidable naval power that had ever been prepared by any nation under the papal dominion. This series of disasters is thus noticed by Mr. Elliott (iii. 329, 330): "Meanwhile, the great naval war between France and England was in progress; which, from its commencement in February, 1793, lasted for above twenty years, with no intermission but that of the short and delusive peace of Amiens; in which war the maritime power of Great Britain was strengthened by the Almighty Providence that protected her to destroy everywhere the French ships, commerce, and smaller colonies; including those of the fast and long-continued allies of the French, Holland and Spain. In the year 1793, the greater part of the French fleet at Toulon was destroyed by Lord Hood; in June, 1794, followed Lord Howe's great victory over the French off Ushant; then the taking of Corsica, and nearly all the smaller Spanish and French West India Islands; then, in 1795, Lord Bridport's naval victory, and the capture of the Cape of Good Hope; as also soon after of a French and Dutch fleet, sent to retake it; then, in 1797, the victory over the Spanish fleet off Cape Vincent; and that of Camperdown over the Dutch; then, in succession, Lord Nelson's three mighty victories - of the Nile in 1798, of Copenhagen in 1801, and in 1805 of Trafalgar. Altogether in this naval war, from its beginning in 1793, to its end in 1815, it appears that there were destroyed near 200 ships of the line, between 300 and 400 frigates, and an almost incalculable number of smaller vessels of war and ships of commerce. The whole history of the world does not present such a period of naval war, destruction, and bloodshed." This brief summary may show, if this was referred to, the propriety of the expression, "The sea became as the blood of a dead man"; and may show also that, on the supposition that it was intended that these events should be referred to, an appropriate symbol has been employed. No language could more strikingly set forth these bloody scenes.
on Revelation 16 :3
16:3 The second poured out his phial upon the sea - As opposed to the dry land. And it become blood, as of a dead man - Thick, congealed, and putrid. And every living soul - Men, beasts, and fishes, whether on or in the sea, died.