on Revelation 9 :11
A king over them - A supreme head; some think Mohammed, some think Vespasian.
The angel of the bottomless pit - The chief envoy of Satan.
Abaddon - From אבד abad, he destroyed.
Apollyon - From απο, intensive, and ολλυω, to destroy. The meaning is the same both in the Hebrew and Greek.
on Revelation 9 :11
And they had a king over them - A ruler who marshalled their hosts. Locusts often, and indeed generally, move in bands, though they do not appear to be under the direction of anyone as a particular ruler or guide. In this case it struck John as a remarkable peculiarity that they had a king - a king who, it would seem, had the absolute control, and to whom was to be traced all the destruction which would ensue from their emerging from the bottomless pit.
Which is the angel of the bottomless pit - See the notes on Revelation 9:1. The word "angel" here would seem to refer to the chief of the evil angels, who presided over the dark and gloomy regions from whence the locusts seemed to emerge. This may either mean that this evil angel seemed to command them personally, or that his spirit was infused into the leader of these hosts.
Whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon - The name Abaddon means literally "destruction," and is the same as Apollyon.
But in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon - From ἀπόλλυμι apollumi - "to destroy." The word properly denotes "a destroyer," and the name is given to this king of the hosts, represented by the locusts, because this would be his principal characteristic.
After this minute explanation of the literal meaning of the symbol, it may be useful, before attempting to apply it, and to ascertain the events designed to be represented, to have a distinct impression of the principal image - the locust. It is evident that this is, in many respects, a creature of the imagination, and that we are not to expect the exact representation to be found in any forms of actual existence in the animal creation. The following engraving, prepared by Mr. Elliott (vol. i. p. 410), will give a sufficiently accurate representation of this symbolical figure as it appeared to John.
The question now is, whether any events occurred in history, subsequent to and succeeding those supposed to be referred to in the fourth trumpet, to which this symbol would be applicable. Reasons have already been suggested for supposing that there was a transfer of the seat of the operations to another part of the world. The first four trumpets referred to a continual series of events of the same general character, and having a proper close. These have been explained as referring to the successive shocks which terminated in the downfall of the Western empire. At the close of that series there is a pause in the representation Revelation 8:13, and a solemn proclamation that other scenes were to open distinguished for woe. These were to be symbolized in the sounding of the remaining three trumpets, embracing the whole period until the consummation of all things - or sketching great and momentous events in the future, until the volume sealed with the seven seals Revelation 5:1 should have been wholly unrolled and its contents disclosed. The whole scene now is changed. Rome has fallen. It has passed into the hands of strangers. The power that had spread itself over the world has, in that form, come to an end, and is to exist no more - though, as we shall see (Revelation 11ff), another power, quite as formidable, existing there, is to be described by a new set of symbols. But here Revelation 9 a new power appears. The scenery is all Oriental, and clearly has reference to events that were to spring up in the East. With surprising unanimity, commentators have agreed in regarding this as referring to the empire of the Saracens, or to the rise and progress of the religion and the empire set up by Muhammed. The inquiry now is, whether the circumstances introduced into the symbol find a proper fulfillment in the rise of the Saracenic power, and in the conquests of the Prophet of Mecca:
(1) "The country where the scene is laid." As already remarked the scene is Oriental - for the mention of locusts naturally suggests the East - that being the part of the world where they abound, and they being in fact especially an Oriental plague. It may now be added, that in a more strict and proper sense Arabia may be intended; that is, if it be admitted that the design was to symbolize events pertaining to Arabia, or the gathering of the hosts of Arabia for conquest, the symbol of locusts would have been employed for the locust, the groundwork of the symbol is especially Arabic. It was the east wind which brought the locusts on Egypt Exodus 10:13, and they must therefore have come from some portion of Arabia - for Arabia is the land that lies over against Egypt in the east. Such, too, is the testimony of Volney; "the most judicious," as Mr. Gibbon calls him, "of modern travelers." "The inhabitants of Syria," says he, "have remarked that locusts come constantly from the desert of Arabia," ch. 20:sect. 5.
All that is necessary to say further on this point is, that on the supposition that it was the design of the Spirit of inspiration in the passage before us to refer to the followers of Muhammed, the image of the locusts was that which would be naturally selected. There was no other one so appropriate and so striking; no one that would so naturally designate the country of Arabia. As some confirmation of this, or as showing how natural the symbol would be, a remark may be introduced from Mr. Forster. In his Mohammedanism Unveiled, vol. i. p. 217, he says, "In the Bedoween romance of Antar, the locust is introduced as the national emblem of the Ishmaelites. And it is a remarkable coincidence that Muslim tradition speaks of locusts having dropped into the hands of Muhammed, bearing on their wings this inscription - 'We are the army of the Great God.'" These circumstances will show the propriety of the symbol on the supposition that it refers to Arabia and the Saracens.
