Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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APOCALYPSE - Chapter 8

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Apocalypse 8

Supplemental Commentary:

[8, 1.  See Commentary in the last section of the previous chapter.]

III.  THE SEVEN TRUMPETS  8, 2 -- 11, 19

1.  Preparatory Vision  8, 2-6

Seven Angels with Trumpets.  Seven angels: cf. Tob. 12, 15; Luke 1, 19.  Trumpets have a traditional eschatological sense; they announce the Day of Judgment.  Cf. Isa. 27, 13; Joel 2, 1; Matt. 24, 31.  But they also announce good tidings.  Cf. Zach. 9, 14.  Here, in announcing the destruction of the profane world, they announce at the same time the triumph of the elect.

But before the trumpets are sounded, a liturgical tableau is unfolded.  Another angel: some think this is Michael, others that he is the "angel of peace."  The altar: corresponding with the altar of incense in the Jewish temple.  The mingling of the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the people is an allusion to the intercession of the angels in behalf of men before the throne of God.  The fire of the altar thrown upon the earth is a token of the coming judgment.  The peals of thunder, etc., herald the approach of the judgment.

2.  The First Six Trumpets  8, 7 -- 9, 21

8, 7-12:  The First Four Trumpets.  The first trumpet's sound brings fire upon the earth, consuming a third part of it.  The prohibition of 7, 1 is therefore abrogated.  The allusion to the seventh plague of Egypt is obvious (Ex. 9, 23-25), but here there is the addition of blood.

The sound of the second trumpet changes a third part of the sea into blood, bringing destruction to a third part of its creatures and the ships that sail upon it.  This reminds us of the first Egyptian plague (Ex. 7, 20 f) in which the waters of the Nile became blood, but here is introduced the great mountain.

At the sound of the third trumpet a third part of the waters of the earth were polluted, leading to the death of many.  Wormwood: a bitter, nauseous plant, here representing trouble and calamities.  Cf. Jer. 9, 15.

When the fourth trumpet sounded the light of the world was reduced by one-third its intensity.  This recalls the Egyptian plague of darkness (Ex. 10, 21-23); but with this difference, there the Children of Israel had lights in their dwellings, while the rest of the land was dark, here the darkness is that which results from a withdrawal of a third part of the light of the sun by day and of the moon and stars by night.

8, 13:  The Three Woes.  The judgments invoked by these trumpets fall unto nature, the earth, the sea, the rivers and heavenly bodies; men are affected only indirectly.  Now three special maledictions are to fall directly on the inhabitants of the earth.

Confraternity Bible:

1* And when he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour.

Seven Angels with Trumpets  2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and there were given to them seven trumpets.  3 And another angel came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he might offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne.  4 And with the prayers of the saints there went up before God from the angel's hand the smoke of the incense.  5 And the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it down upon the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.  6 And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound the trumpet.

The First Four Trumpets  7 And the first angel sounded the trumpet, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and it was cast upon the earth; and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees were burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

8 And the second angel sounded the trumpet, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood, 9 and there died the third part of those creatures that have life in the sea, and the third part of the ships was destroyed.

10 And the third angel sounded the trumpet, and there fell from heaven a great star, burning like a torch, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers and upon the fountains of water.  11 The name of the star is called Wormwood.  And the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many people died of the waters because they were made bitter.

12* And the fourth angel sounded the trumpet, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars, that the third part of them might be darkened, and the day for the third part of it might not shine, and the night likewise.

The Three Woes  13 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth!" because of the rest of the trumpet-voices of the three angels who were about to sound the trumpet.


1: Silence: the cries and groans of the earth and even the doxologies of heaven are hushed.  This is not a symbol or a prophecy but simply a vision and a preparation for what follows.

12: The sense is that the light of the heavenly bodies was reduced by one-third its intensity.