(2) the people. The question is, whether there was anything in the symbol, as described by John, which would properly designate the followers of Muhammed, on the supposition that it was designed to have such a reference:
(a) As to numbers. "They (the Midianite Arabs) came as locusts for multitude," John 6:5. See the notes on Revelation 9:3. Nothing would better represent the numbers of the Saracenic hordes that came out of Arabia, and that spread over the East - over Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Spain, and that threatened to spread over Europe - than such an army of locusts. "One hundred years after his flight (Muhammed) from Mecca," says Mr. Gibbon, "the arms and the reign of his successors extended from India to the Atlantic Ocean, over the various and distant provinces which may be comprised under the names of Persia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain," vol. iii. p. 410. "At the end of the first century of the Hegira the caliphs were the most potent and absolute monarchs on the globe. Under the last of the Ommiades the Arabian empire extended two hundred days' journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean" (ibid. p. 460). In regard to the immense hosts employed in these conquests, an idea may be formed by a perusal of the whole fifty-first chapter in Gibbon (vol. iii. pp. 408-461). Those hosts issued primarily from Arabia, and in their numbers would be well compared with the swarms of locusts that issued from the same country, so numerous as to darken the sky.
(b) The description of the people.
"Their faces were as the faces of men" This would seem to be in contrast with other people, or to denote something that was unique in the appearance of the persons represented. In other words, the meaning would seem to be, that there was something manly and warlike in their appearance, so far as their faces were concerned. It is remarkable that the appearance of the Goths (represented, as I suppose, under the previous trumpets) is described by Jerome (compare on Isaiah 8) as quite the reverse. They are described as having faces shaven and smooth; faces, in contrast with the bearded Romans, like women's faces. Is it fancy to suppose that the reference here is to the beard and moustache of the Arabic hosts? We know with what care they regarded the beard; and if a representation was made of them, especially in contrast with nations that shaved their faces, and who thus resembled women, it would be natural to speak of those represented in the symbol as "having faces as the faces of men."
"They had hair as the hair of women" A strange mingling of the appearance of effeminacy with the indication of manliness and courage. See the notes on Revelation 9:8. And yet this strictly accords with the appearance of the Arabs or Saracens. Pliny, the contemporary of John, speaks of the Arabs then as having the hair long and uncut, with the moustache on the upper lip, or the beard: Arabes mitrati sunt, aut intoso crine. Barba abraditur, praeterquam in superiore labro. Aliis et haec intonsa (Nat. Hist. vol. 6, p. 28). So Solinus describes them in the third century (Plurimis crinis intonsus, mitrata capita, pars rasa in cutem barba, 100:53); so Ammianus Marcellinus, in the fourth century (Crinitus quidam a Saracenorum cuneo, vol. xxxi. p. 16); and so Claudian, Theodore of Mopsuesta, and Jerome, in the fifth. Jerome lived about two centuries before the great Saracen invasion; and as he lived at Bethlehem, on the borders of Arabia, he must have been familiar with the appearance of the Arabs. Still later, in that most characteristic of Arab poems, Antar, a poem written in the time of Muhammed's childhood, we find the moustache, and the beard, and the long flowing hair on the shoulder, and the turban, all specified as characteristic of the Arabians: "He adjusted himself properly, twisted his whiskers, and folded up his hair under his turban, drawing it from off his shoulders," vol. i. p. 340. "His hair flowed down on his shoulders," vol. i. p. 169. "Antar cut off Maudi's hair in revenge and insult," vol. iii. p. 117. "We will hang him up by his hair," vol. iv. p. 325. See Elliott, vol. i. pp. 411, 412. Compare Newton on the Prophecies, p. 485.
"And on their heads were as it were crowns of gold" See the notes on Revelation 9:7. That is, diadems, or something that appeared like crowns, or chaplets. This will agree well with the turban worn by the Arabs or Saracens, and which was quite characteristic of them in the early periods when they became known. So in the passage already quoted, Pliny speaks of them as Arabes mitrati; so Solinus, mitrata capita; so in the poem of Antar, "he folded up his hair under his turbans." It is remarkable also that Ezekiel EZechariah 23:42 describes the turbans of the Sabean or Keturite Arabs under the very appellation used here by John: "Sabeans from the wilderness, which put beautiful crowns upon their heads." So in the preface to Antar, it is said, "It was a usual saying among them, that God had bestowed four special things on the Arabs; that their turbans should be unto them instead of diadems, their tents instead of walls and houses, their swords instead of intrenchments, and their poems instead of written laws." Mr. Forster, in his Mohammedanism Unveiled, quotes as a precept of Muhammed; "Make a point of wearing turbans, because it is the way of angels." Turbans might then with propriety be represented as crowns, and no doubt these were often so gilded and ornamented that they might be spoken of as "crowns of gold."
on Revelation 9 :11
9:11 And they have over them a king - One by whom they are peculiarly directed and governed. His name is Abaddon - Both this and Apollyon signify a destroyer. By this he is distinguished from the dragon, whose proper name is Satan.